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The Opposed Amphibious Assault Dilemma
CSC 1992
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
Title:  The Opposed Amphibious Assault Dilemma
Author:  Major D. L. Brush, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  This last is the situation that existed during Desert
Storm and is the crux of the problem how to successfully
eliminate continuing deficiencies to ensure the Marine Corps
retains the ability to conduct an opposed amphibious assault.
Background:  The Marine Corps is charged to maintain the nation's
ability to project forces across a hostile beach.   During Desert
Storm the opportunity presented itself to conduct the first truly
opposed amphibious assault since WWII and Korea.   When the
amphibious assault did not take place, accolades were given to
the operational planners for utilizing the Amphibious Task Force
as a grand deception.   In reality,  though, the Navy/ Marine Corps
team lacked the equipment,  training and tactics needed to
successfully assault the Kuwaiti coast without risking tremendous
losses in men and equipment.   If the Marine Corps is to regain
the capability to conduct a forcible entry across a foreign
beach, a dedicated effort must be made to develop and acquire
equipment,  train leaders and troops, and revise the tactics and
Recommendation:  The Navy/Marine Corps team must reassess
its equipment,  training and tactics if it is going to be able to
conduct amphibious assaults against defended beaches in the
Thesis:  This last is the situation that existed during Desert
Storm  and  is  t he  crux of  the problem; how  to  successfully
eliminate continuing  deficiencies to ensure the Marine Corps
retains  the capability to conduct an opposed amphibious assault.
I.    Desert  Storm  Background
      A.  Defining  the  threat
      B.  Use  as  a  deception
      C.   Reality  strikes  home
II.   Finding the Solution
      A.   Who is at  fault
      B.  Allocation  of  resources
           1.  People
           2.  Funding
III.  Providing the answers
      A.  Required equipment
           1. Detection
           2.   Breaching
           3 .  Proofing
           4 .  Marking
     B     Training the forces
     C.    Developing tactics and doctrine
     The assault to liberate the nation of Kuwait is one during
which new tactics and equipment played a critical role.   The
deceptions,  the actual assault to breach through and the maneuver
around the extensive multiple-obstacle barriers the Iraqi's
emplaced across the Kuwaiti desert and into Iraq, are being
canonized by instructors and tacticians at Army and Marine Corps
schools.   Indeed,  the ease with which the breaching teams
rapidly cleared paths through the estimated two million mines,
thousand miles of barbed wire, and numerous oil -filled, anti-tank
ditches was truly amazing.  In fact, the speed at which the
coalition forces entered into Kuwait eliminated the requirement
for Marines to conduct an amphibious assault in support of the
ground offensive, or did it?  Just the threat of the amphibious
task force steaming off the Kuwaiti coast was enough to hold
several Iraqi divisions in place and keep them from reinforcing
those defending along the barriers.   This was the classic example
of the use of a deception to support the main attack, or was it?
    The aftermath of Desert Storm has provided many accolades to
those who planned the demonstration of Marine and Navy amphibious
forces off the Kuwaiti coastline.   This 'deception' plan occupied
the attention of several Iraqi divisions during the initial
stages of the ground offensive as the threat of a flank attack by
amphibious means became one the Iraqi's could not ignore.   In
fact,  the anticipated threat of a coalition amphibious assault
caused the Iraqi military leaders to direct the construction of
barrier systems along the entire Kuwaiti coast and to reinforce
the already formidable  Al Faw peninsula in Iraq.   These barrier
systems consisted of both land and water mines, barbed wire, and
steel and concrete anti-vehicle/anti-landing craft obstacles.    In
light of these barriers it was decided that the amphibious
assault  could not have been accomplished without a significant
loss of men and equipment.   That estimated cost, in and of
itself, was staggering enough to exclude  this option from the
CINC's  inventory of capabilities.   Lt. Gen. Walter Boomer,
commander of U.S.  Marine Corps forces during Desert Shield and
Desert Storm,  recently stated,  "An  amphibious  assault  was not
undertaken because of the mines . . . . We need to solve this
problem." (3: 12)  While Navy spokesmen have made the following
        The Navy admits its biggest weakness during Desert Storm
        was a lack of ships and aircraft to sweep mines from
        shallow waters, a lack that could have led to heavy Marine
        casualties in an amphibious assault . . . . A joint Navy-Marine
        Corps planning staff is being formed to look at other means
        of handling the threat that Navy mine clearance forces
        "were inadequate to counter," during the Persian Gulf war,
        according to the lessons learned report. (9:  7)
Why has the proud heritage of the WWII island-hopping campaign in
the Pacific been allowed to deteriorate to such a dismal state?
