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Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS)

In the white papers, " . . . From the Sea" and "Forward . . . From the Sea," the Secretary of the Navy, with the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps, began the development of a new approach to naval operations. This approach places unprecedented emphasis on littoral areas, requires more intimate cooperation between forces afloat and forces ashore, introduces the concept of the naval expeditionary force, and provides the foundation for Operational Maneuver from the Sea.

Several key platforms, each at the cutting edge of technology, are required to bring the OMFTS concept to fruition. They are the MV-22 Osprey, the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), and the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicle. Once introduced to service, the STOVL variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will provide fire support critical to the success of OMFTS, as will the DDG-1000 Zumwalt.

Like its predecessor, the approach to amphibious warfare developed at Quantico during the 1930s, the 1996 Operational Maneuver from the Sea construct was a response to both danger and opportunity. The danger, summarized by the phrase "chaos in the littorals," consists of a world characterized by the clash of the myriad forces of national aspiration, religious intolerance, and ethnic hatred. The opportunity comes from significant enhancements in information management, battlefield mobility, and the lethality of conventional weapons.

These two changes to the operational environment, a new series of threats and enhanced tactical capabilities, are significant ones. While they change neither the nature of war nor our fundamental doctrine of maneuver warfare, "chaos in the littorals" and the military applications of new technologies will have a profound effect on where we fight, who we fight, and how we fight. This, in turn, will require considerable alterations in the education of leaders, the organization and equipment of units, and the selection and training of Marines.

In the future, the United States is likely to face a number of very different threats to its security, interests, and way of life. Many of these will be associated with the littorals, those areas characterized by great cities, well-populated coasts, and the intersection of trade routes where land and sea meet. While representing a relatively small portion of the world's surface, littorals provide homes to over three-quarters of the world's population, locations for over 80 percent of the world's capital cities, and nearly all of the marketplaces for international trade. Because of this, littorals are also the place where most of the world's important conflicts are likely to occur.

To influence events overseas, America requires a credible, forwardly deployable, power projection capability. In the absence of an adjacent land base, a sustainable forcible entry capability that is independent of forward staging bases, friendly borders, overflight rights, and other politically dependent support can come only from the sea. The chaos of the future requires that the United States maintain the capability to project power ashore against all forces of resistance, ranging from overcoming devastated infrastructure to assisting a friendly people in need of disaster relief to countering the entire spectrum of armed threats.

The centerpiece of Marine Corps preparations for the future is an approach to expeditionary, littoral, and amphibious warfare known as Operational Maneuver from the Sea. While Operational Maneuver from the Sea will not define all Navy/Marine operations, the attitudes, skills, techniques and equipment associated with it will provide naval forces with a solid foundation for future improvisation.

The heart of Operational Maneuver from the Sea is the maneuver of naval forces at the operational level, a bold bid for victory that aims at exploiting a significant enemy weakness in order to deal a decisive blow. Mere movement, which may lead to indecisive results or even be counterproductive, does not qualify as operational maneuver. That is to say, operational maneuver should be directed against an enemy center of gravity-something that is essential to the enemy's ability to effectively continue the struggle.

Improvements in the precision of long-range weapons and greater reliance on sea-based fire support promise to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the need to establish supply facilities ashore. As a result, the logistics tail of landing forces will be smaller, ship-to-shore movement will take less time, and what were previously known as "subsequent operations ashore" will be able to start without the traditional "build up phase." In other words, landing forces will move directly from their ships to their objectives, whether those objectives are located on the shoreline or far inland.

The significant reduction of logistics infrastructure ashore will also facilitate the rapid re-embarkation of the landing force. This will enable the landing force to avoid combat offered on unfavorable terms, to avoid obstacles that stand in the way of decisive action, and to make use of the inevitably perishable advantage of surprise. In effect, powerful landing forces will be able to do what had hitherto been the exclusive province of lightly armed landing parties.

The significant reduction of logistics infrastructure ashore will also facilitate the rapid re-embarkation of the landing force. This will enable the landing force to avoid combat offered on unfavorable terms, to avoid obstacles that stand in the way of decisive action, and to make use of the inevitably perishable advantage of surprise. In effect, powerful landing forces will be able to do what had hitherto been the exclusive province of lightly armed landing parties.

Successful execution of OMFTS will drive changes in fire support. To improve mobility ashore, Marines will increasingly take advantage of sea-based fires and seek shore-based fire support systems with improved tactical mobility. To support rapidly maneuvering forces, Marines must streamline fire support coordination procedures to improve responsiveness. To provide effective fires, forces afloat and ashore require the ability to deliver fires with increased range and improved accuracy and lethality. Finally, Marines will use fires to exploit maneuver just as maneuver is used to exploit the effects of fires.

Marine Corps combat aircraft must be capable of operating from a variety of ships and austere bases ashore, perform a variety of missions, and land on a wide variety of surfaces. Marine Corps aviation units must be organized, trained, and employed as integral parts of a naval expeditionary force.

The MV-22 Osprey will be the centerpiece of Operational Maneuver From the Sea. It will give the Joint Force Commander the ability to maneuver throughout the battlespace striking directly at operational objectives and exploit critical vulnerabilities. It will enhance the JFC's mobility, speed, and deception. Although MV-22 brings much needed capability, it causes a serious rift in operational capability between the Osprey, Cobras, Hueys, and CH-53E's. This rift presents the JFC with employment problems that must be solved. The Marines are 'necking down' to fewer type aircraft and thus, must continue to modernize and close the capability gap created by the MV-22. To accomplish this the new 4BN/4BW will have to be replaced. The most reasonable idea seems to be a small tiltrotor with similar characteristics and capabilities to the MV-22. Additionally, the Marines must lighten the force and retire the CH-53E. Ultimately the Marines will have a triple punch aviation force of MV-22, MVLA, and JSF that will give much more credibility to the 9-1-1 Force when called and will make Operational Maneuver From the Sea true maneuver and power projection at the operational level.

Since OMFTS changes the means of employing combat power, traditional amphibious CSS techniques need to be modified to meet the unique logistic demands of OMFTS. Sea based logistics (SBL) has been proposed as the solution for providing CSS for OMFTS operations. The most prominent feature of SBL is that it supports combat units directly from ships instead of building a logistic infrastructure ashore. Since the use of SBL is constrained by equipment limitations and traditional methods of logistic delivery and packaging, the use of firepower and maneuver as envisioned in OMFTS is not currently possible. SBL is capable of supporting OMFTS in limited situations; however, more emphasis must be directed at finding methods to enhance and expand SBL support for OMFTS.

Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) (MPF(F)) will enable Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare (EMW), Operational Maneuver From The Sea (OMFTS) and Ship To Objective Maneuver (STOM), with capabilities such as at-sea arrival and assembly, selective offload of specific mission sets, and long-term, sea-based sustainment. The squadron will be capable of prepositioning and sustainment of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade's critical equipment.



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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:34:03 Zulu