A Pacific-based Marine air-defense battalion is reactivating and will focus on knocking down threats from the air — including drones — as part of the Marine Corps’ overhaul aimed at countering China.

The 1st Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion’s Headquarters and Service Battery was reactivated at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on Thursday, according to a Marine Corps news release. The rest of the unit will get reactivated in phases that will culminate in 2028.

The battalion primarily will be focused on close-in, low-altitude, surface-to-air weapons, according to the release. It also will be able to provide command and control for ground security, the release said.

The 1st Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion is part of Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. That expeditionary force — based in Okinawa, Japan — has taken on increased importance for the Marine Corps as part of a China-focused redesign of the service.

One of the demands of Force Design 2030, as the redesign is called, is that the Corps get better at staving off drone attacks. That’s where the low altitude air defense battalions come in.

The Marine Corps’ 2024 budget request includes more than $200 million to buy and upgrade light Marine air defense integrated systems, known as L-MADIS, for the battalions, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

The West-Coast-based I Marine Expeditionary Force and the East-Coast-based II Marine Expeditionary Force already have low altitude air defense battalions.

The 1st Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion was established as 1st Forward Area Air Defense Battery in July 1982 in Okinawa, Japan, according to the release. It got its current name in October 1986 but was redesignated as 1st Stinger Battery in May 1993 after its size was reduced.

The 1st Stinger Battery officially was deactivated in September 2007, according to the release.

Hawaii has been home to a flurry of activations and deactivations as part of Force Design 2030.

In January, the infantry unit 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, was deactivated, the same day that Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 153 was reactivated after a 64-year pause. Artillery unit 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, was deactivated in May.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii-based 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment — which, despite its name, is for now the sole unit of its kind — is set to reach initial operational capability in the fall.

The newly reactivated 1st Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion will use Hawaii as its “strategic hub,” but it will work throughout the Indo-Pacific region, according to the news release.

“We will grow here; we will train here,” Lt. Col. Heath Phillips, the battalion’s commanding officer, said in the release. “But make no mistake about it, our work is west.”

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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