The Deputy Commandant for Aviation has floated the idea of sailing big deck LHDs without the Ground Combat Element and doing "carrier lite" missions.
Its wasn't my idea but since its being proposed at the highest levels of the Marine Corps what would an MEU without fast jets look like? In my mind it would be a throwback to what we did before we had LHDs. First let's look at the mission set. via Wikipedia.
The missions may include:That's a real down and dirty but guess what...outside of intense conventional combat operations (and we would see several MEUs join together to do them) then nothing would change...amphibious raids would still remain on the table.
Conventional operations (amphibious assaults and raids)
Tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP)
Humanitarian assistance operations (HAO)
Noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO)
What would change is the composition of the MEU. We would need to add an additional ship...ideally another LPD or LSD (I don't think the AFSB/MLP would have the carry weight we need).
Additional tanks and artillery would need to be carried in order to make up for the firepower that sails away on Davis' plan, and we would probably need to make allowances for increased MTVRs to service them.
Oh and this is where the pics of the CH-53E's are relevant. In this scenario (especially with the CH-53K coming online) we would bias ourselves not toward the MV-22 but increase the number of heavy lifters we have aboard. Since these helicopters are also advertised as having a penetration capability they should be more than capable of handling TRAP missions and for HA/DA they're much superior to the Osprey.
The funny thing?
I've been railing against Davis' plan but its an opportunity for the Ground Combat Element to separate itself from an airplane that might not be available because its engaged in the "joint fight" doing deep strikes etc.
Vipers and Venoms will do CAS, commanders will have to become familiar again with artillery and tanks and the CH-53 will once again become the most in demand air asset we have. This could work and work well. At the end of the day it could be the best thing to ever happen to the GCE.