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Subject: MEU Breakdown Question
Galrahn    1/27/2006 3:13:35 PM
A MEU is the fundamental deployment force of the US Marines centered around 1 LHD class ship, 1 LPD class ship, and 1 LSD class ship. I understand the MEU breaks down into four elements; The MEU Command Element, Ground Combat Element, Aviation Combat Element, and the Combat Service Support Element. I also understand the MEU typically carries the following equiptment; 2200 Troops, 4 Tanks, 13 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), 22 Helicopters, 6 Tactical Aircraft, 6 Artillery Howitzers, and various other 5 ton and 1 ton trucks. Does anyone know how the units and equiptment are broken down by ship. Example, which ship typically carries the tanks? Which ship typically carries the Artillery, or AAVs, etc.. Does anyone know where I can find this information online, or any information in this regard? Thanks.
 
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ambush    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/27/2006 7:36:17 PM
It is never standardized, there is naturally a lot of crossloading so all your eggs are not in one basket. Also it is not uncommon to split a MEU up to meet two missions. They do tend to put some items based on required lift asset (what it takes to get it ashore) with the ship that can best handle that asset: LCAC, LCU, chppers etc. I will add that from personal experience that the recon guys and tankers tend to get put on the LPD.
 
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Carl S    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/27/2006 8:12:39 PM
I had several hours of class room training on load plans, and was embarked 3-4 times. Cant ever recall anything close to a common load plan. There were deck spot plans that showed how to squeeze the max number of vehical and pallets in. The number one general rule was of course 'first off, last on'. As ambush says the MEU are not rigidly organized any more. If M1 tanks are going to be needed, or if thay can be drawn when needed fro somewhere along the way, then they wont be included with the original mount out. Twice I was embarked with a MEU and never came within sight of the aviation component. Once the tanks were nowhere in sight. One of my peers in the artillery had his battery cut loose & sent home after just a couple months. Twice my battery was detached many weeks early, before the offcial stand down of the BLT. Then there are the extras attached. Oddball dets. come to play or just ride along. Then there are ship issues. The perfect mix is not always avaialble. As the old stock car racers would say "you run what you brung". In the1980s I'd hear "Semper Gumby" a lot. Uh, why do you ask? Preparing intel reports for the PLA, or designing a wargame?
 
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Galrahn    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/27/2006 10:24:26 PM
While I do enjoy designing wargames, that wasn't the reason. I have been reading on new deployment options for the Marine Corp. One of the major advantages of today’s Marine Corp is that it scales up quickly and easily. By simply adding more ships, a MEU can become a MEB. The future may be a large deployment in the form of a Sea Base, but another challenge of the future may be for the Marine Corp to think smaller. Instead of Regiment or Battalion sized deployments, the Marine Corp may need to make several small Company sized deployments from smaller vessels dispersed against several targets like an island chain. In order to make both Sea Base size and Company sized deployments on either much larger or much smaller ships than current Marine ships, the Marine Corp is evaluating "Modular" technology in TEUs, or 20 ft (length) × 8 ft (width) × 8.5 ft (height) containers. Modular almost describes deployment standards for specific units, and that got me thinking, I was unaware of any deployment standards in the Marine Corp. I asked because I am curious if anyone else was aware where this information was. I guess the answer is, this is something new being evaluated. It is very interesting how both the LPD-17 and the LHA(R) will give the Marine Corp entirely new deployment options, not to mention assault options. LPD-17 class is enormous compared to the Austin class, and I don't think casual observers truly understand just how different the LHD and LHA(R) really are in terms of future capability. Just based on ship class, the Marine Corp instantly has two very different types of MEU. Example, Sea Assault MEU 1 Wasp Class LHD 1 San Antonio Class LPD 1 Whidbey Island Class LSD This type of MEU would be a heavy attack MEU, designed around heavier units like M1A1s, LAVs, and just about any type of amphibious vehicle. This MEU could potentially haul 8 LCACs which provides capability for moving heavier equipment to shore quickly. This would literally be your assault from the sea MEU option. Air Assault MEU 1 LHA(R) 1 San Antonio Class LPD 1 Harpers Ferry Class LSD This type of MEU would allow the Marine Corp to operate like the 82nd Airborne Division, able to life men and equipment well beyond the beach. When you think about the advantages the new CH-53K and MV-22 bring, the mind begins to wander. But how does the Marine Corp scale down, and how in the world does the Marine Corp fit the TEU standard with their equipment? I’m assuming TEU specifications would not apply to vehicles. The Marine Corp would never deploy a Tank Platoon or Artillery unit on a small craft anyway, but what about a Rifle Company or Force Recon, and what about vehicles on a small HSV or LCS type ship for those units? How will modular thinking change the Marine Corp, and will modular capability be backward compatible to the LHD and LSD, since both the LPD-17 and LHA(R) are designed with modular capability in mind?
 
