The Marine Corps must be ready when our nation is least ready. We are a maritime nation, and we view ships as a critical component of our deployment and employment strategy. The combatant commander demand for amphibious warfare ships far exceeds available inventory. Our inventory demand is based on the requirement to support the assault echelons of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB) and our obligation to provide Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (SPMAGTF) for enduring forward presence and capable crisis response.
MEBs can deploy by amphibious warfare ships, and those ships also provide an operational platform from which the MEBs can be employed. They are capable of going into harm’s way and serve as a cornerstone of America’s ability to project expeditionary forces and respond to a wide range of crises. The Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps have determined the force structure to support the deployment and employment of two MEBs simultaneously is 38 amphibious warfare ships. Understanding this requirement in light of fiscal constraints faced by the nation, the Department of the Navy has agreed to sustain a minimum 33 amphibious warfare ships. The 33 ship force accepts risk in the arrival of combat support and combat service support elements of the MEB but has been adjudged to be adequate in meeting the needs of the naval force within today’s fiscal limitations.
A second method of deployment is our Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) which combines the speed of strategic airlift with the high embarkations capacity and endurance of strategic sealift. We have two Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadrons (MPSRONs), each designed to facilitate the deployment of one MEB. Essential combat equipment and supplies are loaded on each MPSRON to initiate and sustain MEB operations for up to 30 days. With the introduction of the seabasing enabling module (LMSR, MLP, T-AKE) each MPRSON will have enhanced capability to Close, Assemble, Employ, Sustain, and Reconstitute (CAESR) forces from the seabase.
The MEU provides a forward deployed and flexible seabased force capable of conducting theater security cooperation, amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations.
The SPMAGTF is a tailored, forward deployed, self-mobile, self-sustaining force. Ideally the SPMAGTF operates from the seabase to leverage the benefit of sovereign and mobile U.S. territory. The SPMAGTF is specifically trained to conduct security cooperation activities with partner nations to develop interoperability, facilitate access, build defense and security relationships, gain regional understanding, and position for immediate response to episodic crises.
A critical enabler for any seabased force is connectors. They transport personnel, equipment and supplies in the amphibious area of operations and enable maneuver. We have modernized our aerial connectors with the MV-22 and the CH-53K. The operational reach afforded by these two aerial connectors has revolutionized our ability to operate from the sea. The Navy is in the process of modernizing the surface connector fleet by replacing the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC).
Frankly, we need about 50 amphibious gray hulls to get done what we need to around the world today.
-Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations