WASHINGTON — The United States Marine Corps will officially field its first Marine Littoral Regiment this week, a central part of its plans to conduct small-unit expeditionary forward base operations and move high-end equipment in and across the Pacific.
Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith told reporters that the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii will officially be renamed the 3rd Marine Regiment Littoral. The MLR will be subdivided into numerous EABO units of approximately 75 to 100 Marines, each highly trained and equipped for its particular mission area.
Some EABO units will perform strike missions on land and sea targets; some will create supply and logistics platforms; some will do jamming, deception, recon and more. But they will all look relatively similar when they emerge from a transport plane or a small ship, which will make it difficult for the adversary to identify them and understand what they bring to the battlefield – if the adversary can even see small mobile units moving. vast coastal areas.
These smaller units will bring with them some emerging technologies, which Smith said during the Feb. 28 media roundtable will be used throughout the region as the units maneuver. in and out of the first island chain for exercises and experimentation events.
Smith highlighted four key systems that would arrive in the Pacific, or were already there and would be moved around the theater to support EABO operations.
The first is the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, for long-range strikes. The system consists of a naval strike missile launched from the rear of an unmanned joint light tactical vehicle. EABO units with NMESIS would be able to conduct anti-shipping strikes – or even take control of the sea with just the threat of being able to target enemy ships – from beaches and straits throughout the region.
The second is the MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle for long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. This large UAV will help detect what is happening in the area and relay its findings to Joint Force Commanders in theater or even directly to Marines with NMESIS to take immediate action.
Third, Task Oriented Land/Air Radar, or G/ATOR, is part of the communications architecture to enable data sharing between various EABO units and with the larger naval and joint force.
And finally, there are two distinct means of organic mobility: a long-range unmanned surface ship that the Marines would own and operate themselves, to move cargo or potentially people around littoral areas, as well as the ship of light amphibious warfare that the Marines would use in tandem with the US Navy.
“Four good examples, concrete examples of the kind of capabilities we’re working on – in some cases we already have them – and now we just have to figure out exactly where they need to be established,” Smith said.
“Where the equipment is ultimately used, is based – all of that will be determined by the threat, where do we need it? Those capabilities, whether it’s lethal fires, communications or mobility, we will seek to place them where they can best be used to deter our adversaries,” he said.
The Marines will investigate where the new equipment might best operate, then the service will conduct environmental and legal studies to ensure employment from any possible location complies with local and host nation regulations. Smith noted that partnerships with host nations across the Indo-Pacific zone were key to the EABO concept, which calls for small units to constantly move across island chains and beaches in the region to guard the adversary. confused and unable to target them.
Smith said he needs to accomplish four things by the end of fiscal year 2023: set up the 3rd MLR, which will happen this week; move additional KC-130J transport and refueling aircraft to the Pacific to increase the Marines’ organic lift capability; the commissioning of NMESIS in theatre; and the fielding of the MQ-9A in theatre.
This list of requirements “represents our ability to live, train and deploy in these small disaggregated units” in the Pacific. A threat in the Pacific could emerge at any time, Smith said, and joint force commanders in theater could call in whatever EABO units they need based on the threat and prepare them to go out that day.
He argued that this capability will have an immediate effect on adversaries like China, as China will not be able to track the whereabouts of units as they come and go and maneuver in the first island chain. And they will each deliver a punch that China cannot reject, he said.
Although not formally required to deploy by the end of Fiscal Year 23, Smith said the Marines were well positioned with the G/ATOR radar, LRUSV, and LAW.
He said the Marines had a strong radar acquisition program and that G/ATOR units were already based in Okinawa, Japan, and had been used in events in Australia.
“Where we put them long-term depends on where they’re needed the most, but the capability has to be in the Pacific, and those G/ATOR radars are already in the Pacific,” he said. declared.
On LRUSV, for which there is no recorded schedule yet, Smith said the Marines had already experimented with a 33-foot rigid hull inflatable boat and would continue to experiment with a 45-foot Metal Shark boat.
The Navy is further along in building a record-breaking program for LAW, with five companies doing design work for the Marine Corps and the service working hard to get procurement funds into the Navy’s naval construction budget. Marine.
“In the meantime, we’re using rear landing craft that we lease, renting a vehicle through the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to use as a surrogate,” Smith said. That ship is doing experimental work to refine the Marines’ size and beachability requirements, he said, before the Marine Corps and Navy select a shipbuilder.
He noted that the Marines could lease two more ships for experimentation, because “we don’t want to wait for the law to come online so that we can then confirm – not propose, but confirm – our concepts of operations”.
By the end of FY23, he said, MLR would have a number of LAW surrogates available for testing and training.
Smith stressed that this is just the beginning, and that more unit types with more types of equipment will be introduced as China and other potential adversaries evolve their operations and capabilities.
“The MLR is the harbinger of things to come for us, both in the Indo-Pacific and in the way the Marine Corps does business,” Smith said. “This is just the first step.”
Megan Eckstein is a naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported on four geographic fleets and is happiest when recording stories from a ship. Megan is an alumnus of the University of Maryland.