15 March 2007

The Riverine fighting force proposal

H/t to Greyhawk at Michelle Malkin's on this article on the US Navy going Riverine in Iraq.

Ok, I hope that is enough on the credits!

Now, seeing Navy on the River reminds me that there really are some old concepts at play here: doing patrols along rivers to cut enemy supply lines and such and giving the old 'show of force' bit, plus interdicting traffic and inspecting islands and shorelines and such things. At one point in the history of the US this was known as 'Gunboat Diplomacy' in areas where actual Diplomacy wasn't getting anywhere. Today it is counter-insurgency and interdiction, which are lovely names for ways to not point out that Syria is using the main river ways in Iraq to keep supplies going to terrorists there. But then, there are times when regular Diplomacy fails...

That being said, and having this warped and bent mind of mine, I realized that there was something missing from all of this: the Marines. Yes, they have Amphibious Assault vehicles which the next generation of them will have skimming on water and getting nice inland coverage...

Expedtionary Fighting Vehicle

...but that is more for 'Amphibious Assault' not for 'Patrol and Interdiction'. There are times when having a lovely, large armored vehicle is just the thing, and taking on a hostile waterfront with pillboxes and such is a prime thing to consider. But for rivers? Well, you *can* do it... but then you are tied to the transportation system and if your vehicle goes, well, you have a problem. Now you could transport a larger organizational unit with something a bit heftier...

Landing Craft Air Cushion

... while very futuristic, does have some problems on size...

... what with bridge clearance and all. Yes something that size is more likely to run over a small island rather than stop at it. But boats are so... limited and armored vehicles just a bit much in the way of overkill when what is really needed is speed and multi-terrain capability.

So if we can start taking the best of all worlds, we can start looking at a basis for a new light, agile and yet relatively well protected military concept. Thus we can start using something like this as its basis:

Neoteric Hovercraft

Pacific Hovercraft - Discovery, NZ

Yes, you read that right: Ground Effects Vehicles. Hovercraft.

The howls of outrage that these are toys and flimsy things that can be shot up in a heartbeat. That was true back in the 20th century, but the end of that century saw something interesting happen in the materials science areas. Ballistics resistant fibers that can be added *to* fiberglass and other composites. The entire realm of composite materials is now offering protective capabilities that can be mixed right in to the actual fiberglass itself so that anything formed of a plastic composite or other materials offers resistance to small arms and fragmentation explosions. Lets face it, your basic armored vehicle does the same and even faces the problem of having a large cross-section to be targeted, while a vehicle barely 4 feet high moving at 45 mph makes for a *very* difficult thing to hit, even on open water.

So one target company would be the folks who make Dragonskin: Pinnacle Armor. Their composites offer a wide range of protection capability with varying weight changes. In that mid-range of rifles and light automatic weapons fire is a pretty nice 'sweet spot' of protection and weight balance for something like this. Other makers would include such places as Armor Holdings and even DuPont with Kevlar and other such materials. When you start thinking like *that* then you start to get into this kind of mode:

Neoteric Hovercraft

Because you can give such a thing just about any paint scheme that you desire. Speed, agility on land and water, decent crew compartment for two. Now all you need is a weapons system. And after doing a bit of figuring your brand new CROWS system, now seen on Strykers, can have a match made in heaven here. And that would also allow the driver to do it solo in case things got hairy, too. Being able to run and gun is a *very* good thing. And as the CROWS allows everything from a .50 cal to a rocket launcher to grenade launcher being installed, you can outfit a few vehicles with a variety of weapons depending upon mission. Even if you were stuck with M-2's you could *still* mount one of those and about 500 rounds of ammo for it. Mind you this is *with* carrying your Assault Load, personally, and probably having some pounds to spare for reloads and other fun things.

Now one can spend scads of time looking at the ultralight community and their high power small engines, and at some of the old-line makers like Wankel and their new VIP-4200, which promises high power, low weight and a bit more quietness. Because once you start talking power to weight ratios and how best to use the lift capacity and what makes them effective, you are no longer thinking of this as a pie in the sky possibility. And, believe me, there are all sorts of hovercraft sizes, engines, and designs out there, from the dinky one-man to the full oil rig transport barge which, if memory serves, carries about 300 tons of equipment. And, of course, the LCAC, which would serve as a great mobile base with its own, indigenous, light Riverine Force.

The large benefit of modern hovercraft is that they meet all NTSB safety needs so that even at their overload weight they *still* float if the engine goes out. Getting shot out on land just grounds you, but on water you should still be able to float merrily along with your gear. Things couldn't get much better than that!

But they DO!

You see, heretofore the USMC has been having to depend on its aviation wing, or on other air assets from the other services to get the job done. In this modern era we can now have one vehicle that does water, ground AND air work. You have seen them as model toys, but there is a full-size available that lifts 1,000 lbs and will load 1,200 on regular GEV mode:

19XHR Hoverwing from Universal Hovercraft

That's right, more lift capacity and the ability to *fly* over obstacles, walls, trenches, other vehicles and then swoop around for a strafing run. Add in two or three of these to serve the air portion of things and what is fielded is no longer a minor Riverine force, but a full fledged Marine Ground Effects Vehicle Assault Team. And with that extra weight one could add in a third person or a second weapon or... well the list is endless now, isn't it? With just a bit of work on the right kind of equipment, this becomes a miniature assault force perfectly suited for counter-insurgency and is also not as threatening as huge armored behemoths which do a great job on show and intimidation, but not so much on the 'don't mind us we are here to do our job' scale.

A huge plus on this sort of equipment is that it is all 'known': the engines are diesel or gas powered, fiberglass is a known for repair, and simple slap-on patches for the skirt to repair the plenum chamber. All of that sort of repair tools and such is light-weight and easy to use. The worse part would be needing to service the engine and *that* should not be out of the skill set of nearly any US Marine on the planet. In point of fact your repair supplies for such things are so common as to be available at hardware stores at any town that has same. And duct tape is your friend for 'instant patching'.

The high tech composites are about the only major cost factor in these things and that might even begin to compete with the cost of the engine, which is the majority of cost on some of the larger vehicles. The major problem is getting one's mind around a force that can rapidly disperse and yet be self-supporting against all sorts of minor threats and then only need to call on major fire support as needed. Here the idea is mobility and speed, not firepower, because that is what interdiction, search and destroy and counter-insurgency is all about.

I hope you found this enjoyable!

As with all ideas this is offered free of charge, no strings attached, cite it if you try to make a proposal on it and that is fair and even.

I can't make it any better. If you can, then go for it with my blessing.

No comments: