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"Massive USMC cutbacks." Topic


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arealdeadone24 Mar 2020 3:44 p.m. PST

USMC is going through a massive downsizing including:

- reducing number of infantry battalions from 24 to 21 and decrease size of infantry battalions
- withdrawing all tanks
- reduce artillery units from 21 to 5
- reduce amphibious vehicle companies from 6 to 4
- reduce number of F-35s from 14 per squadron to 10 per squadron
- deactivate several helicopter/tilt rotor squadrons.

They are planning to increase HIMARS MLRS units 300% (though this probably doesn't offset loss of artillery units).

Also the HIMARS units will be getting anti-shipping capability which to be honest makes no sense as this is a Navy role and seems to be going back to WWII when the Marines operated Marine defense battalions).

link

link

link


The claim is this will make the Marines more relevant in a peer type conflict though to this armchair general it seems they are reducing Marines to "colonial/peacekeeper" operations. After all small infantry battalions without heavy armour or massed artillery don't seem to fit in fighting against a capable opponent that is heavily equipped.

raylev324 Mar 2020 4:32 p.m. PST

USMC wants to be prepared for island and island hopping warfare in the Pacific…that's the rationale. They don't plan on fighting a heavily equipped military (China) on islands.

arealdeadone24 Mar 2020 4:59 p.m. PST

If they want to be island hoping they wouldn't be:

- reducing amphibious vehicle companies from 6 to 4.
- deactivating several helicopter/tilt rotor squadrons.
- decrease size and number of infantry battalions.
- reducing number of F-35s from 16* per squadron to 10 per squadron


The first two of these reduce ability to conduct island hoping campaigns.

The third one reduces combat capability of the main assault force.

The last one reduces air power which is the main form of air support. It means squadrons have far less ability to absorb losses or maintenance issues. And the F-35 is by most accounts so far a maintenance hog. When they've managed to achieve decent levels of operational capability, it's because there's been a large number of additional techs present including private staff from the vendor.


*I made a typo initially. It should be 16 to 10.

In any case preparing to refight WWII slugfest at Guadalcanal or Tarawa or Peleliu is a bit daft.

The Chinese are currently hemmed in by "second island chain" Philippines, Japan, Indonesia etc. China currently has no capability to invade these but can threaten them with long range missiles, submarines and aircraft. Chinese surface fleets would struggle to foray out into the Pacific even if Philippines stays neutral. *

Japan was different in that it had open access to the Pacific Ocean.

*By the same token, the USN is in a bad position within the first island chain due to lack of manoeuvre space and being in range of Chinese land based systems.


pmwalt24 Mar 2020 5:37 p.m. PST

Berger is unwisely putting all his eggs in one strategy …ignoring all of the other potential hot spots along the littorals is a poor (dumb) decision on his part.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 6:17 p.m. PST

An interesting discussion. I'll throw in here, if you guys don't mind. Regarding:

"If they want to be island hoping they wouldn't be:
- reducing amphibious vehicle companies from 6 to 4.
- deactivating several helicopter/tilt rotor squadrons.
- decrease size and number of infantry battalions.
- reducing number of F-35s from 16* per squadron to 10 per squadron"

I would disagree with most of that. I don't agree with the Commandant's guidance and vision regarding this realignment (my opinion is that anytime a military has become narrowly focused like this, i.e., custom built to face a particular enemy at a particular place, they fail miserably. Think Maginot Line), but I understand it, and believe these steps will not hurt that.

From what I gather, he's ultimately shooting for the infantry battalions to convert from conventional infantry to multi-domain, MSOT-organization on the Raider model, and the idea is that those MSOTs will be on land but fight the multi-domain enemy in the air and on the sea, with very little focus on ground warfare where, obviously, small teams of Marines would not have much staying power (and this includes supporting fires, as, according to Berger, they won't be depending on supporting fires as they won't be available in a near-peer environment).

So:
-Reducing AAV companies does not hurt this strategy as 1) amphibious, forced entry assaults are not a part of the current thinking and 2), even if they were, AAVs would be the worst choice for forced entry operations as they are too slow, too vulnerable (enroute and ashore), and can't operate over the horizon, i.e., they bring the ARG in too close to the coastline and within the reach of enemy anti-shipping capability.

-I hadn't hear about deactivating tilt-rotor squadrons, just rotary, with the idea being that the only air that's going to have the lift capacity and legs to make it in SCS are the tilt-rotors. The Marine Corps is currently looking to upgrade its H1 fleet to tilt-rotors (see AURA).

-decreasing the size and number of infantry battalions was only a matter of time and necessary as the Corps wants to have fewer but more capable (in terms of multi-domain operations) combat arms elements. I believe we're going to see armor, light armor, artillery (as currently defined), Weapons Companies (the heavy machine guns and 81mm mortars, the Javelins will stay, but they will be incorporated at the MSOT level), all go away, as part of the "infantry" capability will require them to be diffuse and operating without support, thus all capabilities will be required to be organic to the MSOT.

Having said that, I wasn't aware the Corps had already worked back down to 24 infantry battalions. They were back up to 27 (active duty) during the GWOT when 9th Marines was brought back. I guess 4th Marines will be leaving? Not the first time that's happened. Happened after WWII, and again after Vietnam. Matter of fact, 9th Marines had been brought back before the Gulf War before being decommissioned again. So those things are fluid. Hell, after WWII the Corps only had something like 8 active duty infantry battalions, before the Korean War showed that to be not enough troops on hand.

-Reducing the number of F-35s per squadron. First, the ARG's big deck can't carry sixteen F-35s anyway, and just like the infantry, the squadrons are going to have to be scattered to avoid near-peer capabilities to strike shipping/bases, so the whole concept is for the F-35s to be deployed in four to six ship detachments off the big deck or FARPs that can be scraped onto various atolls.

Regarding the 'colonial peacekeeper' comment, making the changes doesn't make sense, the Marine Corps is currently optimized for that, with the MAGTF concept that can go light or heavy and always quick and aggressive when NCA comes a-calling.

"After all small infantry battalions without heavy armour or massed artillery don't seem to fit in fighting against a capable opponent that is heavily equipped."
The concept for "infantry battalions" is that they won't operate as battalions, they won't even operated a companies or platoons, a battalion is nothing more than a collection of reinforced squad-sized teams, and those teams will be expected to operate independently. Thus, each team needs to have its own array of organic capabilities to stop the enemy from 1) getting at the Navy's ships (straight from the Commandant's mouth) and 2) getting to them. So each team (what I'm calling MSOTs, which stand for Marine Special Operations Team and will not be what these are called) will have a leader, then troops trained and equipped with various capabilities such as:
-cyber
-ISR, to include organic UAV
-comms (sat and maybe HF)
-anti-air (missile)
-anti-drone (not missile)
-anti-shipping
-EW

So you can drop this MSOT off on a far away atoll with a their assigned gear and a pallet of water and MREs and they can conduct ISR, feed it into theater-level situational awareness, conduct counter-ISR, defend itself against air attack, and defend the fleet against enemy shipping.

Again, I don't agree with it, but that is my understanding of the plan. I will say that I've never seen or heard of a Commandant that has so subordinated the Marine Corps to the Navy, certainly not since the drastic changes brought about by the First World War.

V/R,
Jack

arealdeadone24 Mar 2020 6:45 p.m. PST

Jack,

Thanks for input. The special operations focus you talk about makes sense given the changes.

But it also doesn't make much sense given USA already has SOCOM which includes Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and Marine Raider Regiment. How many special forces does the US need? And how useful are they given the two likely opponents?


Defending scattered atolls doesn't make much sense given the strategic environment.

As I said before, I don't think any conflict with China will involve defending or taking isolated Pacific atolls. Instead it will be brutal "close range" fighting in the South and East China Sea.


Tilt Rotor Squadron to be deactivated is VMM-264.


I will say that I've never seen or heard of a Commandant that has so subordinated the Marine Corps to the Navy, certainly not since the drastic changes brought about by the First World War.

I think this may be the crux of the matter. The Marines have been viewed by some as a second army and third air force. Maybe key people in Congress started to think the same thing and requested the Marines drop missions that Army or Air Force already do.


The other change to USMC that reinforces new alignment to navy is the new plan to reduce number of STOVL F-35Bs to be acquired whilst increasing number of carrier capable F-35C.

This is designed to allow USMC to better support the fleet carriers. At the same time it reduces number of aircraft that can be deployed on "Gators" LPA/LPDs as F-35Cs can't operate from these.


So the reduction in squadron sizes coupled with proposed reduction in F-35B buy furthers defangs the Marines.


In any case the Marines seem to be going down to a very specific niche, one that may not offer much value against the Chinese, let alone the Russians against whom naval warfare will be mainly anti-submarine warfare.

arealdeadone24 Mar 2020 6:53 p.m. PST

Further to this: a bit of a more detailed discussion on changes to USMC:

link

Key take away is the:

"realigning the Marine Corps as part of a naval expeditionary force, which is part of the joint force."

So the Marines are indeed looking at greater subordination to the Navy.

They will give up their heavy capability and then the civilians in charge will deploy them to face conventional threats in a non-maritime environment as has happened in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq.

15mm and 28mm Fanatik24 Mar 2020 7:12 p.m. PST

Sounds like the new USMC is to the USN what the 101st and 82nd Airborne are to the US Army with its light infantry role. Interesting.

arealdeadone24 Mar 2020 7:27 p.m. PST

And another article.

link

This bit is especially interesting:

Infantry battalions will be smaller to support naval expeditionary warfare" and designed to support a fighting concept known as Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations which will see Marines decentralized and distributed across the Pacific on Islands or floating barge bases.

So yes the USMC is looking at re-fighting WW2 island hopping campaign. Except they are looking at it from the perspective of the Japanese small island garrisons!

They are in fact tailoring the whole service to this concept and then ignoring some of the lessons of that war (eg usage of tanks!).

Heavens forbid they get sent to Korea or Iran in case stuff goes awry there or anywhere else.

15mm and 28mm Fanatik24 Mar 2020 7:48 p.m. PST

Also sounds like the entire raison d'etre of the marines is to contain China in the ECS and SCS.

arealdeadone25 Mar 2020 1:35 a.m. PST

Fanatic, In which case scrap the Marines and buy more subs. There is a shortage of attack subs anyhow.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 8:20 a.m. PST

"But it also doesn't make much sense given USA already has SOCOM which includes Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and Marine Raider Regiment. How many special forces does the US need? And how useful are they given the two likely opponents?"
Flip it on its head: how useful are a bunch of riflemen, machine gunners, and mortarmen going to be in a near-peer fight? The idea isn't so much special operations, the idea is that many small teams with a lot of capability will be hard for the enemy to take out, and will punch well above their weight, and will serve as the 'picket line' (both screening and sensor) for the heavy hitters.

"Defending scattered atolls doesn't make much sense given the strategic environment.
As I said before, I don't think any conflict with China will involve defending or taking isolated Pacific atolls. Instead it will be brutal "close range" fighting in the South and East China Sea."
Again, flip it on its head. You're not defending atolls, you're using them offensively to project power and sensors into enemy territory. And nothing is going to be "close range," all kinetic operations will occur beyond visual range/over the horizon.

"I think this may be the crux of the matter. The Marines have been viewed by some as a second army and third air force. Maybe key people in Congress started to think the same thing and requested the Marines drop missions that Army or Air Force already do."
I suppose, but no other Commandant has acquiesced. Prior to the onset of WWI the Marine Corps was not viewed as a separate, distinct service, simply a specialized part of the Navy (as you might view Navy Special Warfare now), with the mission to "…seize and defend advanced naval bases…" but that went out the window a long time ago. Really strange to see it come back now.

"The other change to USMC that reinforces new alignment to navy is the new plan to reduce number of STOVL F-35Bs to be acquired whilst increasing number of carrier capable F-35C.
This is designed to allow USMC to better support the fleet carriers."
Sure, and probably also due to the fact you'd expect fixed wing assets with long legs to deploy from ground-based runways. The MEUs already do that, with KC-130s in direct support.

"At the same time it reduces number of aircraft that can be deployed on "Gators" LPA/LPDs as F-35Cs can't operate from these. So the reduction in squadron sizes coupled with proposed reduction in F-35B buy furthers defangs the Marines."
Sorry, but that's exactly what I was getting at when I mentioned that the ARG (Amphibious Ready Group)'s 'big decks,' the ships that can actually carry F-35s. And I think you made a mistake, should be LHAs and LHDs, not LPAs and LPDs. My point was the big decks can't carry 16 F-35s, they were only deploying with four (AV-8Bs when I was in), so anything else would have to be on a Navy carrier or land-based. I am surprised by the C vice B version though, as STOVL was seen as necessary to operate in small, diffuse (read: smaller, harder to track target) groups from Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) with little infrastructure. The Cs cannot do that.

"In any case the Marines seem to be going down to a very specific niche, one that may not offer much value against the Chinese, let alone the Russians against whom naval warfare will be mainly anti-submarine warfare."

and

"Also sounds like the entire raison d'etre of the marines is to contain China in the ECS and SCS."
While I'm glad USG is finally according more attention to PRC, I agree with you guys, this is way too specialized.

"They will give up their heavy capability and then the civilians in charge will deploy them to face conventional threats in a non-maritime environment as has happened in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq."
Exactly, and a new Commandant will have to come in and fix it while Marines are under fire…

"Fanatic, In which case scrap the Marines and buy more subs. There is a shortage of attack subs anyhow."
See, this is the point of changing Marine infantry battalions, that the big-chunk capabilities (carriers projecting airpower, cruisers/subs with Tomahawks) are extraordinarily vulnerable because 1) you can't hide them anymore (China has invested heavily in underwater autonomous vehicles and sensors similar to the old 'SOSUS' line to counter our submarine capabilities) and 2) PRC now has extended range capability to reach them, so the (theoretical) answer is to throw a team of 15 Marines out on a rock in the middle of the ocean, but now that rock can conduct cyber attacks on enemy infrastructure, can conduct electronic warfare missions, can conduct ELINT, SIGINT, and IMINT (via organic UAV) and feed it into theater-level platforms (providing OOB, situational awareness, and cueing), counter enemy collection with area denial (via cyber and EW) or kinetic (microwave against enemy UAV), and reach out and touch enemy air and surface assets (SAMs and surface to surface missiles).

I don't think the idea is without merit, I just worry about turning the entire Marine Corps into that, when we know the next fight to go down has a 99% chance of not being against China.

V/R,
Jack

Halfmanhalfsquidman25 Mar 2020 10:02 a.m. PST

Jack,

I agree with most of what you've said except for:

"They will give up their heavy capability and then the civilians in charge will deploy them to face conventional threats in a non-maritime environment as has happened in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq."
Exactly, and a new Commandant will have to come in and fix it while Marines are under fire…

There is no other peer competitor that the Marine Corps needs to fight that it can't with the changes that are being instituted by the force redesign changes. And let's be honest here, NK and Russia are going to be primarily the Army's fight anyway when it comes to land.

What the Marine Corps can NOT do currently is fight China on its own terms so these force changes are needed for that. The force redesign buys the DoD a capability it currently lacks while reducing redundancy. Sure it's a low-end probability but the DoD has a requirement to deter and prevent wars. If China looks over and thinks: "hey, my artificial islands aren't threatened and my A2AD envelop has pushed the Americans so far back they can't intervene. I think I'll just smash Oki with ballistic missiles and reintegrate Taiwan" then in some sense DoD failed. Redesigning the Marine Corps to actively operate inside the Chinese WEZ will be a crucial part of the deterrence strategy going forward.

One thing that a lot of the folks in this thread have missed is the reduction in squadron numbers will probably mean an increase in overall aircraft availability as each squadron will be getting the shutdown squadron's birds and people. Currently, the Wings are devastated when it comes to talent and parts. Shutter a VMM and shotgunning both maintainers and po=ilots is probably both a short term and long term boon. The points about reduced end strength per VMFA and deck space are also correct. I'd disagree on the C not being able to do distributed operations. The expeditionary airfields that EABO envisions should still allow a section of Cs to fly off the CVN outside the WEZ, operate, land in at an EAF, rearm/refuel/crew swap/sortie and return to the CVN while the EAF gets torn down.

The C model also carries more gas and munitions and I think that those benefits outweigh the flexibility of the B in landing on a smaller airfield.

A distributed, flexible, survivable Marine Corps is what DoD needs to fight the next big war. If we don't change it makes the big one more likely and ensures that we will lose it.

Bud

altfritz25 Mar 2020 11:01 a.m. PST

Isn't there a tradition that the Marines be the least well equipped service when things turn Hot?

15mm and 28mm Fanatik25 Mar 2020 1:30 p.m. PST

Isn't there a tradition that the Marines be the least well equipped service when things turn Hot?

The marines make do with what they've got whether things are hot or not. Their budget comes from the Dept. of the Navy so they're not as rich as the other three major service branches. The army always regarded the marines as redundant because they think they can do the same things.

The marines started as raiders and naval infantry. In WWII they exlusively fought in the PTO against the Empire of Japan while the army fought Germany in the ETO. So you might even say what was old is new again so-to-speak.

arealdeadone25 Mar 2020 3:37 p.m. PST

Again, flip it on its head. You're not defending atolls, you're using them offensively to project power and sensors into enemy territory. And nothing is going to be "close range," all kinetic operations will occur beyond visual range/over the horizon.

