“The most critical requirements, from my perspective, that we need to address are in the area of command and control,” he said.
Dunford on July 31 was confirmed to become the next
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with LtGen Robert
Neller selected to succeed Dunford as commandant.
After years of resisting the CoComs’ requirements
for split and disaggregated operations, Walsh said,
Navy and Marine Corps leaders decided that “
supporting CoComs is all about service relevancy. … We
always talked about being a Swiss Army Knife, jack of
all trades. If you’re sitting there saying, ‘No, you can’t
use my Swiss Army Knife for those things,’ then you’re
not really being supportive of that CoCom.
“So we said, ‘OK, we’re going to be that Swiss Army
Knife, we’re going to support disaggregation.’”
With that decision, they realized they had been
“hamstringing” the ARG/MEU commanders at sea “by
not giving them the right capability to go forward to do
this, whether it’s the comms [communications] capa-
bility, the aviation capability … but, most importantly,
the right workup training,” Walsh said.
That all had to start with providing them “the doctrine, the conops — the concept of operations — to
support that,” he said.
So Fleet Forces Command and
Marine Corps Combat Development Command developed a
conops for split and disaggregated
operations that was signed out last
August, Walsh said.
That provided the foundation to
develop the Naval Systems
Training Plan and “the ROC-POE,
the required operational concept
and planned operating environment” that dictates what a ship
needs in equipment, manning and
training to function in specific
conditions, he said.
“Then we were able to go in and
do the training that was required in
the ARG/MEU workups. We have to
put money to the training — steaming hours, syllabus, bring in other
capabilities” — to prepare the individual ships to perform missions
that they might not have to do if the
ARG remained together, Walsh said.
That also raised issues of what
kind of equipment and manning are
needed to operate alone, he said.
A key factor, as Dunford noted,
was communications. An integrated
The smaller amphib also might need to take some of
the rotary-wing aircraft from the big deck for its independent mission, which would require an aviation
detachment to maintain the aircraft and conduct air
control, noted CDR Brent Cotton, one of Walsh’s aides.
The need to split the ARG also highlighted the
sharp differences in capabilities of the three types of
ships in the ARG.
The big deck, the LHA or LHD, “can do a lot. It’s a
big, huge ship, 40,000 tons,” Walsh said. “We can’t
afford three of those in the ARG.”
The new San Antonio-class amphibious transport
docks, or LPD 17s, have C2 capabilities as good or
even better than the big decks. They also have a hangar
to support an aviation detachment.
“The LPD 17, we knew it can’t do everything an LHA
could do. But it could go off and do a lot of missions by
itself. We saw it operate successfully,” Walsh said.
But the weak link in the ARG is the old dock landing ship (LSD), he said.
13 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015
An AH- 1 Cobra lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS
Kearsarge in the Atlantic Ocean Aug. 2. The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready
Group (ARG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were conducting
a Composite Training Unit Exercise in preparation for deployment. Although
the ARG/MEUs historically were organized, trained and equipped to operate as
an integral force, operational patterns over the last decade have split them up
on deployment, with one or more of the ships and some of the Marines and
their aircraft operating separately.