Optimal allocation of assault support aircraft in the sustainment of Marine Corps expeditionary maneuver warfare
Powell, Michael J.
Schrady, David A.
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As the United States enters a new millennium, the armed forces, and in particular the Marine Corps, face new challenges in the manner that they deploy and operate. Reductions in both personnel and naval shipping, coupled with an ever-changing world political environment, have led to a dramatic shift in the way that the United States must project its power. As recent combat operations in Afghanistan have demonstrated, there is a valid requirement for forces to possess the ability to operate from the sea directly to an objective area with minimal or no amphibious landing support. This thesis provides an analysis of the most advantageous assault support aircraft allocation aboard a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in operations such as this. With the MEU tasked as one of the prominent fixtures in the timely projection of power ashore for the United States, the capabilities (or lack thereof) of assault support aircraft become increasingly important as ship-to-objective distances increase. Our method of finding an optimal composition of aircraft consists of constructing an Assault Support Optimization Model (ASOM). ASOM is assists us in prescribing an ideal configuration of assault support aircraft while emulating the dynamic amphibious environment. ASOM analyzes the assignment of several aircraft combinations (4 CH-53E/12 MV-22, 6 CH-53E/10 MV-22, 8 CH-53E/8 MV-22 and 10 CH- 53E/6 MV-22) establishing which delivers the greatest ship to objective support to the MEU's Ground Combat Element. The results on various runs of ASOM (at distances of 50nm, 75nm, 100nm and 125nm) identify that the optimal aircraft composition varies with ship-toobjective distances. Overall differences are not dramatic and we do not have further evidence that any aircraft combination clearly outperforms the others. According to the heuristic results obtained in this thesis, we would cautiously recommend a mix of 6 CH-53E and 10 MV-22 aircraft which, on average, seems to produce better results, and is always the best or second choice regardless of the ship-to-objective distance.
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