The top Marine told Congress that this year is the “inflection point” for the Marine Corps to begin changes that will keep it relevant and ready against adversaries a decade from now.

But he remained vague on the details of those changes.

On Thursday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the House Armed Services Committee that this year is the time for the service to pivot, but that the budgets for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 will show significantly more changes.

There were new priorities already in the pending 2021 budget, such as anti-ship missile systems, he said.

Even when asked what he envisioned for necessary platforms and systems, Berger kept his comments focused to the way in which he expects the Corps to fight alongside the Navy.

He wants a true maritime Marine Corps with forces able to fight from the ship, go ashore and go back aboard the ship rapidly.

The anti-ship missile and other long range fire systems seem to be at the top of that list.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, a Marine veteran, asked Berger how essential a ground-based fires systems with ranges of at least 350 nautical miles was to the new war fighting concepts.

Berger emphasized that the fires give the Marines a way to contribute to the naval fight while aboard a ship.

“What’s the value?” Berger said. “We’re not just passengers anymore.”

The missiles allow Marines to give naval forces sea control and sea denial from ship and ashore.

“We need to reach out and hold at risk an adversary fleet, from wherever we are,” he said.

Berger touted major improvements in readiness, bringing the fixed wing aviation up from 50 percent to more than 80 percent over the past three years.

Though, Berger has said both in his planning guidance and in public events that he wants to add a host of unmanned air, sea and ground platforms that are affordable and disposable.

But he told Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma, that the future aviation fleet composition ― manned and unmanned ― hasn’t been decided yet.

“We don’t know today the number of the ratio,” he said.

Berger said the way they’re thinking of it now is in a kind of quarterback scenario in which the manned platform would be aided by a higher number of unmanned platforms in the formation.

“We can cover a lot more ground if it’s a mix of manned and unmanned,” Berger said.

The purpose would be that the unmanned can complicate how the adversary collects information and targets those platforms. To someone looking at a radar screen on the other end, all of the platforms look about the same, he said.

Berger did say that the Corps will be looking at using such systems to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, multiple payloads and drone swarm capabilities aboard ship.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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