Planning for Bold Alligator 2012

01/19/2011 by Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake

The Second Line of Defense team spent the week of January 8th talking with USN and USMC planners and operators involved in Bold Alligator 2012.  Visits to USMC Forces Command and to 2nd US Fleet Forces in Norfolk were combined with a visit to the 2nd Marine Air Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

We had earlier interviewed two of the key players in the exercise, Admiral Scott and General Owens.  Admiral Scott was interviewed aboard the USS Wasp during the sea trials of the F-35B in October 2011.

http://www.sldinfo.com/admiral-scott-and-the-arg/

And General Owens was interviewed specifically about BA-2012.

http://www.sldinfo.com/bold-alligator-2012-charting-the-future/

We have already provided some initial inputs into how SLD thinks about the significance of this exercise for the USN-USMC team and for force structure reform.

We have argued:

Although an amphibious exercise, the capabilities being exercised are really those of leveraging the sea base to insert and withdraw forces.  The key effort is to take a combined force (both combat as well as a humanitarian) and support that force ashore from the sea.  Such a force is really a test of what we have called the agile response group, even more than the amphibious response group.

The USN-USMC team is taking what capabilities they currently have now and shaping greater capabilities from those assets by working on the con-ops of a 21st century approach.

Bold Alligator 2012 will highlight several innovations in combat operations in shaping the US and Allied militaries in the post-Afghan environment. Credit Image: USN and USMC

What we saw in Libya is being continued in Bold Alligator 2012.  The new and the old are being combined in shaping a very flexible force able to operate across the spectrum of warfare.  And a force able to be augmented by scalable forces which can provide for re-enforced capabilities as the case requires.

The agile response group is built around an economy of force whereby what is needed to meet the mission is applied, and make it possible NOT to deploy a very large force package (such as a Carrier Battle Group) when not required.  But at the same time, like a Lego block set, the forces can be augmented to ensure strategic superiority.

Bold Alligator 2012 is as well an exercise space whereby significant innovation will be generated and experimented with.  BA-12 is not just an amphibious exercise to demonstrate what the allies and the USN-USMC CAN do, but is a platform for innovation in shaping what these forces WILL be able to do in the future.

http://www.sldinfo.com/bold-alligator-2012-the-usn-usmc-team-shapes-the-future/

We have added that

Senior Admirals are taking a page from Admiral Nimitz legacy and they have delegated to the Admiral fighting the force and the Marines going ashore the confidence to fight the force. Those leaders have appropriately delegated to their planning staffs the confidence and support to create a bottoms up exercise.  This approach is very American and especially very Navy/Marine.

Old con-ops will be studied and validated or dismissed in favor of new lessons learned. Ships planes and weapon systems currently in the fleet will be employed. New advances in command and control will be looked at and vetted. The flying surrogate for F-35 systems will be overhead. Logistical support innovations by the newly introduced MV-22 and ships called T-ake Ships will be employed and tested.  The “miracle hour” of medical care will be addressed.

Many other basic and innovated lessons will be learned-mistakes identified and fixed. The most important lesson of Bold Alligator-“good and other” is both the Carrier the USS Enterprise “The Big E” and the Marines in the MEU will be going into combat this summer-Bold Alligator is a deadly serious exercise.

http://www.sldinfo.com/bold-alligator-2012-in-historical-perspective/

In this piece, we are going to highlight some of the perspectives we learned during the interviews to enhance understanding of the purpose of the exercise, the focus of the exercise and the potential impact of the exercise.  We are building this piece around some videos shot during the interviews to give our readers a direct contact with the forces, a core reason for which this website was established.

As Lt. Col. Matt Morgan, USMC Director of Public Affairs, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command underscored: “The exercise has three key objectives: working with today’s assets for today’s contingencies; revitalization of amphibious capabilities across the full range of operations; shape next steps in the evolution of sea basing.”

Captain Sam Howard

In Bold Alligator 2012, the USN-USMC team is testing the transition from the amphibious force or Gator navy from being a Greyhound bus to becoming a strike force. Here Captain Sam Howard, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk VA explains some of the objectives of the exercise which begins in January 2012 and has its “D” Day February 2.

Col Phil Ridderhof

There is a prevailing view inside the Beltway that the USN and USMC are holding Bold Alligator to make a political point of their relevance. The political context of 2012 is assumed as the context. The reality is that BA-12 was started 3 years ago and BA-10 was the initial stop along the way. In this video, Marine Colonel Phil Ridderhof, senior Marine Corps adviser to U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va discusses the process and approach to planning for BA-12.

Bold Alligator 2012 is testing the Expeditionary Strike Group. The template being shaped in BA-12 will provide a lay down within which force modernization associated with the F-35B and the MV-22 can unfold. In this video, Marine Colonel Phil Ridderhof, senior Marine Corps adviser to U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va discusses the nature of the ESG today.

Col. Bradley Weisz

Next, Col. Bradley Weisz, Deputy Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, explains the approach being followed in BA-2012. The Colonel explains the role of the Expeditionary Strike Group and the role of allies in the exercise.

The Colonel focuses on the strike capability already in place to allow a push approach for the sea base in the littorals. He discusses as well the impacts of the new air assets – MV-22, F35B, and the CH-53K – in significantly augmenting the template being tested.

