MARINE CORPS WEAPONS & VEHICLES
Marines found themselves engaged in combat
operations during 2016 in Iraq and Syria against
the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
(ISIS). A Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground
Task Forces-Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) in
the Persian Gulf region has flown air strikes and
provided other support to U.S. Central Command.
AV-8B Harrier II pilots also have flown strikes
from amphibious assault ships in the Persian Gulf.
Marines returned, in a manner, “to the shores of Tripoli,”
with AV-8Bs and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters flying air
strikes from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp beginning in
August 2016 against ISIS insurgents in Sirte, Libya. The embarked
Marine Expeditionary Unit also took the RQ-21A Blackjack
unmanned aerial system on its first shipboard deployment.
At the same time, the Marine Corps is returning to its
expeditionary amphibious roots as it focuses on the Asia-Pacific region in accordance with the January 2012 Defense
Strategic Guidance. The Corps is expanding its presence in the
region, having established a regular rotation of units to northern Australia for joint training, preparing for moving some
units to Guam, and restoring and modernizing equipment and
material for its units in the Western Pacific.
The Marine Corps is emphasizing its close relationship
with the Navy and its ability to project power from the sea.
Forcible entry remains a primary capability. It also has experimented with alternate forms of shipping for amphibious lift.
Ray Mabus, outgoing secretary of the Navy, oversees
the Marine Corps’ budget of approximately $25 billion. The
service is led by Gen. Robert B. Neller, an infantry officer
who became the 37th commandant of the Marine Corps in
Neller introduced an updated Marine Corps Operating
Concept in September 2016. “The current and future fight may
not be what we experienced in the past,” he said in the doc-
ument. “It encompasses not just the domains of air, land and
sea, but also space and the cyber domain. It will include infor-
mation operations and operations across the electromagnetic
spectrum. It will involve more rapidly changing and evolving
technologies and concepts, which will force us to be more
agile, flexible and adaptable.”
Neller has assumed the task of reshaping the Marine Corps
to whatever force levels will be allowed by constrictive defense
budgets. The Corps considers 186,800 Marines to be the level
needed to meet steady-state requirements and still be able
to go to war. Congress has responded to the Corps’ needs by
authorizing a 3,000-Marine increase to 185,000 in fiscal 2017.
Whether it can sustain that level in the current budget climate
over the long term remains a question.
The Corps also has restructured its Marine Expeditionary
Brigades as rapid-response forces for specific geographic
regions, while continuing to deploy Marine Expeditionary
Units with amphibious ready groups. In addition to the
SPMAGTF-CR in the Persian Gulf, the Marine Corps fields a
SPMAGTF-CR in Europe to respond to African crises.
The top acquisition priorities for the Corps are the
Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and the F-35B Lightning
II joint strike fighter. The ACV is needed to replace the AAV7
assault amphibious vehicle that has served since the early 1970s.
The Corps’ first F-35B squadron forward deploys to Japan in
January 2017 and a second is in transition to the aircraft.
The CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, now going
through its flight test program, is needed to replace the ser-
vice’s CH-53E Super Stallions, two of which were lost in a
midair mishap in 2016. The Corps’ aviation force has suffered
an increase in flight mishaps resulting from a lack of funds
for flight hours and aircraft maintenance, which Congress
addressed by increased readiness funding for 2017. n
A U.S. Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron
Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016.