We’ve all seen the incredible opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, one of the most realistic depictions of an amphibious landing that’s ever been filmed. It’s spectacular, tense and epically bloody. It’s also realistic; Omaha was the only Normandy beach that was heavily defended, and casualties were heavy. In fact, the assault nearly failed and it was only when small groups of survivors managed to climb the cliffs and outflank the defenders that the landing established itself.
The problem for modern USMC planners is that a determined defender managed this with 1940s weapons. What would a modern adversary, armed with portable missile systems and precision-guided fire support, be able to do to an amphibious assault? Obviously, nothing good. Waves of landing craft heading for the beach would take serious casualties, even if allied fire support was able to take out each enemy position before it got more than a couple of shots off.
Unfortunately, amphibious landings aren’t something we can just stop planning for. The USA and its allies rehearsed landings before the 2003 Iraq war; it’s still a capability we need. Air transport can only land light infantry unless there’s a secure airhead to use, and even then, building up heavy maneuver units is a slow process.
So now the USMC is looking into how technology can be used to support a landing. This April a major exercise at Camp Pendleton, CA, will evaluate new systems and techniques to make sure Marines can get ashore, reasonably intact and ready to fight, in the face of a modern defense.
The Corps’ new vision does not include waves of landing craft and AAVs storming ashore on a beach. That’s a brute force approach and the Marines want to play it smart from now on. They’re looking at landing in places where the enemy least expect it, like a mangrove swamp, so they can get ashore and concentrate combat power before getting into contact.
To enable these new tactics the USMC is looking at a whole range of technologies. Obviously, a lot of them focus on reconnaissance and intelligence – there’s no point in getting your troops ashore in the mangrove swamp if the terrain is so bad they’re fixed there, an easy target for the first enemy artillery that finds them. Drones will prepare 3D terrain maps to highlight terrain features, allowing commanders to choose where to go ashore. Other drones will hunt for enemy defenses and fire support so they can be destroyed by standoff weapons launched from far offshore. Autonomous vehicles will explore routes and create diversions, and there’s a huge focus on how to keep forces undetected once they’re ashore.
The Marines are aiming to test 50 new technologies on the exercise, which runs from 24-28 April, and another 50 will be on display for participating troops to look at. The ones that show promise will be given a tougher test at s second set of exercises later this year. The USMC’s traditional mission – kicking in the doors of the enemy’s coast – is a challenging one, but they’re taking action to make sure they can still do it. Best of all, they’re moving at impressive speed.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.