AIRMOBILE FOWARD AREA REFUELING POINTS: TACTICAL CAPABILITIES FOR THE MARINE CORPS AUTHOR MAJOR G. W. McCUTCHEON, USMC CSC 1988 SUBJECT AREA AVIATION EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: AIRMOBILE FORWARD AREA REFUELING POINTS: TACTICAL CAPABILITIES FOR THE MARINE CORPS I. Purpose: To establish the necessity for the AFARP helicopter refueling system in todays amphibious assault scenario. II. Problem: With the advent of Over the Horizon (0TH) amphibious assault being necessary to ensure surprise and security, the present helicopter mix cannot provide enough fuel endurance to support MAGTF operations. The landing craft cannot replace the helicopter and thus an efficient helicopter range extender is necessary. III. Data: Marine Corps and Naval offensive doctrine in amphibious operations recognizes the need to operate in the 0TH environment. Typical ranges are expected to be beyond 12NM and as far out as 2OONM. The optimum operating range of our present helicopter mix is 3ONM from ATF to the beach in the assault mode. The helicopters are tasked with getting the MAGTF ashore and accepting subsequent operations in 90 minutes or less. Helicopter transit time from beach to ship and refueling time aboard ship will preclude this. The presently available Helicopter Expeditionary Refueling System (HERS) is very cumbersome, manpower intensive, and vulnerable to attack. The AFARP is available for use by all tactical helicopters with the CH-53 D/E acting as the refueler platform. The CH-53 DIE can be easily modified to accept AFARP with minimum expense in money or manpower. A CH-53 AFARP is a critical force multiplier by refueling helicopters in minutes vice hours and in assault sites vice refueling. IV. Conclusion: The Marine Corps needs AFARP for its operations today and it is available. Accepting the AFARP concept will fill the void in range experienced when the ATF moves well beyond the horizon and the helicopter mix remains fixed. V. Recommendations: Authorize immediate modifications to all CH-53 D/E systems to accept AFARP. Navair should purchase sufficient AFARP kits for all CH-53's in the Marine Corps and an adequate spare parts supply. The Marine Corps and MAWTS-1 must anticipate scenarios for AFARP employment and create doctrine for its use. AIRMOBILE FORWARD AREA REFUELING POINTS: TACTICAL CAPABILITIES FOR THE MARINE CORPS OUTLINE THESIS STATEMENT: This paper will discuss the capabilities of the CH-53 D/E forward area refueling system and its impact on the Marine Corps' amphibious flexibility. I. Background A. Present amphibious doctrine B. Present helicopter weakness C. Introduction to AFARP II. AFARP A. Background development 1. General Kelly's message 2. HMH 463 and HMX-1 involvement B. Comparison to HERS C. CH-53 D evaluation D. CH-53 E evaluation E. Safety considerations III. HERS System A. Description B. Comparison to CH-53 D/E 1. Advantages 2. Disadvantages IV. Tactical Scenarios A. AFARP in Amphibious Raid B. AFARP in Classic Amphibious Assault AIRMOBILE FORWARD AREA REFUELING POINTS: TACTICAL CAPABILITIES FOR THE MARINE CORPS PART 1: Background and Purpose Naval Weapons Publication (NWP) 22B Doctrine for Amphibious Assault states: The salient requirement of the amphibious assault is the necessity of building up combat power ashore from an initial zero capacity to full coordinated striking power as the attack drives toward the amphibious task force objectives. The Marine Corps is moving boldly into the future with the advent of LCAC (landing craft; air cushion), the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, and the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor assault aircraft. In the short term, however, through 1995 - the helicopter mix of CH-53, CH-46, UH-1N and AH-1W will remain the mainstays of the helicopter striking force attempting to land Marines on hostile shores. The U. S. Navy already dictates that the Over-The-Horizon (0TH) assault is key to survivability of the amphibious task force against a sophisticated enemy. The dilemma therefore, is to find a means to effectively increase the fuel range of the presently available helicopters or accept the unacceptably slow buildup of combat power ashore. The present mix of Marine helicopters