The return to major power competition and the new focus on multi-domain operations has altered the role of the Marine Corps and amphibious ships. It’s a change in the way Washington views Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare, and it has ramifications for amphibious ship construction and modernization. New scenarios with China, Russia and others demand that U.S. policymakers count on the amphibious fleet as a joint asset. In multi-domain operations, every amphib will be a potential forward node for tactical data fusion. A combination of onboard sensors, the F-35B and future unmanned surface and aerial systems will allow the amphibs to provide wide area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, possibly from within an adversary’s anti-access/area denial envelope. In addition to its role as an information collection, fusion and dissemination node, the amphib force is increasingly a lethal instrument of U.S. national power. I have written about the need for a robust, lethal amphibious warfare fleet here.
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