Executive Summary

The sea base now under discussion is viewed as an enabler of joint force campaigns. It is conceived as a means of projecting joint power and influence ashore, without the need for large port and airfield terminals that are physically vulnerable to attack and that may be subject to sovereign constraints by the nations in which the bases are embedded. The sea base, protected by the Navy’s Sea Shield,1 would provide the capability for joint forces to enter an area, forcibly if necessary, and move rapidly against the main objective while sustaining themselves from the sea, either until they could establish secure ports and airfields ashore or for the entire duration of the operation.

The number, strength, and size of units of action that could be sustained from a sea base and the time over which they could be supported remain to be determined. Early discussions indicate the joint Service desire that the sea base be designed to support, among other things, a joint command center afloat, Special Operations Forces ashore, and logistic support of any forces that are ashore up to the design level (yet to be determined) of the sea base. The naval forces have expressed a need to land and sustain a force up to and including a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The Army has discussed landing and sustaining one or more

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Sea Shield will provide a layered defense to protect the homeland, sustain access to contested littorals, and project a defensive umbrella over coalition partners and joint forces ashore in distant theaters. See VADM Michael Bucchi, USN; and VADM Michael Mullen, USN, 2002, “Sea Power 21 Series, Part II: Sea Shield: Projecting Global Defensive Assurance,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 128, No. 11. Available online at <http://www.usni.org/Proceedings/Articles02/PRObucchi11.htm>. Last accessed June 2005.



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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea Executive Summary The sea base now under discussion is viewed as an enabler of joint force campaigns. It is conceived as a means of projecting joint power and influence ashore, without the need for large port and airfield terminals that are physically vulnerable to attack and that may be subject to sovereign constraints by the nations in which the bases are embedded. The sea base, protected by the Navy’s Sea Shield,1 would provide the capability for joint forces to enter an area, forcibly if necessary, and move rapidly against the main objective while sustaining themselves from the sea, either until they could establish secure ports and airfields ashore or for the entire duration of the operation. The number, strength, and size of units of action that could be sustained from a sea base and the time over which they could be supported remain to be determined. Early discussions indicate the joint Service desire that the sea base be designed to support, among other things, a joint command center afloat, Special Operations Forces ashore, and logistic support of any forces that are ashore up to the design level (yet to be determined) of the sea base. The naval forces have expressed a need to land and sustain a force up to and including a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The Army has discussed landing and sustaining one or more 1   Sea Shield will provide a layered defense to protect the homeland, sustain access to contested littorals, and project a defensive umbrella over coalition partners and joint forces ashore in distant theaters. See VADM Michael Bucchi, USN; and VADM Michael Mullen, USN, 2002, “Sea Power 21 Series, Part II: Sea Shield: Projecting Global Defensive Assurance,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 128, No. 11. Available online at <http://www.usni.org/Proceedings/Articles02/PRObucchi11.htm>. Last accessed June 2005.

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea brigade combat teams, whose size and military strength remain to be determined. Long-range Sea Strike2 naval fires, in addition to Marine, Navy, and Air Force air-combat capability, will support Army forces, naval forces, and Special Operations Forces ashore. Theater-support airlift, with precision airdrop capabilities if needed, will also be available to sustain the forces ashore as appropriate and feasible. The brief review conducted by the Committee on Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea and reported here examined the state of planning for the sea base, including the following: The concepts of operation (Chapter 1); The state of the ship and aircraft technology available to make the sea base work, including the difficult problem of cargo transfer in sea states up to and including Sea State 4 (Chapters 2 through 4); and The issues involved in creating the sea base as a joint system of systems (Chapter 5). KEY CONCLUSIONS As a result of the workshop presentations and its own deliberations, the committee reached the following key conclusions: Planning for the sea base is still in its infancy. Coordination across the Services is just beginning, with discussions between the Navy, the Army, and the Marine Corps, and in response to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) initiatives.3 As a consequence, the details have yet to emerge, especially with respect to joint operations and with respect to the availability and needed development of technology to perform the tasks that are envisioned for the sea base. As an example, there is just beginning to be planning that reflects the implications of the heavy-lift aircraft or the Army’s shallow draft high-speed ship (SDHSS) concept for the design of a sea base—or, on the other hand, the implications of a sea base for the heavy-lift aircraft or the SDHSS. A summary of the committee’s findings and conclusions regarding current and future naval operational concepts related to Sea Basing—including plans for, opportunities from, and limitations of Sea Basing—is given in Box ES.1. 2   Sea Strike is a broad concept for naval power projection that leverages command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; precision; stealth; information; and joint strike together. See VADM Cutler Dawson, USN; and VADM John Nathman, USN, 2002, “Sea Power 21 Series, Part III: Sea Strike: Projecting Persistent, Responsive, and Precise Power,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 128, No. 12. Available online at <http://www.usni.org/Proceedings/Articles02/PROdawson12.htm>. Last accessed June 2005. 3   These initiatives include the Joint Vertical Aircraft Task Force and the Army-led Team on Heavy-Lift Aircraft for Seabasing.

