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With the Corps focused on crisis response and disaster relief in place of major combat operations, a major amphibious landing on contested soil wouldn’t look too pretty, according to a one-star general.
Brig. Gen. William Mullen, director of the Capabilities Development Directorate, addressed the service’s current challenges during a question and answer session with the press at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on July 15.
“We’re in a state of flux right now as you can probably imagine,” Mullen said, citing budgetary constraints. “Our commandant’s priorities right now are crisis response, at the expense of major combat operations. If we absolutely had to do it, we certainly would, but it’d be a stretch.”
Mullen cited several issues with the Corps’ Amphibious Assault Vehicle 7. From parts obsolescence to inadequate armor — and now even a questionable ability to swim — the Corps desperately needs a replacement, Mullen said.
The Corps remains confident that, given the order, Marines can take and secure a beachhead, Mullen said.
Despite growing talk that Iwo Jima-style amphibious assaults are relics of the past, Mullen said retaining that capability, regardless of potential casualties, is essential to deterrence in the global sphere.
“If you don’t have a credible ability to do that ... that gives people who don’t like you very much room to maneuver,” he said. “We have to have the ability to do something ... either V-22s or a combination of V-22s and connectors.”
As China expands its navy, leaders there have developed an amphibious landing craft that looks very close to the Corps’ now defunct expeditionary fighting vehicle. But it differs in its speed and lack of armor, Mullen said.
“You could probably shoot through it with a BB gun,” he said.
The Corps is having its own battle with weight and armor at the moment. The Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 came under fire in a recent column written by retired Col. Jim Magee, an armor expert, that was published by Marine Corps Times in June.
Magee, who is largely responsible for standing up the Corps’ light armored reconnaissance battalions, criticized the ACV for being too heavy and overly reliant on Navy connectors.
It has also taken flak for possibly lacking the ability to swim from ship to shore. Mullen openly admitted the shortcoming.
“We have to prove that it swims,” Mullen said. “We don’t know that for sure, engineering specifications appear to say that it does, but we can’t say that for sure.”
He also emphasized the lengthy nature of acquisition and development. The ACV still has a long way to go, he said, so those in a hurry to criticize should remember it’s a work in progress.■