Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amos on the EFV: will anyone dig in to whether or not this is actually true?

In his written responses (pdf) to the Senate Armed Services Committee's advance policy questions related to his confirmation hearings for Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos insisted on the continued importance and utility of an amphibious forced-entry capability to assure access from the sea. He was pretty squirmy on the subject of whether the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was the right tool for this job, expressing commitment to the requirement if not that particular platform. But here's what he had to say when asked if the EFV would be useful in staging opposed amphibious landings:
The Marine Corps will maintain the capability to conduct opposed amphibious landings with the EFV. The EFV’s ability to conduct high speed maneuver at sea as well as on land, combined with its weapon, communication, and protective systems make it a highly-survivable and lethal capability suitable for opposed landings as well as hybrid threats that accompany counter-insurgency environments. The program also includes a force protection component for use once ashore which consists of an underbody appliqué armor kit, employed to enhance survivability against IEDs, much as the Bradley and M1A2 underbelly appliqués are employed. The range and speed of the EFV, up to 26 knots or greater, allows for a substantial over-the-horizon launch process, providing stand-off that protects our naval amphibious ships from high end littoral threats, such as anti-ship ballistic missiles.
The emphasis is mine, and that last bit is the part I'm most interested in. Later:
In an era of increasing challenges to access, the capabilities of a vehicle like the EFV afford our amphibious ships the maneuver space and stand-off distance to better counter anti-access weapons.
So it's obvious that Amos is heeding the SECDEF's guidance to make future weapons programs relevant to projected future threats; here he's trying to tie EFV to one of Secretary Gates' recent bugaboos: anti-access weapons. But is his claim even remotely true? On its face, it seems pretty clear that it's not. This CRS report (pdf), for example, casts doubt on whether the EFV's 25 to 30 mile range for amphibious operations marks even a slight improvement from a fleet-protection perspective over the current amphib tractor, the AAAV.

The Navy and Marine Corps both accept that the future operational environment is likely to pose an anti-access challenge (pdf), and that new systems should take this into account. So why is the next Commandant sitting down in front of Congress and telling them that an amphib that does absolutely nothing to protect the fleet from anti-ship missiles is a step in the right direction?

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