WITH U.S. TROOPS, SAUDI ARABIA, NOV. 18 -- The Navy's first large-scale amphibious landing in Saudi Arabia, part of an exercise code-named "Imminent Thunder" designed to send a strong military signal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was postponed today on account of inclement weather.

After one of the Marines' air-cushioned landing craft -- designed to skim over the waves and roar ashore with Marines onboard -- heaved and chugged through rough seas, it was called back, sputtering and groaning, to its mother ship. Marine and Navy officials cut off the beach landing but continued with airborne aspects of the mock assault on a Saudi beach less than 80 miles from the Kuwaiti border.

"There's no sense endangering people unnecessarily for a training exercise," Chief Warrant Officer Charles Rowe told reporters awaiting the shore arrival of the Marines' air-cushioned craft.

The exercise also was designed to address problems of command and control within the multinational force here.

About 1,000 U.S. Marines, 34 Saudi marines, 16 ships and 1,100 American, Saudi, British and French aircraft participated in the mock beach assault and more than a dozen associated operations inland, including some Marine units 30 to 40 miles from the Kuwaiti border, officials said. Some of those operations in the interior of the Eastern Province were code-named "Task Force Ripper."

U.S. military officials said they originally planned a larger operation, much closer to Kuwait, but scaled back the exercise and moved the beach assault farther from the border to appease concerns by Saudis that the event could antagonize Saddam. In recent weeks, the U.S. Marines waged beach-assault exercises much farther south in Oman, with more than 10,000 troops participating.

"We were preparing to do it closer to Kuwait," Navy Cmdr. Christopher J. Ellis of Fairfax County told members of a media pool covering part of the exercise. Ellis also heads the U.S. Navy group training Saudi forces here.

Saudi Capt. Muhammad Aseeri, who led the small Saudi marine force participating in the operation said, "We don't want more troops {involved in the exercise} because Saddam Hussein might take it too seriously."

The seven-day exercise, which ends Wednesday, also is supposed to test complex battlefield command and control of multinational air forces assembling on the Saudi peninsula. According to Marine officials, aircraft from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France are participating.

U.S. military authorities have been working in recent weeks to hone communications among the air forces, some of which have relatively little experience working together. They also are testing electronic jamming capabilities, officials said.

In addition, the exercise is to test coordination among the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The battleship USS Wisconsin and 15 other ships, with crews totaling 6,000, are taking part, officials said.

The small Saudi representation in the Imminent Thunder exercise is indicative of the limited integration of American and Saudi forces. While the Marines have conducted the most extensive joint training of any service, they have involved small units and limited maneuvers.

Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer, who commands the U.S. Marine forces here, described the training with the Saudis as "rudimentary, but satisfactory."

Aseeri of the Saudi Marines said, "Our marines try hard, but we don't have all the facilities your Marines have." He added, "I hope to learn more from this on how to control our people."

The Saudi marines were among the 400 troops ferried ashore by helicopter from U.S. ships off shore in the Persian Gulf. The 350 Marines who had been scheduled to arrive by the amphibion will attempt their landing again on Monday, officials said.

One shipboard officer noted that even though the Marines are extra cautious during exercise drills, similar weather with five- to eight-foot waves could also delay actual combat beach assaults.

Asked about his participation in such aggressive exercises within 80 miles of the Kuwaiti border, Pfc. Phillipe Williams, a crew member of the mother ship, the USS Gunston Hall, said, "I'm not gonna lie -- I'm scared. But if anything goes down, I'm ready."