Home » Budget Industry » Marines Moving Out on Modernization Priorities Focused on Russian, Chinese Threat

Marines Moving Out on Modernization Priorities Focused on Russian, Chinese Threat

Lance Cpl. Skyler Stevens, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, uses new night optics technology during Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 19, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo

CAPITOL HILL — With the help of the higher defense funding promised for this year and the next, the Marine Corps is moving out to modernize its combat capabilities to match the rising strategic threats from China and Russia, the service’s top combat development officer said.

And they are doing it in many cases in close coordination with the Army, Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee on Tuesday.

After years of struggling with limited funding to improve their readiness, the new, substantially higher defense budget “will allows us to begin increased emphasis on modernization,” Walsh said.

Walsh listed efforts to modernize and improve the Corps’ long-range precision fires, ability to communicate in a degraded environment, protected mobility, air defense and information warfare.

Subcommittee chair Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) insisted that the Marines should coordinate their modernization efforts with the Army, to cut time and money, and Walsh agreed, citing collaboration on several key programs.

Questioned ranking member Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) about “lethality gaps” against a peer competitor such as China, Walsh said that during 16 years of focusing on the different threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, “we’re now looking at that strategic threat. We’re well behind in a lot of areas.”
To address that situation the Marines are looking at “how can we refocus the capabilities we have,” he said.

He cited the example of improving the existing High-Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) to give it up to three times the current range to meet the immediate long-range precision fires requirements. At the same time, they are coordinating with the Army’s long-range fires program that seeks to more than double the range of their ATACMS rocket artillery system, he said.

Walsh agreed with committee members that the Marines have to regain an organic air defense capability after decades of not having to worry about enemy air attacks. They are developing a short-range air defense system by putting a radar the Army uses on its SHORAD air defense system and Stinger missiles on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. But they also are working with the Army on a longer-range system that could defend against missiles.

Asked by Hirono how they could deal with the cyber threat from China, Walsh said the Marines have included cyber in their increased emphasis on information warfare, which also includes electronic warfare, communications management and intelligence. He noted the creation of the Information Group in the three Marine Air Ground Expeditionary Forces, and the insertion of information warfare capabilities down to the company level.

Asked the usual question about the viability of amphibious operations in an era of long-range missiles and other defenses, Walsh said, “when we look at the new threats, new weapons, we have to look at it in different ways.”

“We’re not going to be storming the beach like Iwo Jima,” he said, and noted a technology demonstration last year at Camp Pendleton, California, in which the initial assault waves were all unmanned vehicles.

Asked by Wicker about their ability to deal with the danger of mines in very shallow waters and on the beach, Walsh conceded that was a difficult challenge, which the Marines are attacking in coordination with the Navy.

Walsh also noted the Marines’ new focus on improving the lethality of the amphibious ships in response to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller’s warning that they would “have to fight to get to the fight.”

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    About time. Russia is a joke. Lose Gazprom and they are nut-less wonders. This is what happens when you invest in vertical markets. Putin, for all his bravado, does nothing to expand a free market and growing economy. I guess Russia never changes.

    China is another story. They are destine for a blue water navy but they have no domestic consumption. A export driven economy has it’s price too. Xi for life was a stupid move, it insures lack of diversity of policy. It insures continuity but boys with shiny new toys want to try them out.

    So goes The Course of Empire? So where do we stand? A nation neutered by spending and idiotic social worries?

    • Jay

      Putin owns Trump so no need to be economically viable or militarily capable. Agree on China.

      “Neutered by spending and idiotic social worries”? You mean the faux concerns of the GOP about deficits while the DoD budget increases by double + the inflation rate for the last decade and a half due to less than 1% of the Muslim world?

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        Right, and 9-11 was a inside job?

    • R’ Yitzchak M

      Communist are the ultimate “social” disease it will destroy much what Hong King folks contributed to the growth of China. A “ golden geese” is now on the menu. A malignant idiots are reaserting their powers.. if there was just a bit more time democratic forces would prevail as a natural progression of common sense. Your opinion is 100% on mark.

      China was preparing for the last 25 years to build domestic market.. remember “cities in the middle of nowhere.. highways and railroads leading to nowhere a lot of those. Once China moves into its domestic market under the Hong Kong doctrine All the bets are over.. the “world trade” will become irrelevant for China. Our war of attrition against the Russians will benefit only China that will annex whole or at least the Asian part of Russia with Russian resources in the China’s hands.. the game is over.

  • publius_maximus_III

    “We’re not going to be storming the beach like Iwo Jima,” he said, and noted a technology demonstration last year at Camp Pendleton, California, in which the initial assault waves were all unmanned vehicles.

    Reading this high tech comment, and looking at the photo above of a 4-eyed Star Wars Marine, it begs the question: is the USMC becoming obsolete? No more beaches, no more Marines?

    • Marcd30319

      That’s what they were saying in 1949, and then came the Korean War and Inchon. Ditto carrier aviation, with the only available tactical air at the start of the war coming from the carriers USS Valley Forge and HMS Triumph.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Developing new capabilities while maintaining old ones, under limited budgets, a difficult balancing act. Marines today will be carried into battle by land, air, sea, or a combination — whatever makes the most sense. But by their very name, Marines, they will rely on sea-based air and logistical support around the world, even in land-locked countries like Afghanistan.

        • Marcd30319

          That is true for the rest of the United States armed services. For example, during Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm, approximately 90 per cent of the materiel was transported by the sea while 90 per cent of the personnel were flown in by air. Both maritime prepositioning squadrons (MPS) are dedicated to support the Marines in the field. During the Cold War, ashore supplies were prepositioned in Norway for operation there. The Marines remain as they have since the First World War, light infantry units designed for insertion from the sea.

