US General Voices Need for More Amphibious Forces in the Pacific

AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT VEHICLES ENTER THE WELL DECK ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6)

More amphibious forces are needed in the Pacific, the commanding general of the U.S. III Marine Expeditionary Force said on Friday, April 11.

 

“If the Marine Corps is challenged, anywhere in the world, to execute combined forcible entry operations we have the capability to do it,” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, also commander of Marine Forces Japan told reporters.

Will we be able to do it multiple places simultaneously, Wissler asked, or on a scale that would allow the rapid kind of build up that we would want?  “No. I agree with Admiral Locklear — we need more amphibious ships,” he said in a reference to recent testimony to Congress by Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of U.S Pacific Command.

Wissler said he sat in on the opening of the Sea Air Space Expo last week where the Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, and other sea service leaders spoke.

“In that setting, Admiral Greenert said we need 50 amphibious ships, and that’s what Admiral Locklear was getting [at]. Now, we don’t have a sufficient budget — everybody understands that.”

Wissler said there are currently 28 amphibious ships in the entire inventory today, with another addition soon to follow. He noted that Greenert also said the Navy and Marine Corps have agreed that they can meet a majority of the requirements if they had 38 amphibious ships.

“But in the current fiscal environment, we’re fiscally constrained to 33,” Wissler said. “So you can see that large requirement, but everybody understands the fiscal constraints that we’re operating under.”

During his session with reporters, Wissler also noted the exercises currently underway in South Korea.

“They’ve been planned for over a year,” he said. “So it’s not a reactive [thing] to anything. The one that we recently completed was Exercise Ssang Yong 2014 which translates to twin dragons or double dragons.”

This is an opportunity, the general said, to “take our newest overarching concept, Expeditionary Force 21,” a capability that incorporates a number of new amphibious ships.

“By taking Marine expeditionary units, one coming from [U.S. Central Command][which] literally sailed in and joined my MEU, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and then Republic of Korea Expeditionary Unit.”

“So for us it was a chance to take the Expeditionary Force 21 concept, place it into action, find out the challenges, how we would really do it for real,” Wissler said.

“We’ve talked through how we would create this combined expeditionary brigade, so this was a chance to do it.” Other nations including Australia, New Zealand and Thailand also took part in the exercise.

“We’re just trying to continue to build that combined amphibious capability for exercises across a range of military operations,” he said.

“Are we as good as we want to be?” he asked. “No. We need to continue to do [these] sort of larger scale amphibious operations. And we’ll continue to do that over the course of this next year.”

Press Release, April 14, 2014, Image: Wikimedia

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