cannot build combat power rapidly in the 0TH environment. The distances involved dictate that they be refueled repeatedly prior to introduction of follow on waves beyond the assault echelon (AE). Current thought on the issue of getting the AE ashore professes that Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB) must get the AE ashore in 90 minutes or less.1 Presently the doctrine of 0TH discusses 12-30 NM as 0TH ranges with 12 NM being the earth's curvature point and 30 NM being the "optimum" out and back range of loaded CH-46 helicopter. The first assault wave of helicopters must refuel aboard ship while picking up the second wave of troops or it will not have sufficient fuel to make the return trip from the beach. While the helicopter refuels it cannot load troops and it prevents other helos from using that launch and recovery spot. The remaining helos fly in a Delta or Charlie (altitude and direction around the ship) pattern, waiting for a landing spot, wasting both time and fuel. When the additional time for airborne marshal (join up of the flight), and external lift (pick-up of artillery and stores) is factored in, the present mix of Marine helicopters is fuel and time critical before ever turning the first rotor. Shall we just throw up our hands and hope we never have to mount helicopterborne assault before 1995? Certainly not! There exists today off the shelf technology 1U.S. Navy Department, Lone Term Amphibious Lift Requirements and Optimum Ship Mix (u) (n.p. May 1983) p. 9 CONFIDENTIAL and hardware that can dramatically extend the range and flexibility of our present helicopter mix. The system is adaptable to the CH-53 D/E helicopters for dispensing and to the CH-53, CH-46, UH-1N, and AH-1T for receiving. Although not yet tested the systems may have application to AV-8B Harrier operations. What is this new system? It is the Airmobile Forward Area Refueling Point system with the emphasis on Airmobile. The AFARP is an idea and a reality whose time has arrived and is crucial to Marine helicopterborne assault operations TODAY! PART 2: AFARP Description Evaluation of the AFARP was initiated in 1985. with completion in June 1986. Tactical helicopter squadron HMH- 463 at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and HMX-1 at Quantico, Virginia, utilized a close working relationship and exchange of data to rigorously test the AFARP system with minimal duplication of effort. The final evaluation report Operational Assessment of the CH-53 in Support of Forward Area Refueling Point FARP Operations published by HMX-1 on 3 Oct 1986, provides most of the technical material identified in this section. The charter to HMX-1 to follow on HMH-463 preliminary work was contained in the following statement: Conventional operations on the modern battlefield and Marine Corps Special Operations require helicopters to operate at extended ranges beyond that which is obtainable by their onboard fuel systems. The internal range extension tanks available for the CH-46, CH-53, and the UH-1N and auxiliary internal tanks for the AH-1 are designed for administrative ferry flights, not combat.2 General Kelly further critiqued the presently utilized FARP system: Current methods available for range extensions involve the transport of fuel bladders, set up of a refueling point and other significant logistical support. This logistical burden complicates the planning and execution of the originally assigned mission.3 The evaluation of AFARP needed several tactical issues addressed to give the evaluation purpose and direction. 2U.S.Marine Corps, "Commandant of the Marine Corps letter," APW-51, (Washington: 19 Feb 1986), p. 1 3 Ibid. p. 2. Among the issues considered were: a. significant improvement in mobility and survivability over HERS system. b. enhances present and future amphibious doctrine. c. contributes to logistics support concepts. d. technology and hardware currently available. e. aircraft modifications cannot be intensive or effect airworthiness. f. modifications must be cost effective. g. system should be self contained, hand transportable by maximum of two men and simple for maintenance at squadron level.4 The CH-53 D and E model, heavy lift helicopters were selected for test platforms for two primary reasons: 1. Currently onboard plumbing (CH-53 D with airframe change (AFC) 233) allows internal fuel to be transferred and pumped outside the aircraft through the Mark 105 pump to receiver aircraft. 