Littoral Marine Regiment debuts in ‘first island chain’ during exercise in Philippines
A new Marine Corps regiment, soon to be armed with anti-ship missiles, is making its first foray into the islands and waters where it is supposed to fight, according to one of the unit’s leaders.
About 90 members of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, formed March 3 in Hawaii, are in the Philippines to participate in the annual Balikatan exercise, Maj. Steve Stansbury, the unit’s deputy fire support coordinator, told Stars and Stripes by phone Friday.
The training involves 5,100 American soldiers and 3,800 Filipino soldiers. It started on March 28 and will continue until Friday.
Marines at the regimental headquarters are operating out of tactical vehicles and tents in an austere location at Naval Base Camilo Osias on the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, Stansbury said.
The regiment is the first of three such units the Marines plan to form in the Pacific and is “specialized in dealing with the growing threat from China,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps, to journalists at a conference. call Feb 28.
The unit is expected to include 2,000 Marines working in “low signatures, long range, highly mobile”. [and] easily movable” platoons of 75 to 100 Marines, he said.
Small units will operate within range of hostile missiles, the so-called “Weapons Engagement Zone”, hold out for short periods against the enemy, and deploy new technologies and capabilities to any location far from the Indo-Pacific where they will be sent, Smith said. .
Balitakan “is the first exercise the Seashore Regiment has participated in,” Stansbury said. “It’s a big step for the regiment to go overseas to the first island chain, where we’re going to be for operations.”
The first chain of islands includes Taiwan, Okinawa and the Philippines and separates the East and South China Seas and the Pacific Ocean. Military strategists believe China’s goal is to push US and allied forces out of the two seas.
During Balikatan training, Marines work with a Philippine coastal defense regiment to call in simulated strikes from a Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, Stansbury said.
Much of Balikatan comprises the maritime environment in the Philippines, he said.
“It’s understanding the difference between a small civilian vessel or a commercial vessel…to be able to deconflict targets in the maritime domain,” he said. “It’s a big advantage for us.”
Marines learn about the Philippines’ security challenges so they can help them conduct a coastal defense of their country, he said.
The regiment is still developing its techniques, tactics and procedures. To that end, the Marines are recoding much of their activity to develop after-action reports, Stansbury said.
The Marine Corps War Fighting Laboratory monitors the regiment’s performance to learn lessons and get ideas for how it might fight. The knowledge gained by the laboratory based in Quantico, Va., will be used to improve the Littoral Regiment as it is built, he said.
The regiment will likely participate in Exercise Kamandag in the Philippines in the fall and bring more Marines to Balikatan next year, he said.
A pair of Marine battalions will be added to the regiment over the next year, and it is expected to reach initial operational capability by summer 2023, Stansbury said.
The unit is building its own air defense battalion equipped with a new radar that will allow Marines to track the enemy on land, in the air and at sea, he said.
The regiment is expected to receive the Navy-Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, called NMESIS, which includes a naval strike missile mounted on an unmanned vehicle, between 2023 and 2025, he said.