So the Marines are going to be doing guard duty on a bunch of islands that are thousands of miles away from the fight (eg distance from China to Marshall Islands is 7,500 km)?


By close range I mean within range of land based missiles, aircraft and sensors. The Pacific is huge and offers lots of ground to manoeuvre and hide fleets. The island ringed South and East China seas do not. Lots of things are going to die there on both sides.


I think you made a mistake, should be LHAs and LHDs, not LPAs and LPDs. My point was the big decks can't carry 16 F-35s, they were only deploying with four (AV-8Bs when I was in),


Sorry did make a mistake with classification!

Actually the new America class fit more F-35s and there's experiments to use them as light "Lightning Carriers" with 13-20 F-35s embarked. First two America class LHAs are pure light carriers with no well decks to disembark amphibious forces.

link

These light carriers do lack AWACS and their jets are the shortest ranged F-35s of the lot.


One thing that a lot of the folks in this thread have missed is the reduction in squadron numbers will probably mean an increase in overall aircraft availability as each squadron will be getting the shutdown squadron's birds and people.

Yes for the helos/tilt rotors but only assuming the USMC manage to continue fixing maintenance issues (at one stage recently total F/A-18 availability was 27% due to maintenance backlogs).


The F-35Bs suffer though as the Marines are planning to replace a chunk of the F-35B buy with F-35Cs (numbers are unknown).

Thus the F-35B fleet will be smaller which means no additional aircraft in the maintenance pool.


I seriously doubt the CVN groups are going to be allowing USMC F-35Cs to be peeled off to support Marines on some atoll, especially as the CVNs will have their own tasking and will be taking casualties.

I still struggle to see how small groups of "spec ops" Marines make a difference and I am struggling to see how focusing on small atolls thousands of miles away from the fight is relevant (especially as PLAN can't foray out into the Pacific like the Japanese could).

The marines started as raiders and naval infantry. In WWII they exlusively fought in the PTO against the Empire of Japan while the army fought Germany in the ETO.

Except nearly 2 dozen US Army divisions fought in the Pacific from 1941 to 1945.

However the Army of today is considerably smaller than that of 1943 or 1975 or 1991 or 2000. And training new units is expensive and extremely time consuming especially in demilitarised western societies where most people have never served.

Thus turning the Marines into pure light infantry with a "fleet/Pacific island focus" is a big chunk of conventional war fighting capabilities being ripped out of the US pool. There is no equivalent growth in the US Army to replace this pool.


And let's not forget US Marines fought in Europe during WWI and won acclaim at the battle of Belleau Wood.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 4:32 p.m. PST

Bud,

"There is no other peer competitor that the Marine Corps needs to fight that it can't with the changes that are being instituted by the force redesign changes. And let's be honest here, NK and Russia are going to be primarily the Army's fight anyway when it comes to land."
The issue is that the chances of fighting a peer competitor are pretty damn slim. Since WWII the Corps has not engaged a peer competitor, and we're giving up standard, perhaps old-fashioned, infantry capabilities in order to meet what we theorize will be the fight of the future. None of the stuff being discussed will assist a rifle squad/platoon/company going to clean out an urban area of insurgents. And as attractive as it is to believe we shall never find ourselves in that situation again, I have a hard time actually believing it.

I agree with everything else you're saying, at least conceptually, except maybe the point about F-35Cs operating from EAFs being equal to F-35Bs operating from FARPs, in terms of being distributed to offset the threat of hostile kinetic strikes. EAFs still require too much infrastructure that makes too juicy a target, in my opinion.

Altfritz Yes, but that changed during the GWOT.

Arealdeadone,

"By close range I mean within range of land based missiles, aircraft and sensors. The Pacific is huge and offers lots of ground to manoeuvre and hide fleets. The island ringed South and East China seas do not. Lots of things are going to die there on both sides."
No, not the Marshalls, what you're talking about is what I'm talking about, too! But my point in saying that was there's not a lot of room, much less need, for heavy infantry on those tiny atolls in SCS/ECS, the object of the game is to keep them from reaching the atoll (or, as I mentioned, the ACTUAL object is to keep them off of friendly shipping and bases, collect intel information, and deny enemy collection).

"I seriously doubt the CVN groups are going to be allowing USMC F-35Cs to be peeled off to support Marines on some atoll, especially as the CVNs will have their own tasking and will be taking casualties."
I agree that the F-35Cs will not be peeling off to support the Marines on the atoll, the whole idea of putting the Marines on the atoll is they've got everything they need (capabilities wise) and so, in those terms, they're expendable. That's why they're talking about a 15-man "rifle squad" with all the capabilities I discussed above being dropped off by a tilt-rotor over the horizon; hell, even resupply will be over the horizon by autonomous aircraft.

The CVNs will indeed have their own taskings, but they shouldn't be taking casualties if the Marines on the atolls are doing their jobs (discounting PLAN submarines/mines/UUVs).

"I still struggle to see how small groups of "spec ops" Marines make a difference and I am struggling to see how focusing on small atolls thousands of miles away from the fight is relevant (especially as PLAN can't foray out into the Pacific like the Japanese could)."
They're not going to be 'special operations,' they're going to be the mission that 'normal' Marine infantry is trained for. The mission will no longer be "…close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver…", it's going to be something along the lines "protect the fleet against PLA air and surface threats, perform counter-reconnaissance, and perform intelligence collection in support of fleet SA, targeting, and cueing."

No one is worried about the PLAN surging out into the broader Pacific Ocean, what they're worried about is that the National Command Authority would want the US military to accomplish something in the SCS or ECS that would require the US Navy to penetrate that space and the PLA has been working to deny the US Navy the ability to do that, and the answer is to drop small groups of Marines on atolls in SCS/ECS to protect the fleet from those A2D2 threats. To that end, I wouldn't be surprised if the Marine Corps soon begins getting into the missile defense game, probably something compact that can launch the Navy's SM2(hell, as I write that I'm thinking the Navy has probably already upgraded from the SM2, but I'm too lazy to look it up)?

"Thus turning the Marines into pure light infantry with a "fleet/Pacific island focus" is a big chunk of conventional war fighting capabilities being ripped out of the US pool."
This is the funny part to me; I think we're all deluding ourselves. Not that this counter-A2D2 mission doesn't exist or doesn't need to occur, but that is not an infantry mission and the guys do it will not be infantrymen in the sense of what infantrymen are and do since the dawn of time!

"There is no equivalent growth in the US Army to replace this pool.
Let's just be serious here for a moment: I don't care if you gave them 5 million men and a 10 trillion dollar budget, there is nothing the Army could do to replace three battalions of Marines ;)

"And let's not forget US Marines fought in Europe during WWI and won acclaim at the battle of Belleau Wood."
And who the hell could possibly forget that???

V/R,
Jack

arealdeadone25 Mar 2020 6:56 p.m. PST

Jack, I just don't see any significant fighting happening on or near those atolls (even within the 240 km range of an SM-6). The PLAN has to actually bust through the Philippine Sea to be anywhere close to them.

Currently that gap is covered by the USN but also Japanese Defence Force which packs considerable naval and air firepower (even if defensive in nature).

Even with its massive rearmament plan the Chinese don't have the assets to neutralise Japan based defences to the degree that its navy can operate in the Pacific without taking on considerable risk of being surrounded.

And then the question why would they want to bust into the Pacific with a large surface fleet and invade the atolls in the first place?. It's ludicrous to assume the Chinese will do the same as Japan did in 1941-42! Yet this is what the USMC is doing.

Any Asian War will be in the SC, EC and Philippines Sea and probably over Taiwan where it will be conventional warfare where you need the heavy armour, mass artillery and large battalions capable of taking a hit and still being combat effective.

The Chinese hold a lot of the SC Sea atolls and support them with land based systems. A lot of the EC atolls are held by Taiwan but close to China (in some cases artillery range close). Many are too small to be held effectively and are within range of Chinese land based missiles (and so small blasts from a couple of missiles would cover most of them!). Also note a lot of the ECS islands ala Senkakus are uninhabitable, difficult to approach and have not had any preparation for military operations unlike say Chinese activities in SC Sea.


Chinese forays into the Pacific will be submarines and possibly very long range cruise missiles and new tactical anti-ship missiles and then designed to take out US reinforcements.

And if the Chinese are powerful enough to conquer Japan and rampage through the Pacific then no amount of men sitting on little islands in the middle of the Pacific will stop them, no matter how many UAVs and 240 km range SM-2/-6s they're fielding.


Personally I think the USMC is being slashed and they're presenting the cutbacks as revolutionary changes so as to maintain their moral and relevance. Government does it all the time.

Wargamer Blue25 Mar 2020 10:05 p.m. PST

Don't forget allies in the Pacific region have been doing joint training with the USMC for years. Japan, Australia and South Korea have dedicated assault ships and assault troops that can plug into a US battle group. The allies combined can hold the line in a major conflict whilst parent nations gear up for war.

