USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) - photo US Navy
November 29, 2011 by Galrahn - informationdissemination.net
Military Times has a six-part series of articles up on what they call The Secret War in Africa. It is a provocatively
named series, and technically accurate as what the series has done to date is reveal the unknown details of previously reported but never detailed military activities in Africa - mostly Somalia.
The 6th article is expected next week.
This is the 5th article in the series, and it involves a topic worth discussing here.
The U.S. operators were in trouble. Deep trouble. Along with some Ethiopian troops, a “really small” number of U.S. personnel were hunting a high-value target near the town of Bargal in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region when they came under heavy fire that not only prevented them from killing or capturing the target but also pinned them down, according to several sources.
Running out of options on June 1, 2007, the operators called the destroyer Chafee sailing off the coast. In response, Chafee fired more than a dozen rounds from its 5-inch gun, a senior Pentagon official told Stars and Stripes (without mentioning that the mission was a desperate bid to rescue U.S. troops in Somalia). That naval gunfire — a rarity in the modern age — enabled the United States and Ethiopian troops “to break contact” and get away, a senior intelligence official said.
When I read this, I remembered this incident was reported and that I had discussed back in June of 2007;
in fact I distinctly remember Jeff Schogol describing the Navy using gunfire support as "Old School."
I remember that incident because I recall thinking about how the US Navy had the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) somewhere near that region and yet was using a destroyer to support forces ashore. Now maybe in that case it was smart to use a destroyer for a little naval fire support, because as the article notes - it solved the problem.
But hindsight being what it is, I do have serious questions if the US Navy leverages the flexibility of the amphibious ships well in modern irregular warfare situations like offshore of Somalia. Does anyone honestly think it is a good idea to put a $2 billion ship like USS Chafee (DDG 90) in green water for fire support? Our destroyer force is being primarily resourced to fight sophisticated air targets, not shoot guns to shore in littorals which are always the most risky.
What a false choice current US force structure forces on warfighters for gunfire support - either send in $3 billion DDG-1000s with advanced gun systems or send in the less expensive, terribly armed 57mm hauling LCS. Honestly, where are Reapers on LHDs, because right now the only other option is to task the RW community for their capabilities.
I encourage folks to read the whole Military Times article and give it some serious thought. When I read that article, I ask myself why the US Navy and US Marine Corps spends so much money building and maintaining amphibious ships to deploy structured air-sea-land battalions if the MEUs are unable to accomplish the sustained irregular warfare missions by sea as described in that article. That situation in 2007-2009 off Somalia appears to have been crying for a Sea Base, and yet none existed. Why?
It seems to me that scenario is both the past and the future of irregular warfare in any ungoverned or weakly governed littoral nation, and if expeditionary forces (amphibious readiness groups) aren't properly configured to be relevant for the missions found in that situation - maybe Marines are no longer relevant because Marines are not organized towards the most probable mission sets.
Then again, perhaps they are organized but are poorly utilized, because using Marines for the work as described in that article would appear to require as many changes to policy as much as it does changes to doctrine.
Lots of angles for conversation here I think.