What has gotten into the Marine Corps? They’re being led by lunatics intent on remaking them into a mini-Air Force. The latest is this report from Breaking Defense website about yet another new aircraft that the Corps wants.
“It’s an unmanned tiltrotor designed to give the Marines a drone that can do everything the Air Force’s armed MQ-9 Reaper does – and more. Especially taking off and landing from ships or from land where there’s no runway.
“I think there is a big need for a UAS [unmanned aerial system] that can go aboard the sea base,” Davis [Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, Marine deputy commandant for aviation] told me in an interview last week. “General Neller says he doesn’t need a Reaper, but he needs a Reaper-like capability that can go from the sea base.” Gen. Robert Neller is the Marine Corps commandant.” (1)
Do the Marines really need to duplicate yet another Air Force capability? Yes, a vertical takeoff and landing capability sounds nice on paper but haven’t we already given the Marines gigantic carriers that UAVs could operate from? Do we really need to start another acquisition program that duplicates the mission of a Reaper? Is this really the best use of the Marine’s limited budget?
“The desire for a Marine Corps Group 5 UAS is outlined in the official Marine Aviation Plan 2016, which labels the concept the MUX, a tortured acronym standing for “MAGTF Unmanned Expedition Capabilities,” the acronym within an acronym MAGTF standing for Marine Air Ground Task Force.
“The Marine Corps requires a UAS that is network-enabled, digitally interoperable, and built to execute responsive, persistent, lethal, and adaptive full-spectrum operations,” the document says. “The concept of employment will be shipboard and expeditionary.”
The Aviation Plan says that the MUX would be “a multi-sensor, electronic warfare” aircraft with “strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 and F-35,” referring to the Marine Corps version of the Osprey and the new Joint Strike Fighter. Such a shipboard compatible armed drone, the plan adds, will give Marine commanders “flexible, persistent and lethal reach.” (1)
Multi-sensor, electronic warfare, strike aircraft? That’s a lot more than a simple recon drone! What do the Marines need this thing to do?
“Such a drone, he [Davis] said, could be “your picket. It could be out there protecting the ship, protecting the fleet, giving us the deep view out there of the battle space when I don’t have manned platforms up.” (1)
Protecting the fleet??? Now the Marines are branching out into fleet AAW and ASuW? Have they got their core mission down so well and have so much extra budget that they can expand into Navy missions?
I’m not going to bother describing this aircraft in detail. The more important takeaways from this are:
- Who’s running the Corps? Clearly, the ground component has been relegated to an afterthought. The Marines are shedding tanks, artillery, and heavy equipment while aviation assets are being promoted and prioritized. Aviation rules the Corps.
- What’s the mission? Once upon a time, the Marines were our 911 force with a specialization in amphibious assault. Now, by their own choice, the Marines are an expeditionary third air force with little high end combat power and what they have is rapidly shrinking. What do they offer that is not redundant with the Army or Air Force and can’t be done better by the Army or Air Force? Note the priorities – they’re not ground related. Where’s the same zeal for tanks, artillery, combat engineering vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft, electronic warfare, mobile anti-air vehicles, etc. that the Corps is showing for aviation assets? Where’s the enthusiasm for ground combat? Do the Marines think the next war will be a neat, clean, digital, affair where no one gets hurt and is conducted from afar using remote control and everyone gets to go home and have dinner every night after the day’s sortie is done? The Corps has lost sight of the mission.
Finally, here is a disturbing quote from the article.
“I sense a lot of desire from the traditional ground component of the Marine Corps to support special operations, much like the
Rangers. Having a higher-tier UAS is part of that.” (1) U.S.
If that is at all reflective of reality, the Marines have truly lost their way. Supporting special ops is not their core mission. Has the Corps really forgotten why they exist? It would appear so. This is very disappointing.
(1)Breaking Defense website, “EXCLUSIVE: Meet Bell’s V-247, Armed Tiltrotor Drone For Marines”, Richard Whittle,