    • delta9991

      I wouldn’t say so. Marines assault from the sea, not necessarily by the sea. Warfare has changed and evolved, the Marines are doing the same. The days of AAVs slowly dawdling to shore with Marines are very likely over (think of the limited beaches in every country and the prevalence of ATGMs), but the methods of fighting from the sea with lighter vehicles delivered by sea to captured beachheads and harbors will always be a very important component of warfare. You can give any grunt a rifle and a parachute then throw him out of a plane. That doesn’t make him a paratrooper, same as shoving a grunt with a rifle on a boat doesn’t make him a marine.

      • publius_maximus_III

        That is what is difficult about today’s world. With so many missiles and other capabilities, especially the newer hypersonic ones, a decisive naval battle might be over within minutes or even seconds. I still think there are important lessons to be learned from studying history, but we can never hope to fight future battles on the same terms.

        • Hardly. Despite how theorists tend to view things, a naval battle doesn’t consist of two fleets materializing within range of each other and proceeding to fire all their weapons in a single massive salvo. While this may be true to some extent about fixed positions ashore, fleets are highly mobile and difficult to pin down.

          Go back as far Nelson’s day and you will see that the most important part of the battle is not the fighting itself, but maneuvering forces to locate and overwhelm the enemy. That will take days, weeks, or even longer no matter how many missiles you have.

    • snugglepuffxlz

      If you were to go back and read the six requirements of the Marine Corps, there is not one that says the Marines are required to do large scale beach invasions. That is something that happened to have happened in WW2 and Korea and everything else the Corps does is forgotten. The Marine Corps responsibility is to secure advance bases in support of Naval Campaigns. Everything else is secondary.

      • publius_maximus_III

        I did not know that. To the layman, he hears Marines and thinks amphibious operations, then let the Army take over. Unlike paratroopers with limited supplies and therefore limited time to get a job done, Marines are expected to take and hold an area indefinitely, so must have ways to replenish their supplies. A beach makes that a little easier, but an airstrip works, too.

  • Hugh

    “Good cop, bad cop”. For those who criticise the US and its allies, and say Russia and China are only trying to imitate – well, both the latter are threatening others and expanding into others’ territories. The allies are merely guarding the peace and upholding international agreements.

    • R’ Yitzchak M

      Like in the Yugoslavia “liberating” the country of its existence? Syria?

      CNN “bravo Sierra” “lala universe” on “justification” of conquest to “liberate” every traitor of every TARGETED nation is a quite “noble” twist of the old Roman concept to utilize it Senate in order to “JUSTIFY” a new impending conquests that impending victims provoked “poor” Roman Empire with phoney “pizza deliveries”? Calling them names and alike.. In order TO APEASE THEIR gods because their gods did not appreciate “unjustified” war.. so the Senator’s job was to make it believable.

      The problem today is that historical evidence does matter as the truth does, not because it is a “nice thing to have” but because the CONSEQUENCES, WW1 started because the exactly the same arrogance of power that seemed transcended any need to dwell on the “petty thing” like right or wrong. Recently and ongoing genocides in Rwanda, Iraq, Kurdistan, and Yemen.. have the ownership. For instance Francois Mitterrand in Strasbourg lackonically explained French involvement in genocidal campaign by Hutu’s against Tutsi civilians as “we needed to protect French CULTURAL HERITAGE..” over ONE MILLION of woman, children and elders had to be butchered.. because they failed FRENCH CULTURAL “TEST”?

      .. we are rapidly moving back into the age of DARKNESS where everybody has to “say something about their “own heritage” take. So in short..the lies and propaganda is good for the mob.. DEMOCRACY strives only amongst THE INFORMED AND RESPONSIBLE CITIZENRY

  • ScottishGent

    There should be no question in anybody’s mind that amphibious operations are still viable. In the initial weeks of OEF-A Task Force 58 conducted an amphibious operations by landing Marines 400 miles inland without ever setting foot on the beach.
    This operation demonstrates the capabilities that forward based Navy-Marine Corps forces offer.
    1. The flexibility to take to Marine Expeditionary Units from two side of the country, and meld them into one operating command.
    2. The ability to provide operational flexibility to land conventional forces from the sea to a land locked country and immediately begin conducting operations.
    Granted, the operational environment was not against a near-peer opponent; however, it demonstrates a baseline capability which the Marine Corps is working to expand into the contested environment.

  • old guy

    WOW, they finally spotted the problem. Congratulations. See what good things you can do when you get away from the cocktail parties? Now, if we can only get Congress to do the same!

    • R’ Yitzchak M

      .. Congress? Of the cocktail parties.. ? Congress and the Senate IS A COCTAIL party.. perhaps sobering experience will be “tea party” perhaps?

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    The main challenge is balancing act between hysteria driven “stratigery” of the “make believe” gurus with the dubious agendas that are doing everything to interfere with solutions to the problems in order to MANAGE the FAILURE. A ”STRATIGERY” of LAWYERING the victory into the failure.

    The best example was strategy of Sir. Harris, Patton, McArthur, used smart strategy and DUMB BOMBS. Today it is reverse.. thanks to the “politically laced” dumb “stratigery” and the supposedly “smart bombs”. Dumb bombs costs between 500 – 5,000$ “smart” bombs costs from 45,000 – 1,500,000 in rough translation 10,000,000,000 yes 10 billion Dollars EVERY YEAR IN AFGHANISTAN OPERATIONS ALONE. Perhaps smarter thing would be to use “dumb” bombs on the really critical targets in desperate need of PACIFICATION – education?

    The one party’s “LALA UNIVERSE” is a sure path to the WANTON defeat.. as it was for the last 60 years.