Strategic Redesign, the 3 Ns and the Osprey

By Robbin Laird

You have heard of the USMC’s Force Design, but there is even a more significant challenge facing U.S. forces, namely strategic redesign to operate in the emergent multi-polar authoritarian world.

The Osprey is important for the first; but is crucial for the second.

The United States and its allies are shaping a significant strategic redesign in the defense of Northern Europe coupled with the force projected from Norfolk and North Carolina.

In a way what is being built with the Nordic region in terms of defense cooperation and integration (from Finland to Iceland) is being reinforced by the ability of the Norfolk-based fleet and the North Carolina-based Marines to work together in shaping a new strategic capability.

The three N’s (Nordics. Norfolk and North Carolina) are reshaping Northern European and North Atlantic defense where the region is working its own defense and the United States (and Canada and Britain) provide reinforced capabilities to the overall strategic deterrence of Russia.

So how did this come about?

It is a significant story with several key interactive components but one still in progress.

But it is instructive for the future of U.S. and allied strategic redesign for the common defense, and not just in the North Atlantic.

The Nordic Defense Strategic Redesign

From the Nordic side, the new defense strategic redesign has been the evolution since 2014.

The Nordic nations are enhancing their national defense capabilities and over the past decade they are working more closely together on common solutions with the entrance of Sweden and Finland into NATO.

But this is not about Nordic NATO leaning heavily on the United States and its overstretched resources: it is about their own investments and enhanced efforts to work together.

I have travelled to the region frequently since 2014 and have seen these nations shape much greater cooperation than before 2014.

One example of this cooperation prior to the NATO expansion was the cross-border training among Norway, Finland and Sweden.

When I visited Norway in 2018, I went to the base where the Norwegians anchored their part of the tri-lateral air combat training.

This is what I wrote after my visit:

During my visit to Bodø Airbase on April 25, 2018, I had a chance to discuss the cross border air training which Norway is doing with Finland and Sweden.  Norway is a member of NATO; Finland and Sweden are not.

And with Finland to make a decision about its future fighter, that decision will affect the capability, which the three nations can deliver for integrated regional defense as well.

The day I was there, I saw four F-16s take off from Bodø and fly south towards Ørland airbase to participate in an air defense exercise.

The day before this event, the Norwegians contacted the Swedes and invited them to send aircraft to the exercise, and they did so.

The day before is really the point.

Major Trond Ertsgaard, Senior Operational Planner and fighter pilot from the 132 Air Wing, provided an overview to the standup and the evolution of this significant working relationship.

The core point is that it is being done without a complicated day-to-day diplomatic effort.

This is a dramatic change from the 1990s, when the Swedes would not allow entering their airspace by the Norwegians or Finns without prior diplomatic approval.

As Major Ertsgaard put it: “In the 1970s, there was limited cooperation. We got to know each other, and our bases, to be able to divert in case of emergency or other contingencies. But there was no operational or tactical cooperation. The focus was on safety; not operational training.”

By the 1990s, there was enhanced cooperation, but limited to a small set of flying issues, rather than operational training. As Major Ertsgaard noted: “But when the Swedes got the Gripen, this opened the aperture, as the plane was designed to be more easily integrated with NATO standards.”

Then in the Fall of 2008, there was a meeting of the squadrons and wing commanders from the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian airbases to discuss ways to develop cooperation among the squadrons operating from national bases. The discussion was rooted on the national air forces operating from their own bases and simply cooperating in shared combat air space.

This would mean that the normal costs of hosting an exercise would not be necessary, as each air force would return to its own operating base at the end of the engagement.

The CBT started between Sweden and Norway in 2009 and then the Finns joined in 2010. By 2011, Major Ertsgaard highlighted that “we were operating at a level of an event a week. And by 2012, we engaged in about 90 events at the CBT level.”

