If you follow military news, you’ve likely seen the phrase littoral a whole lot. Hell, I didn’t even know the word until 2020, so you’re not alone. The Marine Corps commandant’s vision for a streamlined Marine Corps is still in full effect. That involves raising a Marine Littoral Regiment that will have a low signature, be hard to detect, fast-moving, and an efficient fighting force for littoral areas.
So what exactly does littoral mean? Well, according to the internet.
“A littoral zone is the part of a sea, lake, or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments, the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged.“
This force will be truly amphibious, constantly working shorelines and beaches, and be primarily located in or along the water. It’s the perfect mission for the Marine Corps. A mission like this isn’t applicable to the whole world but makes sense in the Pacific region. That’s why the first Littoral regiment will be based out of Hawaii.
The first Marine Littoral Regiment was launched earlier this year. Today we are looking at what the regiment is, what it means, and what these littoral Marines will do.
The makeup of the Marine Littoral Regiment
The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment will be made up of three distinct elements. There will be the Littoral Combat Team made up of an infantry battalion and a Missile Battery. The second element will be a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion; this new Anti-Air battalion is now known as 3rd LAAB. Finally, its third element, a Combat Logistics Battalion, will keep the Marine Littoral Regiment supplied.
These units will use small Littoral Combat Ships.
The Marines and Navy are currently developing a Navy Light Amphibious Warship designed specifically for the new Littoral Regiment and its mission set. While ship-to-shore will still likely be a real need, it will be more on LCACs and little boats than AAVs. These new amphibious ships will be able to essentially back up, drop a ramp and directly unload Marines, vehicles, and more.
These small vessels will have a low signature and be capable of beaching. They will be defined as shore-to-shore vessels and be capable of operating independently or with the larger fleet forces. These ships will allow Marines to establish Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations or EABOs that act as a foothold in an island-hopping campaign and serve to deny access to the sea for America’s enemies.
The Littoral Combat Team
The Littoral Combat Team will conduct offensive operations with reinforced platoons into littoral areas.
These Marines can establish a foothold and form EABOs that will allow for a variety of tasks.
These EABOs will act as forward bases to rearm and refuel aircraft, allow Marines to conduct recon, surveillance, and gather intelligence on maritime terrain. They can also act as air-defense sights and early-warning stations.
They will also be able to host long-range anti-ship missiles. This includes working with their attached missile battery to potentially spot and sink ships. Imagine something as simple as a Marine platoon being capable of sinking enemy ships of the littoral areas. It would be a game-changer to have a small, precise, and lethal force that acts as a scalpel to our enemy’s Achilles’s heel.
The reinforced platoons will be 75 to 100 Marines. They will likely be a combination of rifle platoons with machine gun, mortar, and anti-armor attachments. I wouldn’t rule out Scout Snipers or Weapon’s Company heavy machine gun and mortar platoons coming along either.
The missile battery will be using vehicle-based missiles. The vehicles, known as ROGUE-Fires equipped with the NMESIS anti-ship missile system. This system actually allows the crew to be separate from the vehicle. They can teleoperate the vehicle and launcher. This avoids losing Marines when the launcher is targeted. Instead, the Marine Corps will be able to kill ships with remote-controlled vehicles equipped with missiles.
3rd LAAB missile battery
When air threatens the Littoral Regiment, the Littoral Anti-Air Battalion will act to reduce and eliminate that threat. They can engage and eliminate aircraft and employ air surveillance, early warning, air control, and forward rearming and refueling capabilities.
This is a force multiplier and will act to ensure a relatively small force of Marines can maintain control over a littoral zone. This adds a degree of efficiency to the littoral regiment that will make them the regiment a thorn in the side of peer forces.
Combat Logistics Battalion
Combat Logistics Battalions (CLBs) are nothing new. They’ve long provided the logistics necessary for Marines to conduct long-term operations in all climes and places. As much as it hurts my grunt heart to say, logistics do win wars.
CLBs will bring the ability to resupply these EABOs, and provide fuel, ammo, and even advanced tasks. This will provide a higher level of maintenance for vehicles and weapons as well as Role 2 medical forces. Further, it will allow the littoral regiment to operate mostly autonomously and maintain a high degree of efficiency with a low signature.
Will it work?
I certainly can’t say. I’m a grunt with five years of experience merely examining the Marine Corp’s new Littoral Regiment. I’m not general, and the guys with stars have conducted thousands of hours of war games. It seems like a great idea to me.
I’m picturing a platoon of 75 to 100 guys wreaking havoc across the pacific. They will be mobile, hard to detect, able to shut down an entire warship and just disappear back into the sea or jungle. This force could be impossible to plan for, and even sending infantry or rotary aircraft to deal with it will be near impossible. They will deny the land and enable the Marines to deny key strategic points of interest to the enemy.
I’m excited to see the program continue and develop. The changes to the Marine Corps are fascinating to watch, and I’m envious of the Marines currently serving.
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