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Over The Horizon Amphibious Assault: Making The  Best Of Equipment Incompatibility
AUTHOR Major Carl D. Turk, USMC
CSC 1988
                     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I.   Purpose: To create an awareness of the concept of future
over the horizon amphibious assault operations and to
emphasize the dynamics of some of the major equipment that
is necessary to conduct this type of warfare.
II.  Problem:  To often, technology provides new equipment
that arrives well before appropriate procedures and methods
of employment are considered.  Usually, much is known of a
particular weapon system's capabilities and limitations
prior to procurement and fielding due to thorough research
and development programs.  A weakness in this process
however, is that at times, the integration and employment of
a new system may not have been fully analyzed, tested, or
checked for acceptable compatibility with existing systems
or equipment.  This may be the case with some of the
equipment slated for over the horizon assault employment.
III. Conclusions: The concept of over the horizon amphibious
assault is well on its way to becoming a viable capability
within the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps team.  Major
equipment procurement programs are currently providing some
of the necessary components to the fleet.  Unless
unforeseen circumstances occur, the over the horizon
capability should be a reality shortly.
IV.  Recommendations: The U. S. Navy and Marine Corps must
thoroughly conduct an operational analysis of the equipment
necessary to conduct over the horizon amphibious assault to
ensure that incompatibilities with other systems are
minimized.  Procedures and doctrine should be developed to
take into account those areas where incompatibilities do
exist between weapons systems or equipment.  The U. S. Navy
and Marine Corps must retain a viable conventional
amphibious warfare capability until such time that adequate
over the horizon capability exists to be able to project
power from not only the sea but from over the horizon also.
Thesis Statement:The over the horizon (OTH) assault concept
will offer a new dimension to future amphibious operations;
this capability however, will be inhibited due to equipment
I.   A brief history of modern amphibious assault
 A.   Implementation of the personnel landing craft
 B.   Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) evolves
 C.   Early models of helicopters are employed
 D.   Doctrine has developed with new technology
II.  OTH assault has Navy emphasis
 A.   New classes of ship (LHD & LSD-41)
 B.   Landing Craft Air Cushioned, (LCAC)
   1. capapbility and advantages
   2. limitations to operations
 C.   Naval gunfire and OTH assault
III. OTH has top priority with the Marine Corps
 A.   Development of MV-22A, Osprey
   1. Osprey characteristics and capabilities
   2. dilemmas presented by Osprey
 B.   LCAC and Osprey working together
IV.  List of new equipment not perfectly suited to OTH
 A.   Non-OTH classes of ships
 B.   CH-53E, Super Sea Stallion
 C.   Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs)
 D.   AH-1 attack helicopter
V.   Preparation and Planning
 A.   Develop employment concepts now
 B.   Maximize advantages and retain proficiency in Non-OTH
 C.   Budget cuts and their affects
     General Omar N. Bradley on October 19, 1949, predicted
that large-scale amphibious operations would never occur
again.  The General was proven wrong in his prediction when
the amphibious landing at Inchon Korea took place in 1950.
Amphibious warfare continues to be a vital element in our
country's national strategy today, and will be considered so
in the future.  Former Commandant of the Marine Corps
General P. X. Kelley stated:
     Indeed, the incremental advances we have experienced
     in the art of amphibious warfare will soon be giving
     way to an exciting era--in which the rapid pace of
     strategic, operational, and tactical improvements will
     transform the current renaissance into nothing less
     than an amphibious revolution.1
This revolution in amphibious warfare will be principally
driven by the technological advances which ultimately result
in new equipment.  It is this new equipment that will allow
modification of and enhancement to the concept of
traditional amphibious warfare .  The Navy and Marine Corps
have given high priority toward planning and formulating an
operational and tactical framework for amphibious operations
from over the horizon.2  The over the horizon (OTH) assault
concept will offer a new dimension to future amphibious
operations; this capability however, will be inhibited due
to equipment incompatibilities.
     A brief review of recent amphibious history may be
helpful in establishing a better understanding of the
dynamics of over the horizon assault.  Prior to World War
II, few amphibious landing crafts and vessels existed.
Those that did exist were in many cases in various stages of
experimentation.3  The landing craft in use today within our
amphibious forces had their beginnings and can be traced
back to the World War II period.
     The tactical and strategic aspects of World War II
demanded newer and more capable landing craft so that the
war could be properly pursued.  Many types were constructed
and tested.  One landing craft in particular, the LCPR, was
so unstable and difficult to handle in the surf that it
almost caused a disaster during the North Africa landing.
The nation continued to exercise its industrial might and
finally produced the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel
(LCVP).  This landing craft was sometimes referred to as the
"Higgins" boat as this was the name of the man who designed
and built the boat.  The LCVP was a tremendous increase in
capability over other crafts that existed during that period
of time,  The LCVP was constructed of wood and was fitted
with one-quarter inch armor to protect the occupants.  It
had a steel bow ramp, could make nine knots, and could carry
as many as thirty six troops or eight thousand pounds of
cargo.  The LCVP had a V-bottom that meant it had to be
carried , while aboard ship, in a davit.  This particular
botton shape also meant that personnel could not embark
aboard the craft until it was in the water and was secured
along the ship's side.  Personnel then would use a wet net,
that was over the ship's side, to embark aboard the craft.
LCVPs were utilized extensively to land troops during the
war.  They were considered dangerous in a surf greater then
five feet because they had only one screw which reduced
maneuverability.  Nevertheless, the LCVP contributed
immeasurably toward winning World War II and can be credited
for giving impetus to the development of modern amphibious
     The same forces that drove the development of various
landing crafts during World War II, also gave emphasis to
the operational requirement and then finally the production
of the amphibious vehicle known as the Landing Vehicle
Tracked (LVT).  The Department of Defense definition of an
amphibious vehicle is a wheeled or tracked vehicle capable
of operating on both land and water.  The amphibious vehicle
is unlike the landing craft which must be beached at or near
the waters edge.  Amphibious vehicles are designed to
operate afloat or ashore without modification to ensure
impetus in the attack through the beach.  At the beginning
of World War II, the only available LVT was the military
model of the Roebling Alligator, the LVT(1).4  The LVT(1)
was constructed of arc-welded steel from 14 gauge to 3/16
inch in thickness.  It weighted 17,500 pounds and could
carry a cargo of approximately 4,500 pounds.  A 150
horsepower engine supplied the power to the LVT(1).  This
engine provided a land speed of 12 mph and a water speed of
7 mph.  Improvements in the design of the LVT and better
operational tactics were developed throughout the war.  The
model of amphibian vehicle in service today in the Marine
Corps is the AAV7A1 series of Assault Amphibious vehicle.
This particular family of amphibious vehicles is forecasted
to support the Marine Corps well into the future century.
     Although early models of helicopters were in production
and flown extensively prior to 1950, the first major
tactical applications occurred during the Korean War.  The
Marine Corps was instrumental in developing the concept of
vertical envelopment during the war in Korea.  The first
medevacs were successfully conducted by helicopters from
VMO-6 during the first week of August 1950.  A helicopter
from VMO-6 also performed the first rescue of a downed pilot
on August 10, 1950.  The helicopter dramatically reduced the
time required to evacuate wounded personnel from the
battlefield to hospital facilities located in rear areas.
It is impossible to determine the number of lives that were
saved as a result of medevac helicopter missions.
However,the number of wounded Marines that were evacuated by
helicopters during the Korean conflict numbered close to
10,000 personnel. 5  HMR-161, flying the HRS-1 transport
helicopter, set another milestone on September 3, 1951, by
transporting 224 personnel and 17,772 pounds of cargo when
it conducted the first helicopter lift of a combat unit.
The use of helicopters has continued to expand within the
Marine Corps since the Korean War and they will contribute
to amphibious operations for years to come in the future.
    The introduction of new equipment and the capability
improvements that are usually gained as a result, have
challenged planners to continuously update and modify
amphibious doctrine when necessary.  This is critical to
ensure that the maximum potential of a new system is
efficiently utilized.  Any relationship or interaction of a
new system to an existing system should be analyzed by
operational planners to determine that a high degree of
compatibility will exist.  Every effort should be made early
in the equipment fielding process to ensure that as much
compatibility as possible is attained.
     The U. S. Navy has placed a high degree of emphasis in
the development of amphibious assault operations from over
the horizon.  This can be attributed to the concept's
potential to produce tactically desirable characteristics
not currently available when conventional amphibious warfare
techniques are considered.  The OTH assault concept will
integrate into and positively complement the Navy's existing
Sea Echelon concept.6  The Sea Echelon Concept considers the
enemy's capability to employ nuclear weapons and mines
within the amphibious objective area.  Of primary concern is
the need to disperse the ships for security purposes at sea
until such time as they are needed.  One major advantage
offered by the over the horizon concept will be that better
operational security will be attained by the amphibious task
force.  The force will be afforded greater protection from
observation or electronic detection which is advantageous
when the ever increasing enemy capabilty, which is being
improved by advancing technology, is taken into
     One of the objectives of the Navy's 600-ship plan is to
provide the amphibious lift capability to embark the assault
echelons of a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEB) and a Marine
Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).  Consequently, two new classes
of amphibious ships are now entering service in the fleet.