Lt. Col. Wesley Bane

Lt. Col. Wesley Bane, Plans Officer, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, explains the planning approach and process for Bold Alligator 2012. He focuses on the important impact the exercise can have on doctrine, equipment and procurement options.

He also discussed the key role of the combined Blue-Green team which has done the planning. “This is about as integrated a staff as you can get.”

He then focused on the key role of allies in the planning process and the exercise. “They have been at every aspect of our planning meetings and process…. They are not just observers. Our Netherlands officer is our planning lead officer.”

CDR. Richard Radice

CDR. Richard Radice, Operations Officer, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, discusses a comprehensive approach to the maritime approach being exercised in Bold Alligator 2012. “No platform fights alone,” is a core theme of the Second Line of Defense Team. Radice discusses the comprehensive set of assets being put into a single operational template in this video.

Lt. Commander, George Pastoor, Royal Netherlands Navy

In this interview, Lt. Commander, George Pastoor, Royal Netherlands Navy, discusses the coalition involvement in the Bold Alligator 2012. He is the chief planning officer for the exercise and emphasizes the integration of allies, USMC, and USN forces in this effort. He also discusses the need to enhance information sharing among partners, but sees progress in this area.

As a F-35 partner, Pastoor discusses the importance of the new aircraft as part of Dutch joint capabilities. “Operations are now combined and joint.”

LCDR James “Flats” Allen

In this interview, LCDR James “Flats” Allen, Expeditionary Strike Force TWO, discusses innovation in thinking about the CSG and the ARG can bring to each other. “Flats” argues that the exercise is helping shape a “cross-fertilization” process between the CSG and the ARG. “This process will evolve over time” to shape new capabilities.

A key part of the exercise is learning across the fleet, from the Desert Rat Marines who are getting to wet, to carrier folks like “Flats” talking Amphib, and getting the Amphib to understand shifts in carrier ops that could provide a more effective approach to littoral engagement operations.

Colonel Andrew “Shorty” Shorter

In this interview, Colonel Andrew “Shorty” Shorter, Commanding Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 14, MCAS Cherry point, explains the paradigm shift in using the Harriers off of the large deck amphibious ships. As Col Shorter underscored: This is completely different from what we normally do…. Normally, there is a 6 plane DET (Detachment) to a VMM squadron with and Cobras, 53s and 22s…..In Bold Alligator we are going to deploy assets from 2 squadrons to the large deck Amphib to build a 16 Harrier combat force.

When one remembers the role of 4 combat Harriers off of the USS Kearsarge in Libyan combat, this is a substantial strike force.

In effect, this is bringing together with today’s assets a template for more strike capability, which is a template well, designed for the arrival of the F-35Bs.

Lt. Colonel Williams

In this interview, Lt. Colonel Williams further discusses the paradigm shift involving the plus up of the Harrier strike force. We earlier talked with “Uber” at an exercise North Carolina at the end of August 2011.

http://www.sldinfo.com/the-harrier-and-expeditionary-basing/

http://www.sldinfo.com/harrier-exercise-at-marine-corps-air-station-beaufort/

In Bold Alligator 2012, the entire large deck Amphib will support the 16 fixed wing Harrier aircraft. As the Lt. Col. underscored, the flexibility demonstrated by the Harriers on the large deck Amphib will be very clear. We are going back to the vision of what a V/STOL aircraft fleet are able to do.

In effect, this is bringing together with today’s assets a template for more strike capability, which is a template well, designed for the arrival of the F-35Bs.

Lt. Colonel Shawn Hermley

Besides providing the deck off of which the Harrier strike force of 16 aircraft will operate, the USS Kearsarge will be managing a large part of the air battle management in support of the insertion of force during the Bold Alligator exercise.

In this interview, Lt. Colonel Shawn Hermley, Commanding Officer, Marine Attack Squadron 231, MCAS Cherry Point, discusses the role of the air traffic control function aboard the USS Kearsarge. Hermley was recently involved with the 26th MEU in operations off of Libya and speaks from experience.

The USS Kearsarge will be handling the various air assets of the force insertion. It will be sharing the C2 role with the Aegis and the large deck carrier. The USS Kearsarge in Libya they were the only ship providing radar; now the challenge will be part of the sector.

General “Dog” Davis, Commanding General 2nd MAW

In this slice from a broader interview conducted on January 13, 2012, General “Dog” Davis, Commanding General for the 2nd Marine Air Wing, discussed the role of the air element in support force insertion.

Davis underscored the ability of the new air assets, already evident with the MV-22 and soon to be augmented by the F-35 will allow the deployed ships to have much better protection and deployed capability.

“The new assets not only allows the individual ship to be a 100 more times effective, but allows the ships in the aggregate as either a contiguous whole or distributed over much greater distance to be dealt with as a single combat entity.”

And in this slice from a broader interview conducted on January 13, 2012, General “Dog” Davis, Commanding General for the 2nd Marine Air Wing, Second Line of Defense discussed with the General to need for a full spectrum capability when sending in a littoral force, such as being exercised in Bold Alligator 2012.

General Davis provided his update on General Kurlak’s famous three block war concept.

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/strategic_corporal.htm

“The new assets not only allows the individual ship to be a 100 more times effective, but allows the ships in the aggregate as either a contiguous whole or distributed over much greater distance to be dealt with as a single combat entity.”

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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