The Marine Corps is reshaping its war-fighting doctrine to become a faster
and more responsive force. Key to making this happen is the availability of
improved airlift and sealift assets, such as heavy vertical-lift transport aircraft
and blimps, said participants of a Marine-sponsored wargame held in Quantico,
The core of the Marine Corps’ emerging doctrine is the notion of expeditionary
maneuver warfare, an ambitious concept intended to transition the Corps from
the old-fashioned hit-the-beach tactics of Iwo Jima toward modern maneuver warfare.
Based around the deployment of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, expeditionary
maneuver warfare is aimed at supporting joint force operations in the world’s
Expeditionary maneuver warfare is designed to fit with the Navy’s “sea
basing” concept, which is built on the premise that operations can be
planned, managed and conducted from the sea, reducing the need for land bases.
Sea basing will require a full spectrum of ships, including amphibious vessels,
carrier battle groups, heavy cargo ships, black-bottom commercial ships and
fast small craft.
The scenarios developed for the Marine wargame, “Enhanced Networked Seabasing,”
conducted at Quantico in late May, saw the employment of new force mixes, which
combined assets from amphibious-ready groups and carrier battle groups.
In one scenario, an Expeditionary Strike Group—carrying a Marine Expeditionary
Unit—and a Carrier Strike Group were first to arrive in the crisis area.
Within seven days, a Maritime Pre-positioning Force arrived, supporting a 15,000-troop
Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The goal was for the entire brigade to be ashore
within seven days after the MPF arrived, said Col. Art Corbett, director of
the future war-fighting division at the Marine Expeditionary Force Development
The wargame also was designed to help Marine officials fine-tune the Corps’
overarching doctrine, called “Operational Maneuver from the Sea.”
The idea is to be able to launch Marines in fast amphibious assault vehicles
and aircraft from over the horizon (up to 25 miles).
“We’re not doing what we did in the past, with an LST (tank landing
ship) spitting amphibs 3,000 yards off the beach,” said Corbett. Indeed,
mobility by sea will enable the Marine Expeditionary Brigade to travel up and
down the coast, landing, re-embarking and landing again.
“It is our ability to use the sea as maneuver space,” Corbett said.
“The adversary either defends the length of his coastline and dissipates
his forces, letting us defeat them in detail, or he concentrates his forces
and leaves us openings to maneuver.”
Another concept emphasized in the wargame was “ship to objective maneuver.”
The Marines are jettisoning their traditional assault-buildup-breakout doctrine
honed on beaches from Tarawa to Korea. They will not spend days and weeks dug-in
while waiting for artillery and supplies to arrive.
“Look at Inchon,” said Corbett. “We had a tremendous capability
at sea to strike at the enemy’s rear, and then we proceeded from the beach
at the speed of shoe leather. We went from great operational maneuver to a tactical
battle of attrition.”
Ship to objective maneuver calls for the Marine Expeditionary Brigade to push
aggressively inland as soon as it reaches the shore. Two battalions will land
on the beach using Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAAVs) and Landing
Craft Air-Cushioned (LCACs).
In the wargame, the brigade advanced inland, while an Osprey-borne reinforced
battalion was inserted 100 miles beyond the beach, a capability that could grow
to 200 miles by 2020. “It is a capability that has never existed,”
In their post-wargame brief, participants cited several capabilities that the
Marine Corps will need to conduct ship-to-objective maneuver warfare in the
future. Among the weapon systems and platforms needed are the CH-53 SLEP, the
MV-22, the AAAV, over-the-horizon command and
control, combat service support, mine countermeasures, indirect fire support,
a replacement vehicle for the LAV and the M1 tank, and a light truck that fits
inside the MV-22.
Expeditionary maneuver warfare is predicated on speed, Corbett explained. Reinforcements
will be flown by strategic airlift to a major base such as Guam or Diego Garcia,
and then moved by new High Speed Vessels, or catamarans. And though the Marines
will carry only 20 days’ supply—instead of the 30 carried by current
maritime pre-positioned forces—new cargo MPF ships will have sophisticated
containerized storage, allowing selective offloading instead of just spitting
“The Navy continues to load supplies on ships just like the Phoenicians
did,” Corbett said. Using the containerized systems standard on commercial
vessels also will allow the Marine forces to be sustained by commercial ships,
and will assist non-combat transport.
Corbett stressed that expeditionary maneuver warfare will require a plethora
of new hardware, especially new ships. The Marine Corps’ doctrine assumes
that the Navy will acquire 18 new MPF ships (Marine Prepositioned Force) at
a billion dollars each. Warships such as the new LHA(R) amphibious ships, DDX
destroyers for fire support, LCACs and HSVs will be needed as well.
The Navy is already refitting its 74 LCACs with new electronics, under a service
life extension program that will make them last for another 20 years. Expeditionary
maneuver warfare also will require a joint command and control network to link
all elements of the maritime force.
A key system for expeditionary maneuver warfare is the new AAAV, now scheduled
to enter service in 2008 and be fully deployed by 2018. It will have several
advantages over the current AAV7A1, including a 30 mm Bushmaster II cannon,
better armor and a propulsion system that lets it glide along the water like
a speedboat. It can cruise at a speed of 20 knots for 65 miles.
The common denominator of these concepts is plentiful lift capacity, an issue
that wargame participants quickly seized upon. For example, inserting a Marine
battalion 100 or 200 miles inland is based on inserting the unit in one full
period of darkness (about eight hours). This only could be accomplished with
the V-22, according to Corbett.
The medium-lift Osprey, however, is limited as a cargo platform. Some military
participants argued that a heavy-lift helicopter is needed. One recommended
a heavy vertical-lift transport with quadruple tilt-rotors, instead of the Osprey’s
dual propulsion system, though he lamented a lack of research funds available
Other participants questioned whether there would be sufficient intra-theater
lift. Some recommended resurrecting seaplanes and dirigibles.
A logistics expert was skeptical of the notion that Marine battalions could
easily be re-embarked and moved quickly by sea. “What are they going to
do if it’s greater than sea state 2 [slightly choppy waters]?” The
Marines’ goal is to be able to operate in conditions up to sea state 5
(eight-foot waves and 22-27 knot winds).
The implementation of expeditionary maneuver warfare also poses other concerns
wargame participants expressed. These include: