U.S. Marines Explore Alternate Deployments as Amphibious Ship Shortage Looms Large
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff & Agencies  

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps is grappling with a shortage of amphibious ships, described by a top Marine official as the “single biggest existential threat” to the service. As the Pentagon considers whether to pause future amphibious ship production, the Marines are intensifying their focus on leveraging alternate ships to maintain a robust naval presence.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration revealed that the Marines are seriously considering the use of other ships, such as the expeditionary sea base and the expeditionary fast transport, to counter the amphibious ship shortage. The expeditionary fast transport (EPF) has already been successfully utilized in the Pacific, although it is not specifically designed for amphibious missions.

The ongoing shortage raises concerns about the deployment of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), which play a crucial role in power projection and supporting combatant commanders. Heckl highlighted the urgency, stating that the lack of ready amphibious ships is a significant concern.

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently stationed off Israel in the Middle East. However, with its deployment since July, concerns arise about the absence of a replacement on the East Coast once it returns.

To address these challenges, the Marines are adopting nontraditional means of deployment. In recent examples, the 11th MEU command element was moved from the West Coast into the Pacific, utilizing the EPF Brunswick for naval campaigning missions. Additionally, the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group on the West Coast will deploy with the 15th MEU in phases, allowing partial forces at sea even if the full group is not ready.

The Marines are striving to ensure the readiness of three MEUs for operations at any given time, even in the absence of an accompanying Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). While deploying Marines on alternate ships is deemed feasible, it is not the desired solution due to limitations in aviation support, ammunition storage, and other essential features found in dedicated amphibious ships.

The U.S. Navy is actively working on improving amphibious ship readiness and on-time maintenance, but the Marines are preparing for potential disruptions by exploring alternate deployment options. The challenge of maintaining a robust naval presence persists, and Marine officials emphasize the need for comprehensive solutions to address the amphibious ship shortage.

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