Stinger In The Emergency Defense Of The Amphibious Task Force:

An Accident Waiting to Happen

CSC 1993

SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting


Title: Stinger in the Emergency Defense of the Amphibious Task Force: An Accident Waiting to


Author: Major Jeff S. Vogel, United States Marine Corps

Thesis: Although Marine Low Altitude Air Defense units practice Emergency Defense of the

Amphibious Task Force, they lack effective integration into the Navy's air defense system.

Background: In an emergency the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force may use

embarked Marine air defense units to provide air defense protection for the task force. However,

the ship's captain has taken away the authority of the Stinger gunner to engage aircraft. This may

deny the Stinger gunner enough time to complete an engagement because he has to request

permission to engage from higher authority. This violates the concept of decentralized control.

Additionally, there is a lack of Standard Operating Procedures for the Emergency Defense of the

Amphibious Task Force (EDATF) above the MEU level. In the event an EDATF occurs, ships

often lack the radio assets required for Stinger team integration into the Navy air defense system.

Ideally, the LAAD Commander should be in the ship's Combat Information Center using

organic Navy communication assets to control LAAD teams. In controlling the teams the most

desirable situation would be to adapt for seaborne use the procedures that guide LAAD gunners

ashore. During operations ashore the final authority to engage aircraft is normally delegated to

the LAAD firing team leader. This procedure agrees with the concept of maneuver warfare where

only a decentralized military can have a fast decision cycle. There are many actions that must

come together in an emergency to ensure success. These actions are preplanned by SOPs. This

gives the capability of the LAAD gunner to act on his own and to perceive the bigger picture.

SOPs delineate procedures that reduce the doubts in the LAAD gunners mind about what to do

during an engagement process.

Recommendations: The key requirement for command and control of Marine air defense units is

centralized command and decentralized control. The authority to fire or not to fire should reside

with the Stinger team leader. The Commander of the Amphibious Task Force and Commander of

the Landing Force should be responsible for general coordination and program responsibility for

EDATF SOPs. Joint coordination will ensure common use of communication equipment,

organization and training.


Thesis: Although Marine Low Altitude Air Defense units practice Emergency Defense of the

Amphibious Task Force, they lack effective integration into the Navy's air defense system.

I. Evolution of the EDATF

A. Unprovoked attacks on U.S. warships

B. Kamikaze style tactics

C. Ship air defense assets unable to cope with air threat

D. Use of embarked Marine air defense units

II.Rules of engagement

A. Captain of the ship restrictions

B. Iraqi aircraft attacks U.S. Navy Frigate Stark

C. OODA loop

D. German World War II independent decision-making process

E. Concept of centralized command and decentralized control

III.EDATF Standard Operating Procedures

A. CATF/CLF relationships

B. Control afloat procedures

C. Standard operating procedures

IV.Navy and Marine communication assets aboard ship

A. Navy doctrinal communication nets

1. Shipboard communication assets

2. Landing force communication assets

B. Deck mounted Marine air defense communication assets aboard Navy ships

1. Deck mounted impact on real time reporting

2. Combat Information Center integration



Protection of the Amphibious Task Force from enemy air attacks continues to be a challenge

for air defenders. Unprovoked attacks on U.S. warships have occurred throughout our national


"In 1807, the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake was cannonaded and

boarded by His Britannic Majesty's Ship Leopard, and four U.S.

seaman were seized. In 1898, the battleship Maine exploded in the

Havana, Cuba harbor. Although the explosion was caused by a

magazine detonation, the immediate U.S. reaction was to blame

Spanish saboteurs. In 1937, the gunboat Panay was bombed and

strafed by Japanese aircraft while escorting U.S. tankers up China's

Yangtze River. Each of these assaults was (or believed to be)

deliberate and deadly. Each occurred outside of U.S. waters, and

each came "out of the blue" while U.S. ships and crew were

engaged in peaceable activity." (5:64)

Many U.S. citizens considered each assault a cause for war; in fact, the Japanese attack on U.S.

warships at Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought America into World War II.

Today, with the end of the Cold War and the United States emerging as the only military

superpower, kamikaze style tactics may increase. A surge effort by an enemy employing all

available aircraft and reinforced with suicidal zealots could tax the ships' air defense system. The

penetration of shipboard air defenses by several sorties of aircraft could result in moderate to heavy

losses. The sinking of a large surface combatant may have serious consequences in accomplishing

the immediate mission and deal a serious blow to national prestige.

When conditions suggest a surprise or surge attack, the Commander of the Amphibious Task

Force (CATF) will use all available means to protect his assets. The Emergency Defense of the

Amphibious Task Force (EDATF) uses embarked landing force assets. Embarked Marine air

defense units such as the Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) battalion could provide short-range air

defense with its shoulder launched stinger missile. During the movement phase afloat, LAAD

teams will man predetermined firing positions aboard ship. Each team will have binoculars,

Stinger missiles, and a communications link with either a LAAD Officer/Noncommissioned Officer

located in the Combat Information Center (CIC) of their respective ship. Each team will be given a

specific quadrant of airspace to search. Although Marine Low Altitude Air Defense units practice

Emergency Defense of the Amphibious Task Force, they lack effective integration into the Navy's

air defense system.

The ship's captain or his representative usually reserves the right to authorize LAAD teams to

engage a hostile threat Under normal conditions, the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) afloat

will set air defense warning conditions and weapon control status. However, the concept of

centralized command and decentralized control is the most efficient use of Stinger air defense

assets. The Marine Stinger team has the final authority to engage aircraft. The responsibility to

fire or not to fire resides with the team leader.(10:5-3) In the EDATF, the ship's captain retains

full control and the command to fire is by his authorization only. This violates the concept of

decentralized control. If the enemy bases his attack on surprise, getting timely authorization to fire

may be a problem.

"On the evening of 17 May 1987, the U.S. Navy-guided

missile Frigate Stark (FFG-31) was attacked by an Iraqi aircraft

while on a radar picket station in the Persian Gulf. The ship was

struck by two Exocet missiles - 37 U.S. sailors were killed. The

Stark was stationed in international waters well outside the war

zones declared by Iraq and Iran. At 2000 local time, the Stark was

warned of the approach of an Iraqi F-1 Mirage by an E-3 Airborne

Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, via Navy Tactical

Data System (NTDS). The Stark's Commanding Officer was

informed of the Iraqi aircraft's presence by 2005, when the aircraft

was about 200 nautical miles away. At 2102, the radar signature of

the F-1's air intercept radar was detected, and for several seconds,

the radar locked onto the Stark. At 2103, the ship's air-search radar

operator requested permission from the Tactical Action Officer

(TAO) to transmit a standard warning to the F-1. The TAO said,

"No, wait." At 2105, the F-1 turned toward the Stark at 32.5

nautical miles out. This move was missed by the Stark's Combat

Information Center (CIC). The first missile from the Iraqi F-1 was

launched at 2107, 22.5 nautical miles from the Stark. The TAO

observed the F-1 course change at 2107. The Captain of the ship

was called, but could not be found. At 2108 the Stark contacted the

F-1 on the military air distress frequency, requesting identification

At that moment, however, the F-1 pilot was firing his second

Exocet. Another warning was radioed to the F-1 at about 2108, and

the Stark's Phalanx Gatling gun was placed in the "stand-by mode."

A Stark lookout reported an inbound missile to the CIC, but the

report was not relayed to the TAO. The first missile hit the Stark at

2109, and she went to general quarters. As the ship's captain

entered the CIC, the second incoming missile observed from the

bridge, struck 20 to 30 seconds after the first." (5:64)

The Stark was always a step behind the Iraqi aircraft. Its command, control, and

communication structure was too centralized to cope with the problem. Instead of focusing on the

threat, it focused on internal procedures. The F-1 was on an attack profile, but the TAO was

unable to recognize it. The TAO should have put a missile on the rail and armed the Stark's chaff

launchers. The crew was not ready to use her weapons even if a decision had been made to use


In order to win an engagement, we should operate at a faster tempo than our adversaries or

get inside our adversary's Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action cycle (OODA loop). As

commanders, we need to decentralize decisions to encourage lower level commanders to shape,

direct, and take sudden actions necessary to quickly exploit opportunities as they present

themselves. If you give your commanders room for independence, how do you direct them to

make the right decision in your absence? You communicate to a schwerpunkt (point of main

effort). It is the center around which everything is focused. Schwerpunkt is applied at all levels

from platoon to theater. All supporting elements; air, logistics, and artillery have a schwerpunkt

This meshes together the initiative at the tactical level with the intent of the strategic.(3:30) In

other words, you don't tell a Marine what to do, you communicate to the schwerpunkt.