15mm and 28mm Fanatik26 Mar 2020 12:14 p.m. PST

Personally I think the USMC is being slashed and they're presenting the cutbacks as revolutionary changes so as to maintain their moral and relevance.

…or simply adapting to new realities and threats by shifting focus from the ME to Asia, while eliminaing redundant capabilities of the US Army given anticipated budgetary constraints in the process.

link

Excerpt from the article linked above:

But the U.S. defense budget even before the coronavirus crisis was going to be tight in the 2020s, and the economic downturn from the ongoing public health emergency will be severe. A remodeled Marine Corps is inevitable and the service is taking the initiative before someone forces it on them.

The rest of the armed services would do well to follow the Marines' example.

A $2 USD trillion economic aid package due to the COVID-19 crisis is being fast-tracked on Capitol Hill as we speak.

arealdeadone26 Mar 2020 2:57 p.m. PST

Fanatik, totally agree.

I suspect post- COVID-19, most militaries won't see much money going to them at all. I suspect more cutbacks are on the way, especially in Europe where they've been struggling to maintain budgets even in times of plenty.

The Marines turning themselves into a 1 trick pony is ridiculous.

And given that China has far more assets already stationed in that part of the world and the USN would have to fight to obtain control of the SC Sea islands, then it's an interesting assumption that the Marines will be able to land on them in the first place!

The funny thing is Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have largely allowed the Chinese to do as they pleased in the South China Sea.

There has been no large scale growth in US deployments in SE Asia, and given issues in Philippines their foot print is actually decreasing. Obama's Asian pivot was stillborn and never properly funded or actioned.

The US has instead continued fighting forever wars and has been growing deployments to Europe to counter Russia whilst the Europeans shrink their militaries to token forces whilst using the Americans as a form of free defence insurance.

Meanwhile the 7th fleet was up to recently in bad state (including 2 destroyer collisions) and deployment of new F-35s to the region has been non-existent (Europe is slated to get them sooner when Lakenheath F-15 equipped units to convert to F-35s sooner). Units in Japan and South Korea are not slatted for early conversion to F-35 and will continue with older F15C/D/F-16s. First PACAF units to get F-35 are in Eielson AFB in Alaska (so a Russian, not Chinese counter).


The Marines are effectively restructuring to fight for islands in a sea that the US government has tacitly already surrendered to the Chinese and doesn't view as critical and in a region the US has somewhat starved of resources.

raylev326 Mar 2020 4:24 p.m. PST

A few factoids…

A. Marines are not becoming more subordinate to the Navy, they have always been subordinate. (The acronym Marine actually stands for "My Ass Really is Navy Equipment." Ok, not a factoid.)

B. Marines fight battles, the Army fights wars. Most people forget the Army carried out the largest amphibious operation in history -- Operation Overlord, and carried out far more amphibious operations, during WW2, than the Marines.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 5:32 p.m. PST

Arealdeadone – I don't know where we're going off the rails, man. The fight is not going to be across the Pacific, it's going to be off the coast of China, and yes, PRC has already occupied a number of the atolls, so the US will have to break in, which is (at least part of) the point of the reorganization. You cannot drive a ship up close enough to launch AAVs, you'll get the ship, AAVs, and Marines in the AAVs killed, so you reorganize to have small, highly capable teams (in terms of multi-domain operations, not classic infantry operations) that can be diffuse and utilize a variety of capabilities that are survivable against a near-peer adversary to infiltrate the battlespace.

Again, I don't agree with the reorganization, I believe Marine infantry should be kept largely intact, as is, because their capabilities are necessary for warfare in general and it seems like a bad idea to get rid of them, and that MARSOC and/or the SEAL teams are the ones that should be prepping for this particular mission (as well as because of the redundancy they represent in the Irregular Warfare, Direct Action, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, and Foreign Internal Defense mission space).

"The Marines are effectively restructuring to fight for islands in a sea that the US government has tacitly already surrendered to the Chinese and doesn't view as critical and in a region the US has somewhat starved of resources."
I suppose you'll have to take that up with our President…

Wargamer Blue – That is absolutely correct, and when I was in we carried out multiple exercises with all of them each year (Cobra Gold, Cope Tiger, Ulchi Focus Lens, Foal Eagle, Tandem Thrust, Balikatan, etc…) and we also did a float called "LF CARAT" (Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training). The CARAT I went on hit Singapore, PI, Indonesia, two different locations in Malaysia, and Brunei. Liberty was amazing ;)

Raylev – Sure, the Army fights wars, they're just not very good at it; the proof is the existence of the Marine Corps! ;)

And Iceberg is the largest amphibious operation in human history, not Overlord, it's not really even close.

