Bold Alligator 2012 and the Expeditionary Strike Group

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Bold Alligator 2012 was significantly more than an amphibious exercise. And in a real sense it was not. It was a littoral force engagement exercise leveraging the seabase to operate over a very …

Bold Alligator 2012 was significantly more than an amphibious exercise. And in a real sense it was not. It was a littoral force engagement exercise leveraging the seabase to operate over a very large battlespace. And it was an exercise which pick up some of the lessons learned off of Libya and are carrying them forward into the 21st Century.

When compared to the last major amphibious exercise conducted in 1996 “Operation Purple Star,” one of the clear differences was the impact of the Osprey. The speed and range of the Osprey demonstrated in both Libyan operations and in Bold Alligator provided glimpses of the future. The seabase can be linked ship to ship, from ship to shore, from shore to ship and back again. During the exercise, the Osprey landed on the USNS Robert E. Peary, a T-AKE ship and, indeed, participated in the raid 185 miles away on Fort Pickett.

As the chief coalition officer involved in the exercise, Lt. Commander Pastoor argued, “This really is about power projection from the sea and the ability to move the insertion force from and to the sea base and to operate throughout the battlespace.”

The promise of the ESG enabled by the Osprey and the coming F-35B is really rather simple. The ESG enabled by the Osprey and the F-35B is neither a Carrier Battle Group nor an Amphibious Ready Group. It is far more flexible than a CBG, in that it is a modular mix and match capability, which clearly can include allies as it did in the Exercise or in the operations off of Libya. And it is not simply an “ARG on steroids,” as one of the Harrier squadron commander noted. “It is far more capable.”

An ESG will allow for an economy of force whereby the ARG-MEU can be scaled up to include other sea based on air assets to allow for dominance of the battlespace. It is scalable both in terms of assets contained within the sea base or contributed by various land support structures, air or ground.

According to the 2nd MEF commander in the exercise, Brigadier General Owens, who will soon be moving to Okinawa, by strengthening the ability of the seabase to provide for logistics ashore, one can insert force without moving an iron mountain with it ashore. And “we get away from that image of amphibious assault where we’re going into a limited area, and that you have limited places you can land, so the enemy knows you’re coming to one of these two places. The goal of the ESG is to hit them where they’re not!”

The distributed character of the sea base seen in this exercise and highlighted by the evolving ESG allows for a modular mix and match quality. And this mix and match quality can embody the key elements of what one wants in 21st century forces: presence, economy of force and scalability.

