Domain range

General: Undersea domain essential to the Marines’ role as defenders of maritime choke points

Marines participate in a squad competition at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 6, 2022. US MARINE CORPS / Lance Cpl. Jonathan Willcox

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps’ role in distributed maritime operations will require technology capable of identifying underwater threats as well as dangers posed by surface ships and long-range aircraft and missiles, a senior commander said. .

Speaking Jan. 13 at the Surface Marine Association’s annual symposium in Arlington, Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, chief of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Development and combat integration, explained the evolving role of Marine expeditionary warfare in the Navy’s strategy for dealing with potential adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept envisions littoral operations by specialized low-signature mobile units in larger areas of distributed maritime operations. The new Marine Littoral regiments “designed solely to maneuver and persist in a contested maritime environment”, will have as their primary mission “to conduct sea control and denial operations as part of a larger naval expeditionary force”, Heckl said. Equipped with rockets, missiles, and other long-range fire, as well as surface and amphibious craft to increase their mobility, EABO units will control access to choke points while limiting an adversary’s ability to target them.

But “if you tell me we’re going to occupy and control – sea control, sea denial – critical maritime niches, that probably means most critical of all, the undersea domain,” Heckl said.

Drawing on his experience as the former commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, Heckl said, “There are things today that feel underwater. Cheap, persistent, actually for the price of a P-8 probably I could smell the majority of the first island chain.”

The basement is very important, Heckl said. “We are continuing our efforts in this direction in collaboration with [Marine Corps commandant’s] concept of strength. A “kill array” of Navy and Marine Corps marine and land-based sensors and gunners that gives “a fleet commander the ability to detect a critical location or critical piece of maritime terrain, and not have to use a capital asset is quite significant.