V/R,
Jack

arealdeadone26 Mar 2020 7:52 p.m. PST

Husky was also larger than Overlord in terms of troops deployed and frontage.

so you reorganize to have small, highly capable teams (in terms of multi-domain operations, not classic infantry operations) that can be diffuse and utilize a variety of capabilities that are survivable against a near-peer adversary to infiltrate the battlespace.

This will still require deploying LHAs and LHDs in the South China Sea which will put them at considerable risk from Chinese assets in the region.

---

As for allies, SE Asia is playing both sides of the fence. This includes formerly reliable partners ala Thailand and Philippiones. Malaysia might have territorial disputes with China BUT they are also cosying up to them and buying patrol ships from them, which will then be used against the Chinese in the Spratleys!

In a shooting war between China and USA, I suspect the SE Asians will be neutral until at least one side is clearly winning.

As such I don't think USA can rely on SE Asia.

Even South Korea might not be there when China threatened South Korea with economic sanctions because South Korea wanted to buy a THAAD system. the South Koreans relented.


I think the US has misplayed its diplomatic hand in SE Asia and given too much of the initiative to China which has been dictating terms for some time now whilst buying huge amounts of soft power influence.

All of that puts the US in a weaker position if a shooting war actually starts.

----

Link to interactive map of Chinese missile/radar coverage in SC Sea yellow circles are radar range, white is fighter range. Note most of the region is within range of Chinese land based anti shipping bombers (H-6K/J) or anti ship ballistic missiles but these aren't listed.

Also not listed are Chinese land based assets which would cover northern approaches.

link

arealdeadone30 Mar 2020 5:51 p.m. PST

More info on USMC cuts.

link


Additional info includes:


- Deactivation of total of at least 8 rotary/tilt rotor squadrons:
3 tilt rotor (MV-22) – down to 14
2 heavy (CH-53E, K model in future) – down to 5
2 attack (AH-1Z) at least 2 noted, could be more – down to 5.

- Divestment of total of 5 infantry battalions:
3 active (already mentioned)
2 reserve

Activate a 4th transport/refueller squadron (KC-130J)

- F-35 squadrons to be retained at 18 albeit with a number of them reduced in size (USMC F-35C squadrons already organised at 10 F-35C to support USN fleet carriers).


- F-35 force to be more thoroughly reviewed and it notes issues with pilot recruitment and retention. (ie expect more cut here).

- UAV squadrons to be doubled to 6

- Infantry battalions reduced by 200 men (areas affected not specified in report).

- Loss of 1 regimental HQ (makes sense given above losses).

- Acquisition of 14 new rocket artillery batteries to total of 21. This offsets loss of 16 artillery batteries.

- Increase light armoured reconnaissance force by 3 companies (LAV).

They might be talking littoral combat but this does look like a peace keeping/COIN force.

Also note a lot of the concepts aren't thoroughly tested nor thought out yet (eg redesign of infantry battalions or tacair future).

15mm and 28mm Fanatik30 Mar 2020 6:57 p.m. PST

USMC F-35C squadrons already organised at 10 F-35C to support USN fleet carriers.

F-35C's? You mean B's.

arealdeadone30 Mar 2020 7:03 p.m. PST

No I mean F-35Cs. USMC was always meant to buy a number of F-35Cs to support USN carriers. This was originally about 67 jets but latest news is they are increasing number of Cs and slashing Bs.


Carrier squadrons were always slated as 10 F-35Cs. F-35Bs squadrons were meamt yo be larger (16 aircraft).


So under new plans, USMC Tacair has more jets to support carriers and drastically fewer jets (and probably squadrons) to support Marines and Gators.

arealdeadone30 Mar 2020 7:11 p.m. PST

Forgot to mention old plan was 353 x F-35B + 67 x F-35C.

Of 18 VMFAs 4 were to be equipped with Cs to support carriers.

Marines have started emphasising F-35C deliveries and delaying F-35Bs.

Most likely not all 420 F-35s will be delivered especially with B squadrons suffering a 40% reduction in allocated numbers. That is a decline of 84 airframe in operational squadrons.

Either the Marines will maintain a massive reserve or F-35B numbers will be cut.

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