The U.S. Marine Corps is striving to be more relevant in the Western Pacific by reorganizing to help defeat Beijing’s navy in the China littoral. Marine leaders think that by fielding smaller, more mobile units they can hide in the first island chain off the Chinese coast and track Beijing’s forces at sea. This is a dubious proposition, given the advances China could achieve in regional recon using systems like long-endurance drones. The concept is rendered more dubious by the way in which redesigning the force for relevance against China is likely to make it less relevant elsewhere. One indication is the current confusion over whether and how to modernize the Navy’s fleet of large amphibious warships. The Marine Corps needs at least 31 large amphibs to deal with diverse contingencies around the world, but the latest version of the naval shipbuilding plan puts it on a vector to far fewer vessels. Meanwhile, the commandant wants to build a new class of small amphibious warships that would be largely useless in places like the Mediterranean. China may be the Middle Kingdom, but it bulks too large in Marine Corps plans. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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