It is appropriate to recall that Field Marshal von Moltke was known for giving orders

sticking to a clear-cut direction only. Within that direction he left freedom of action to his junior

leaders. Five thousand miles away his contemporary, General Robert E. Lee, held the opinion that

the mission of the leader was only to put his troops into the right direction for the decisive battle,

the junior leaders should do the rest. Both Moltke and Lee wanted freedom of decision for their

junior leaders so as to enable them to make independent decisions without losing sight of the total


An example of making independent decisions can be seen in Rommel's North African

campaign during World War II. Rommel's G3 and G2 were at Tobruk while Rommel was away

at the front lines for five days. Rommel had great success at Sidi Rezegh, and consequently

Rommel gave the order to go over to the pursuit near the Egyptian border with only a few forces

left at Tobruk. However, the pursuit was too early and the developments near Tobruk became

very dangerous, and nearly untenable. Rommel was not at Tobruk and could not be located at the

front. There was no other decision but to call off the German offensive from the eastern frontier,

call back the German forces, and give them an order to attack the enemy in the rear near Tobruk.

That means the G3 cancelled Rommel's order and ordered all the troops back from the front line to

Tobruk to relieve the situation. When Rommel returned from the front, after an explanation about

the situation, he agreed with the decision. This is the type of decision-making that we should

foster in the military of today.(6:6) In a dangerous situation, even the most junior officer must

have the courage to make clear-cut independent decisions. The commander of the Army could not

be found, a decision had to be made, and if you wait until the Commander gets back-the battle is

lost, therefore, you have to make an independent decision.(6:6)

The full potential of Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) units cannot be realized without

effective command and control.(2:50) The key requirement for command and control of LAAD

units is centralized command and decentralized control. With the enemy employing high speed,

low-level tactics to penetrate our air defense coverage, LAAD teams may not have enough time to

request permission to engage from higher authority. Therefore, the most desirable situation would

be to adapt (for seaborne use) the normal weapons condition that guides LAAD gunners ashore.

The control of a land-based Stinger under normal air defense doctrine is through setting weapons

control conditions: Weapons Free ("FREE"-engage all aircraft not positively identified as

friendly), Weapons Tight ("TIGHT"-engage all aircraft positively identified as hostile), and

Weapons Hold ("HOLD"-engage aircraft only in self-defense).(8:C-11) The high degree of

visual aircraft recognition training afforded LAAD teams facilitates the rapid decision-making that

is a necessity in the effective engagement of enemy aircraft in an emergency. Visual recognition of

targets, accompanied by an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) check, is the primary method of

aircraft identification. This procedure agrees with the concept of maneuver warfare where only a

decentralized military can have a fast decision cycle. The Navy's integrated air defense system

must have positive control of all aircraft and LAAD teams as a baseline during operations. To

preclude fratricide, positive communication with all aircraft and LAAD units is a requirement. The

CIC passes hostile aircraft locations to LAAD teams positioned aboard the ship. LAAD teams do

not engage if they are ever in doubt as to the identification of the aircraft. However, the right to

self-defense is never denied if attacked.

EDATF plans lack Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) necessary in an emergency. The

LAAD commander's initiative and assertiveness frequently decides air coordination matters. A

joint understanding is lacking between the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force (CATF) and

the Commander of the Landing Force (CLF) concerning the roles, responsibilities, and training

requirements for embarked LAAD units. The normal CATF/CLF command relationship exists.

Under any circumstances, embarked assets remain operational under the control of the Marine Air

Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Commander. Assignment of all emergency defensive missions

involving MAGTF assets are through the MAGTF Commander. Control afloat procedures vary

dependent upon the size of the MAGTF supported, and the composition and operational

displacement of the Amphibious Task Force. EDATF roles and responsibilities for embarked

LAAD personnel and weapon systems are not formulated at any level above the Marine

Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Ready Group.(4:11)

Good emergency SOPs reduce mistakes by anticipating command decisions necessary in a

time-compressed situation. An emergency by definition is a sudden unexpected occurrence

demanding immediate action. Realistic emergency training for LAAD teams would be to find,