That shaped a template, which allowed for cost effective and regular training and laid the foundation for then hosting a periodic two-week exercise where they could invite nations to participate in air defense exercise in the region. From 2015 on, the three air forces have shaped a regular training approach, which is very flexible and driven at the wing and squadron level.

Major Ertsgaard added that “We meet each November, and set the schedule for the next year, but in execution it is very, very flexible. It is about a bottom-up approach and initiative to generate the training regime.”

The impact on Sweden and Finland has been significant in terms of learning NATO standards and having an enhanced capability to cooperate with the air forces of NATO nations.

When I wrote my co-authored book with Murielle Delaporte published at the end of 2020 entitled The Return of Direct Defense in Europe: Meeting the 21st Century Authoritarian Challenge, we focused on how the Nordics were leading the way in a new type of integration in European defense.

This is what we concluded:

Nordic defense and security cooperation are part of a broader global trend in which clusters of states are working together to enhance their ability to enhance their defense and security against the return of Russia and the rise of China. Clusterization is the next phase whereby liberal democracies do more for themselves in their joint defense rather than simply relying on diplomatic globalization initiatives through organizations like the EU or NATO to do that for them.

“Clusterization” is key to generating enhanced capabilities that can work interdependently with key allies outside of a regional cluster to reinforce the capabilities in a realistic and effective way to deter core adversaries. In the case of the Nordics, clearly the United States is the key outside power, with Brexit Britain and those states within continental Europe which have capabilities which can show up effectively to bolster the underbelly of the Nordic region are the key players that can reinforce Nordic defense. But at its heart, the Nordics need to bolster their own capabilities as well to work more effectively with their offshore allies and their continental European partners.

But to be blunt: this requires looking more realistically at what the defense of the Nordic region means against the evolution of Russian policies, strategies, and capabilities rather than simply to assume that NATO as a multimember alliance will simply show up.

(Robbin Laird and Murielle Delaporte, The Return of Direct Defense in Europe: Meeting the 21st Century Authoritarian Challenge.)

Now with all four Nordic countries becoming part of NATO, this process is accelerating.

But the real point for the United States is not to lead this effort but to support this effort.

And with the strategic changes put in place by the standing up of 2nd Fleet in Norfolk, such an approach is not only possible but built into the DNA of the re-launch of the fleet.

The 2nd Fleet Strategic Redesign: Projecting Power from Norfolk

The Obama Administration abolished the 2nd Fleet due to its perception of the diminished Russian threat.

It was disbanded in 2011 and folded most of its personnel, warships and responsibilities into Fleet Forces Command.

In the Trump Administration, 2nd Fleet was reestablished.

But the architect of the strategic design of the fleet, Vice Admiral Lewis, had in mind a different approach to fleet design than the Navy had built during the Cold War.

The template of the fleet during the Cold War was not re-applied by Lewis and his staff but a new approach was crafted and was needed to deal with the new global situation in which U.S. assets were stretched and allies could do more in their own defense.

It is hardly necessary to say that this is the only template which is viable for the United States in age of multi-polar authoritarianism but one in which fiscal stringencies and over-stretched forces cannot be asked to do what the United States once did when it was the global economic leader and was in a binary conflict with the Soviet Union.

Ed Timperlake and I had the opportunity to spend time with Vice Admiral Lewis and his commands curing our frequent visits to Norfolk in 2021.

We described in detail the strategic redesign of 2nd Fleet and the standing up of the only NATO command on U.S. soil in chapter eight of our 2022 book entitled, A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making: Deterrence and Warfighting in the 21st Century.

As Vice. Adm. Lewis put it to us: “We had a charter to re-establish the fleet. Using the newly published national defense strategy and national security strategy as the prevailing guidance, we spent a good amount of time defining the problem. My team put together an offsite with the Naval Post-Graduate school to think about the way ahead, to take time to define the problem we were established to solve and determine how best to organize ourselves to solve those challenges. We used the Einstein approach: we spent 55 minutes of the hour defining the problem and five minutes in solving it.