     The obvious  answer to the Kuwaiti dilemma is to conduct the
amphibious assault where the enemy is not.   This is an unopposed
landing and one which emerging tactics,  "Over-the-Horizon"
assaults and "Maneuver-from-the-Sea", and new items of equipment,
such as the Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) and the Advanced
Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), address.   The unopposed
landing is the one which all commanders certainly strive for and
one which our emerging technology may indeed allow to happen
under most circumstances. (4: 36-40)   Unfortunately,  the tactical
situation or simple geographics may dictate that one cannot move
to where the enemy is not.   This,  then,  is the contingency that
must be planned for.   The corollary to an unopposed landing is an
opposed landing.   A landing may be opposed by a dedicated force,
obstacles placed in the water approaches to the beach,  obstacles
placed on the beach itself or any combination of the three.  This
last is the situation that existed during Desert Storm and is the
crux of the problem; how to successfully eliminate continuing
deficiencies to ensure the Marine Corps retains the ability to
conduct an opposed amphibious assault.
     The lack of an effective opposed amphibious capability lies
on the shoulders of the Navy and the Marine Corps, both of whom
are tasked to provide both forward-deployed and CONUS based
forces that are capable of conducting both quick and deliberate
amphibious operations.   These forces, of course must have the
doctrine,  tactics,  techniques, procedures, and equipment to be
successful.   One of the primary responsibilities assigned the to
Marine Corps in the United States Codes Title 10 is:
       The Marine Corps shall develop,  in conjunction with the Army
       and the Air Force,  those phases of amphibious operations
       that pertain to the tactics,  techniques, and equipment used
       by amphibious forces. (2:  3-6)
From DOD Directive 5100.1 comes guidance for both the Navy and
Marine Corps concerning amphibious warfare:
       Develop,  in coordination  with  the  other  military  services,
       the  doctrines,  procedures,  and  equipment  of naval forces for
       amphibious operations, and the doctrines, and  procedures  for
       joint  amphibious  operations. (2:  3-7 )
     The  solution to the  countermine/counterobstacle  warfare
deficiency  is  simply  people  and  resources.    The  allocation  of
sufficient  people  wil  include  those  to  conduct  the  research  and
development  that leads to new equipment and tactics and to the
development of training exercises that encompasses
countermine/counterobstacle operations in conjunction with an
amphibious assault.   The allocation of resources would have to
include the fencing,  or identifying and isolating, tens of
millions of dollars exclusively for research and development,
procurement and the new training exercises in this area.   Of
course, money does not remain fenced long unless there is a high
enough priority placed on the effort by both services and that
priority is transmitted up the chain-of-command to the
comptrollers and requirements personnel at the DOD level.   The
following questions were asked at a 31 January 1991 SASC hearing
concerning the lack of countermine equipment in the Marine Corps'
final fiscal year  92   budget submission.   The  responses 
were  provided  by  the  Program    Manager, Engineer
Systems of the Marine Corps Research,  Acquisition and 
Development Command, now the Marine Corps Systems
Command.(8: 4)
       Question:    Does the Marine Corps have all the breaching
       equipment it needs?
       Answer:   The answer is NO.
       Question:    Why hasn' t more money been spent on such
       Answer:   Recent budget limitations (particularly the POM '92
       program) have limited the application of development and
       procurement resources in a number of key Marine Corps areas,
       countermine/counterobstacle being one.   A number of
       countermine system initiatives did not make the final cut in
       an extremely competitive and fiscally limited POM process.
