“Tell it to the Marines”
First, on March 22, 2020, the leading US publication The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article on the strategic re-targeting of the US Marine Corps against China’s military threat. And following WSJ on March 23, News USNI.org, an American publication dedicated to naval issues, announced plans to reform the US Marine Corps, a separate fourth-type army of the US Armed Forces which is its own branch but yet within the Department of the Navy.
In particular, the idea is to deprive the US Marines of tanks and many other heavy weapons, in particular, artillery divisions of towed howitzers, in order to transform the USMC into “light coastal forces.” The goal of the Marine Corps reform is to create, by 2030, forces that are “optimized” for “easy mobility options” for conflict with China in coastal Pacific islands.
Major Joshua Benson, spokesman for the combat development department of the Marine Corps Command, told USNI News:
“The Marine Corps is rebuilding forces by 2030 for a naval expeditionary war in actively contested spaces, fully coordinating its plans with the direction of [national defense strategy].”
The 10-year plans for Marine Corps reform by 2030 were prepared by its commander, General David Berger, in 2019. Under the leadership of Berger, the command of the Marine Corps began planning to improve the adaptation of the capabilities of the Marines to naval warfare in collaboration with the fleet. In ten years, the Marines will receive a “modernized design”, including new technologies and significant changes in its structure.
The US Marine Corps will have to give up some of its potential for future new opportunities. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the existing capabilities are “too heavy” to be relevant in the upcoming war, which will require small units that are constantly on the move. Therefore, aviation and heavy ground units of the Marines will be reduced. By 2030, the Marine Corps will be almost completely deprived of artillery divisions, deprived of all of its tank battalions and associated military specialties, as well as all engineering companies of the pontoons. Why would the Marine Corps build bridges and arrange river crossings, if its place is the Ocean?
The following reductions are planned specifically:
– the number of infantry battalions of the marine corps will be reduced from 24 to 21 battalions;
– artillery batteries from 21 to 5 units;
– amphibious transport companies from 6 to 4;
– the number of assault and heavy transport squadrons will be reduced;
– the number of the most modern F-35B and F-35C fighter-bombers will be reduced from 16 aircraft to 10 vehicles per squadron.
Major Joshua Benson, spokesman for the combat development department of the Marine Corps Command, told USNI News of plans to reduce and transform specific Marine units.
In total, the personnel of the US Marine Corps will be reduced by 12 thousand people, or about 7% of the total structure of its forces, by 2030. Due to this reduction, “investments will be made in new technologies for a new type of struggle in the disputed coastal region.” Lightweight infantry battalions of the Marines fit better with the concept of expeditionary advanced base operations.
Investments are planned in the possibility of increasing the range of high-precision fire, advanced intelligence, in unmanned systems and stable communication networks.
Commander of the USMC, General Berger, believes that unmanned systems will change the way marines fight, regardless of whether they are used to deliver supplies over the sea or shore, provide additional situational awareness, serve as bait to confuse enemy defenses, or hit targets. The USMC reform plan provides for a doubling of the number of squadrons of unmanned aerial vehicles. Expeditionary aerodrome facilities for fueling and arming manned and unmanned aerial vehicles during operations away from large coastal infrastructure and beyond the reach of landing ships at sea will be developed.
The plan also provides for investments in long-range systems with a three-fold increase in the power of rocket artillery, which will gain the ability to launch anti-ship missiles.
In addition, it is planned to change the type of landing craft. New light military amphibious assault and operational support vessels, adapted to move small units of the marine corps, will be designed and built.
According to a ten-year plan, the III Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) of the Maritime Naval Forces in the forward base with a center in Okinawa (Japan) will become the main center of application of the efforts of the US Marine Corps. III MEF will include “three marine coastal regiments” (Marine Littoral Regiments, MLRs) organized, trained and equipped to carry out “marine denial and control operations” in actively contested marine spaces. This Pacific deployment will be complemented by three globally deployed CMS Expeditionary Units (MEUs), which have both traditional and expeditionary advanced basic capabilities that can deploy with non-standard groups with readiness for landing. I MEF and II MEF will have the strength to support MLRs III MEF and MEUs,
These changes will be accompanied by the intensification of the activities of the Fleet Marine Forces (Fleet Marine Force, FMF), the deployment of a greater number of marine forces in the fleet; the deployment of a larger number of marine corps specialists in naval operations centers; a shift in emphasis in training, training and supporting the activities of the naval forces of the USMC in partnership with the Navy.