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea BOX ES.1 Summary of Findings and Conclusions Regarding Current and Future Naval Operational Concepts Related to Sea Basing Findings Plans for Sea Basing. Sea Basing concept documents, both Service and joint, have been issued or are in draft. While they have much in common, there are significant differences among them. Tactical and programmatic planning is underway, but it lacks a unified vision and coordination among the myriad elements, and although discussions between the Army and Marine Corps have begun, the approach does not yet involve joint entities outside the Department of the Navy in any significant way. Opportunities from Sea Basing. Sea Basing has the potential to change—in very fundamental respects—the way that the armed forces of the United States operate. Among the most important potential benefits of Sea Basing are these: assurance of operational access, enhanced forward-defense posture, profound improvement in immediate response capability, rapid initiation of joint command and control (C2), very rapid transition from crisis to joint forcible entry, and an unprecedented degree of force tailorability and scalability. Limitations of Sea Basing. Operational Sea Basing is potentially limited by its dependence on the capabilities resident in Sea Shield. It will require robust command and control—of fires, maneuver, logistics, and operations—at great distance. The C2 systems and communications to support this function are limited, and development efforts are uncoordinated and desultory. There will also be sea-state limitations, space limitations on the sea base, and limitations imposed by the need to transfer cargo between the connectors and the sea base in the open ocean in a seaway. Sea Basing has obvious benefits in conducting limited regional conflicts, but it appears to have a more limited or complementary role in major regional conflict or theater warfare, because of the limitations in the flow of supply tonnage, most of which would have to arrive by sea, that could be sustained in such a situation. End state. The Department of the Navy has sent mixed messages with regard to the level of Sea Basing capability desired. It is not clear if the sea base is to be capable of projecting full military power, as was concluded by the Defense Science Board, or is to be something more modest. Conclusions The sea base should be configured to the desired end state of full joint integration, permitting the employment and sustainment of a wide range of joint forces from the sea base. In this configuration, the sea base is fully joint rather than a purely naval capability. Procurement programs that would be required at any ultimate level of sea base capability need to be emphasized. These include high-speed connectors; landing craft air cushion replacement; heavy-lift, intratheater airlift; Sea State 4 operating capability; Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) design; and a strike-up/strike-down system.

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea Sea Basing programs and development efforts need to be brought under common joint management through the establishment of a Joint Sea Base Planning Office, under the Office of Secretary of Defense. The responsibilities of this office would include procurement, doctrine development, war gaming, and any other activity with the potential to effect the attainment of this transformational capability. The proposed Joint Sea Base Planning Office should take immediate steps to involve the other Services, the combatant commanders, and appropriate defense agencies in the development of the Sea Basing capability. Some critical technology developments on which the success of the sea base will depend have yet to be realized. They include the following: Heavy-lift aircraft that can carry a standard International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 20 ft container4 or its full contents, depending on the ability of troops ashore to handle the loading and off-loading, or that can carry the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle, and that can operate from a main ship of the sea base and carry such loads from the sea base to an operational radius of 150 to 300 nautical miles (nmi). Several possibilities are being considered, including rotary and fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL). The committee believes that obtaining the desired combination of payload and range could lead to a fixed-wing aircraft having powered lift of some as-yet-undetermined configuration, with the approximate payload capacity of a C-130J, and that the aircraft will be able to operate in super-short-takeoff-and-landing (SSTOL) or short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) mode, and possibly in full VTOL mode; Cargo-transfer capability from the main ships of the sea base to seaborne connector ships in sea states as high as Sea State 4; and One or more surface ships designed to operate the airborne connectors and to interface with the various seaborne types of connectors between the advanced base, the sea base, and objective areas or intermediate landing zones on a beach. Incorporating in a single ship the capability for ship-to-ship cargo transfer and a flight deck large and strong enough to handle aircraft of the size 4   These freight containers conform to the ISO container-manufacturing standards. The committee assumed an ISO standard 20 ft × 8 ft × 8.5 ft container, loaded so that the weight of the container plus payload is not over 40,000 lb for the “threshold” value and not over 50,000 lb for the “objective” value. The committee did not discuss the feasibility of smaller supply or vehicular modular units (except for the assembly and disassembly of the CH-53 helicopter).