These new ships are the Amphibious Assault Ship, "Wasp"
class (LHD), and the Dock Landing Ship "Whidbey Island"
class (LSD).  These ships will bring needed amphibious lift
capability and will ensure that the capacity to project
power ashore in the future will be feasible.  Although each
new ship is considered multi-purpose, each brings with it
certain characteristics that are advantageous and will have
favorable over the horizon amphibious assault application
     The Navy is currently introducing the Landing Craft Air
Cushion (LCAC) into the fleet in conjunction with the
production of the LSD and LHD classes of amphibious ships.
The 4th Assault Craft Unit located in Little Creek,
Virginia, recently received LCAC number twelve.7  The Navy
eventually plans on acquiring 45 LCACs for the east coast
and also 45 for the west coast base located at Camp
Pendleton, California.
     The LCAC has many advantages over conventional hull
displacement landing craft which make them well suited to
the OTH assault mission.  They are more than four times
faster than current landing craft and are capable of
exceeding 40 knots on water and up to 25 knots on land.
This performance is obtainable since the LCAC rides on a
four foot cushion of trapped air and can operate in waters
regardless of depth, waves, obstacles, or tides.  The LCAC
can continue to move inland over mud flats, sand dunes, and
ditches if desired.  Each LCAC can carry 60 tons of cargo
and has a range of 200 nautical miles.  They will be able to
negotiate approximately 70 percent of the world's coastlines
due to the ability to ride over the surface on air cushion.
The LHD will be able to carry 3 LCACs and the LSD, Whidbey
Island class, will be able to carry 4 LCACs.
     Although the LCAC will bring advantages to amphibious
warfare, there will also be limitations and additional
responsibilities to consider.  The LCAC is not suited as a
personnel transporter as it does not possess a covered
shelter and would hazardously expose personnel to harmful
noise and the elements.  The maintenance requirements will
no doubt increase as a result of the aircraft related
machinery and its exposure to the highly corrosive salt
environment.  The LCAC is not compatible with the Amphibious
Cargo Ship (LKA) or the Tank Landing Ship (LST).
     The question of adequate Naval Surface Fire Support
(NSFS) arises when considering OTH amphibious assault.
Adequate naval gunfire has long been a Marine Corps
requirement placed upon the Navy.  Conducting assaults from
over the horizon provides a new dimension to the naval
gunfire requirements.  The Navy is working on several
projects to enhance NSFS.8  These include improvements to
16-inch shipboard gunfire control systems, semi-active laser
guided projectiles, and procurement of sufficient NSFS
ammunition supplies.  Additionally the Army's Multiple
Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is being evaluated for use at
     The over the horizon amphibious assault concept will
receive the Marine Corps' top priority and is seen as the
most dramatic change since the tenative Manual for Landing
Operations was published in 1934.9  Along with being the top
priority, it is also a major operational challenge since
this concept involves the integration and development of new
equipment and emerging technologies.  All aspects must be
taken into consideration in order to develop the concept of
OTH assault to its fullest potential.
     The major component of the Marine Corps' OTH assault
future team will be the MV-22A, Osprey.  This aircraft is
being built by the Bell helicopter and Boeing Vertol
companies in a joint manufacturing venture.  Full-scale
development began on the Osprey program in mid-1985.  This
program was the first of its kind-since it would produce an
aircraft to satisfy the requirements of all four services.
Although initially all four services would buy the Osprey,
the Marine Corps will purchase the most with a planned buy
of 552 to replace the aging CH-46, medium lift helicopter.
    The Osprey will have an empty weight of 31,818 pounds,
a vertical takeoff gross weight of 49,961 pounds which
results in a payload weight of 18,143 pounds.  Using a short
field takeoff maneuver increases gross weight to 54,171
pounds.  It will be 57.33 feet long, wideth of 84.57 feet
which is the rotor diameter, and will be 21.73 feet high.
For comparisome, the CH-46 has a blade diameter of 51 feet.
The MV-22 will be powered by two 6,000-shaft horsepower
Allison turboshaft engines and will be capable of speeds as
high as 300 knots.  Senator Barry Goldwater has stated,
"the tilt-rotor is the most important aviation development
since the Wright brothers."  The aircraft will feature
automatic wing and rotor-blade folding, air-to-air refueling
provisions, a dual cargo hook, infared suppressors, and a
rear loading ramp.  The cargo compartment will measure
6x6x24 feet.  The MV-22 will have a fly-by-wire control
system.  The Osprey will be fast, flexible, and surviveable.