“Similarly, we spent the first two and a half months of our three-month pre-launch period working to develop our mission statement along with the functions and tasks associated with those missions. From the beginning our focus was in developing an all-domain and all-function command. To date, we clearly have focused on the high-end warfighting, but in a way that we can encompass all aspects of warfare from seabed to space as well.”

In a speech in early 2021 to DSI’s Fifth Annual Joint Networks Conference, Vice. Adm. Lewis underscored how he viewed the central role of allied and joint integration in shaping a way ahead for the commands. “At C2F, we have integrated officers from multiple allied nations directly into the fleet staff. The U.S. Marines, reserve component officers, and foreign exchange officers  officer as the vice commander of C2F. At JFCNF, an initial team of fewer than ten In that speech, Vice. Adm. Lewis highlighted the importance of interoperability and interchangeability in working fleet capabilities.

“Interoperability is defined as ‘the ability to act together coherently and efficiently to achieve tactical, operational, and strategic objects,’ often involving the ability to exchange information or services by means of electronic communications. We must then be integrated—the ability of forces to not only work toward a similar mission, but to do so as one unit. An example of this is the Mendez Nunez, who deployed as part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in 2019. The final step in the spectrum of relationships is interchangeability. That is the ability to accomplish the mission, regardless of which nation is executing a particular role.”

(Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake, A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making: Deterrence and Warfighting in the 21st Century (p. 273). Kindle Edition.)

The three commands under the 2nd Fleet Commander are of course 2nd Fleet, then Allied Joint Forces Command and the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence (CJOS COE) which is the only NATO Centre of Excellence on U.S. soil.

This command from its standup provided a unique blend of U.S. and allied cooperation and has focused naturally on North Atlantic operations and has embraced the developments in Northern Europe and are deeply concerned with Russian naval activity against North America, which has accelerated with the war in Ukraine.

Working Command and Control is a key element for shaping an effective integrated but distributed force.

But simply doing this at the fleet level is hardly sufficient.

This must be done with the relevant joint force—and in the North Atlantic airpower is the joint level by the USAF or the USMC or certainly in the case of the U.S. Army with regard to missile defense—and with the engagement of the capabilities, efforts, and interests of our allies.

And this requires that the U.S. Navy does a much better job of integrating with allied navies and forces, something which has been prioritized from the standup of C2F.

Vice. Adm. Lewis put this clearly in his speech to DSI’s Annual Joint Networks summit cited earlier.

According to Vice. Adm. Lewis: “No one nation can face today’s security challenges alone. The Joint service, allies and partners are force multipliers. Serving together, studying together, and participating in exercises together only increases our combined operational readiness. “However, these relationships require time, effort, and we cannot assume that because they exist today, they will exist tomorrow. We value these relationships, and it takes concerted effort to build and maintain them—a critical advantage we hold over our competitors…. Maintaining security and stability in the Atlantic is a responsibility shared amongst many in order to ensure the international waters where we all operate remain free and open. Rather, it is a shared responsibility to ensure we are making changes to the way we operate TODAY, versus waiting until after hostilities start. We cannot afford to learn those lessons the hard way.”

2nd Fleet is focusing on the High North as well as the more traditional aspects of North Atlantic defense.

And in doing so, it is working on ways to support and integrate with Nordic defense integration as well.

The High North is a very difficult place to operate, and the logistics challenge is significant but the ability to integrate Navy and Marine Corps operations with the Nordic nations opens up new vistas for operational effectiveness and resilience.

The Third N: The North Carolina-based Marines

In considering the Chinese as the pacing threat, the role of the Marines based in North Carolina have seen their air capabilities reduced and the priority shifted to the Pacific.

But in a world of multi-polar authoritarianism, the pacing threat is global.

But with the limitations on U.S. resources, the difficult shift from the land wars and the absolute need to shift how the United States supports allies capable of largely defending themselves means that a dramatic shift in strategic redesign in Washington’s foreign and defense policy and the force underwriting that policy is crucial.

In my view, the Marines based in North Carolina – II MEF and 2nd MAW – are doing so in conjunction with their Navy brethren in Norfolk who collectively are working a new relationship with the evolving Nordic defense efforts.

After a visit to 2nd MAW in 2021, I expressed this opportunity as follows:

The North Carolina-based Marines have equipment pre-positioned in Norway and exercise frequently with the Norwegians. And through the Cold War and beyond, those Marines have had the mission to show up to reinforce Norway in a crisis.

But in an era where there is a stated desire to have greater Marine Corps integration with the Navy how might this change?

And in what ways?

The answer in part needs to be generated by the geography., the missions and the allies.

The geography sees the growing role of the High North, and the question of using land space for operations rests on what particular allies will value and permit in a pre-crisis situation up to a full-blown crisis situation.

If one looks at the geography, it is clear the impact which enhanced Nordic integratability can have on rethinking what the Marines might do to reinforce the air-sea battle, which is really where the U.S. Navy is going in its reset to be able to fight and prevail in the 4th Battle of the Atlantic.

Given the priority concern which the Navy has with regard to Murmansk and the Kola Peninsula, those allies best positioned to reinforce U.S. and allied efforts are crucial to the warfighting and deterrence effort.

This means that Iceland, the Kingdom of Denmark (Faroe Islands and Greenland), Norway, Sweden and Finland are the anchors for effective deterrence in the region and can clearly shape the outcome with regard to any Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.

What can the Marines bring from North Carolina which would make the most SIGNIFICANT impact?

If one looks at the impact of Nordic integratability and the importance of reaching back to the air-maritime force operating across the arc of the North Atlantic with North America as the force generator up against Russian force projection, then two key roles for the USMC can be readily seen.

The first is to be able to provide the anchor for American forces operating from Nordic territory as part of the 360-degree air-sea-land battle. By deploying a MAGTF to operate with all four Nordic nations, the Marines could provide not only contribute to enhanced forced integrability across the Nordic region, but with evolving C2, ISR and strike capabilities could reach back to the joint and coalition force operating in the extended battlespace.

In other words, they could support Nordic air-sea-land integration and support a distributed integrated U.S. and non-Nordic allied force as well. And they could make best use of the equipment which the Marines already own and operate as they gradually add new capabilities over the decade.

The second key role is for the North Carolina-based Marines to become the U.S. center of excellence with regard to working in the region. They could work language skills, including Russian. They would acquire the appropriate Cold weather gear so that they can deal with the old Norwegian saying that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. And they could regularly exercise in the region and learn how to work with states that are reintroducing conscription and clearly focused on how to use civil society as part of the overall defense effort.

And the approach to MAGTF integration shaped in a Nordic context provides a number of technological and skill set evolutions relevant to any global role for USMC forces.

In short, rather than being a task for the U.S. Navy to sort through how best to leverage what Marines can do, the Marines would be at the center of working a key capability which clearly enhances the lethality and survivability of the fleet. Even better: this generation of Marines would learn how to prepare for the high-end fight with people whose very existence rests on getting this right. A MAGTF working a regular exercise regime across the Nordic region could function as an anchor for the joint force and its engagement to provide scalable forces in support of Nordic defense, with the Marines providing a key role in working on the ground with regard to Nordic integration itself.

Since I wrote that piece, 2nd MAW leadership has started down this path.

I interviewed MajGen Benedict, the Commanding General of 2nd MAW in May 2024 shortly before he relinquished command.

This is what I wrote about my meeting with Benedict in a May 2024 article:

MajGen Benedict and the 2nd MAW have been deeply involved over the last two years building relationships in Scandinavia culminating in the recent Nordic Response Exercise which saw Sweden and Finland participating as full members of NATO. For the USMC, the entry of Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance means a substantial change from the primary focus on bolstering Norway in a crisis to being able to work with all the Nordic forces in a crisis; a facet they demonstrated by exercising with all three countries during the event.

This means as well that the USMC can take its Marine Air Ground Task Force integrated capabilities and embed themselves within the network of Nordic defense and support the U.S. fleet as it operates in defense of the region.

In other words, it can operate from the land, within a significant defense belt provided by the Nordics, to support the fleet. The air capabilities of the USMC – Ospreys, F-35s, F-18s, and CH-53Ks – can operate from the land to support the fleet or to operate from the fleet to  support of land-air operations. This capability to do either is truly unique and what the USMC brings to the fight – a significant force operating from the land to the sea and from the sea to the land.

The extensive training and integration with all the Nordic countries is a very significant development and lessons learned by Marines in this key region in the defense of the North Atlantic can be applied to the Pacific as well.

MajGen Benedict provided a wide-ranging picture of Marine Corps activities in shaping this concept of operations and the key role of 2nd MAW working with 2nd and 6th Fleets in the region.

He started by underscoring how he looked at USMC-Naval integration.

“I went to a senior commander’’ course in Naples where we focused on maritime combined arms operations. It struck me that both the Navy and Marines almost solely focus on Marine capabilities being employed from the sea, but not so much on how we can come from the land to support the naval  campaign.”

“The opportunity to work with the Nordics as they continue to enhance defense integration clearly allows us to demonstrate and take advantage of that opportunity and to shape innovative ways to do so. And we did that in the Nordic Response 2024 exercise as well. There is a lot we can achieve in littoral operations without solely operating from an amphibious ship.”

We then turned to his experience during the exercise working with the air chiefs of the Nordic forces. He underscored that as they were working their way ahead, the Marines and the American forces are working closely on shaping effective C2 across the coalition force to operate as integrated as possible.

One should note that 2nd MAW brought its first squadron of F-35s to the exercise and with the Norwegians already operating F-35s, with Denmark and Finland to follow along with F-35s from the UK coming off of their carrier, which they did in this exercise off of the Prince of Wales. The F-35s are very interoperable with one another and are very capable of operating at a higher level of integration. When one adds German and Polish F-35s to the force, the capability is a substantial one.

The Finns in particular are masters of distributed air operations on their soil and the Marines worked closely with them and will continue to do so. The progress in this domain since I last talked to pilots at 2nd MAW working with Finns is significant. When I spoke to pilots at 2nd MAW in an earlier visit in 2018, they indicated that the Finns were teaching them about DO. Now the Marines are clearly working hard on their own approach to DO and having an ally like Finland who has lived on the shadow of a big power for a long time makes them  a key partner in evolving DO for the F-35 as well.

Benedict noted that focus of Force Design 2030 was upon being able to operate as the “inside force.”

But he underscored that the Nordics were the “inside force” and the role of the USMC was to reinforce their capabilities across the Nordic region which their air and sea capabilities were crucial to be able to do so.

The Marines have moved from their classic Cold War role of arriving in Norway and pulling out equipment from storage facilities as part of the reinforcement of Norway to become increasingly part of an integrated Marine Corps-Navy team reinforcing the Nordics who are enhancing their capability to defend themselves.

What role can the Osprey play in this strategic redesign?

With the arrival of the CMV-22B to Norfolk, they can join with the 2nd MAW Ospreys to provide a shared capability.

As was noted in an April 5, 2024 press release by Naval Air Force Atlantic:

The first East Coast-assigned Navy tiltrotor vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) CMV-22B Osprey aircraft, assigned to Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 40, arrived to Naval Station Norfolk on April 5.

“Naval Aviation is ecstatic to welcome the first CMV-22B Osprey to Norfolk,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL). “This first aircraft’s arrival symbolizes an evolution and change in Naval Aviation as we look toward the future. The event represents the hard work and stamina of our aviators, aircrewmen, maintainers and sustainment personnel in the VRM community.” 

The CMV-22B will provide the fleet’s medium-lift and long-range aerial logistics capability, eventually replacing the C-2A Greyhounds of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 over the next several years. The squadron’s relocation to Naval Station Norfolk is part of their permanent duty station change from Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island in preparation to provide fleet logistic aviation assets to the Atlantic Fleet beginning in 2025.

The VRM-40 “Mighty Bison” were established aside their existing sister squadron, VRM-30, and the training squadron, VRM-50, aboard NAS North Island in March 2022.

All squadron personnel have been officially stationed in Norfolk since Feb. 1, 2024. The remaining VRM-40 aircraft will begin to arrive to Hampton Roads in the summer of 2024.

The first East Coast-assigned Navy tiltrotor vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft CMV-22B Osprey lands at Naval Station Norfolk, April 5. The CMV-22B Osprey belongs to Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 40 the “Mighty Bison.” The CMV-22B airframe will provide the fleet’s medium-lift and long-range aerial logistics capability, replacing the C-2A Greyhounds of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 over the next several years. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sylvie Carafiol)

VRM-40’s leadership consists of Cmdr. Matthew Boyce, commanding officer; Cmdr. Mason Fox, executive officer, and Command Master Chief Bradley Wissinger.

“We are proud to join the Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic team and eager to lean forward into our next phase of stand-up,” Boyce said.

Fox discussed the importance of standing up a new squadron on the East Coast.

“We’re excited to be in our permanent home at Naval Station Norfolk and focused on continuing to build the squadron to execute our mission – delivering high priority people and parts to carrier strike groups at sea,” Fox said. “The Osprey is an extremely capable aircraft and will be critically important to the way the Navy fights for many years to come.”

In addition to VRM-40, a type wing detachment was established onboard Naval Station Norfolk earlier in 2023 to provide local representation of Commander, Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Wing (CVRMW), based at NAS North Island.

CVRMW’s mission is to provide Pacific and Atlantic Fleet VRM squadrons the ability to sustain lethality for carrier strike groups of the future through the timely, persistent air logistics missions our nation demands any place in the world. The CMV-22B is the Navy’s long-range/medium-lift element of the intra-theater aerial logistics capability responsible for transporting personnel, mail and priority cargo from shore logistics sites to ships at sea.

Naval Air Force Atlantic is responsible for seven nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 55 aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 52,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel with priorities focused on warfighting, people, and readiness by providing combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety, and efficient resourcing.

The Osprey and its operation from the Fleet with the Navy’s CMV-22Bs or from the land via the Marine Corps MV-22Bs helps solve a key problem which was identified when I interviewed a logistics officer in II MEF in 2021  in solving this problem provides insight into how the Osprey enables the strategic redesign.

As the Marines work with the U.S. Navy to reshape capabilities for the maritime fight, two key elements for successfully doing so are the right kind of C2 for distributed integrated operations and logistical capabilities to support such a force.

The logistics piece is not an afterthought, but a key enabler or disabler for mission success.

With a sea-based force the force afloat has significant capability built in for initial operations, but the challenge is with air and sea systems to be able to provide the right kind of support at the right time and at the right place.

Engaging in operations against a peer competitor means that the force needs to be able to operate end to end in terms of secure communications and logistics.

Ensuring an ability to operate from home ports or allied ports is part of the security challenge; finding ways to use air systems to move key combat assets to the various pieces on the operational chessboard in the Atlantic is crucial; and having well placed and well protected stockpiled supplies which can be moved to support the force is a key part of the overall logistics puzzle which needs to be solved.

Lt. Col. Perry Smith recently retired from the USMC but I interviewed him earlier this year when he was the senior strategic mobility officer for II MEF. He and his team focus on the end-to-end supply to the force, through air, sea and ground movements to deploying or deployed forces.

