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Guest Column - Force Magazine
Beyond Beach Landing
India’s amphibious capability needs to be more effective
Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)
By Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)

The origins of amphibious operations go back into antiquity. The Trojan Wars of around 1200 BC are amongst the earliest recorded examples. The Persian landing at Marathon of 490 BC, which gave birth to the eponymous race, is another. Similarly, Julius Caesar’s successful invasion of Britain in 55 BC — it used mobile offshore fire support and the exploitation of successful beachheads with waves of reserves — was an amphibious operation.

Coming to the age of steam, the British assault on Tanga, German East Africa, in November 1914 is considered the first amphibious operation of World War I. The ill-fated Allied campaign at Gallipoli commencing April 1915 is another: it led to the invention of X-lighters — motorised landing craft with a spoon shaped bow (to deal with steep shelving beaches), an armoured hull and a drop down ramp, from which fully armed troops could run on to the beach — the precursors of modern day landing craft and ships. Operations Dynamo (the Allied amphibious withdrawal from Dunkirk), Torch (the amphibious landings in North Africa), Shingle (the amphibious landings at Anzio), Overlord (the Allied landings at Normandy), Galvanic (the American landings on Tarawa), Musketeer I, II and III (the Philippines Campaign) and Chromite (the American landing at Inchon) are the bread and butter of every student of amphibious warfare.

American joint doctrine defines them as ‘military operation(s) launched from the sea by an amphibious force embarked in ships or craft with the primary purpose of introducing a landing force ashore to accomplish the assigned mission.’ An amphibious landing is universally acknowledged asamongst the most complex military operations known to man. The move of troops from ships on a featureless sea, devoid of cover of any kind to the shore is difficult enough without opposition. When it involves an opposed landing, the order of difficulty rises exponentially.

Analysts have long talked about the end of the era of amphibious warfare. The experience of Gallipoli convinced experts during the period between the two World Wars that amphibious assaults could not succeed against modern defences. After World War II, no less than General Omar Bradley told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “large scale amphibious operations will never occur again”, only to be proved wrong by the MacArthur’s famed Operation Chromite barely a year later. More recently, numerous strategic analysts have voiced a view that amphibious operations are no longer possible, given the widespread use of access denial strategies, shore-based anti-ship missiles and sea mines, among others.

Amphibious ops during Exercise Tropex

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