UK Amphibious Doctrine

The MoD helpfully publishes all the main doctrinal publications.

British Defence Doctrine JDP 0-01 Edition 4 is the main document.

It lists the ten principles of war; Selection and Maintenance of the Aim, Maintenance of Morale; Offensive Action, Security, Surprise, Concentration of Force, Economy of Effort, Flexibility, Cooperation and Sustainability.

Subordinate doctrinal documents describe a number of other subjects in which ship to shore logistics has relevance.

British Maritime Doctrine as defined by JDP 0-10 ,for example, describes one of the attributes and roles of British Maritime Power as Lift Capacity;

For the UK, all major operations need maritime support to deploy, sustain, withdraw, or re-deploy forces. Airpower can be used to achieve extremely rapid effect with light forces for short periods, and provide an air bridge for more substantial operations. It can also be a more practicable method of moving personnel, even large numbers.

However, sealift is the only practicable means of deploying equipment and logistic support and then sustaining them at anything other than very small scale, due simply to the sheer volume of equipment involved.

Even when an operation is a landlocked state, the majority of lift required to deploy and sustain a joint force will be achieved from the sea. Sealift permits land and amphibious forces to transit to theatre, poise offshore if required, and then enables joint power to be brought to bear ashore. It also may be the only means available for gaining initial theatre entry if access basing and overflight permissions are not forthcoming from other states.

The Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary are the only force able to provide sealift in a threat environment. In a benign environment, with maritime force protection teams embarked, the strategic Roll-on/Roll-off ships (RO/ROs) provide the major MOD contribution; larger operations generally utilise commercial chartered shipping.

Protecting the unhindered passage of sealift is an important duty for maritime forces.

Another tier of documents, the Joint Tactics, Techniques and Procedures includes 4-05 Operational Infrastructure.

In Section 2 is a description of categories of infrastructure;

Sea ports of disembarkation.

Marine and maritime operations may be supported for a short time only, by over-the-beach facilities using specialist equipment. However, a seaport provides a significantly greater degree of flexibility and logistic capacity.

Harbours and port facilities can take years to develop. It is highly likely therefore that use will be made of existing ports to support an operation rather than build a new one.

Nevertheless, additional facilities may be required at a port either for ship-to-shore transfer or to store materiel prior to transit. Port infrastructure is generally large, heavy and requires specialist design and manufacture in order to cope with the high loads and damaging environment.

This can be very time consuming.

A key requirement during early planning for an operation will be to confirm that any intended Sea Port of Disembarkation (SPOD) has the requisite handling facilities. Often older ports will have cranes designed to off-load cargo from inside the holds of ships.

More modern ports are designed around bulk container handling.

Military operations are likely to require roll-on, rolloff (Ro-Ro) facilities.

Unfortunately, these are not commonplace in ports worldwide. A deployed force may therefore need to repair and develop indigenous facilities. Annex 3B gives more detail on the requirement for infrastructure to support marine and maritime operations.

Annexe 3B (mentioned above) provides more detail of infrastructure requirements, to summarise;

Sea Port of Disembarkation. A Sea Port of Disembarkation (SPOD) is principally a location to offload personnel, stores, vehicles and other equipment from Strategic Ro-Ro and commercial shipping. RN/RFA use of the SPOD would be determined by Maritime tasking, the extent of the joint operations area and amount of shipping competing for berths at the SPOD.

Forward Logistics Site. A Forward Logistics Site (FLS) provides a dedicated Maritime Intra Theatre Lift (MITL) node for RN/RFA shipping.

Forward Mounting Base. In the context of maritime operations, a Forward Mounting Base (FMB) is a location, possibly sited within the joint operations area, remote from the combat area, which has the facilities to enable the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) to undertake:

(1) Tactical re-stow of munitions, vehicles and equipment within the attributed shipping.

(2) Weapon and equipment upgrades to ships (usually by contractor).

(3) Crew rotation on submarines and RFA.

(4) Recuperation combined with deep maintenance.

(5) Battle damage assessment, repair or recovery and

(6) Other logistic activities that cannot be easily undertaken in a busy SPOD.

Combat Service Support Area. Initial marine landing operations are supported through a temporary Beach Support Area (BSA). This may quickly evolve into a Combat Service Support Area (CSSA).

A CSSA provides a much more substantial degree of support than a beach support area.

It enables the Embarked Military Force (EMF) to replenish and acclimatise prior to further operational tasking.

Infrastructure must provide for the storage for 2nd line stocks and other logistic functions that may be required.

Forward Support Unit. A Forward Support Unit (FSU) provides 1st/2nd line engineering support for vessels. In addition to holding spares an Forward Support Unit may also provide environmentally controlled storage for munitions. It may operate from a forward mounting base.

Annex 3B2 also describes additional requirements;

Berthing facilities for RN, RFA and Chartered Commercial Shipping (with appropriate licensing and Host Nation Support).

Helicopter operating areas.

Ramp to accept Strategic Ro-Ro vessels.

Container crane and other handling equipment required to unload materiel.

Personnel, mail and cargo handling facilities.

Secure storage for all classes of supply (including munitions).

Temperature controlled storage for medical supplies, such as blood products.

Water and fuel supply facilities.

Appropriate hard standing.

Force protection and life support facilities.

Integration with line-of-communications transportation (such as main supply route).

Secure communications.

Assured access to logistics Information Systems.

Headquarters and technical accommodation.

Offices for port agency representatives.

The final doctrine type publication to look at is JDP 4-00 Logistics for Joint Operations

The diagram below, from JDP 4-00 provides a good overview of how the various elements fit together.

Amphibious Logistics Doctrine

Annexe 4 has the specifics for the maritime environment including this section on Joint Sea Basing;

Joint Sea Basing. Joint Sea Basing (JSB) is an option to complement expeditionary operations by providing land effect from the sea. JSB is not restricted to logistics, but may include strike, command and control (C2), Close Air Support (CAS) and fires.

Logistically, the use of properly loaded ships, RFA or commercially chartered, to support other Components may assist in issues such as FP, the environmental impact on stocks and even the Joint Desired Order of Arrival (JDOA), where capability held in the Maritime force could allow earlier movement of FE that might otherwise have had to await lift assets.

Use of the JSB for logistic support will be determined by the logistic estimate process and will involve a high level of coordination between the Maritime Component and the JFLogC. The JSB can be used to provide C2 facilities for HQ JFLogC.

Further detailed information can be found in BR 2002 ‘Maritime Operational Logistics and CB 2002 Naval Manual of Logistics for Operations although these are not publicly available.

This wasn’t specifically to discuss doctrine but to explain how amphibious operations sit within a much larger construct.

It should be obvious that going over the beach is only carried out if operational need dictates and then only in limited quantities for a limited duration.

UK amphibious doctrine has long since dropped the need for opposed landings in the traditional D Day/Iwo Jima style and emphasis’s raiding, limited theatre entry or support for other operations, as mentioned above.

Much like our dalliance with effects-based operations, RMA and the whole rapid reaction trend that culminated in FRES there was also a similar trend in maritime and amphibious operations and a whole new raft (see what I did there) of terms, ship to objective manoeuvre (STOM) and operational manoeuvre from the sea (OMFTS). Both have their origins in the USMC with Operational Manoeuvre from the Sea (OMFTS) envisages launching and supporting forces from ships up to 25 miles offshore against targets up to 175-200 miles inshore. It emphasises using the littoral and offshore as a ‘manoeuvre space’

Ship to Objective Manoeuvre (STOM) can be seen as a tactical support concept that allows forces to move swiftly from shipping to inland objectives without the need to establish the traditional lodgement and built up beach logistics areas. OMFTS is of course nothing new, the Falkland Islands was a classic example, including what might reasonably be called Joint Sea Basing before the term was institutionalised. In that context, Sea Basing was sustaining the force ashore solely from a distributed sea base, or collection of ships but the critical difference between 1982 and what is envisaged by the STOM/JSB concept is that we needed an intermediate step, the shore. STOM in the context of 1982 was shore to operational manoeuvre.

