America’s Pacific Force Structure Takes Shape
Image Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

America’s Pacific Force Structure Takes Shape


The U.S. Navy-U.S. Marine Corps team is at the heart of a strategic evolution of 21st century U.S. military forces, notably in the Pacific. An inherent characteristic of many of the U.S. military’s new systems is that they are really about presence and putting a grid over an operational area, and therefore they can be used to support offensive strikes or defensive actions within an integrated approach.

In the 20th century, surge was built on the notion of signaling. One would put in a particular combat capability – a Carrier Battle Group, Amphibious Ready Group, or Air Expeditionary Wing – to put down a marker and warn a potential adversary that you were there and ready to be taken seriously. If one needed to, additional forces would be sent in to escalate and build up force.

With the new multi-mission systems, the key is presence and integration able to support offense or defense in a single operational presence capability. What is emerging is a 21st century attack and defense enterprise.

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The strategic thrust of integrating modern systems is to create a grid that can operate in an area as a seamless whole, able to strike or defend simultaneously. This is enabled by the evolution of C5ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance). By shaping a C5ISR system inextricably intertwined with platforms and assets – which can honeycomb an area of operation – an attack and defense enterprise can operate to deter adversaries or to conduct successful military operations.

Inherent in such an enterprise is scalability and reach-back. By deploying the C5ISR honeycomb, the shooters in the enterprise can reach back to each other to enable the entire grid of operation, for either defense or offense.

The 21st strategic naval environment demands forces the U.S. Navy to conduct distributed operations. The evolving capabilities of Marine Corps and U.S. naval aviation provide key enablers for meeting that demand. The V-22 Osprey has begun this process by giving the USMC-USN team a revolutionary capability for speed, range and an ability to operate on sea and land.  In a recent interview with The Diplomat, Lt. General Terry G. Robling, the highest-ranking Marine in the Pacific, MARFORCPAC, underscored this point:

“Speed, range and presence are crucial to the kind of operations we participate in throughout the Pacific. The Osprey clearly fits perfectly into the types of missions we are tasked to perform.

“To illustrate hypothetically, if we were tasked to counter challenges in the South China sea, such as to bolster the defense of Ayungin Shoal, also known internationally as Second Thomas Reef, with one of our treaty allies, the Philippines, the U.S. has several options, but not all are efficient or even timely. We could use USAF assets, such as B-2 bombers or B-52 aircraft from Guam, or Navy surface or subsurface assets that are patrolling in the South China Sea, but the location of those assets may not provide timely arrival on station.

“But using the Osprey, we can fly down quickly from Okinawa with a platoon of well-trained Marines or Special Operations Forces (SOF) forces, land on difficult terrain or shipping, and perform whatever task that may be required in not only a timely but efficient manner.”

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