     The creation of a joint Navy and Marine office to address the
countermine/counterobstacle deficiency is the first step toward a
realistic solution.   This office is to be located under the
Navy's operations department to allow it the capability to force
the issues of purchasing of minesweeping ships, altering the use
of and missions for SEALs, changing joint training exercises,
providing the focus of the research, development and procurement
process and recommending revisions to blue-water and green-water
tactics and doctrine.   The Marine Corps is providing existing
land countermine/counterobstacle systems,  for possible
exploitation as surf zone clearance systems, as well as a fresh
look at the tactics and doctrine of an amphibious landing from
the 'green'  side.
     The protection of funding is key to any new look this problem
is going to receive.   An example of funding cuts affecting
programs is the one just experienced by two detection programs.
Until last year, both the Navy and the Marine Corps were
developing systems utilizing laser technology to detect objects
under  the  water.    The  Marine  Corps  program,  AMDAS,  was performing
fairly in the  surf zone,  10 feet and shallower, under very
turbid conditions.   It showed promise in both turbid fresh water
and for surface laid mines on the beach.   The Navy system, Magic
Lantern, was showing promise in the deeper waters, 40 feet and
deeper.   The Navy decided to bring both programs under joint
management so as to benefit from the best of both programs.
Congress felt that two laser detection systems for water were one
too many and directed one be terminated.   Ultimately, a new
program was established under the  new  name  of MDLT that is havi ng
trouble in the turbid waters of the surf zone. (5:2-43)   Both the
Navy and the Marine Corps have to support this office with
sufficient funding, and defend that funding,  to complete the
testing of existing programs.   Hopefully,  the joint office will
be able to readdress the above example and reinstate the original
programs that showed promise in two distinct environments.
     The  ability  to  detect  mines  and  other  obstacles  is  the  key
for  landing across  a  beach with a minimum  of  obstacles.    The
intent of the equipment being developed in existing programs,
AMDAS/MAGIC LANTERN/MDLT,  is to be able to recognize land and
water mines both on and beneath the surface from a stand-off
measured in hundreds of meters to miles.   It is anticipated these
systems will be mounted on jet aircraft and will provide the
Amphibious Task Force (ATF) commander with a real-time picture of
the proposed landing sites.   Other programs include new hand-held
sonars and delivery vehicles for SEAL teams, a new class of mine
countermeasures ship and a sacrificial , air-cushioned vehicle
that  would  carry magnetic and acoustic signature duplicators to
fool  the  mines.   The United States would do well to follow the
lead  of  recent  British  experiment  using  an  air - cushioned  craft
as  a  primary  mine  countermeasures  vehicle.    The British
recognized the hovercraft's agility, speed and ability to outrun
and survive the waterplume caused by a mine detonating in as
shallow as 30 feet of water. (7:  107-113)
     As one answer to the breaching problem, a new look should be
given to the decades-old, M58/M59 linear demolition charge that
has proven exponentially more effective in the water than on
land.   Testing accomplished in the late 1970's,  against inert
mines and pressure gauges, demonstrated successfully the line
charge's ability against simple pressure fuzed landmines. (10)
Recent testing against modern blast-resistent fuzed landmines,
accomplished during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, also proved
successful.   To date the line charge has not been tested against
seamines.   Additional  testing needs to be planned and carried out
to validate the exact capabilities of line charge against modern
land and water mines.   In a recent exploitation of a foreign
countermine system,  it was found that the exploited system,
though very similar to the M58/M59 series line charge, was
substantially more effective against modern mines.   This
increased effectiveness was attributed,  in part,  to the
composition of the explosive fill of the system.   While the
M58/M59 is a C-4 plastic explosive derivative, the foreign system
had a plastic explosive base with other chemicals mixed in.   The
chemical composition of the foreign system is not new,  in fact
has been known for decades,  but was never applied to the U. S.
system.   Continued testing should validate  this explosive for use
in the M58/M59 and may provide the short to mid-term solution
that will fill the gap until newer technology is proven and
     Proofing the paths breached through the minefield/obstacle
is, perhaps, the hardest and yet most critical task.   Proofing
must be accomplished immediately following the breach and must
include some method of marking the path.   On land the most
successful proofing systems are those that physically remove any
remaining mines from the breached path.  This procedure may prove
to have application on the beach, or very shallow surf zone, by a
vehicle similar to an amphibious assault vehicle that has both
the ability to swim to the beach and yet the weight to be an
effective earthmover.   A current program for the AAVP7A1 utilizes
a full-width rake, mounted to the front of the P7, that is
capable of sifting through 6 to 8 inches of sand once the P7's
tracks touch down, generally in about 3 feet of water.
