This article is part of a series looking back at the best naval stories of 2021.
This year, the Marine Corps continued its journey to meet the strategic vision of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger by pursuing systems to achieve the service’s Force Design 2030 goals.
With a focus on operations in the vast Indo-Pacific region, the Marines made capabilities such as anti-ship missiles a top priority for the island-hopping campaign that would prove the concept of operations Expeditionary Forward Base (EABO) Corps.
The service also continued to make progress on land and air systems crucial to Marine Corps modernization efforts.
naval strike missile
At the heart of the Marine Corps‘ strategy is the acquisition of land-based anti-ship missiles, which the service plans to fire from ad hoc bases on islands and archipelagos in the Pacific. Missiles will be a key capability for the Marine Littoral Regiment, a unit build the Marine Corps is experimenting with in the Pacific.
The Marine Corps requested 29 naval strike missiles in the fiscal year 2022 budget request and an additional 35 NSM were at the top of the service’s annual list of unfunded priorities.
The Marines plan to deploy the missiles on a modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and have already tested the concept, known as the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). Earlier this year, the Marine Corps announced that it had conducted a late 2020 test with Raytheon using a Remote Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE) to launch a naval strike missile.
The Navy and Marine Corps also tested the NMESIS system this summer during Large Scale Exercise 2021.
The Marine Corps previously delayed plans to purchase a large shipborne drone, known as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Expeditionary Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), or MUX, after that the many requirements made it difficult to pursue an airframe at an appropriate cost.
The service has instead chosen to pursue a family of systems approach to MUX and has used MQ-9A Reaper drones to begin fulfilling certain missions as it develops the approach and requirements for other components of MUX.
“The Marine Corps is currently pursuing MQ-9 as the first UAS to complete the MUX Family of Systems (FoS) that will provide the capability needed to modernize the combat element of aviation,” Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News in November.
“Navy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) will begin experimentation with the MQ-9 in 2023; the squadron will help develop operational support and tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as leverage payloads with high-tech readiness levels that will achieve the Tier 1 capability set,” said added Hernandez.
After leasing two MQ-9As from General Atomics for several years, the Marine Corps officially purchased both aircraft this year. The first MQ-9A went to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which will experiment with Reapers in 2023.
“The squadron will help develop operational support and tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as leverage payloads with high-tech readiness levels that will achieve the Tier 1 capability set,” Hernandez said.
Fleet Marines with one of the Marine Corps Test Squadrons began flying the CH-53K King Stallion for the first time in January as the service prepared for the initial phase of operational testing and summer evaluation of the new heavy-lift helicopter program.
In September, Marines flying two CH-53Ks recovered one of the Navy’s MH-60S helicopters during a test event in California for the IOT&E phase.
“This achievement underscored the Marine Corps’ efforts to retain next-generation heavy-lift capability in support of the service’s future concept of operations. Marine Corps Aviation views the CH-53K as a much-needed replacement for its current heavy lift helicopters,” the Marine Corps said in an October press release.
The Navy, in its fiscal year 2022 budget request, requested 9 CH-53Ks, which are coming out of the Navy Aviation Supply Account. The program is still in the initial low-rate production phase, with the Navy issuing a $736 million contract amendment to Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky in June for 9 helicopters in Lot 5 of the LRIP phase.
The Navy plans to purchase full-rate production aircraft in fiscal year 2023. The first deployment of the CH-53Ks is scheduled for 2024, according to fiscal year 2022 budget documents.
The new heavy-lift helicopter will replace the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion.
amphibious combat vehicle
The effort to replace the Marine Corps’ 1970s amphibious assault vehicles continues, as the amphibious fighting vehicle program continued full production after reaching initial operating capability late in the year. last.
The Marine Corps plans to purchase four variants of the ACV – an armored personnel carrier, a recovery variant, a vehicle with a 30mm cannon, and a command and control variant.
BAE Systems, which builds the ACV for the Marines, announced in February that it had provided the Marine Corps with the first command and control ACV.
BAE started with the personnel variant, which was the type of CAV tested by the Marine Corps during the initial operational test and evaluation phase of the program which began in 2020.
Also in February, the Marine Corps awarded BAE a $184 million contract amendment for 36 full-rate production ACVs after awarding a contract for the first 36 full-rate production vehicles in December.