|| At the most basic level, an amphibious force consists of a Navy element — a
group of ships known as an amphibious task force (ATF) — and a landing force (LF) of U.S. Marines (and occasionally, U.S. Army troops), in total about 5,000 people. Together, these elements — and supporting units — are trained, organized, and equipped to perform amphibious operations. The Amphibious Ready Group consists of:
- An Amphibious Assault Ship (LHA or LHD) – Primary landing ships, resembling small aircraft carriers,
designed to put troops on hostile shores. In a secondary role, using AV-8B Harrier aircraft and anti-submarine warfare helicopters, these ships perform sea control and limited power projection missions.
- An Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD) Ship – Warships that embark, transport, and land elements
of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.
- A Dock Landing Ship (LSD) – Dock Landing Ships support amphibious operations including
landings via Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores. The three classes of LSDs are the Harpers Ferry class, Whidbey Island class, and Anchorage class.
- A Marine Expeditionary Unit – missions range from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to major theater war
- AV-8B Harrier II – Attack and destroy surface targets under day and night visual conditions.
- CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters – A medium lift helicopter designed to transport personnel, supplies and equipment in support of amphibious and shore operations.
- CH-46D Sea Knight helicopters – Medium lift assault helicopter, primarily used to move cargo and troops.
- AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters – Provides fire support and fire support coordination to the landing force during amphibious assaults and subsequent operations ashore.
The resulting forces may range from a single Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) [ARG/MEU (SOC)], to a larger organization capable of employing a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or even a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Amphibious forces must be capable of performing missions ranging from
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to major theater war (MTW).
Additionally, they can be configured and deployed to operate at various
levels of conflict and in multiple theaters simultaneously. They can provide
a presence that may preclude adventurous actions by a potential belligerent.
Because they are seabased and because the decision to position and engage
amphibious forces will always be easily reversible, amphibious forces
greatly expand the repertoire of available response options. Among other
national resources, they are particularly well placed to provide a
demonstration of U.S. commitment and resolve to friends and allies as well
Normally two to three ARGs
are forward deployed: one in the Mediterranean/Arabian Gulf-Indian Ocean
area, and one or two in the western Pacific area. The other ships of the ARG
are either working up to deploy, in transit, or in overhaul. One ARG/MEU is
forward based in Sasebo and Okinawa, Japan.
In most cases, the ATF will be deployed under the protective umbrella of an
aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG), which provides cover for the ATF and
combat support to operations ashore. Ships of the ATF are capable of
embarking and supporting other forces when the mission requires, including
U.S. Army, Special Operations Forces (SOF), or other joint and combined