This is part 1 of a 4 5 part post.
It is probably fair to say that many future operations will be conducted inshore and in riverine environments, many potential and actual conflicts continue to be played out in this type of environment. Continuing development and proliferation of anti access weapons such as mobile ground launched anti ship missiles and even anti tank weapons will continue to make their mark in this type of operation. Even the ubiquitous IED is likely to be increasingly used, underneath bridges or in close in terrain for example, as happened in Iraq.
Initial operations in Iraq in 2003 around Um Qasr and the Al Faw peninsula showed that UK forces have a number of eminently suitable and adaptable capabilities that combined the Royal Marines and Army, acting in conjunction with the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and elements of the RAF.
The Royal Marines are of course the accepted leaders in the field, and in addition to their traditional amphibious assault role they also have a number of specialist roles. Although the Special Boat Service carry out the more specialised maritime anti terrorism role, Fleet Protection Group provide forces capable of non compliant boarding and are also tasked with the security of nuclear weapons.
1 Assault Group provide the specialist small boat capability, both amphibious and riverine. Apart from a training and development roles it also parents the RM Assault Squadrons; 4, 6 and 9 Assault Squadrons provide the landing craft support to the assault ships HMS Bulwark, HMS Albion and HMS Ocean.
539 Assault Squadron provides 3 Commando Brigade with its integral movement and patrol capability, operating a variety of craft including Rigid Raiders, inflatable raiding craft, the new Armoured Raider Craft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (Light)(Replacement) or LCAC(L)(R)
I would like to see an additional assault squadron raised to provide greater capacity in this area, whether each assault squadron would have a mix of equipment types or concentrate on one is open for discussion.
Operations in this environment might include infrastructure protection, counter insurgency and piracy interdiction. Whilst these might be deemed to be at a lower intensity they are no less lethal, more so in fact as the close terrain and short engagement ranges increases risk dramatically. Small arms, large calibre automatic weapons, indirect fires, mines/IED’s and guided weapons make the environment particularly lethal.
We often think of the littoral as a single environment but it is can include rivers and inland waterways, river deltas, marshes, intertidal wetlands, ice, fjords, near shore open water and urbanised areas. Doctrine, equipment and tactics must take this challenging and complex physical and operational environment into account.
In the next couple of posts I will look at equipment options.
The FDR littoral series of posts is summarised below;