(Washington, D.C.) As formations which can launch 5th-generation stealth attacks from the ocean, dispatch heavily armed ship-to-shore vehicles loaded with Marines and weapons, operate Osprey Tiltrotors for troop transport behind enemy lines and command fleets of surface, air and undersea drones, U.S. Navy Amphibious Ready Groups could almost operate as adapted, tailorable, multi-mission Carrier Strike Groups.
This would be particularly true in maritime environments such as the Pacific where there are many island chains, coastal areas and sea-land domain operational requirements. Unlike Carrier Strike Groups which, having large, deep-draft blue-water ships such as carriers and destroyers, Amphibious Ready Groups can perform maritime combat operations in both open blue water and in littoral areas as well.
In terms of the kinds of immediate combat missions which could emerge and quickly become necessary in the Pacific, many of the possibilities would likely require capabilities associated with an ARG.
Perhaps this is part of why the U.S. Navy is now operating its America Amphibious Ready Group in the Pacific, conducting patrols and security operations in the Philippine Sea.
An ARG in the Pacific would not only have an ability to launch amphibious ship-to-shore attacks in island areas or along contested enemy coastline, but they can also launch the F-35B vertical take-off-and-landing 5th-Gen stealth air asset which can perform strikes over land, attack enemy surface ships, support advancing amphibious forces or even conduct forward reconnaissance and targeting missions.
In this respect, an ARG introduces a measure of mission versatility less possible with a heavier, longer-range Carrier Strike Group, while still ensuring the possibility of 5th-gen air support.
There are so many potential scenarios in the Pacific which might require or benefit from the presence of amphibious forces. Should Taiwan or Japan fall victim to some kind of Chinese attack, an ARG could immediately bring thousands of Marines to support defenses, launch F-35s to attack approaching forces and quickly reinforce supplies, troop reinforcements, weapons and equipment to the shorelines under attack.
With watercraft such as Ship to Shore Connectors able to transport large amounts of Marines, equipment and weapons to the fight, an Amphibious Ready Group could itself launch amphibious attacks upon the attacking amphibious forces themselves to thwart their advance and prevent any kind of successful shore landing.
Amphibs can also operate large numbers of deck-launched air drones and unmanned surface vessels able to perform forward reconnaissance missions, transport essential supplies ashore or even conduct offensive attack operations when directed by a human.
This kind of tactical mission scope would also prove critical should some kind of confrontation emerge in the South China Sea, where land and sea intersect repeatedly and in rapid succession. This need for multi-domain close-in maritime attack, oriented largely toward the Pacific, quite possibly explains why the Marines are working intensely to build and deploy its new Light Amphibious Warship for “island-hopping” expeditionary warfare moving weapons and Marines quickly and interchangeably from ship to shore.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.