Role Reversal: Marine Green Supporting Navy Blue
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — In traditional naval warfare, Navy forces usually are operating in support of Marine Corps forces, whether providing air support, naval gunfire support or platforms to carry Marines and launch helicopters and landing craft, or logistics support to the landing force.
With advances in technology, however, the Marine Corps increasingly is positioned to reverse roles and provide support to naval forces at sea, a Marine general on a Navy staff told an audience Jan. 10 at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium.
“It’s time to start talking about green in support of blue,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, director of Expeditionary Warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Owens termed the Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II strike fighter as a “flying broad-area sensor and sensor-fusion system” that will add great capability when deployed onboard an amphibious assault ship and enhance warfighting capabilities in a naval war at sea scenario. He said that with the transfer of USS Wasp to the Western Pacific this year, with F-35Bs onboard in early 2018, the embarked Marine forces will have a capability to directly support Navy ships.
Owens noted the demonstrated performance of the speedy MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, with triple the range of the CH-46 helicopter it replaced, that not only makes it highly effective as an assault transport but adds the potential of ranging far and wide as a surface surveillance aircraft, able to scan vast areas of ocean for situational awareness. The aerial refueling capability of the Osprey adds even more to its range, and it effectively has served as a long-range logistics aircraft for deployed amphibious ready groups.
In recent years, the Osprey has served in a surveillance role in support of Navy warships operating off Yemen.
Owens also mentioned the possible adaptation of the Corp’s High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System to the support of naval forces at sea “as a way to increase our lethality ashore and our anti-ship capability is key to doing that.”
He said a war game will be conducted at the Naval War College this year to see “how the Marine Corps can integrate into the Navy’s composite warfare structures.”