2. CH-53 E with its vast lift capabilities for external (sponson) fuel and internal bladders. The CH-53 E does not carry the MK 105 pump; however, the fuel dumping system easily substitutes by simple modification of the pumps themselves. 4Hopkins, J. P., "Airmobile Forward Area Refueling Points: Concepts and Capabilities", unpublished paper (Naval War College, Newport, RI, 1987), p. 6. CH-53D. The aircraft extends one or two fiIty foot hoses to receiver aircraft and uses either one or two MK 105 pumps to transfer fuel to receiver aircraft. CH-53 D transfer rates are: Click here to view image The CH-53 D can effectively refuel two CH-46 helicopters with a full fuel load in a maximum of 20 minutes (includes system set up and breakdown time). If the same CH-46's had to transit to the amphibious ships for refueling the turnaround time would easily triple and perhaps quadruple. Tactically the savings can be calculated in time or depth capability of the assault. CH-53E. The E model utilizes a minor modification to the onboard fuel dumping system to create a fuel pumping system. The CH-53 E also doubles the fuel lift capability of the CH-53 D while maintaining its own 100 NM combat radius. The CH-53 E transfer rates are: Click here to view image *Port vice pump refuel is slower but is still significant over return flights to amphibious ships.5 Clearly the CH-53 E is a viable AFARP. The total onboard fuel for give away is 2700 gallons which is sufficient for (4) CH-46's or (8) UH-1's or a combination. The CH-53 E maintains nearly 90 minutes flying time in internal fuel after offload to receivers. It can readily climb up to meet a KC-130 for airborne refuel or return to the amphibious ships for refuel or change of mission back to its heavy lift role. Both the CH-53 D and E model are suitable to dispense fuel for up to four (4) receiver aircraft and be on the ground for a maximum of 25 minutes. The ability to increase range and survivability due to limited ground exposure time was a criterion met by the AFARP hardware components. The system utilizes five (5) 50 foot sections of fuel hose with integral electric continuity and safety valves to prevent fuel spillage, "Y" couplings to divide fuel flow, a digital flow meter, airframe adapters and compact fuel nozzles providing for pressure or gravity fueling of two aircraft simultaneously. The entire system fits into DoD standard cruise boxes and weighs about 200 pounds.6 Safety. The AFARP system has two significant features 5U.S. Marine Corps, Operational Assessment of the CH-53 in Support of Forward Area Rearming and Refueling (FARP) Operations., Marine Helicopter Squadron-1, (Quantico, VA: 3 Oct 1986) p. 4. 6Ibid. p. 1. which contribute strongly to administrative and tactical safety. First, the safety valves contained within three separate areas of the fuel nozzles are significant longevity providers.7 The valves are designed to break and seal off fuel flow when stressed beyond safe limits. One scenario would involve enemy mortar or artillery fire impacting in or near the refueling zone--a refueling aircraft could immediately lift off out of danger without waiting to disconnect the hose or valve. The only price paid is the one for a new breakaway valve or hose--neither helicopter is harmed. A second significant safety issue is that the AFARP is a "closed system." A closed system means the clean transfer of fuel through sealed lines and nozzles precluding the danger of fuel contamination. At no time is the fuel exposed to dust, dirt, or water--refueling in a rainstorm presents no danger or contaminant or errant electric current. 