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Carl S    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/28/2006 11:15:44 AM
Well... you are think exactly along the line we Marines have been for the past 105 years. There have been many ''standards' or guidelines published. All the way back to when formal examination begain circa 1900. Because the Marines are standing up and embarking up to a dozen formal MAGTAF each year and triple that number of ad hoc groups for training exercises the standards tend to slip to the status of guidelines, and guidlines are on a shelf somewhere. Although there are general rules, and a lot of papers showing TO/TE the fundamental criteria for a MAGTAF composition is mission, with unit/equipment availability running a close second. So while all MAGTAFs look similar the details may vary wildly. In the 1990s Commandants Grey & Krulak aggravated this by emphasising mission orientation vs formal doctrine orientation. Generally a MEU afloat has so many potiental contingencys on the S3s table theres risk in over specializng the configuration. Once afloat they can be, and sometimes are divided up to resemble the groups you describe above. Also there have been smaller MAGTAFs of reinforced company size formed. The two MEU my battery was attached to ended up that small as the attached units detached for requirements elsewhwere. While everyone was technically there on paper 3/6 was left with two rifle companys, bn HQ(-), a engineer plt, and some Service Support attachments physically present. The designated helo squadron was only a 120 km away so I guess it was available. None of this was a accident. It was the result of trying to balance competing training and mission requirements and reshuffling the components to meet them. "I guess the answer is, this is something new being evaluated." Many times. The ships you refer to were designed according to such evaluations made several times in the 1980s and 1990s. The Dept of the Navy builds it ships to support a doctrine designed to meet anticipated needs. Not the other way around. Although often the world changes and things appear different, triggering new evaluations, resulting in identification of new missions and requirements for new ship designs. (Which actually when you pick them apart dont look that much different from the old ideas.)
 
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ambush    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/28/2006 12:50:59 PM
I do not think it is a good idea to over specialize the MEU into Air or Sea. It takes away from the needed flexibility. YOu do nto rally know where you wil end up with a MEU. Granted the LHA(R) may not have a well deck but before we got the LHA/LHD the LPH did not have one either and the old MAU's managed to have an amphib capability. The problem as I see it is there are not enough Amphib ships in the ARG/ESG. We use to have 5 now there are 3 with a destroyer and sub added I guess. Problem is it is not that uncommon to lose a ship for repairs while deployed or to have to split the MEU over a wide geographical area. On one occasion we had our MEU operating elements off the West Coast of Africa and also in the Mediterranean at the same time. With only three ships this becomes a much more difficult game to play as requires a lot of underway crossdecking when it happens. Lose one ship of your 3 ship ESG and you have lost 33% of your Amphibs vs 20% out of a 5 ship ESG. To me the ideal ESG makeup would be: 2 LHDs or 1 LHD and 1 LHA(R) 2 LPDs 1 LSD 1 Destroyer 1 SSN 1 Fire support ship/arsenal ship confiured for Fire support of the landing force (Take a retired LST and mount some 155s and MLRS on it you must) This would enable a MEU to carry a full squadron of AV-8s/F-35s which would perhaps negate the need for a fire support dedicated ship. It would also allow a bigger helicopter compliment to be carried because the V-22 is going to take up more space the the CH-46. Another option for more amphibs would be the LCS. It is supposed to be modular. An Amphib confiugration would allow for berthing for Marines (maybe a couple of platoons and small craft to get them ashore (rigid raiders, inflatables, etc)
 