     Systems that are being tested for the area from 3 feet and
deeper include rake-like devices towed by air-cushioned craft and
the air-cushioned craft previously mentioned that will trick
mines fuzed with magnetic or acoustic sensors. (5: 2-45 )
Whichever system, or systems  is selected,  it must be capable of
rapidly performing its mission during the assault.   Maintaining
the momentum of the attack is extremely important in establishing
overwhelming combat power ashore as quickly as possible.   This
could be accomplished by both the application of a device that
would trick mines into detonating,  towed by a small air - cushioned
craft, as well as the use of a rake-like  device  mounted  on the
front of the USMC amphibious assault vehicle.
     Marking the proofed path is a task that has yet to be
addressed adequately on land.   Water presents a more dynamic and
fluid environment in which to mark a specific path.   Research
programs are investigating the use of buoys as visual indicators
and beacons to mark the centerline of the path that the newer
position- locating devices may home in on.
     Sufficient quantities of these countermine devices will have
to be procured,  in spite of shrinking budget dollars,  to provide
the redundancy required for equipment used in countermine
operations.   That  is, the equipment must be realized to be the
sacrificial  items required to protect the main force.
Countermine equipment cannot be bought under the same auspices as
a  truck, it will not last 20 years in a realistic training
environment.   Additionally, a continuous effort must be made to
acquire  numbers  of  the  existing,  and  evolving,  threat mines,  both
land and water.   These threat in should be used extensively in
the  research  and development validation process and, when
inerted  intraining scenarios.
     Training countermine/counterobstacle operations must begin
with the individual sailor and marine, during their initial
specialty training, and should culminate in annual, Navy/Marine
fleet  exercises.    Individual  training  begins  with  recognition,
characteristics  and  handling of individual mines, using some of
the threat mines procured for the  research and development, and
builds to employment of  the emerging detection, learn and
proofing systems.   As the training approaches system employment ,
training must be made available  that  will allow fluid
training exercises to be conducted.   Currently,  the only training
area that allows the detonation of linear demolition charges from
the water is on San Clemente Island, off the California coast.
Training areas must be developed that will provide the
opportunity  to  conduct the detection, breaching  and  proofing
phases  of  the  amphibious  assault  on a  continuing basis.    Included
in  these training exercises should be the employment of training
mines similar to the MILES system used by land forces.   Finally,
annual Navy/Marine fleet training exercises must include the
ship-to-shore countermine evolution if the services are to become
proficient in these operations.   Realistic situations and the
inabiIity to artificially bypass the mined area will provide a
recognition of the difficulty of this phase of the amphibious
assault and will  lead to the refinement of the tactics and
doctrine used.
     Presently, the tactics and doctrine used to support the ship-
to - shore movement come directly from the successes of WW II .   The
doctrine establishing the requirements for cleared lanes to
support a landing were developed utilizing slow and awkward
landing craft.   Modern landing craft employ state-of-the-art
position-locating devices that are accurate to 10 meters and
transit to the beach quickly, as compared to those used forty
years ago.   The modern landing craft will allow a reduction in
the size of the lane that must be clear.   This reduction will
lead to less area that must be swept for mines, less area that
must be breached and proofed and ultimately less equipment and
explosives that  would have to be procured and employed.   Tactics
and doctrine assigning responsibilities for the countermine
operations must be reassessed.   By present doctrine, SEALs must
clear the entire path to the beach up to, and including,  the high
water mark.   Recent talk has also included the landing zone for
the  air  cushioned  landing  craft  (LCAC)  in  the  SEALs'  area  of
responsibility.   They  are  neither  equipped  nor  manned to provide
this service beyond the start of the  surf  zone,  or 10 feet of
water depth.   Clearly,  the responsibility to clear  through  the
surf zone and across the beach must transition to the Marine
     This transition for the surf zone and beach areas must be
done  responsibly.    New and innovative ideas are required,  but
they must also have reality injected into them.   Tactics and
doctrine being developed at the Marine Corps'  Warfighting Center
call for a heliborne lift of engineers to an area beyond the
beach in the final  hours of darkness before the local dawn.   The
engineers are accompanied by infantry for local  security.