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea and weight implied in item 2a (above) will present especially demanding design and operational problems, which will most likely lead to the need for two different types of ships in the sea base. In either case, cargo handling in Sea State 4 and operations with heavy-lift aircraft in the 20 to 23 ton payload weight class will lead to very large ships.5 The typical design, development, and acquisition times for the new ship(s), for the ship-to-ship cargo-transfer capabilities in high sea states, and for the heavy-lift aircraft systems will, judging from experience, be different. They will need to be reconciled in order to establish schedules for appropriately phased acquisition and for initial and full operational capability for a sea base as a whole. Of the key technology drivers, the expected times of operational capability for a heavy-lift aircraft of new design will be in the decade of the 2020s—possibly in 2015 for the Marine Corps CH-53(X) if it is started in 2006, and later than 2025 for more-advanced heavy-lift aircraft such as quad-tilt rotor, tilt-wing, or fan-in-wing configurations in the 20 to 23 ton payload class. Capabilities for ship-to-ship cargo transfer in high sea states can be expected to become available in the period from 2012 to 2022, depending on the extent to which they depart from the current state of practice. It will thus be necessary to plan the development and deployment of a sea base in phases to accommodate such differences. Among the constraining operational problems will be those emerging from the need for simultaneous airborne and seaborne cargo transfer from the sea base in order to meet the needs of forces ashore. Seaborne cargo-transfer operations will require a ship heading that protects the transfer from the adverse effects of wind and waves; airborne transfer operations, especially if the heavy-lift aircraft is a fixed-wing aircraft needing some takeoff run, will require a ship to head into the wind at significant speed. Thus, for simultaneous airborne and seaborne cargo transfer, an intricate choreography of cargo sequencing from single ships, or coordinated operations for multiple ships, will be required, depending on whether the sea base includes single ship types capable of air operations and cargo transfer to other ships, or two types of ships for the two distinctly different kinds of cargo-transfer operations. These considerations will become design issues affecting the overall size and cost of the sea base, or else they will become limiting factors in the resupply rates that sea bases of a given size and capacity will be able to achieve or in the size of the forces that they will be able to support. The sea base must emerge from a joint Service effort. The successful development of joint Sea Basing capabilities for the nation will involve long-term 5   The committee was not briefed on and did not discuss the Mobile Offshore Base concept. Several recent studies, including the 2003 Defense Science Board report on Sea Basing, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this concept. See Defense Science Board, 2003, Defense Science Board Task Force on Sea Basing, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Washington, D.C., August.

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea capital investments in interdependent, complex platforms, connectors, and supporting technologies, some of which exist today or are under development and some of which are yet to be developed. To succeed, such an effort must of necessity involve all military Services and appropriate U.S. government agencies in a coordinated development process under a coherent set of ultimate goals, common standards, integrated requirements, and time-phased, mutually accepted priorities. It is unlikely that in the current budget climate there will be resources for different Services’ variously designed major ships, connector ships, and heavy-lift aircraft for the sea base. For these reasons, all elements of the sea base must have common ships and cargo-transfer components across the Services and Special Operations Command, all fully compatible with the Service cargos to be moved. By virtue of their experience and capability in ship design, shipbuilding, and at-sea operations, the Navy and Marine Corps should be designated lead Services for this joint effort. The development of the sea base will require a major ship as a testbed to support the necessary experimentation, including that with cargo transfer at sea, which will determine the ultimate sea base configuration and operating procedures. Various ships could serve this purpose in part: an existing large commercial ship; a large, medium-speed roll on/roll off (LMSR) or existing Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF)-type reserve ship in a reduced operating status, such as an SL-7/T-AKR Fast Sealift Ship, or some other comparable ship. Experiments with the heavy-lift aircraft will require extensive modifications of the superstructure of such a ship and the construction of a flight deck strong enough to take the loads of very large aircraft. If the modification of an existing large ship proves technically infeasible for the purpose, at-sea experiments with fixed-wing aircraft in the 20 to 23 ton payload weight class may have to be performed by activating a reserve carrier or awaiting the design and construction of the lead ship of a new ship class designed for the purpose. A number of investigations, which should be performed in a joint context, are required to fix the proposed design and operating parameters of the sea base and airborne and seaborne connectors. The design parameters of the sea base—including the forces that it should be designed to support, its operating distance from shore, and the kinds of ships that will be needed—cannot be finally decided until the results of the first three of the following studies are available. The required studies are as follows: A technical systems study—involving the trade-offs, interactions, and costs among the various possible heavy-lift aircraft types, the major ships of the sea base, and the seaborne connector ships—is needed to settle on the preferred design parameters of the total sea base system. Trade-off studies are also required for the alternative methods of effecting cargo transfers between the sea base and the connectors—both the supply connectors and the shore-bound connectors. The selected transfer methods can drive the designs of both the sea base ships and the

