ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Marine Corps is finding ways it can contribute to a sea-based fight while aboard Navy ships instead of simply being ferried to a land-based fight by the sister sea service.
Marine rockets and other long-range fire capabilities can be brought to bear on sea- and land-based targets from the deck of the amphibious ships that transport them to war zones, said Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Operations, Plans and Strategy.
“Long-range systems, whether that’s shooting rocket artillery from an amphibious platform or an alternative platform is something that we’re looking at and refining,” Beaudreault said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare conference in Annapolis, Md.
“What we have may fit the bill or we might need an adjustment to what we currently have,” Beaudrault said.
Just days before Beaudreault’s remarks was a test in the Pacific Ocean of a High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) from the deck of a Navy amphibious ship. As part of the Dawn Blitz amphibious exercise on the West Coast near San Diego, a HIMARS was fired from the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) on Oct. 22.
The HIMARS is a weapons system made up of the M142, five-ton chassis vehicle and can carry either a launcher pod of six rockets or one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). The demonstration on Anchorage consisted of HIMARS engaging a land-based target with a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Unitary.
The demonstration validated the commander’s ability to integrate HIMARS with ships to conduct a sea-based strike, according to the Marine Corps. HIMARS is produced by Lockheed Martin [LMT].
Beaudreault said that configuration of traditionally ground-based fire capability being launched from the sea is a prime example of how the Marine Corps can help the Navy get to a conflict zone under guard from anti-access, are-denial systems.
Marine Corps personnel and platforms also can contribute to maritime security operations, establishing sea control and maritime superiority and air defense.
“We have capabilities right now that are afloat doing those things, nothing more prominent that the F-35B, which can basically hold any target at risk,” he said. “That’s going to be our main contributor coming off of a ship right now, but there will be other ground combat capabilities.”
Like the Army, the Marine Corps is developing battle plans for a multi-domain battle and how its land- and sea-based assets can be brought to bear on other domains. Beaudreault said the Army brings complementary capabilities to the joint fight, not the least of which is air defense for forward expeditionary bases.
“How does the Army play in this? It’s complementary capability, not competitive capability. We can’t not have THAAD protecting airspace, air bases,” Beaudreault said, referring to the anti-ballistic missile system.
Marine Corps HIMARS launchers can fire the ATACMS and Army personnel were present for the Dawn Blitz exercise. Army Patriot batteries could be set up on or near Marine Corps island bases in the Pacific to provide air defense for both land-based troops and ships at sea, Beaudreault said. The Army also has a large fleet of utility landing craft that could support Marine Corps logistics once the fight moves ashore, he said.