Military

Strategic Transport Integrated Naval Group (Sting)

 

CSC 1997

 

Subject Area - Strategic Issues

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: STRATEGIC TRANSPORT INTEGRATED NAVAL GROUP(STING)

 

Author: Major David D. Cobert, United States Marine Corps

 

Thesis: To develop a Marine unique capability to rapidly deploy a division-sized MAGTF, for any given crisis situation, and upon entry into theater, immediately employ the force for offensive operations.

 

Background: The Marine Corps is currently exploring ways to employ forces in crisis situations using the emerging concepts of Operational Maneuver From The Sea(OMFTS), Over The Horizon (OTH)and Ship To Objective Maneuver(STOM). However, these concepts ride on the principle of employing Marine forces from traditional gray bottom amphibious ships or utilizing newly designed MPF ships in conjunction with the Mobile Offshore Base or MOB concept.

 

My proposal is to merge the capabilities of MPF and the envisioned capabilities of the MOB into a single system, thereby giving the Marine Corps the ability to rapidly and seamlessly deploy and employ ground and air forces with minimal Ready To Operate(RTO) time. The savings in RTO would significantly improve the ability of the NCA to act and/or react to emerging crisis situations with the prompt and decisive introduction of offensively oriented, combat ready forces into a given theater.

Recommendation: That the STING concept proposed in this document be explored for feasibility as a viable alternative to traditional amphibious shipping and operations and as an alternative to the MOB concept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This paper introduces the reader to a future concept called

 

the Strategic Transport Integrated Naval Group or STING. The

 

STING concept is similar to the Mobile Offshore Base or MOB

 

concept currently under development at the Naval Surface Warfare

 

Center at Carderock, Maryland 1, at the CNO's N-85 Expeditionary

 

Warfare Branch 2 and at the Marine Corps' Combat Development

 

Center 3. There are some important differences, however, in the

 

STING concept vice the MOB. Those differences are the speed,

 

flexibility and adaptability that the STING can bring to a crisis

 

situation when coupled with the emerging concepts of Operational

 

Maneuver from the Sea(OMFTS), Over The Horizon(OTH) and Ship to

 

Objective Maneuver (STOM). While the technical issues involving

 

STING have yet to be tested, it is this author's belief that

 

STING in conjunction with OMFTS, OTH and STOM will represent the

 

next significant step in the evolution of amphibious operations.

 

That step involves melding the rapid deployment capability of the

 

U.S. Army's 82d Airborne Division with the staying power of the

 

Marine Corps' Maritime Prepositioned Forces in order to give this

 

Nation a military response capability required for warfare in the

 

21st century.

 

"Because of the time gap between strategic cause and effect, the successful strategist must mold the strategic environment

 

 

 

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from the outset and seize the initiative, thereby forcing others to react. Simply put, policymakers or strategists who passively wait for an opponent to act can make no strategic decision of their own, and eventually will be at the mercy of their adversary. Thus, seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative allows one to set the strategic agenda, to shape the strategic environment in directions of one's choosing, and to force an opponent constantly to react to changing conditions that concomitantly inhibit his ability to regain the initiative.

 

Moreover, maintaining initiative provides a number of advantages beyond the ability to force an opponent to conform to one's purpose and tempo. Controlling the pace of events permits a closer connection of ends, ways, and means. This, in turn, promotes more effective and more efficient implementation of policy. It provides increased freedom of action in formulating and adapting strategy to the evolving context."4

 

As a construct for understanding the STING concept, the

 

following short story illustrates how operational initiative,

 

using the STING as a combat multiplier, can have a significant

 

effect on the strategic environment within international affairs.

 

January 10, 2010, the NCA just received an intelligence

 

warning that the country of Ankar is massing forces along the

 

Bengali-Ankar Border Zone (BABZ). In anticipation of possible

 

contingency operations, the NCA ordered the Marine Corps' newest

 

fleet of MPF Strategic Transport Integrated Naval Group (STING)

 

ships into the region. CINCPAC has dispatched a CVBG into the

 

region as well. Elements of the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps and

 

an Air Force Tactical Air Wing have also been put on alert

 

status. The I Marine Expeditionary Force has been issued a

 

 

 

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warning order to prepare for possible contingency operations.

 

The Bengali-Ankar Border Zone (BABZ) is part of a long

 

running dispute over resources and territory between Bengali to

 

the north and Ankar to the south. The mineral-rich border zone

 

is a mountainous 200 mile wide region which equally straddles the

east-west international border between the two countries. The

 

BABZ runs perpendicular to the south flowing Tiger River. Both

 

sides claim the entire region based on ancestral and political

 

grounds.

 

The Tiger River, long a source of economic wealth for both

 

nations, stretches nearly the entire length of both countries and

empties into a vast river delta to the south in Ankar. Bengali is

in the process of constructing a large hydro-electric dam at the

 

only feasible geographic location just north of the BABZ. Once

 

completed, the dam will provide additional irrigation sources and

will also provide a major source of power for further foreign

 

investment and industrial development. The dam in 90% complete.

Unfortunately for Ankar, the Tiger River is also of major

 

import to this country which relies on a network of streams and

 

manmade canals to feed its farmlands. Additionally, the Tiger

 

River is the only source of water for the majority of Ankar's

 

population. If the Tiger River is dammed, major portions

 

of Ankar's farmland will become deserts, further reducing

 

 

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agricultural production in a country with little arable land.

 

Negotiations concerning the dispute have been on-going for

 

the past five years in the U.N. General Assembly, ever since the

 

Bengali Peoples' Coalition (BPC) first announced the dam project.

Numerous Ankari opposition parties have put pressure on the

 

newly elected Ankar Popular Government (APG) to stop the dam

 

project. Bengali opposition parties have also threatened

 

political anarchy if the BPC does not act immediately to protect

 

the dam project.

 

On January 29th, Ankar military forces launched a violent

 

and devastating attack north into the disputed region, forcing

 

Bengali border forces to fight a delaying action. Ankar's intent

is to seize and destroy the dam and construction site and

 

force a shift of their border north of the construction site.

 

This shift would place the bulk of the BABZ within Ankar's

 

border.

 

Since Bengali's independence in 2005, the United States

 

has been the defacto guarantor of Bengali sovereignty. The BPC

 

therefore placed the majority of its national treasure into

 

economic development vice military readiness, the Tiger River dam

being the centerpiece of its development program. Bengali is

 

counting on the Tiger River dam to give it an edge both

 

politically and economically within the region. The loss or

 

 

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destruction of the Tiger River dam would have a major negative

 

impact on Bengali both economically and politically, setting the

 

country back 10 or more years and possibly destabilizing the

 

entire region. The BPC has issued a strong denunciation of the

 

invasion and has called upon the United States for immediate

 

military assistance.

 

Ankar forces have enough provisions to sustain offensive

 

operations for 6 days, thereafter, resupply of its forces

 

becomes tenuous. Ankar is counting on being able to accomplish

 

its military objectives within 5 days, where upon the APG will

 

seek a cessation of hostilities in order to negotiate with

 

Bengali from a position of strength.

 

Intelligence sources indicate that although the Ankari

 

forces are mostly footmobile with some truck mounted and some

 

mechanized forces; if left unchecked, they could accomplish their

objectives within 5-7 days. Within 24 hours of the opening of

 

hostilities, I MEF ground combat units are airborne aboard C-17s

 

on their way to link up with the MPF (STING) ships already on

 

station 100 miles off the Ankar coast. Within 48 hours, I MEF

 

ground and air forces will be engaged with Ankari military

 

forces. Within 96 hours, I MEF forces will have forced a

 

cessation in hostilities and will have caused the withdrawal of

 

Ankari military forces out of the BABZ. Within 7 days, I MEF

 

 

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forces will have turned over peace enforcement duties to lead

 

elements of the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps and will have nearly

 

completed the backload and retrograde of personnel and equipment

 

from the BABZ AO.

 

The above fictionalized account of a international crisis

 

centers on the need to resolve the conflict quickly with the

 

introduction of U.S. military forces. In this scenario, time

 

becomes the all important critical factor. Indeed, in a recent

 

lecture at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, a

 

distinguished speaker noted that; "future forces will have to

 

fight upon arrival...there will be no more six month buildup of

 

forces such as we saw in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Time is

 

not only the critical factor, but [it] is also the implicit

 

parameter in future conflicts." 5 In other words, the future of

 

international conflict resolution through the application of

 

military force is TIME. Time is such a factor in future

 

conflicts, that the United States has spent billions of dollars

 

developing global reach airlift and sealift assets and continues

 

to build and maintain costly forward deployed naval, ground and

 

air forces, although many of those assets have been relocated

 

to the continental U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not only is time a factor in future international conflicts

 

but unpredictability in the international scene and a declining

 

military budget weighs heavily into how this Nation should plan

 

for future conflicts. The convergence of these factors have

 

caused the Department of Defense and the Services to think of

 

innovative ways in which deploy and employ military forces.

 

The Marine Corps, with its long history of innovation, both

 

technologically and doctrinally, stands again at the forefront of

leading the other Services in the deployment and employment of

 

military forces. The innovation of the MPF program, the V-22 and

AAAV and the doctrinal development of OMFTS and its twin

 

sub-doctrines of Over The Horizon (OTH) and STOM points the way

 

for employing our Navy and Marine forces in the future. What is

 

missing, however, is the next step beyond traditional amphibious

 

operations, i.e., beyond PERMA and its associated time in

 

executing these operations.

 

The Marine Corps, as an institution, is still wedded to the

 

idea that Marines, when not part of a forward deployed MEU(SOC)

 

or an MPF, must embark aboard amphibious (gray bottom) shipping,

 

steam to an Amphibious Objective Area (AOA), and conduct an

 

assault. This is a slow process even under the best of

 

circumstances. Even with the innovations of the V-22 and AAAV,

 

 

 

 

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the same basic principles of PERMA apply when dealing with the

 

deployment of forces larger than a MEU(SOC). Although the Marine

 

Corps developed and validated the concept of Maritime

 

Prepositoned Force shipping as a means of speeding the deployment

 

of Marine forces overseas, a concept the U.S. Army is quickly

 

adopting for its own forces, a newer approach is needed. This is

 

especially true when facing short response times in future

 

conflicts or the unavailability of shorebased ports or airfields.

 

The development of the MOB has been touted as the answer to

 

the problem of rapidly deploying and linking up forces at sea,

 

which could conceptually reduce deployment and employment time.

 

Although the concept is technically feasible, the MOB still

 

falls short of the Marine Corps' real need. That need is

 

the ability to SEAMLESSLY project forces into a fight ANYWHERE in

 

the world as RAPIDLY as the U.S.Army's 82nd Airborne Division

 

while at the same time giving that force the SUSTAINMENT and

 

FLEXIBILITY associated with a traditional amphibious ships. The

 

key to making a Marine force rapid, powerful and sustainable is

 

the ability to drive down the "Ready To Operate"(RTO) time of

 

that force as it transitions from deployment to employment; i.e.,

 

reduce RTO from flying time to fighting time. Time, as

 

mentioned before, is the critical factor. Time is what STING

 

 

 

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gives to the CINC and to the NCA during a crisis.

 

The STING represents the relatively simple idea of merging

 

the MOB concept with the traditional MPS ship. MPF (STING) ships

are newer class merchant container ships which are part of the

 

MPSRONs that are forward deployed in each of the world's

 

major oceans--the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian. The main

innovation is that all of the MPSRON ships have been modified

 

with a lightweight and flexible folding flightdeck. This

 

cantilevered flightdeck runs 500' in length, from the ship's

 

superstructure to the bow, and 300' in width, when fully extended

 

from its downward travel position.

 

When called upon, 12 MPF(STING) ships steam at 30+ knots

 

toward a selected rendezvous site near the crisis location. Upon

 

arriving in the crisis area, the ships extend their flightdecks

 

and perform linking operations which marry them together,

 

"pontoon-bridge" fashion, into a 3600' long by 500' wide flight

 

deck, able to accommodate C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft and a

 

variety of rotary wing aircraft to include the V-22. The

 

flightdeck structure on each ship is composed of lightweight

 

"smart materials" 6 which can sense shifts in stress and torque

 

at the critical linking positions and can adjust accordingly.

 

The entire length of flightdeck is further stabilized at zero

 

degrees using a GPS-computer controlled hydraulic system which

 

 

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adjusts the entire platform to the pitch, roll and yawl of

 

each ship. The overall effect is similar to a rigid vehicle

 

frame traveling over a bumpy road with 12 independent suspension

 

wheels absorbing the shock.

 

Each ship is combat loaded with equipment for Marine

 

mobile/mechanized units and contains two LCACs and an Air

 

Cushioned Vehicle Landing Platform (ACVLAP)5, for rapid

 

instream offload of rolling stock. Supplies, both bulk and

 

liquid, are loaded in small, square, containerized, air-

 

transportable pods stored underneath the flightdeck. They are

 

readily accessible to the flightdeck or to the well deck of the

 

ship. Among the 12 ship STING configuration, there is one TAH

 

hospital ship and two TAVBs (one Marine and one Air Force). All

three of these ships are configured with the 500' by 300'

 

flightdeck which can link together with the other MPF(STING)

 

ships.