It will be able to operate from ships or austere landing
     Introduction of the Osprey will not occur without
challenges or dilemmas.  Its size and dimensions will create
problems concerning space and operating procedures when
aboard ship.  Landing spots and hangar spaces must carefully
be reviewed and planned to ensure a safe transition is
accomplished.  The Osprey will not be able to operate from
certain ships' such as the LST due to its size.  Although the
main compartment will be able to accomodate 24
combat-equipped Marines, it will not be wide enough for the
High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).  The
HMMWV must be externally moved by cargo hook.  This will
surely decrease the Oeprey's speed due to the added drag and
requirement to slow down with an external load.
     The Osprey and LCAC working together will be able to
move a greater number of troops and larger amount of cargo
because of their increased operating speeds.  This team will
be the central basis from which the majority of the OTH
amphibious assault concept will draw its capability.  Both
the Osprey and the LCAC will operate from and compliment the
operations of the LHD and new LSD ships.
     Not all equipment within the inventory of the Navy and
Marine Corps will be suited to OTH amphibious assault.  In
some cases there may not be any application at all to OTH
assault.  Displacement hull landing crafts such as the LCM-8
or LCU come immediately to mind.
     The LST will also not have much utility in an OTH
assault.  This class of ship must close with the beach in
order to discharge its embarked Assault Amphibian Vehicles
(AAVs) or if carrying tanks may in fact beach itself if
necessary to land the tanks.
     Heavy helicopter lift will still be provided to the
landing force by the Super Stallion, CH-53E.  This
helicopter will be able to operate from OTH but will not be
able to do so at speeds equal to the Osprey.  This will
further complicate the di'lemma of providing armed escort
because now there will be two unarmed transports of
differing performance to consider and plan for.
     Once the AAVs are launched, they will only be able to
cruise at a water speed of 8 mph.  This is the primary
reason that the ship transporting the AAVs must close with
the land mass so that the distances the AAVs must swim is
reduced.  A challenge will certainly be offered to the OTH
assault planner in developing the concept of employing the
     Attack helicopters such as the AH-1W, Cobra will not be
able to match the airspeeds necessary to provide armed
escort for the Osprey.  An alternative to the Cobra for
escorting the Osprey during the ship to shore phase of the
amphibious assault, especially from OTH could be the AV-8B,
Harrier.10  An air search radar would help the Harrier
perform this mission if assigned.  Certainly a viable option
for providing armed escort would be developing an escort
version of the MV-22 that is properly equipped with the
appropriate weapons systems.11  This would free the Cobras
to escort the slower CH-53Es or provide more frequent close
in air support to committed infantry units.
     The real challenge with OTH amphibious assault will lie
in its planning, since it now seems that procurement of
appropriate equipment is confirmed.  Numbers of systems and
equipment types to be procured may vary and eventually be
reduced or acquired more slowly but total cancellation of a
particular project is considered unlikely.12
Incompatibilities do exist with systems as previously
discussed.  It is therefore critical that operational
planners consider system advantages and disadvantages so
that the best and most compatible system relationship can be
developed and employed.
     While maximizing the advantages of OTH technology, the
Marine Corps must retain the capability to conduct
amphibious warfare utilizing conventional techniques and
equipment.  This is primarily necessary because certain
non-OTH capable equipment will still be in the inventories
of the Navy and Marine Corps.  As this older equipment is
phased out, it should be replaced with OTH capable
     Although new ships and weapons systems such as the LHD,
LSD-41, and the LCAC are now entering fleet service, future
weapons system acquisitions may be in peril due to fiscal
restraints.  The danger is not that a particular program
will be cut entirely but that the capability within a system
will be reduced to try to save money.  If this occurs, in
many respects more potential may be lost in terms of quality
then will be gained by buying a stripped down system.  In
the case of the MV-22, the U. S. Army recently cancelled its
plans to purchase 231 tilt-rotors for budget reasons.13
This will impact the program and may effect the other
services procurement plans for this system.  Acquisition
dicision makers will no doubt have their hands full dealing
with future budget matters.
     The concept of OTH amphibious assault will soon become
a reality.  To ensure that this new capability is maximized,
the incompatibilities in equipment that now exist, and that
will be created in the future, should now be analyzed.  This
will greatly reduce tomorrows problems and will enhance the
U. S. Marine Corps' future operational posture to
successfully perform 0TH amphibious assault.
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