Posted: September 20, 2017 3:00 PM

Neller Introduces Concept for Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment

By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent

QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps and the Navy must make sweeping changes in how they organize and fight in a future conflict because after decades of U.S. uncontested global sea control, “we’re going to have to fight to get to the fight,” the top Marine said Sept. 20.

And when they get to the fight, the Marines will have to be part of the fight for the sea control that would enable the U.S. forces to project power ashore, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said.

A proposal of how Marines would do that is the Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE) concept that Neller introduced at the annual Modern Day Marine forum.

LOCE, developed over nearly a year of extensive study and debate, and signed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Neller, attempts to address the emerging national security challenges posed by the growing capabilities of potential future adversaries to deny access by U.S. naval forces to a conflict area.

The concept argues that to overcome the threats of long-range precision weapons, advanced air defenses and other defensive technologies, the Navy and Marines must develop new operational tactics and structures to better integrate and coordinate their own combat capabilities and units.

The central point of LOCE, Neller said, “is it gives us an integrated organization of the Navy-Marine Corps team.” And, in a dramatic change from the historic approach to amphibious operations in which the Navy provided command of the sea to permit the Marines to go ashore, “we, as Marines have to contribute to the fight for sea control,” he said.

“This is going to be a high-end fight. It won’t be an easy fight.”

Despite the littoral emphasis in the title, LOCE deals with much more than the shallow waters and immediate shore areas to address the overall land, sea, air and underwater environments, and the problems of information management and the likely disruption of the electromagnetic spectrum, “all of the things we haven’t had to think about” since the end of the Cold War, Neller said.

Those challenges must be attacked with an integrated approach by the two naval services, he said. What the concept is, he said, “is about us as part of the naval force, because that’s what we do.”

A key part of LOCE is the proposal to create a new operational organization called the Littoral Combat Group (LCG), which would be a major restructuring of the tradition amphibious ready group and embarked Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The amphibious ships would have to be augmented by surface warships and perhaps an aircraft carrier and mine countermeasure ships. And the MAGTF would have to use weapons that it normally would deploy ashore at sea to help fight enemy surface forces and ground defenses.

That could include not just the combat aircraft normally part of a deployed MAGTF, but also use of its artillery, automatic weapons and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to defend the naval force.

The LCG would have an integrated command and staff of Navy and Marine personnel, and could designate senior Marine officers as commanders of key integrated components, such as the strike group.

The concept also envisions Marines seizing advanced expeditionary operating bases to deploy its aircraft and long-range weapons to help counter the enemy defense. Those bases and other small mobile land units would be sent ashore to disrupt the enemy’s defenses and complicate its targeting capabilities.

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