Where Are the Seawolves? The Absence of Organic Helicopter Close Air Support from Naval Riverine Strategy
MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLL QUANTICO VA
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Not since the Vietnam War has the U.S. Navy had much interest in a conventional riverine force. This changed in 2006 when the CNO reestablished the Navys riverine squadrons RIVRONs to help contribute to the GWOT. Due to RIVRON success in OIF, the Navy plans to expand its riverine fleet and the scope of their operations. However, the Navy continues to be reluctant to invest in a naval air component to riverine warfare, disregarding the historical precedent set by Helicopter Attack Ught THREE HAL-3 in support of riverine operations in Vietnam, the 1990 Worthington study, and the 2006 Center for Naval Analysis CNA examination of the Navys riverine capability all three indicating the importance of integrated close air support CAS to riverine warfare. Using Helicopter Sea Combat HSC MH-60S aircraft as RIVRON CAS assets would be the least costly way to integrate naval helicopters into riverine warfare. Unfortunately, utilizing naval armed helicopters as RIVRON CAS assets has not been a priority for the Navy as indicated by its lack of interest in this potential solution. If the Navy truly intends to exploit the riverine environment it would integrate dedicated naval helicopter CAS assets into its riverine strategy. However, despite having its own armed helicopters already available for the task, this has not been the case. Therefore, riverine operations will be far less effective against future littoral challenges because of the Navys failure to instill naval armed helicopters as assets in riverine warfare.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics