Earlier this month, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), deployed aboard the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), began operations in and around the Horn of Africa. For the first time, the Marine aviation unit deployed on the Essex amphibious assault ship are operating the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B’s sensors and targeting systems will provide the MEU/ARG with the means to transform operations on land and at sea. It is relatively easy to envision a future environment in which U.S. forces will be required to counter an array of land-and sea-based threats to the SLOCs that connect Europe to the Middle East and Asia. The MEU/ARG will be particularly useful in countering these threats. With an increasingly lethal mix of aviation, amphibious assault platforms, and ship-based long-range fires, the MEU/ARG not only could conduct defensive operations but also act as a forward base for leading-edge offensive strikes against high-value enemy targets. I have written more on this topic for The National Interest here.
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