America’s famed “Fighting Leathernecks” are coming, and they will be riding in new state-of-the-art ships, designed to take the fight to China’s coast.
These light amphibious warships will act as “ruggedized beaching craft,” one senior Navy official put it — that can travel longer distances.
China has pushed too many buttons at the Pentagon with its aggression in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and Uncle Sam is responding in a big way.
According to officials, 10 new warships that will be capable of delivering 75 US Marines straight from the sea onto a beach will operate in and around the first chain of islands off China’s coast, Gina Harkins of Military.com reported.
The ships will be designed to zip around what’s known as the first island chain — the archipelagos that pepper the South and East China seas stretching from near Japan and South Korea down toward Vietnam — carrying new Marine littoral regiments.
They will operate independently of the amphibious ready groups with which Marine expeditionary units typically deploy, Military.com reported.
Instead, light amphibious warships will augment ARGs (Amphibious Ready Groups), officials told reporters, possibly under the leadership of a Navy squadron commander.
The regiments, which are being tested out in Hawaii, will include infantry, logistics and anti-air personnel, Military.com reported.
“Forward-deployed [in US Indo-Pacific Command] and ready to fight tonight is kind of the key,” a top Marine official said of the new ships.
Having US Marines — known for taking and holding positions amid superior forces and suffering heavy casualties without breaking — is the last thing China wants on its doorstep, Military.com reported.
But these and other measures are on the way, as the US shifts its focus to China as the “biggest threat” in the world.
This is why Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger has called for more Navy ships that can carry small landing teams of Marines, Military.com reported.
By comparison, the Marine Expeditionary Units that deploy on amphibious assault ships comprise roughly 2,200 personnel.
Increasing threats in the Pacific and elsewhere are driving the need for a new fleet of less expensive ships that can be built quickly, he said.
“We need a light amphibious warship — a lot of them,” Berger said earlier this year.
The Navy’s shipbuilding plan calls for investing about US$1.5 billion between 2022 and 2026 to build 10 of the 200-foot ships, known as LAWs, Military.com reported.
That’s just a fraction of the US$147 billion plan to build 82 new Navy vessels during that five-year period.
The Marine official who briefed reporters on the plan this week described LAWs as “the missing piece” between the Navy’s amphibious assault ships and ship-to-shore connectors.
Plans released this spring called for the ship to be able to operate at 14 knots for a minimum of 3,500 nautical miles and capable of “enduring up to several weeks-long deployments and trans-oceanic transits.”
According to Business Insider, the Marines are totally re-examining where their forces are postured in the Asia-Pacific region.
Tens of thousands of Marines are based in California, Hawaii and Japan — “pointed like an arrow” at the Korean Peninsula, Gen. Berger said at annual Modern Day Marine event in September.
It’s a layout that leaders put in place at the end of World War II and has been successful for decades, Business Insider reported.
Looking ahead 10 years from now, though, “it’s not a great posture for the joint force,” Berger said.
“We need to relook at [it] for the Marines.”
The Corps is undergoing a service-wide redesign that will shed personnel and heavy equipment and refocus the force for possible island-hopping missions in the Pacific, Business Insider reported.
The plan focuses heavily on naval integration, bringing the Marine Corps back to its roots, in which it’ll head ashore from ships after many years of ground conflict in the Middle East.