Why U.S. Needs Amphibious Skills
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

Why U.S. Needs Amphibious Skills


“Amphibious warfare.” To most Americans, the term conjures up images from HBO’s The Pacific, where U.S. Marines assault the beaches of Pacific islands on their way to Tokyo. Sure, it served its purpose in World War II, but are we ever going to need to fight our way onto a beach again? A decade of combat in the Middle East has only strengthened the opinion that the Marine Corps may be a muscular instrument of warfare, but its amphibious tradition is now ancient history.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Navy-Marine Corps team’s ability to conduct joint amphibious operations bestows the United States with a range of unique capabilities that will be in high demand in tomorrow’s uncertain security environment, specifically in the Indo-Pacific maritime region.

The advantages of maritime power, and specifically amphibious operations, are many. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, captured these unique capabilities best in a September 2011 letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta. By one account, since 1990 the Marine Corps has conducted some 120 amphibious operations, including amphibious raids, demonstrations of force, reinforcement of U.S embassies, humanitarian relief, and evacuations of non-combatants from conflict zones.

Amphibious forces are ideal for addressing many of the challenges we face in the Indo-Pacific region. The maritime character of the region, the geographic “tyranny of distance” it presents, the range of environmental crises that often impact the region, the threat of piracy that has affected maritime traffic in the Horn of Africa and Strait of Malacca, the tensions that often inflict the Korean Peninsula, and the modernization of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) combined with its maritime territorial disputes, all stand to raise the profile of amphibious forces in the years ahead. A brief review of some of the capabilities an amphibious force can provide makes this abundantly clear. They can:

– Deter aggression, because their amphibious nature can provide credible forward-presence to respond rapidly in a crisis;

– Sustain operational access almost anywhere in the world, regardless of political or geographic hurdles; 

– Provide ground forces in a combat zone where roads, ports, or airfields are not available;

– Complicate an opponent’s decision-making and impose new costs by multiplying the number of theaters they must seek to defend, stretching their resources and manpower. This was used to great effect during the Gulf War in 1991 when the Marines massed a large force off Iraq’s coast, luring Saddam Hussein’s forces away from the U.S.-led coalition’s main operations;  

– Conduct counter-piracy operations;

– Conduct humanitarian and disaster response missions; and

– Assure allies of the United States’ credibility and capability to intervene decisively.

February 6, 2012 at 15:40

1. Build container ships for shipping in America instead of exporting jobs to China first!
2. Unless you are living in an altered reality – the US military is plenty strong to “protect commerce”!
3. The US MIC is the greatest military machines known to mankind, yet you are worried about some a stage in America’s history when the Average American was milking cows and raising cattle ?

War is expensive- always has been and always will be. A nation that turns making war into an economy is already down a path of ruin! It’s time for America to get back to the progressive ideals that transformed it from an agrarian nation to a nation of scientific progress, not military prowess.

February 5, 2012 at 22:38

1. Shipbuilding creates jobs.
2. Strong militaries protect commerce
3. These same arguments prior to the war of 1812 left our country weak and un prepared so when we did need to spin our militvary up for war we were almost too late.

You need to think about economic sustainment and boost, and supporting plans like this are a means.

Mei Hwa
February 4, 2012 at 15:37

Yeah, Occupier U.S..

Free people of the world should occupy America if their people don’t overthrow their war-mongering government under their so-called democratic system. Failure to do so means they condone and support what their government is doing in foreign lands, and become by default, enemies of the world. Americans therefore become acceptable collateral damage in the war against their government.

The free world needs amphibious ships too to enter and take the war to American’s soil. How would you like that?

February 3, 2012 at 16:23

$14 trillion in debt and yet they want to build more toys of death and destruction!

The sheer level of detachment from reality is astounding. With an umemployment rate at close to 9% I’d imagine the elected leaders in the world’s leading superpower would have more rational concerns about the economy but hey let no one stand in the way of “Amerika uber alles!” .

When are you Americans going to build spaceships and talk about the ability to conquer Mars ?? I’m sure the Chinese will lend you a couple trillion for that boondoggle too!

February 3, 2012 at 02:26

I agree with the writer. But if amphibious ops have fallen out of fashion, the Corps can partially thank itself. Thirty years ago when, as an Army officer, I attended MC CSC at Quantico, the Corps position about amphibs seemed stand-offish. (I noticed this because my Dad had commanded an LST circa 1950.) They perceived the future and concluded it didn’t involve much amphibious warfare; they wished to “reposition” themselves. That was my impression, and it might explain why, a generation later, Marines performed with considerable competence as another “army.”

John L. Yoon
February 3, 2012 at 01:31

Yes, Muslims are very important and integrated as a part of the society in Canada

One of my best friends is Kenyan Muslim of Indian descent while another is from Pakistan

Just to let you know-

February 2, 2012 at 14:13

It’s not about naval war, it’s about theatre entry, as the first comment notes: they’re there to gain entry in order to occupy ground, not sink ships.

February 2, 2012 at 13:15

Good article – Marines & amphibious forces are premier forces for disaster relief and so many of the other tasks that the other services struggle with because of their focus on their own element of operations reduces effectiveness outside of warfighting. They’re the best service to engage cooperatively with allies across the Pacific (islands, coasts, water, air, Marines do it all), and a better investment than they are given credit for. An F-22 probably is never going to be used in combat; ARG’s & MEU’s certainly will be used to constructive ends, and need better funding.

February 2, 2012 at 11:01

Muslims are beloved in Canada and western countries?

February 2, 2012 at 03:29

@Hassan Nur: Russia and china? Be careful with what you wish for. Check how they’ve treated the Muslims.

Fred Zimmerman
February 2, 2012 at 01:11

The proper term for the Marine role is “theatre entry.” If you don’t have air or port access to a land mass, amphib is the only way to get in.

Hassan Nur
February 1, 2012 at 18:58

War-mongering Congressman. When will Washington learn to leave the world alone and in peace? From the sound of it, freedom loving countries will need to go to war with this global bully. Maybe 2012 December 21 indeed will the the start of the end of the world. The global balance in nukes is currently unbalanced, that is why Washington dares to behave with such bully posture everywhere. Russia, China and Iran needs to balance the U.S. in terms of nukes and form a coalition or Axis to contain and encircle the U.S.. Getting more amphibious sjps is also a good idea.

February 1, 2012 at 15:14

I agree you cant just continuously bomb without troops to occupy the territory and secure it.

Mike From Tampa
February 1, 2012 at 12:38

we need more subs more than amphibs

February 1, 2012 at 10:02

Excellent article

February 1, 2012 at 09:55

Ah, am not convinced…. this is a side show for the main events.

Long Range Unmanned Precision Strike

Long Rang Strike


This is where any naval war will be won and lost

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