The three “Maritime Coastal Regiments” appear to mean nine Marine Corps battalions specially trained for the Pacific Island and Coastal Warfare. Nine out of a total of twenty-one Marine Corps battalions mean that approximately 40% of the USMC potential will be directly aimed at a possible war with China in the Pacific.
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The described ten-year reform of the USMC is one of the specific measures to return the US Armed Forces to prepare for a possible conflict with a “technologically advanced” enemy from among the armies of the leading states of the world. Meanwhile, the military participation of the USMC in lengthy campaigns against the “terrorists” in the Middle East and Central Asia – in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned the marines from a separate type of troops into just another US mini-army – with its own special uniform and its own specific traditions, in particular, steady anti-feminist sentiments.
At one time, the command of the USMC was even offered by the Pentagon full charge of the entire Afghan war – an anti-terrorist and mountain war at its core – purely to the competence and responsibility of the marine corps. In this regard, the reform of the USMC described above is more than getting rid of certain types of heavy military equipment. This is a fundamental decision to return the USMC to being a marine asset, and not a junior partner of the US Ground Forces, that is, to what the marine corps was originally intended for. USMC is returning to its roots and origins in the Pacific. Marines will be reoriented to be Marines, rather than trying to “shine” with the pale reflection of the US Army.
In theory, the USMC was designed during World War II as a special-purpose striking force, a fast assault group that captured island territories, providing offensive advancement of the Navy across a vast sea of ocean space. When the marines were part of the fleet, the fleet itself was its heavy weaponry supporting the operations of the USMC. Growing tensions between the United States and China are returning marines to their old operational territory — the South Pacific.
Strategically, the reform of the USMC means that the Pentagon to a large extent is really diverting its attention from the Middle East to the Pacific Ocean.
The plan is also disband at the USMC: the 264th squadron of medium tiltrotors, the 462nd squadron of heavy helicopters, the 469th squadron of light attack helicopters, the 27th and 37th support groups, the headquarters of the 8th Marine Corps Regiment, and 3 -th battalion of the 8th regiment. As a result of the reorganization, the 1st battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment will be transferred to the 2nd Regiment, and the 2nd battalion of the 8th Regiment will be transferred to the 6th Infantry Regiment. Thus, the number of regiments of the marine corps will be reduced from eight to seven.
The 367th light attack helicopter squadron will be deactivated. The activation of the 5th battalion of the 10th regiment will also be canceled.
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In total, the modern structure of the USMC is divided into:
– 3 expeditionary forces;
– 7 expeditionary units;
– 4 marine divisions;
– 8 infantry regiments;
– 24 infantry battalions, 8 reserve;
– 8 artillery battalions (divisions), 3 reserve;
– 3 tank battalions;
– 3 assault amphibious battalions;
– 4 light armored reconnaissance battalions;
– 3 engineering battalions;
– 3 reconnaissance battalions, one reserve;
– 4 staff battalions (one per division);
– 17 battalions of logistics;
– 3 support battalions, one reserve;
– 4 battalions of support;
– 1 transport support battalion;
– 4 medical battalions (together with the Navy);
– 3 dental battalions (together with the Navy);
– 4 battalions of communications;
– 4 battalions of intelligence and counterintelligence;
– 2 battalions of military police;
– 3 battalions of electronic intelligence;
– 2 short-range air defense battalions;
– 3 battalions of raiders (special forces);
– 7 special battalions;
– 3 training battalions.
USMC Aviation is divided into:
– 3 wings, one reserve;
– one helicopter squadron;
– 9 heavy helicopter squadrons;
– 8 light helicopter attacking squadrons;
– 19 transport helicopter squadrons (CV-22 Osprey);
– 5 attacking squadrons on fighter-bombers;
– 10 fighter squadrons;
– 4 all-weather attacking squadrons;
– 5 squadrons of air tankers;
– 1 transport rescue squadron;
– 4 squadrons of drones.