The U.S. Marine Corps just stood up, in Hawaii, the first of a new kind of unit, a so-called Marine Littoral Regiment that could help the Corps battle Chinese forces in the Western Pacific.
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Some background: The Marines in April announced a proposal for sweeping organizational changes that commandant Gen. David Berger has said are the key to making the Corps’ expeditionary units lighter, more survivable and more relevant in island-hopping warfare.
The Marines proposed to eliminate all of its law-enforcement battalions, tank battalions and bridging companies. The Corps also would disband three of its 24 infantry battalions, 16 of its 21 tube-artillery batteries and two of its four amphibious-vehicle companies.
Four aircraft squadrons face the axe: two flying attack helicopters and one each with tiltrotors and heavylift helicopters.
The Corps also wants to squeeze some F-35 squadrons, reducing their complement of stealth fighters from 16 planes to 10.
But the Marine Corps won’t necessarily shrink. Instead, it could shuffle around thousands of its roughly 224,000 active and reserve personnel, reassigning freed-up billets to new units including as many as three MLRs, all of them in the Pacific region.
The Marine Littoral Regiment is a missile-armed island force, the Congressional Research Service explained in a May 12 report. The first regiment will include around 2,000 Marines drawn in part from an infantry battalion currently stationed at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. “Other MLR units, such as anti-air units, are expected to come from other bases outside of Hawaii,” according to the CRS.
The new regiment will ride in wheeled Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The eight-ton JLTV is a sort of cross between a lightweight Humvee and a heavily-armored Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Truck.
The regiment also will have the new Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship-Interdiction System. Nemesis in essence adds the Naval Strike Missile—a stealthy, 100-mile ship-killer—to vehicles such as the High-Mobility Artillery-Rocket System as well as an unmanned JLTV variant.
According to the CRS, the Corps’ other initiatives include:
- Expansion of long-range fires: achieve a 300-percent increase in rocket artillery capacity, which, in conjunction with anti-ship missiles, is intended to significantly expand the Marine Corps’ ability to support the fleet commander in sea control and denial operations.
- Lighter, more mobile and versatile infantry: reduce the size of infantry battalions in order to support naval expeditionary warfare and to facilitate distributed and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.
- Investments in unmanned systems: double the number of unmanned aerial systems squadrons and austere lethal unmanned air and ground systems to enhance the ability to sense and strike targets.
- Maritime mobility and resilience: seek new capabilities to increase littoral maritime mobility and resilience, including a new light amphibious warship, as well as more affordable stern-landing and operational support vessels.
- Mobile air-defense and counter-precision guided missile systems: pursue a variety of efforts to include directed-energy systems, loitering munitions, signature-management, electronic warfare and expeditionary airfield capabilities and structure to support manned and unmanned aircraft and other systems from austere, minimally-developed locations.
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