Feature Article

US Marine Corps shifts focus to expeditionary littoral warfare in Indo-Pacific

[TamilNet, Thursday, 02 April 2020, 21:37 GMT]
Since 2017, the US Marine Corps has been training and grooming a marine force of the genocidal SL Navy at Trincomalee in the occupied country of Eezham Tamils. In the meantime, the US Marine Corps is undergoing significant transformation in the context of the great power competition in the Indo-Pacific, as revealed by a recently released unclassified report, “Force Design 2030,” which describes the modernization progress. The transformation means a sharp shift from the current ability to conduct amphibious landing operations. Commandant of the US Marine Corps (CMC) General David Berger describes the new focus as the ability to be a “force-in-readiness” or what he articulates as the concept of “Stand-In Forces”. The term Stand-In Force implies a force, which is deployed in peacetime within the potential weapons engagement zones (WEZ) of China in the context of the Indo-Pacific.

China's Navy: From a Coastal Defense Force to the second most powerful maritime force on the planet [Courtesy: youtube.com/channel/UC0IlEuu4TA9wq1u60tLMqBw]

“While we stand by to perform such other duties as the President may direct, foreign humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and noncombatant evacuations do not define us – they are not our identity,” General Berger reveals in the report, released in March 2020.

“Rather, they are the day-to-day consequence of being the force-in readiness,” the US CMC quotes from his planning guidance from July 2019.

The previous force design, which has been in force since its initial inspiration in the 1950s, was designed for “large-scale amphibious forcible entry and sustained operations ashore”.

Military observers describe the new doctrine as a radical attempt to transform the US Marines into a lighter and faster less detectable force as its adversaries possess significant anti-ship ballistic missiles, known as carrier-killers.

Therefore, advance deployment in the littoral states seems to be the favoured direction of the US Marines in the Indo-Pacific.

USMC Commandant General David H. Berger on "Inside Force"
[Video courtesy: Marine Corps Association & Foundation, 21 November 2019]

“We have shortfalls in expeditionary long-range precision fires; medium- to long-range air defense systems; short-range (point defense) air defense systems; high-endurance, long-range unmanned systems with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Warfare (EW), and lethal strike capabilities; and disruptive and less-lethal capabilities appropriate for countering malign activity by actors pursuing maritime ‘gray zone’ strategies,” Berger states in his Force Design 2030.

The US Marines that can “continue to operate inside an adversary’s long-range precision fire weapons engagement zone (WEZ) are more operationally relevant than forces which must rapidly maneuver to positions outside the WEZ in order to remain survivable,” General Berger writes in his report stressing “mobility inside the WEZ” as a competitive advantage and an operational imperative.

“The 2018 National Defense Strategy redirected the Marine Corps’ mission focus from countering violent extremists in the Middle East to great power/peer-level competition, with special emphasis on the Indo-Pacific,” Berger observes.

“Such a profound shift in missions, from inland to littoral, and from non-state actor to peer competitor, necessarily requires substantial adjustments in how we organize, train, and equip our Corps,” he writes.

Berger describes the Marine Corps concept of “Stand-In Forces” as an offshoot of the Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO), which comes under the overarching Marine Corps and Navy concept of “Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE)”.

The LOCE is a classified joint doctrine for the US Navy and the Marine Corps from February 2017.

The latest US naval doctrine and concepts of transformation are responses to China’s PLA Navy seeking maritime primacy in the South China Sea shortly and in the long run in the Indo-Pacific.

A US Congressional Research Service report released on 18 March 2020, stated that the PLA Navy had expanded 55% from 2005 to 2019. The report was titled, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.”

USMC Commandant General David H. Berger at The Heritage Foundation, 03 October 2019
[Video courtesy: The Heritage Foundation]

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External Links:
CSIS: The Marine Corps’ Radical Shift toward China
U.S. Marine Corps Concepts & Programs: Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO)
USNI News: Marines’ Force Design 2030 May Allow MEUs Tailored for Different Geographies, Adversaries
U.S. Marine Corps Concepts & Programs: Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE)
WOTR: General David Berger's notes on designing the Marines Corps of the future
U.S. Marine Corps: Force Design 2030
Reuters: The China Challenge: Ruling the Waves
The National Interest: Explainer: What China's Naval Modernization Means for the U.S. Navy
USNI News: Report on China Naval Modernization and Implications for the U.S. Navy



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