Marines Considering 3 Littoral Regiments for the Indo-Pacific

February 8, 2021 4:35 PM
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, demonstrate expeditionary advanced basing capabilities Oct. 7 to 8, 2020, as part of Exercise Noble Fury, from Okinawa to Ie Shima and across surrounding waters. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

As the Marine Corps reorganizes to prepare for a potential conflict with China, the service is considering three new Marine Littoral Regiments for its campaign of land warfare in the Indo-Pacific.

The service is shedding its heavier equipment so it can operate between expeditionary bases on islands in the Pacific to support the fleet. Part of the force design initiative is standing up a new unit, known as a Marine Littoral Regiment, which will likely have 1,800 to 2,000 sailors and Marines. The unit will feature a Littoral Combat Team, a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion and a Littoral Logistics Battalion, USNI News previously reported.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, recently said the service plans to have the first regiment, which will be based in Hawaii, reach initial operational capability in Fiscal Year 2023.

“There has been discussion of creating as many as three in the Pacific between now and 2030 and they would be forward-based in the Pacific, although they might – depending on the experimentation that we do – they might be rotational in terms of how we source some of the people that man these Marine Littoral Regiments,” Watson said last week at the National Defense Industrial Association’s virtual expeditionary warfare conference.

“And then based on their – where they’re home-based in the Pacific, elements would rotate on a regular basis further west,” he continued. “So working with allies and partners so that we persistently have a presence from each of the Marine Littoral Regiments out there in the western Pacific.”

While the focus is on the Pacific region, Watson said the service believes the MLR unit could operate in other geographies, including contested waters like the Black Sea or the Persian Gulf.

“It’ll be an O-6 level headquarters with subordinate units that are optimized to compete and again, if necessary, fight and win in those complex littorals of the western Pacific. But also we believe it has great applicability as we do sensitivity analysis across the globe in places like the Baltics or the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, etc. – any sort of close contested littoral terrain,” Watson said.

“And its focus is on those capabilities that enable the naval force by contributing to sea denial in support of fleet operations,” he continued. “So it’s a unit that’s designed to be lethal first and foremost, on land or at sea and from the land to the sea, to operate in distributed small units that are low signature and to bring capabilities that enable the larger naval or joint force, particularly in contested or a denied degraded environment.”

The Marine Corps is slated to stand up the first MLR in FY 2022, USNI News recently reported. Last year, the service began early experimentation with the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii, which will ultimately shift to the MLR construct.

The Marine Corps will use the first MLR for experimentation to fine-tune the unit and how it operates, Watson said.

The idea for the MLR unit came from Marine Corps wargaming to evaluate how it should implement its various operating concepts like Expeditionary Advanced Based Operations (EABO) and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE).

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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