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  • 1. Bold Alligator 2012 and the Futureof the Expeditionary Strike Group Leveraging the Present and Preparing for the Future Second Line of Defense 1
  • 2. Prologue• Bold Alligator 2012 was the largest Amphibious exercise in more than a decade.• Because it is called an amphibious exercise, outsiders who attended the exercise tended to focus upon – the amphibious ships themselves, – the landing ships, – the vehicles – and the assault on the beach.• The reality was that this was a power projection exercise; it was a maneuver of forces from the sea inland and out again. Second Line of Defense 2
  • 3. A Shift Towards a New Paradigm Second Line of Defense 3
  • 4. The Littoral Engagement Zone Second Line of Defense 4
  • 5. D-Day Assault FleetThe Front Edge of the ESG Second Line of Defense 5
  • 6. The USS Enterprise on D-DayAn Extended Range Support Asset Second Line of Defense 6
  • 7. Glimpses of the Future (1)• An assault raid was conducted from the seabase deep inland (180 miles) aboard the Ospreys with allied forces observing or participating.• The Osprey was the key element operating in this exercise, which was not there during the last big "amphibious" exercise. Second Line of Defense 7
  • 8. Assault on Fort Pickett“There is a Tsunami of change coming,” Lt. Col. Boniface, OspreySquadron Commander. Second Line of Defense 8
  • 9. Glimpses of the Future (2)• The BAC1-11 aircraft carrying the F-35 combat systems and see many capabilities coming soon to the ESG;• What I saw on the BAC1-11, I have exponentially greater ability to scan and “see” the battlespace with exponentially greater fidelity than ever before, locating and positively identifying everything from air to sea targets. I can look at the battlespace with the radar, the DAS, a host of other sensors and basically can bring all that information together into one data system, fuse that information — which makes it a flying sensor. (General “Dog” Davis, CG, 2nd MAW). Second Line of Defense 9
  • 10. F-35 Bravo Aboard the USS Wasp, October 2011The F-35 community of users – sea based and land based — will be ableto create a pretty tight air grid over the top of the distributed battle spaceso we can share information very freely out there. Second Line of Defense 10
  • 11. Glimpses of the Future (3)• The coalition element has become central to most operations and the BA-12 exercise reflected this evolving con-ops foci; Coalition has become a new definition of joint• A core focus of the exercise planners has been upon sorting out to more effectively managing information, distributing information and operating with a common operational picture. Second Line of Defense 11
  • 12. Lt. Commander George Pastoor, Chief Planner for theBold Alligator Exercise, 2012 and a member of ESG-2The default for future operations will need to be CENTRIX or the NATOstandard. During the exercise CENTRIX was used as the coin of the realm. Second Line of Defense 12
  • 13. Glimpses of the Future (4)• The French amphibious ship Mistral was the centerpiece of a physical allied contribution.• But the Mistral was not just a solo French contribution. It represented an entire class of ships of various sizes being built by allies – Spain, Italy, South Korea, Australia, etc. – that will carry significant aviation assets evolving over the years ahead and give this capability longer reach and impact. Second Line of Defense 13
  • 14. The Mistral in the Bold Alligator 2012 ExerciseThe F-35B will be added to several decks, the Osprey, the Tiger and X-3helicopters, the CH-53K, the NH-90, unmanned aerial vehicles of various sizesand kinds. In short, the future belongs to clusters of these types of ships. Second Line of Defense 14
  • 15. Glimpses of the Future (5)• The surface and subsurface assets can be organized around the Large Deck Amphibious ships in a new approach to sea basing operations.• The Mistral deploys with other ships, notably frigates which provide for air defense. Images could be seen if one looked of ships like the Aegis which engaged and deployed to provide a protective cover along with the Big E and its deployed assets. Second Line of Defense 15
  • 16. The amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill and theguided-missile cruiser USS Anzio operate in formationduring Bold Alligator 2012.USS Oak Hill and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anziooperate in formation during BA-12“Aegis can be my wingman” as the F-35B is added to the large deckamphibious ship. Second Line of Defense 16
  • 17. Glimpses of the Future (6)• Images of the Harriers operating off of the Kearsarge raised another prospect of capabilities and changes.• The Harriers based on the USS Kearsarge worked closely with land-based air to provide for a significant air combat capability to shape the battlespace.• The organizer of the spear cab be on the sea- base. This capability can be conjoined with the various air combat centers based ashore, allied or American. Second Line of Defense 17
  • 18. Operating off of the Kearsarge during BA-12Some 16 Harriers operated off of the large deck amphibious ship, in anapproach which was very un-ARG like. This exercise worked at a muchmore aggregated level with many more ships. Second Line of Defense 18
  • 19. Glimpses of the Future (7)• The MV-22 landed on a T-AKE ship.• This means that this new aviation asset can connect supply ships with combat ships to potentially allow a much more efficient use of the combat ships.• The ship-to-ship connection capability is a key part of the evolving sea basing concept.• It is about sustainable maneuver warfare from the sea. Second Line of Defense 19
  • 20. The Osprey landing on the USNS Robert E. PearyThe new VM-22 T-AKE combination is a potential war winner. Second Line of Defense 20
  • 21. Glimpses of the Future (8)• A clear message from the past decade is that one needs to define, respond and anticipate asymmetrical threats.• The images of various assets dealing with the counter-mine threat, whether they be French special forces or SEALS in the water, the Canadian counter mine vessel, the riverine forces, or the mammal insertion from the virtual engagement of West Coast USN teams were prevalent and clear. Second Line of Defense 21
  • 22. French special forces involved in clearing the path.A seabase will not survive if the asymmetric threats are not taken intoaccount. Second Line of Defense 22
  • 23. Conclusions• Re-shaping maneuver warfare from the sea by encompassing allied and US land-based air and other support and strike capabilities is a crucial element of the way ahead.• New uses of the sea base new capabilities deployed from the sea base will allow the U.S. and its allies to deploy scalable forces and to shape a force appropriate to the mission.• An economy of force approach can be shaped to ensure that mission and forces match, but, with scalability, other capabilities can augment the force to ensure mission success. Second Line of Defense 23
  • 24. Credits• Page 3: Second Line of Defense• Page 4 Virginian Pilot• Page 5 USMC• Page 6 USMC• Page 8 USN• Page 10 Second Line of Defense• Page 12 Second Line of Defense• Page 14 Second Line of Defense• Page 16 USN• Page 18 USN• Page 20 USN• Page 22 Second Line of Defense Second Line of Defense 24