Where STOM differed from the traditional approach was its preference for both manoeuvre and sustainment from the sea base using helicopters and tilt wings. Because water, ammunition and fuel drives the logistic footprint of a deployed force this preference puts a great deal of emphasis on heavy lift helicopters and due to the distances required, fast ones.

Without, therefore, significant rotary lift, this sustainment element becomes impossible or at the very least, extremely difficult. The Falkland Islands demonstrated this perfectly, although we tend to focus on the single Chinook in theatre (BN) the bulk of the rotary lift was carried out by smaller helicopters and lots of them but even with this, sustaining the force was an extreme challenge and one which may well have been impossible to carry on should the campaign have lasted longer.

Logistics ships were very far from being ‘over the horizon’ when moving stores to the shore. They would assemble and get ready well offshore but at night would move to San Carlos and discharge their cargoes within spitting distance of the beaches. The ships were hastily loaded and cargo holds often inaccessible and despite the best efforts of the 17 Port Regiment selective re-stowing on the journey South and at Ascension Island proved problematical, Ascension of course having very little port facilities. Without knowing where everything was and with complete accessibility the ability of the force commander to make sure that stores arrived at the right place and the right time was hampered.

The lack of a true sea base and rotary lift had significant impacts; STOM was not possible, a conventional Beach Support Area and logistics build up was required which took time and allowed the Argentine forces to exact heavy losses whilst those combat support and combat service support elements were established ashore. Later in the operation, delays in resupplying, especially ammunition, would result in a number of delays putting British forces at a tactical disadvantage. The basic lack of lift was also compounded by command and control issues such as the amphibious commander being in charge of all helicopter movements and the land force commander not having access to the relevant helicopter radio network.

STOM, therefore, needs lots of vertical lift if it is to achieve the objective of striking deep inland from over the horizon with any meaningful force size. Sustainment does not necessarily need an over the horizon sea base but having one reduces vulnerability by placing the sustainment bulk over the horizon and away from shore based threats.

There is nothing at all wrong with STOM as a concept, it being a credible and sensible reaction to increasingly effective shore based threats and the UK does have the capability, just not at a significant scale.

Even the US forces with their huge amphibious and vertical lift capability recognise that sustainment of the deployed force using just helicopters is impossible except in certain limited scenarios, the tonne-mile calculations just don’t add up and when CASEVAC, aircraft attrition and adverse weather are factored in it becomes even more ridiculous.

Complete asset visibility and the ability to optimise aircraft loading and flight plans so partially loaded flights and wasteful light return journeys are minimised is also a prerequisite, but very difficult to achieve.

This has resulted in a desire to counter this inability to use only helicopters (and in the USMC’s case the V22) with a more lethal and lighter force, mass and protection being substituted for speed and combat power.

Think we have heard this one before.

Forces becoming lighter to match logistics constraints and not because of the need for lighter forces.

With finite lift available a force commander will have to make difficult decisions between using helicopters for combat manoeuvre and logistics support.

STOM and JSB are feasible concepts, they costs an arm and a leg though and as usual, our doctrinal eyes are bigger than our budgetary belly.

We do at least call them different things, Maritime Contribution to Joint operations, Command and Control Warfare, Maritime Fires, Air / Ground Manoeuvre Forces, Force Projection, Sea Based Logistics and Force Packaging!

I will discuss this in greater detail later in this document but for now, a look at existing capabilities and equipment available to the joint commander.


Table of Contents


Case Studies

The Normandy Landings

The San Carlos Landings

Umm Qasr


Current Capabilities

UK amphibious Doctrine


Mine Countermeasures

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)

Amphibious Assault and Logistics

US Amphibious Logistics

Making a Case for Change

Increment 1


Survey and Initial Operations

Repairing and Augmenting the Port

A Summary and Final Thoughts on Increment 1

Increment 2


Existing Solutions and Studies



Shore Connector

Wave Attenuation

Closing Comments

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