JUST IN: Marine Corps Tank, Infantry Battalions on Chopping Block

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Marines conduct a simulated casualty evacuation on an M1A1 Abrams tank.

Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Reine Whitaker

The Marine Corps plans to cut tank battalions and reduce infantry units over the next 10 years while investing in new capabilities, as it gears up for competition with advanced adversaries.

Since last summer, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and other service leaders have been working to craft a new force design that will better align the service toward competition with high-tech adversaries China and Russia, said a service announcement from Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

“The Marine Corps is redesigning the 2030 force for naval expeditionary warfare in actively contested spaces, fully aligning the service with the direction of the" National Defense Strategy, it said.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy identified China and Russia as great power competitors and the greatest threats facing the United States.

To prepare itself for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas, the Marine Corps plans to divest itself of law enforcement battalions, tank battalions and associated military occupational specialties, and all bridging companies by 2030, according to the announcement that was released March 23.

Additionally, the service intends to reduce the number of infantry battalions from 24 to 21; artillery cannon batteries from 21 to 5; amphibious vehicle companies from 6 to 4; and cut tiltrotor, attack and heavy lift squadrons.

“Developing a force that incorporates emerging technologies and a significant change to force structure within our current resource constraints will require the Marine Corps to become smaller and remove legacy capabilities,” the command said.

The blueprint calls for a total force reduction of approximately 12,000 personnel over a 10-year period, a decline of slightly less than 7 percent relative to the current structure, according to the press release.

Infantry units in the future will be lighter, more versatile and have increased mobility to support naval expeditionary warfare and facilitate distributed and expeditionary advanced base operations, according to the release.

The Marine Corps plans to deactivate Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264; Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462; Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469; Marine Wing Support Groups 27 and 37; 8th Marine Regiment Headquarters Company; and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. It also intends to realign 1st Battalion, 8th Marines to 2nd Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines to 6th Marines, while deactivating and relocating Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 to Camp Pendleton, California.

The Corps is canceling the activation of 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, but its assigned batteries will realign under existing 10th Marine Regiment structure.

The service expects to reduce the number of F-35B and F-35C primary aircraft authorized per squadron from 16 to 10, the announcement said.

“The future Fleet Marine Force requires a transformation from a legacy force to a modernized force with new organic capabilities,” the press release said. “The [Fleet Marine Force] in 2030 will allow the Navy and Marine Corps to restore the strategic initiative and to define the future of maritime conflict by capitalizing on new capabilities to deter conflict and dominate inside the enemy’s weapon engagement zone.”

The service wants to make investments in new systems to include longer-range precision fires, advanced reconnaissance capabilities, unmanned systems and resilient networks.

For long-range precision fires, the service is planning for a 300 percent increase in rocket artillery capacity, which will be paired with anti-ship missiles, to enhance the Marine Corps' ability to support sea control and sea denial, the announcement said.

The service also aims to double the number of unmanned aerial system squadrons and "austere lethal" robotic air and ground systems.

“Future budget requests will include an expanded list of viable unmanned capabilities that will create significant opportunity for industries across the country,” the announcement noted.

Based on Berger’s planning guidance, the service intends to make III Marine Expeditionary Force the Marine Corps’ main focus, the announcement said. It envisions having three Marine Littoral Regiments organized, trained and equipped for sea denial and sea control.

“This Pacific posture will be augmented by three globally deployable Marine Expeditionary Units that possess both traditional and expeditionary advanced base capabilities that can deploy with non-standard amphibious ready groups,” the announcement said.

The service also hopes to increase maritime mobility and resilience through a new light amphibious warship and more affordable stern-landing and operational support vessels, according to the document.

The future force will also include mobile air-and-missile defense systems, the announcement said. Other capabilities on the wish list include directed energy systems; loitering munitions; signature management; electronic warfare; and expeditionary airfield capabilities and structure to support manned and unmanned aircraft and other systems from "austere, minimally developed locations."

The service will continue to evaluate, wargame, experiment and refine its force design, the announcement noted.


Topics: Marine Corps News

Comments (2)

Re: Marine Corps Tank, Infantry Battalions on Chopping Block

firepower, and having the quantity to mass maneuver. Fewer units mean less offensive punch.
To cut units to build some new TERMINATORS isn't wise if just one or two TERMINATORS attack. In the movie, a whole squad of T-800s and Hunter/Killers attacked, not one Commando or Rambo T-800. And that is what seems to be the problem with the cutting.
Obviously, rocket artillery is needed and is more mobile than towed tube artillery. The problem with HiMARS is that once fired, it takes TIME to reload compared to a M777 that can fire mass quantities of shells. The USMC needs M109 SPHs with Copperhead rounds again to ditch the laborious M777s. Anti-ship missiles on HiMARS are fine IF the USMC has SAMs to defend the HiMARS which it doesn't. Cutting USMC M1A1s runs the risk of WWII USMC Pacific Island hopping where it was infantry attacking and getting slaughtered to death by enemy machine gun fire with few armored tanks for protection. The MPF or Griffin III is definitely needed and the USMC should have gone solo with the Griffin III 50mm program instead of waiting for the U.S. Army which elected to cancel the OMFV. Griffin III’s 50mm firepower would have been a Game Changer that the ACV cannot achieve.
I don't really like the USMC Modernization redesign. I find it myopic and too narrow-goaled in buying HiMARS and depending on infantry, UGVs, UAVs, and new technology. A 12.7mm isn't going to substitute for a 120mm. A 30mm Bushmaster II on a tracked MULE isn't going to substitute for a 30mm on a ACV or 50mm on a Griffin III when a Marine has to jump up on the UGV MULE and reload the 30mm ammo box. No Marine is that strong to lug a 30mm ammo box onto a MULE's RWS! The 30mm JLTV can't really cross reefs and rocks like a tracked M1A1 tank can.
Bad decisions now could have adverse consequences in the future Multi-Domain Warfare arenas. Just because the USMC didn't use M1A1s in quantities on GWOT doesn't mean that they don't have a place, especially when they can fire off the deck of a barge or a cheap ship in-line like a battleship or Civil War firing line. The key is not to have Marines attack Pacific islands again with only infantry such as in WW2.

Locam at 7:44 PM
Re: Marine Corps Tank, Infantry Battalions on Chopping Block

Cutting tanks air power and artillery is stupid. Any war with China won't be on some islands in the Pacific. It'll be fought in Korea,Vietnam,India maybe thee Middle East places where armor will be needed.

Snoopy at 11:41 PM
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