The USMC to ditch tanks and induct long-range missiles

Corporal Chance Marone, an M1A1 Abrams crewman assigned to India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit stands atop an M1A1 Abrams tank in September 2019. The USMC is planning to scrap its tank battalions in the coming years as part of a force restructuring effort. Source: USMC

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is preparing to make a host of sweeping changes to its operating concept with plans to bid adieu to tanks while also expanding its long-range fires capabilities.

It’s been less than a year since General David Berger took the reins as the commandant of the USMC and the four-star general has been swift to lay out changes as to how the service should be manned and operating by 2030 to compete with peer competitors like China and Russia.

“Our force design initiatives are designed to create and maintain a competitive edge against tireless and continuously changing peer adversaries,” the service wrote in a 23 March force redesign announcement. “The force design effort is a threat informed, concept-based approach within a 10-year time horizon, intended to design a force to address National Defense Strategy (NDS) defined threats.”

When the redesign is complete the service anticipates having a force that is smaller and more nimble to support naval expeditionary warfare operations, while also funneling dollars away from legacy systems and towards modernised ones.

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On the manpower and force structure front, over the next decade the service will reduce its footprint by 12,000 marines and make the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) formation its main focus with three Marine littoral regiments (MLRs) organised, trained, and equipped for “sea denial and sea control” as part of a modernised III MEF.

“This Pacific posture will be augmented by three globally deployable Marine expeditionary units (MEUs) that possess both traditional and expeditionary advanced base capabilities that can deploy with non-standard amphibious ready groups,” the service wrote. It added that I MEF and II MEF will generate forces to support the MLRs and the MEUs, while also being available to deploy to other “challenges”.

When it comes to dollars and divestment activities, the USMC will pull all resources away from tank battalions, law enforcement battalions, and associated military occupational specialties, as well as all bridging companies.

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