 

The flightdeck itself is capable of handling take-offs and

 

landings along the outer 250' wide by 3600' long runway portion

 

of the flightdeck, along with simultaneous troop unloading

 

operations along the inner 250' wide by 3600' long ramp area. A

 

500' by 300' maintenance area at the far end of the flight deck

 

is reserved for strategic aircraft repair, which incidentally is

 

part of the Air Force TAVB.

 

 

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An open air troop tramway runs along the length of the

 

flightdeck near the superstructures of each ship. Wide-aisle

 

escalators, located near each ships' superstructure, allow easy

 

access to the lower decks containing the vehicles and equipment.

The STING ships also have modularized C2 components which give a

 

CJTF and his staff a redundant capability to run operations from

 

the MPF (STING).

 

Once the STING is formed, the ground elements of a division-

 

sized MAGTF could deploy with minimal equipment i.e. personal

 

equipment and a basic ammunition load, land on the STING

 

flightdeck and immediately, depending on the location of the

 

STING to the coastline, go into the assault using the STING as a

 

"regional airport" transfer point. Ideally, without a coastal

 

missile threat or a significant air threat, Marines would

 

disembark from C-17 or C-130 transports, move to awaiting AAAVs

 

and/or standby for inbound V-22s/CH-53s and launch from the STING

 

without it delinking. This, of course, would be the ideal

 

situation, however, a more realistic scenario would be one in

 

which the Marines, after offloading from strategic airlift, would

 

stage temporarily below decks while the STING delinked and moved

 

into dispersed attack positions in order to negate missile or

 

aircraft threats.

 

 

 

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The beauty of the STING system is its speed, flexibility and

adaptability to the situation at hand. The STING can delink and

 

reform at will depending on weather conditions, enemy threats or

 

simply to provide various sized flightdeck configurations for

 

different types of aircraft. This is not to say that the MOB

 

cannot perform some of these functions; however, the MOB or a

 

series of MOBs, as currently envisioned, must be prestaged in

 

specific geographic locations, i.e., the most likely crisis

 

areas, in order to make up for its slower speed. Furthermore,

 

although the MOB can provide a 3000'- 4000' long by 300' wide

 

runway, it still requires MPF ships to rendezvous with the

 

structure in order to complete the marriage of personnel and

 

equipment. This cannot be considered a seamless operation.

 

The MOB also represents a system which, aside from its

 

estimated costs at between $2.67 billion and $4.14 billion, 7

 

could become an unused floating "white elephant," should the

 

situation not require an offshore airfield. Even in the

 

envisioned MOB configurations that depict warehoused equipment

 

aboard each module, the size and seakeeping characteristics of

 

the modules themselves negate their ability to "make port" to

 

offload their cargo and equipment. This again severely reduces

 

the flexibility of the system and almost invites an "if you build

 

 

 

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it [the MOB], they will come" situation, whether or not it is

 

really needed. Furthermore, although the MOB has been evaluated

 

to withstand seastate 6 conditions and greater, the current and

 

future LCACs and AAAVs will only to operate in seastate 3.

 

MPF(STING) ships can, if the situation dictates, offload in

 

port or in stream in the traditional manner and can backload and

 

reconstitute forces from a seaport upon completion of the

 

operation after it has delinked. Above seastate 3, amphibious

 

operations would normally be suspended; therefore, STING ships

 

can, as mentioned earlier, rapidly delink and seek better sea

 

conditions within or outside the crisis area in order to perform

 

its personnel and equipment marriage. Thereafter, the ships can

 

again be dispatched and used as any amphibious ship would be used

 

in an amphibious operations.

Given the Marine Corps' reputation for innovation, the

 

next issue is; "how does STING fit into the over Naval

 

warfighting structure?" What is envisioned is that the STING

 

concept will eventually replace traditional amphibious

 

gray-bottom ships and would, in fact, be the "new" class

 

amphibious ship utilizing industry standard container ships and

 

bulk carriers as the baseline ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The idea of using commercial ships adapted for amphibious

 

use, vice constructing highly specialized Navy ships for that

 

purpose, is not without precedence. Not only has this been a

 

maritime tradition based on economies of scale, but the overall

 

requirements of transporting military personnel and equipment has

 

changed little since the time the Romans landed at Carthage. The

 

difference, of course, is the rapidity of movement of modern

 

vessels, the adaptation of aircraft for ship use and the

 

ability to conduct forcible entry operations.

 

STING, as an integral part of a total Naval force which

 

would be either already on station within the crisis location or

 

deployed from CONUS, has that ability to rapidly deploy and

 

employ large Marine combat forces into a crisis location in order

to force a quick cessation of hostilities. The STING can

 

provide these capabilities in the form of a "coup de main" in a

 

crisis situation and, if needed, the "coup de grace" would come

 

from follow-on heavy Army and Air Forces.

 

Current MPF forces, on the other hand, still apply the

 

archaic principles of building up forces ashore in a "benign"

 

environment, moving to contact with an enemy force, and blunting

 

an onslaught. STING forces, however, can be inserted within 2

 

to 3 days of the onset of hostilities and can surprise an enemy

 

 

 

 

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force by the sheer weight of numbers at any point within the

 

battlespace. The age old adage that says mass, in terms

 

of men and material, has a quality all its own will be as true

 

for future conflicts as it has been for past conflicts. STING

 

gives the Marine Corps that mass. STING also gives the Marine

 

Corps time. Mass and time equals victory on the future

 

battlefield.

Notwithstanding the opening scenario, one need only to ask

 

what the outcome could have been during the opening days of the

 

Korean conflict in 1950 had a STING force been available to

 

either blunt the Korean onslaught or conduct an Inchon landing

 

earlier in the campaign. Would the Japanese Malayan

 

campaign of WWII or the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive of

 

1975 have been as successful had the enemy contended with the

 

rapid insertion of a U.S. STING force?

 

Finally, would the British have been forced to take such

 

costly casualties, if they would have been able to rapidly

 

introduce heavy ground and air forces into the Falklands using an

MPF (STING) force to counter the Argentine buildup at Port

 

Stanley? As one can see, the rapid introduction of forces into a

 

conflict which can fight and sustain themselves upon arrival,

 

utilizing a STING concept, could produce the greatest tactical,

 

 

 

 

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operational and strategic advantage for any nation willing to

 

employ it.

 

In sum, this concept attempts to demonstrate how, with some

 

imagination and some innovative ways at looking at a particular

 

problem, the Marine Corps could advance along the evolutionary

 

track of amphibious operations. Although many technical aspects

of STING must be worked out, operational issues concerning

 

employment of this system are no more challenging than the

 

challenges faced by the amphibious planners of the 1920s and 30s.

 

Having the will to leap forward in bold and innovative moves vice

 

taking incremental "baby steps" has always been the hallmark of

 

the Marine Corps.

 

What is needed for the STING concept to work is the

 

willingness to test it and find the ever present "holes"

 

which accompany any new idea, and to develop workable

 

solutions to solving the many challenges that the concept

 

proposes. Given where the Marine Corps has been and where it

 

must go, the challenges for developing a more rapid and seamless

 

Marine force to better meet future CINC requirements must be

 

explored and overcome, if the Marine Corps is to remain a viable

 

entity now and in the future.

 

 

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ENDNOTES

 

 

1 Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Year in Review-1994 (Carderock, MD: GPO 1994) 13.

 

2 Memorandum for the Director, Assessment Division, N-85 (Washington: Ser N853/4U650298 23 Nov 94).

 

3 Major Jay Sorg, USMC, MPF 2010 Concept Brief for CMC, Quantico, VA, 6 December 1995.

 

4 Johnsen, W.T., Johnson II, D.V., Kievit, J.O., Lovelace, Jr., D.C., Metz, S., The Principle of War in the 21st Century,

Strategic Considerations, (The Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Publication, Ft. Levenworth, KS 1 August 1995). 96.

 

5 Command and Staff College Lecture, 15 January 1996, Quantico, VA.

 

6 Curt Suplee, "Structures with a Sense of Self," The Washington Post 6 January 1996: A3.

 

7 N-85 MOB Brief (Washington: 21 November 1995) 9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Year in Review-1994. Carderock, MD: GPO 1994: 13.

 

Memorandum for the Director, Assessment Division, N-85,

Mobile Offshore Base(MOB). Washington, DC: Ser N853/4U650298:

23 November 1994.

 

Sorg, Jay, Major, USMC, MPF 2010 Concept Brief for CMC. Quantico, VA: 6 December 1995.

 

Johnsen, W.T., Johnson II, D.V., Kievit, J.O., Lovelace, Jr., D.C., Metz, S., The Principle of War in the 21st Century,

Strategic Considerations. The Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Publication, Ft. Levenworth, KS: 1 August 1995: 96.

 

Command and Staff College, Lecture. Quantico, VA: 15 January 1996.

 

Suplee, Curt, "Structures with a Sense of Self." The Washington Post: 6 January 1996: A3.

 

CNO, N-85, MOB Brief. Washington: 21 November 1995: 9.



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