Maritime Prepositioning Force
The Maritime Prepositioning Force is a key element of MAGTF operations' building block approach. It is also a rapid, sustainable, global crisis response capability in its own right. The MPF consists of two parts. The first includes three squadrons of ships, strategically positioned within close proximity to the MEU(SOC) operating areas in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Like MEU(SOC)s, MPF squadrons are no more than seven to 14 days sailing time from any brewing crisis within their respective areas of coverage. In addition, two U.S.-based aviation logistics support ships (one on each coast) carry a complete intermediate maintenance capability for Marine aviation units. Their capabilities augment MPF squadrons when required.
In essence, each MPF squadron is a large MAGTF without its Marines and Sailors -- a floating "tool chest" of crisis response capabilities. In its entirety, one four- to five-ship squadron carries the equipment for a regimental-size mechanized MAGTF, and enough supplies for 30 days of sustained operations ashore. Unique to their crisis response heritage, MPF squadrons can, weather permitting, offload their entire cargo "in stream" (at sea) via on-board cranes, landing craft, and causeways. This capability eliminates the need for well developed port facilities. The ships can also pipe bulk water and fuel ashore, adding to MAGTF sustainability in austere environments or when the infrastructure ashore has been destroyed -- either by natural disaster or by enemy action.
Squadrons are loaded in such a way as to allow individual ships to be selectively off-loaded in support of smaller, operationally independent MAGTFs. For example, one ship in each squadron is designed to augment MEU(SOC) capabilities. Others carry capabilities well suited for disaster relief and humanitarian operations. Still others are designed to support MAGTFs involved in low intensity conflicts. In the future, the squadron "tool chest" will be even more flexible with the addition of one new ship per squadron. This will allow a squadron to deliver expanded joint task force command and control capabilities, expeditionary airfield equipment, a full field hospital, and heavy engineer assets.
The second part of the MPF are the Marines, Sailors, and aviation units that transform its floating capability sets into full-fledged MAGTFs. An MPF fly-in-echelon consists of up to 17,600 Marines and an additional 1,100 Sailors in the associated Naval Support Element, as well as more than 120 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. When an MPF squadron and its companion fly-in-echelon of Marines, Sailors and aircraft are married up, they form the forward operating element of a full MEF.
The difference between the MPF fly-in-echelon and an ACM is simple. While an ACM brings its own organic ground equipment into an area of operations by aircraft, Marines in the MPF fly-in-echelon fall in on equipment delivered by ship. As such, the fly-in-echelon consists only of Marines and Sailors, their individual weapons, and a small amount of special gear. The result is a significant decrease in the number of strategic airlift sorties required to deploy the force. For example, the equipment stored on a single MPF squadron would require more than 3,000 airlift flights if deployed from the United States. The full combat power of an MPF-based MAGTF can thus be deployed using only 250 airlift flights, a 92 percent reduction in required flights for a force of comparable size deployed completely from the continental U.S.
The MPF provides the final dimension to Marine Corps readiness, strategic mobility, and global responsiveness. Its ultimate utility is its enormous flexibility. The MPF can be used to augment capabilities of first-on-the-scene ACMs and MEU(SOC)s by providing mixes of equipment and Marines that can be absorbed into on-scene command, ground combat, air combat, and combat service support elements. It can be used to create completely new MAGTFs operating as part of joint or combined forces, or as follow-on forces being used to exploit amphibious MEF operations. Finally, the MPF can be used to deploy the full power of a MEF. In this regard, by concentrating all three MPF squadrons, the entire combat power of a heavy, mechanized MEF can be deployed to a region using less than 800 airlift flights. This is precisely what happened during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|