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A New Dawn for the Marines: Fear the Reaper

Carter Hitchcock

Business Solutions Project Manager

In 2020, the Marine Corps unveiled an initiative called Force Design 2030, now referred to as "Force Design," which aimed to enhance naval expeditionary warfare capabilities, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region. Naval expeditionary warfare consists of the U.S. Marine Corps deploying rapidly as a naval force, from sea to land in response to global crises and conflicts. These operations are unique in their ability to integrate with other military branches, swiftly mobilize, and adapt to emerging technological challenges.

Force Design outlines the establishment of three Marine Littoral Regiments (MLR's) to sharpen focus on strategic maritime competition with China and Russia. The three regiments are all capable of performing expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO). EABO involve using mobile, low-visibility naval forces from temporary bases to conduct sea denial or support sea control in contested maritime areas.

To effectively carry out the missions of the Marine Littoral Regiments, the Marines and Navy are seeking to incorporate a number of essential systems including: the MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), Navy-Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS), and the Navy Medium Landing Ship (LSM).

The MQ-9 Reaper UAS is an aerial drone used in intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, and most importantly, targeted strikes (hence the name). Known for its significant payload capacity, the Reaper can carry both precision-guided bombs and missiles, making it a versatile asset for both surveillance and combat missions.

The NMESIS is a ground-based, anti-ship missile system developed by the Marine Corps as a top modernization priority. It integrates the Naval Strike Missile from Kongsberg, a remote-control system called ROGUE-Fires, and the chassis of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

The Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS) is a mobile air defense platform used by the U.S. Marine Corps to protect forces against aerial threats, including drones and manned aircraft. It combines sensors and weapons systems on a vehicle, allowing Marines to track, identify, and destroy aerial targets effectively.

The Navy Medium Landing Ship (LSM), is an amphibious ship designed to support the Marine Corps, specifically in implementing the EABO concept. LSMs are envisioned to be smaller, less expensive, low-signature, and capable of embarking, transporting, landing, and reembarking small Marine Corps units swiftly in various operational scenarios.  

As of the 2023 update, the Marine Corps feels confident in the strides made under Force Design 2030, yet acknowledges there is much ground still to cover. The Corps is actively seeking strategic partnerships with other U.S. military branches to enhance warfare capabilities.

Nevertheless, with the rollout of new weapons systems, the message remains clear: Fear the Reaper.


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