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Galrahn    RE:MEU Breakdown Question   1/28/2006 10:08:47 PM
You mentioned 2 interesting things ambush. First, changing the structure of a MEU, the MPF(X) is going to change a lot of things. I doubt the Marine Corp will change things until that concept is better defined. Another interesting point you make is LCS. It takes 2 LCS ships, in fact it takes 1 LM LCS and 1 GD LCS to come up with the correct square footage for vehicles and cargo to deploy a Marine Rifle Company from LCS class ships using modular design, and this company sized force can be deployed utilizing only helicopters. The issue is, it would require CH-53s from another surface platform to move the large equiptment. Makes me wonder if that was one of the reasons the CH-53 landing zone was a LCS requirement, even though the LCS doesn't have a hanger for a CH-53. Scaling up is the easy part, scaling down is possible but has never been done, and requires modular thinking to do it, particularly if you want to move that capability from one ship to another during a deployment. I do disagree with you on your first point though ambush, specialization of MEU isn't a bad thing. It is the operational difference of a marine assault against Pakistan, or a marine assault against Afgahnistan. Either 'could' do either assault, but by better designing the ships to meet different challanges, LHD would be better suited against Pakistan and LHA would be better suited for Afgahnistan in this example.
 
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EW3    RE:ROR vs welldeck   1/28/2006 10:20:04 PM
First let me establish I don't know didly about amphib ops. But it looks to me when you compare how long it takes to unload ships with LCACs compared to a well loaded HSV type ship it's a no brainer that welldecks are well, gone. I realize there's a lot of tactical issues involved but the days of storming fortifications like Iwo Jima are over. Marines are not performing their mission till their boots are on the ground, how they get there is of less importance. Interesting ditty on LCACs sortie rates and times: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/lcac-specs.htm
 
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Carl S    RE:ROR vs welldeck   1/29/2006 3:16:54 PM
Well decks will still be around for a while. Untill you have a secure port, a portion of the heavy logistics will have to cross the beach. Plus while storming heavily defended beaches is to be avoided, clearing a less defended beach (from the flank or rear) for a reinforcement/supply route is still in the playbook. A specialized or limited capacity Amphib. Group as decribed here makes sense for a limited & specific mission. But, in my 20 year career major mission changes can along at the rate of once every five minutes. Whenever we configured anything as a one trick pony we invariably looked stupid. : (
 
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ambush    RE:ROR vs welldeck   1/29/2006 6:24:40 PM
If you are setting up a MAGTF for a definite theater like Afghanistan yes, you can speaiclize. For a regular MEU deployment where you don't know what is going to come up, you cannot afford to be a "one trick pony". I do not think well decks or moving across the beach will be going away anytime soon either. As pointed out you still need the logistics ability that LCACS, LCUs give you. Unless you radically increase the amount of helicopter /Osprey availble when you take away the well decks then you have decreased overall ship to shore lift assets. More helicoters would require more ships to fly from. It is going to take the MEU commander much longer, his aviation assets flying many more sorties to get the same size force ashore. As currently set up the ESG can get forces ashore by three methods Verticle/helo, AAV-7 and LCAC/LCU/LCM. What is the largest payload/weapon system you are going to get ashore with no well deck meaning no LCAC or other landing craft just helicopters? How large a force can you sustain for any length of time with such limitations on available lift assets? You are not going to get M-1 tanks ashore by CH-53K/X anytime soon. There is also a tactical flexibility to be had by the "storming" the beach option. Nobody is talking Sands of Iwo Jima here but it provides the commander another tool and the enemy with something else he has to plan against. Resources the enemy could dedicate to defending possible LZs must be used to defend his shoreline.
 
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Galrahn    RE:ROR vs welldeck   1/29/2006 11:46:58 PM
I'm not sure why it would be a one trick pony. I think it is basically an extention of lessons learned. LPD-17 has a well deck, and the LSDs have a well deck, so a 3 ship MEU will include at least 2 well deck ships. During peacetime operations, well decks are heavily used, so they aren't going to go away anytime soon. From deploying RIBs, to repairing civilian vessels at sea, to humanitarian support well deck ships are very important to every deployment, whether wartime or peacetime. Recent SAG deployments reflect the importance of well decks in the GWOT. But when it comes to war operations, the well deck takes second to air assault, and the new LHA design reflects that. I don't see a problem with the increasing the capability of your main assault ship for wartime operations to better reflect wartime operations by increasing the capability used most. That isn't putting your eggs in one basket, thats increasing the capability of wartime operations in your most important wartime asset, while maintaining other capabilities on your less expensive ships that have more usefulness for non war actions. Besides, it isn't like there is some requirement in the future to define an MEU that it must be either LHD or LHA, it could very well end up an MEU is LHD, LPD, and LSD and the LHA ships are surge vessels that may deploy on some 6 month deployments, but may not deploy on others depending upon where the patrol location is. I'll be curious to see how many ESGs the QDR recommends.
 
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