Carried in by  helicopter with the engineers are line charges and
l ight bulldozers.   In the three or so hours until dawn,  the
engineers must assemble the bulldozers,  attach armor - plating to
the outside of the bulldozer, breach a 50 yard wide path to the
water, wide enough for an LCAC, and  then  begin  launching line
charges  into the water.   The clearance of the area required  to
offload an LCAC on the beach must occur after the surf zone is
cleared. (11)
     This new tactic is said to support the second Department of
the Navy Amphibious Lift Study  (DON Lift 2) in which the Marine
Corps  signed  up  to  assaulting  the  beach  in  LCAC' s.    However,  the
study  also  gave  the  Marine  Corps  90  minutes  to  build combat power
ashore before being  subject  to  a major counterassault .   This
does not quite match with what can only be light heliborne forces
and an allowable time to breach to the water of three hours.
Again, it seems, the studies are being used to justify a
particular program rather than lending credence to ideas that are
supportable by all  key players.
       Without the capability to conduct amphibious landings across
defended beaches the Marine Corps becomes just a hollow force
tied to the maritime preposition program.  The Corps will be able
to project forces only into benign ports or beaches.   If the long
range planners can foresee a requirement, no matter how remote,
to conduct a forcible entry into a country via the amphibious
assault, then those planners must provide adequately for that
eventuality.  There are many parts to the opposed amphibious
assault. each part  is  critical and builds on the next.  Each
service must be provided with the necessary equipment, training
and doctrine required to accomplish this mission.  It truly must
evolve from the joint arena or it will continue to suffer from
both a lack of exposure and a lack of funding, both of which are
crucial to the ultimate solution of this deficiency that was
brought out so well during Desert Storm.  Secretary of Defense
Cheney, when receiving Desert Storm after action reports, and
prior to the compilation of the Title V report to Congress,
reinforced the seriousness of the Southwest  Asia mine problem by
viewing it as one of the most critical deficiencies to surface
during the war. (1)
1.   Brush, Maj. Danny L. "Countermine/ Counterobstacle Ops (Land)
          USMC." Brief for the Secretary of Defense.  Washington,
          D.C. Department of Defense, 1991.
2.   FMFM 1-2.  The Role of the Marine Corps in the National
          Defense.  Quantico, VA:  Combat Development Center, 1991
3.   Holitzer, Robert. "U.S. Navy Will Overhaul , Expand Efforts to
          Combat Mine Warfare." Defense News 2 December 1991: 12.
4.   Lind, William S. Maneuver  Warfare  Handbook.  1985:  36-40.
5.   Mines, Minelaying, and Countermine Requirements for the Mid-term Period.  Final Draft Report. Quantico,  VA:  MAGTF Warfighting Center, 1992.
6.   Mission Area Strategy- Amphibious Warfare.  Quantico, VA:
          MAGTF Warfighting Center, 1990.
7.   Moore, Captain John RN. Jane's Naval Review. 1986: 107113.
8.   "PM Engineer Responses to 31 Jan 91 SACS Hearing at which
          MGEN Miller was a Witness."  Quantico, VA:  MCRDAC, 1991.
9.   Steigman, David S. "Sweeping mines from shallow seas." Navy
          Times  30 March  1992:  7.
10.  Underwater Explosive Performance  of  the  M58A1  Linear
          Demolition Charge for Shallow Water Mine Clearance
          Panama City, FL: aval Costal Systems Center, 1978.
11. Wilks , LtCol Rick. "Counterobstacle Initiatives Update."
          Quantico, VA:  Command and Staff College, 1992.

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