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The US Marine Corps is Fixing Itself to Confronting China

Sidharth Kaushal and Jack Watling
RUSI Defence Systems, 2 April 2020
Martial Power Programme, Military Sciences, United States
The US Marine Corps is reorganizing itself to confront China. Ensuring that it can hold ground and sustain its deployments without diverting naval resources will be a major challenge. Meanwhile US allies in other theatres must adjust to the USMC’s shift in focus

The announcement that the US Marine Corps is divesting from tanks, and scaling back its amphibious vehicle and tube artillery battalions, marks a major milestone in the force’s reorientation towards confronting China. The force will soon pass the point of no return as it restructures in response to the 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance. The proposed force is clearly optimised for its expected adversary, but the trade-offs have significant flow-on consequences for US operations beyond the Pacific, and for partners and allies.

The future Marine Corps will operate around the Littoral Combat Regiments of III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). These will be supported by three rapidly deployable Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), with both traditional and expeditionary advanced base capabilities. Units from I and II MEF can then be brought to support the fight in the Pacific as required. The USMC is, therefore, to be retooled into a supporting force for the US Navy’s sea denial, sea control and strike operations across East Asia. The emphasis will be on small units, leveraging long-range precision fires, unmanned aerial vehicles and loitering munitions, along with fast air and rapid surface connectors, to manoeuvre across clusters of islands and atolls. The aim is to make every redeployment of Chinese heavy amphibious units costly and not decisive.

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Dr Sidharth Kaushal
Research Fellow, Sea Power

Sidharth Kaushal's research at RUSI covers the impact of technology on maritime doctrine in the 21st century and the role of sea... read more

Dr Jack Watling
Research Fellow, Land Warfare

Dr Jack Watling is Research Fellow for Land Warfare. Jack has recently conducted studies of deterrence against Russia, force... read more

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