WASHINGTON: The US Marine Corps plans to set up marine littoral regiments with anti-ship missile capabilities in Okinawa Prefecture, Guam and Hawaii and make them operational by 2027, its commandant, Gen. David Berger, said Thursday.
The move, unveiled in a telephone interview with Jiji Press, is part of the policy of fully reforming the Marine Corps over 10 years with emphasis on measures to deal with China, laid out in Berger’s Force Design 2030 plan in March.
The Marine Corps plans to create the three littoral regiments mainly from units under the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Okinawa. Work to establish the first one has already started in Hawaii, according to Berger.
The remaining two will be created in Guam and Okinawa. Berger said all of the three regiments “should be fully up and operational by 2027.”
The schedule was disclosed for the first time. The number of Marines in Okinawa will not increase because the new regiments will be built from existing units, according to the commandant.
The marine littoral regiments are expected to have 1,800 to 2,000 troops. Their equipment is likely to include long-range anti-ship missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.
In the event of a military conflict, their troops would be deployed on various islands. Their possible key missions would include ones to attack Chinese warships from the ground to help the U.S. Navy to secure sea control.
Berger said Japan’s Self-Defense Forces own equipment that makes them interoperable with the U.S. military, such as amphibious assault vehicles, Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft and F-35 stealth fighter jets.
In this sense, the SDF is “a perfect complement” to the Marine Corps, Berger said. “I think our force design is a very natural, good fit for the Self-Defense Forces and their priorities going forward.”
He also expressed an eagerness to hold joint drills with the SDF in Japan’s southwestern island region.
The establishment of the littoral regiments will give “certainly an impact to Japan,” Berger said, adding that he will visit the country after the novel coronavirus is put under control, in order to explain the realignment plan directly to Japanese officials.