JUST IN: Marine Corps Targeting More Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare Capabilities

By Mikayla Easley

As the Marine Corps reconfigures to confront future threats, the service believes reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance and electronic warfare capabilities will play a bigger role in its transformation, the commandant said May 10.

The Marine Corps is currently two years into a decade-long revamp of the Corps known as Force Design 2030. Intended to ready the service to deter near-peer threats like China and Russia while preparing for potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific, the service is leveraging wargaming and experimentation to shape its transformation and make adjustments along the way.

Those experiments have led the Marine Corps to realize intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and electronic warfare are essential on the modern battlefield, Commandant Gen. David Berger said in a keynote speech at the Modern Day Marine Exposition in Washington, D.C.

“Here’s what we’re learning: small, distributed, lethal teams that can employ organic ISR, loitering munitions and weapons like a javelin … are much more lethal than larger formations that are using traditional force structures and concepts. And it’s not even close,” he said.

The expanded focus on reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance was articulated in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 annual update for this year, which was released May 9. The document notes that today’s security environment contains a number of “sophisticated sensors and precision weapons” and U.S. adversaries use both “systems and tactics to hold the fleet and joint force at arm’s length.”

To help win the reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance battle and boost overall lethality, the Marine Corps is looking at new capabilities such as loitering munitions, small unmanned aerial systems, tools that allow battalions to manage their electronic signature and additional electronic warfare and signals intelligence capabilities, according to the annual update.

“The ability to manage your own electronic signature, locate a threat, detect and exploit their communications, jam their transmissions, interfere with their command and control — these have always been important in war, but today I would offer they can be decisive,” Berger said.

And to maintain dominance in the electronic domain, the service is looking to shore up its fleet of unmanned vehicles, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said during the keynote.

“Drone technology that’s evolved in the past 20 years has been on the battlefield,” he said. “That’s exactly the type of technology we need to embrace in order to win conflicts.”

Specifically, Berger pointed to the role loitering munitions have played in the war in Ukraine as an example of how these systems can make a difference in the battlefield. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have used these systems — including Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions delivered from the United States in March — to track down and identify adversarial targets from a long range.

The loitering time these weapons systems offer can give warfighters an acute advantage and greater flexibility on the battlefield, because it allows them to target and engage with adversaries that are either concealed or on the move, Berger said.

To proliferate its ISR capabilities across the Corps, the service hopes to acquire more unmanned vehicles like the MQ-9 Reapers.

“We’re going to move from three squadrons right now to perhaps double that,” Berger said. “The reason why is … the need for organic ISR collection aspects all the way up to the [Marine Expeditionary Force] level is more and more critically important.”

At the same time, the Marine Corps hopes to invest greater in capabilities that prevent adversaries with advanced ISR capabilities from tracking and targeting them, said Maj. Gen. Benjamin Watson, the commanding general at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

He listed camouflage and deception as capabilities essential to future Marine Corps operations.

“If you can be sensed — not just seen, but sensed — then you can be targeted. If you can be targeted, then you can be killed,” he said. “Anything that we can do to increase our ability to hide against an adversary’s sensors, or if sensed decrease the adversary’s probability of putting a warhead on one of our units are systems, then those things are all things that are exceptionally interesting to us.”


Topics: Marine Corps News

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