Throughout the next decade the Marine Corps may create as many as three Marine littoral regiments, all based in the Pacific to keep a continued presence to deter China.
Marine Corps Times first reported news of the Marine littoral regiment in January 2020. Through experimentation and wargaming, top Corps leaders are looking to the new formation specifically to support the dispersed expeditionary advanced base operations.
The Corps announced in May 2020 that the first Marine littoral regiment would be based out of Hawaii. The Marines expect to experiment with the formation’s components and employment during the next three years before finalizing the unit’s structure.
But the Corps could build as many as three Marine littoral regiments in the Pacific between now and 2030, Brig. Gen. Ben Watson, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference on Wednesday
The first Marine littoral regiment is expected to be at initial operational capability by fiscal year 2023, he said.
It will consist of a logistics unit, infantry battalion and an artillery battery at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Elements of anti-air battalion will come from outside of Hawaii, officials said.
Current plans call for 3rd Marine Regiment, at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, to become 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment.
That will mean a regiment dispersed in small teams over a wide range, for now focused primarily on the western Pacific Ocean region, Watson said.
Marine Corps Combat Development Command leaders previously have said that the second and third Marine littoral regiments could be based out of Guam or Japan.
But the unit isn’t so tailored that it can’t be applied elsewhere.
Watson said such a formation would work well in “any sort of closed, contested littoral terrain,” such as the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea or Black Sea.
While the final design will take some time, Marines estimate that the Marine littoral regiment could be between half and two-thirds the size of a current infantry regiment. That would mean between 1,800 to 2,000 Marines in a Marine littoral regiment, while currently 3rd Marine Regiment, for example, has 3,400 Marines and sailors.
The Marine littoral regiment is “designed to provide the basis for employing multiple platoon-reinforced-size expeditionary advance base sites that can host and enable a variety of missions such as long-range anti-ship fires, forward arming and refueling of aircraft, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of key maritime terrain, and air-defense and early warning,” Marine Corps Combat Development Command said in an emailed statement in 2020.
As far as equipment goes, the Marines are looking to use the joint light tactical vehicle using the Navy Marine expeditionary interdiction system and pull from multiple missile options to sink ships. They will also use small, long-range landing craft for tactical mobility, Marine Corps Combat Development Command said.
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.