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;
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;
Annex 3B2 also describes additional requirements;
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.
Annexe 4 has the specifics for the maritime environment including this section on Joint Sea Basing;
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!
So as constituted, the UK’s amphibious capabilities are somewhat perfectly formed, but the challenges of scale remain and with the withdrawal of HMS Ocean, the introduction of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and a threat environment that does not stand still, the future remains unclear.
Table of Contents