As he noted in a discussion at Camp Lejeune in April 2021, the Marines work end to end transportation which means that “the embarkers at the units actually do all the preparation for their own equipment, do all the certifications, do all the load planning, and move their units out.” But when force mobilization occurs for the joint force, the Marines are competing with the other services for lift support, and in North Carolina this means that they are competing with 82nd Airborne Division “for the same ports and airfields.”

The logistics piece has two key elements.

First, there is the ability to support the initial deployment of the force.

And secondly, there is the challenge of sustaining the force going forward.

For the Marines, the logistics piece comes in two parts, namely, support afloat and support ashore, so there is a “naval slice and a ground slice.”

For operations in the Atlantic AOR, the Marines are working with the Navy as well as key allies to work the logistics supply chain in a dynamic combat situation. This means that they need not only to work closely with the U.S. Navy but to be able to work closely with the support structures of key NATO allies in the support of European operations, including in the High North.

The Trident Juncture 2018 exercise provided an opportunity to work closely with the Norwegians on finding more effective ways to work with their domestic transportation systems, including capabilities like Norwegian ferries, to move equipment and supplies into the operational areas.

As Lt. Col. Smith put it: “What I saw at Trident Juncture was their willingness to make this plan work because they have to. I think they depend on us in a time of need to be able to do reception staging, onward movement, and get to the point where we can back them up in a fight if we needed to.”

And to do this requires shaping as seamless as possible a logistics supply line.

As CNO Richardson stood up the Second Fleet, a key focus was on incorporating the High North into the shaping of new defense capabilities. To do so from a USMC point of view is challenging because of limited logistical infrastructure and the clear need to rely on air systems with fairly long legs, which means the Osprey and the coming CH-53K.

There is also the challenge of the environment.

As Lt. Col. Smith highlighted: “In the Pacific, you don’t have the problems we have in the High North with sub-zero temperatures with 24 hours of sun in the summer and two hours of daylight in the winter.”

The Norwegians are very competent in such conditions and the Marines have a lot to learn from them, and leveraging the kind of clothing, and telecoms equipment which they deploy with would make a great deal of sense.

As Lt. Col. Smith put it: “How do we take advantage of the knowledge of our allies and leverage their capabilities for our forces to enhance our own survivability and lethality?”

The communication challenges are significant.

As you operate from sea, and work with an expeditionary base, linking the two is a challenge, which requires having an airborne capability to link the two. When looking at the North Atlantic arc from North Carolina to the Nordics, strategic mobility is delivered by a triad of airlift, sealift and pre-positioning.

Where best to pre-position?

How best to protect those stockpiles? And how to move critical supplies to the point of need rapidly?

Reworking the Marine Corps force to work more effectively with the U.S. Navy requires a reset of the logistics enterprise.

In what I am calling the “3N” strategic redesign, the Nordics are working collectively together to enhance their ability to operate in strategic depth across their region, in addition to enhancing local or national defense capabilities. 2nd Fleet and the NATO command are working to shape more effective maritime reach and cover over the region reaching back to North America.

The Marines can project into the region, and through their innovations in distributed operations in concert with the Nordic nations can work through various combat nodes across the region.

Supplies can be pre-positioned across the region and flown by Ospreys from the land to the fleet or by the Navy’s own Ospreys from the fleet to the land base.

The Osprey whether operating from the ship or the land becomes a key logistical connector in the operations that can link up Nordic land and air defense with maritime reach.

Because the Osprey can land virtually anywhere, and has speed and range, the logistical reach from sea to land or land to sea becomes a key enabler for the evolving strategic redesign of the defense of the Nordics and the reach into North Atlantic defense.

There is no other logistic link which can work the distribution of supplies embedded in the Nordic region with the range and speed of the Osprey in order to connect the various nodes of the warfighting force across an integrated land and maritime extended battlespace.