7Ibid. p. 5 PART 3: PRESENT SYSTEMS The Helicopter Expeditionary Refueling System (HERS) fulfills the present needs of the Marine Corps. However, this system is large and cumbersome and cannot match the demonstrated capabilities of AFARP. HERS is designed to operate in an internal or external configuration. Internally the helicopter must carry fuel bladders and a massive 300 gph fuel pump to the refueling site. The fuel bladders are not crash resistant, leak badly with temperature changes and are not built to be aviation compatible. The 300 gph fuel pump fills nearly 1/2 of the CH-53 cargo area and requires a rough terrain forklift to move it in or out of the aircraft. If the fuel bladders and pumps are carried externally the defensive maneuverability of the helicopter is effectively destroyed. The helicopter is best defended using low altitude, high speed tactics and external HERS units preclude this ability. A minimum of thirty minutes is required to setup a HERS site and it further requires nine marines to setup and operate the site. Compare this with the six minute setup and two man operation of the AFARP. Breakdown of the HERS is a slow, deliberate process which requires at least two hours and nine marines.8 Fuel purging and replacing of bladders make breakdown a tedious task. In a hostile attack 8 U.S. Navy Department, Assault Support Tactical Manual, NWP 55-9-ASH Vol. 1 (Rev. C), (Washington: 1985) p. J-4. the HERS must be left in place while AFARP lifts off with its components intact. The HERS can supply larger volumes of fuel than AFARP if HERS is located near a Main Supply Route (MSR) and has not been targeted or is beyond the enemy's range.9 In those circumstances where sustained operations ashore are necessary, HERS will be a definite asset to the landing force helicopters. Simply stated, AFARP will be the better asset in operations lasting hours or days, while HERS and follow-on refueling Combat Service Support Areas (CSSA) are necessary for weeks and months ashore. In conclusion of Part 3, a summation of the advantages and disadvantages of HERS and AFARP are in order. HERS Advantages: 1. Utilize helicopter maximum lift. 2. External cargo can be jettisoned in emergency. 3. Delivery aircraft can revert to other missions. 4. Higher fuel volume delivered in benign environment. HERS Disadvantages: 1. Locate only in "secure" area. 2. Large number of personnel required. 3. Heavy logistic requirement (MSR, forklifts). 4. Lacks mobility. 9Ibid. p. J-1. 5. Not aircraft compatible design. CH-53 D Advantages: 1. Utilize helicopter maximum lift. 2. Minimum exposure time at AFARP site. 3. Flexibility to create an AFARP site where necessary. 4. Helicopter maneuverability is not effected. 5. No HERS equipment in cabin or external. 6. Extends assault force range and speed. 7. Quick response (liftoff) capability in emergency. 8. INEXPENSIVE and off shelf hardware. 9. Fuel give away up to 2100 gallons. 10. Self deployable. 11. Lightweight--two man operation. CH-53 D Disadvantages: 1. Not in all CH-53 D's. 2. Aircraft is exposed on deck often beyond FEBA or FBHL for short periods. 3. Aircraft is taken away from assault echelon (carrying of artillery or heavy stores). CH-53 E Advantages: 1. All CH-53 D advantages apply. 2. Increased fuel give away up to 2700 gallons. 3. Faster fuel flow at 86 gpm. 4. Refuel up to 4 aircraft simultaneously. 5. Can aerial refuel itself for quicker return to AFARP site. CH-53 E Disadvantages: 1. Not yet approved for general use. 2. Initially detracts from assault support assets. 10 10 OPCIT. Hopkins. p. 11-12. PART 4: TACTICAL SCENARIOS FOR AFARP EMPLOYMENT Part 1 utilized a quote from NWP-22B,: discussing the urgency of building combat power ashore from zero to full striking power moving toward the amphibious task force objectives. In the traditional Marine Corps role of amphibious assault this was and continues to be a necessity. However, what application would the AFARP concept have on the amphibious raid scenario with a quick thrust and quick withdrawal? Scene 1--AFARP in the Amphibious Raid--Hostage Rescue. Permissive Air Threat Environment. A group of U. S. citizens require rescue from a hostile government and are in a known location. The local media reports the hostages are being beaten and perhaps killed. A forward deployed MEU is 0TH about 50 NM from the enemy coast and formulates its rescue plan. A rescue package of four CH-46, four AH-1W and four CH- 53 E helicopters is prepared. The CH-53 E's are all fitted with maximum internal and external auxiliary fuel and AFARP hardware. The distance from the MEU to the target is 250 NM, which creates a 500 NM round trip. Conservatively, the CH- 46's and AH-1's will require four AFARP refueling points and will then arrive nearly empty on return to the MEU. A KC-130 tanker is available for aerial refuel in a tactical manner at low altitude for the CH-53 E AFARP helicopters. The CH-53 E arrives at the AFARP sites with nearly full fuel for their use and giveaway. Figure 1 graphically depicts Scene 1. Click here to view image Scene 2--Generic 0TH Assault The basic 0TH assault was devised to achieve surprise and maintain better defense against a sophisticated enemy. 