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea connectors themselves. These studies should be coordinated with the Air Force’s AMC-X6 and M-X7 studies, the Army’s SDHSS study, the ongoing Army-Marine Corps Advanced Technology Demonstration efforts, and the OSD-mandated Joint Vertical Aircraft Task Force. An operational systems study is needed to determine the size of Army, Marine, and Special Operations Forces that sea bases of specific sizes and costs can practically sustain and therefore the levels of engagement for which to design the sea base. This study should take into account the potential for air cargo delivery to forces ashore from a distant intermediate or advanced base by precision airdrop or, if possible, landings (but not refueling) at the forward positions ashore. The study should also probe the limits of sea base distance offshore and the total area dispersion of a multiship sea base for simultaneous air- and sea-cargo-transfer operations, to ascertain the limiting parameters of Sea Shield to protect the sea base and the heavy-lift aircraft range requirements8 for operation off the sea base. A ship survivability study is needed to examine the levels of passive protection between fully militarized levels and commercial standards that should be built in to the main and connector ships of the sea base, and whether the ships should have active defenses to engage cruise missiles or aircraft that leak through Sea Shield. Development is needed of provisional Sea Basing standards of design, commonality of cargo-transfer components, and compatibility or interoperability among Service-unique components, to guide the design of the interfaces of the sea base and the airborne and seaborne connectors. Provisional development of joint doctrines and tactics, techniques, and procedures is needed to guide the early experimentation and ultimately the design and development of the sea base. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation: A Joint Sea Base Planning Office—directed by a Navy flag officer or a Marine Corps general officer—should be established. The director of 6   New aircraft called the Advanced Mobility Concept, or AMC-X, with about the same cargo capacity as a C-130 but able to fly higher and faster, while operating from 2,000 ft runways. Also, the AMC-X would be stealthy. 7   M-X, Materiel, Experimental; designators assigned to U.S. Air Force research and development projects. M-X numbers were assigned very early in a product’s evolution, and thus many M-X numbers were subsequently canceled or closed out without producing anything more than a research report. 8   Aeromedical evacuation was not briefed to or discussed by the committee, but that will also bring into consideration the range from the sea base to the nearest advanced medical care facility. See Naval Studies Board, National Research Council, 1999, Naval Expeditionary Logistics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 54-55.

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea this office should report to an appropriate official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Joint Sea Base Planning Office should be staffed with representatives from the four Services, Special Operations Command, and U.S. Transportation Command. These representatives should be at the O-6 level or above. This office should be responsible for carrying out the necessary studies for the design and operation of the sea base and the airborne and seaborne connectors and for guiding the experimentation with one or more testbeds, as needed. At some appropriate stage of planning, as the studies and experimentation and related Service programs mature, this office could grow into a Joint Program Office for the Sea Base. Recommendation: The Joint Sea Base Planning Office should create a joint master plan for technology development, based on an integrated system-of-systems engineering approach, for the Services to use in developing the components of the sea base within their assigned jurisdictions. Recommendation: The Department of the Navy should identify one large vessel to be used as a testbed for resolving the known problems, including those related to connectors and internal cargo handling, involved in at-sea cargo transfer at Sea States 3 and 4, or two such vessels if required for an integral flight deck in order to explore issues associated with potential future heavy-lift aircraft. The Department of the Navy should pursue private industry proposals for the acquisition of larger commercial vessels for such testbeds. Recommendation: The Joint Heavy-lift Aircraft Exploration of Concepts being coordinated within the Office of the Secretary of Defense should involve the U.S. Transportation Command in the process. This effort should be transferred to the Joint Sea Base Planning Office when this office is created. Recommendation: In order to facilitate the management of multi-Service efforts through the use of common terminology and technologies as they create the various elements of the sea base and the airborne and seaborne connectors, and to focus the overall effort, the entire sea base effort within the Joint Sea Base Planning Office should be managed under a name—for example: “Joint Maritime Prepositioning and Sea Basing Force.” A number of related or subordinate conclusions and recommendations at a more detailed level are included in the chapters of this report. Finally, in response to the question in the terms of reference for this study (see the Preface) about whether the Naval Studies Board should conduct a further study in greater depth on Sea Basing, the committee believes that such a study

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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea would not be advisable at this time. When the studies listed above in the seventh key conclusion are accomplished by the recommended Joint Sea Base Planning Office (or in some other forum suitable for such detailed analyses), the necessary further study of the issues will have been accomplished.