The Marine Corps has found $12 billion it plans to shift from low priorities toward its effort to redesign the force by 2030, divesting of its tanks and addressing ‘over-investments’ in howitzers and short-range, low endurance unmanned systems.

Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, has released his full force design report, which sets the path for the next 10 years of retooling the service, and addresses potential changes to equipping F-35s and the required number of ground tactical vehicles.

A U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II aircraft during the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) Redesignation Ceremony at Hangar 80 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Nov. 20, 2012. The squadron, activated in 1941, operates the newest Marine Corps aircraft, the F-35B Lightning II. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans/Released)

“In light of unrelenting increases in the range, accuracy, and lethality of modern weapons; the rise of revisionist powers with the technical acumen and economic heft to integrate those weapons and other technologies for direct or indirect confrontation with the U.S.; and the persistence of rogue regimes possessing enough of those attributes to threaten United States interests, I am convinced that the defining attributes of our current force design are no longer what the nation requires of the Marine Corps,” Berger wrote in his report. “Operating under the assumption that we will not receive additional resources, we must divest certain existing capabilities and capacities to free resources for essential new capabilities.”

The Marine Corps released initial details of the plan earlier last week which includes plans to boost investments in rocket artillery capacity and anti-ship missiles by 300 percent and doubling the number of unmanned air and ground systems capable of carrying lethal effects (Defense Daily, March 24). 

The full report sheds some more light on such proposals as eliminating all tank battalions and reducing the number of F-35B and C aircraft per squadron from 16 to 10 platforms.

“[On tanks] we have sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenges in the future. Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army,” Berger wrote.

Divesting from its Abrams tanks could open up an opportunity for General Dynamics [GD] to potentially make up to 450 refurbished tanks available for re-sell on the international market, according to Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners. 

For the F-35, Berger suggests that the Marines’ continued lagging recruitment of pilots may require leadership to rethink the platform’s future as a procurement priority.

“I am not convinced that we have a clear understanding yet of F-35 capacity requirements for the future force,” Berger writes.

Berger also includes a substantial list of current Marine Corps’ capability shortfalls: expeditionary long-range precision fires, medium- to long-range air defense systems, short-range air defense systems; high-endurance, long-range unmanned systems with ISR, EQ and lethal strike effects, and “disruptive and less-lethal capabilities appropriate for countering malign activity by actors pursuing maritime ‘gray zone’ strategies.”

“As a ‘stand-in’ force of the future, the Marine Corps requires a family of UAS capabilities. We need to transition from our current UAS platforms to capabilities that can operate from ship, from shore, and able to employ both collection and lethal payloads. These future capabilities must be expeditionary and fully compatible with Navy platforms and command and control networks,” Berger wrote in the report.