0TH assaults take on characteristics as follow:11 1. Standoff ranges of 12 to 200 NM. 2. The majority (2/3) of the assault echelon (AE) lands by helicopter and perhaps in entirety if beach is not AAV or LCAC capable. 3. Current helicopters can support 0TH assaults only out to 30 NM. 4. Combat power must come ashore on first wave. 5. High tech, high combat multiplier weapons must be in first wave. 6. Amphibious ship deck space will be at a premium. 0TH assaults nearly remove AAV's from serious consideration as assault echelon vehicles. Due to slow speed and the impracticality of expecting Marines to fight after a 12-30 NM AAV ride, the AAV will not survive a contested 0TH assault. The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) allows for swift transit to the beach but carries only open bay cargo and is not suitable for assault troops. Only the helicopter and the future MV-22 Osprey have the inherent speed and flexibility to employ a MAGTF ashore with coordinated combat power. Once ashore however, the 11 Wheeler, James R., "Fire Support for the Over-the- Horizon Amphibious Assault", Marine Corps Gazette, (Dec. 1985), pp 39-43. helicopter is fuel limited toward its ability to accept follow-on missions. Only the AFARP can provide the needed fuel in an efficient manner to make the assault echelon helicopter viable for secondary and tertiary missions. PART 5--Conclusions The AFARP system of refueling from CH-53 D/E model helicopters is a MAGTF force multiplier of the first magnitude. Although it has minor weaknesses in bladder leakage (E model) and crashworthiness; the AFARP shines in its advantages.12 The system is available NOW in a low cost, off the shelf, light weight, low manpower configuration. When used by itself or in conjunction with the HERS, the AFARP significantly reduces the helicopters main weakness--ENDURANCE. When the helicopter is freed of the burden of continual transit to the amphibious ship for fuel, it is at the disposal of the supported commander. The Ground Combat Element (GCE) is able to maneuver continually over rough or impassable terrain with helicopter refueling taking place on site vice miles and hours away. The survivability of the helicopter, the GCE and perhaps even the Amphibious Task Force is enhanced by the use of AFARP. Presently, there is no aviation doctrine for the employment of AFARP but the potential is there to create the doctrine. In this sense, the hardware and doctrine could grow together as an integrated weapon system. Wouldn't that be an original thought? 12 OPCIT. Hopkins. p. 25. BIBLIOGRAPHY Hopkins, J. P. "Airmobile Forward Area Refueling Points: Concept and Capabilities", unpublished paper. (Naval War College, Newport, RI: 1987) U. S. Defense Technical Information Center, Operational Conceits for Amphibious Assault Operations 1985-1995 (u) (Alexandria, VA: DLA (u) SECRET. U. S. Marine Corps, "Commandant of the Marine Corps letter", APW-51, (Washington: 19 Feb 1986). U. S. Marine Corps, Forward Area Refueling Points (FARP) Planning, MAWTS-1, Yuma, AZ: 1986). U. S. Marine Corps, Operational Assessment of the CH-53 in Support of Forward Area Rearming and Refueling (FARP) Operations, Marine Helicopter Squadron-I, (Quantico, VA: 3 Oct 1986). U. S. Navy Department, Assault Support Helicopters Tactical Manual, NWP 55-9-ASH vol. 1 (Rev.C), (Washington: 1985). U. S. Navy Department, Doctrine for Amphibious Assault; NWP- 22 B, (Washington: 1984). U. S. Navy Department, Lone Term Lift Requirements and Optimum Ship Study Mix (U), (n.p. May 1983) Confidential. Wheeler, James R., "Fire Support for Over-the-Horizon Amphibious Assaults", Marine Corps Gazette, (Dec. 1986).
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