With the Marine Corps “all-in” on naval integration, composite warfare, new force design efforts, and new concepts such as expeditionary advanced base operations, Marine Corps aviation understandably is struggling with its future and place in the maritime fight.1 Marine Corps doctrine, predicated on supporting Marines in the context of land operations, has left its aviation arm unprepared for naval campaigning. However, the inherent capabilities of Marine Corps aviation, if repurposed to support the fleet, can play an important role in naval littoral operations. In doing so, it will contribute to the success of the fleet and Marines ashore and help integrate the service into fleet operations using composite warfare.
1. GEN David H. Berger, USMC, Commandant’s Planning Guidance (Washington, DC: Headquarters Marine Corps, 2019), 3–8, 10, 11; and GEN David H. Berger, USMC, Force Design 2030 (Washington, DC: Headquarters Marine Corps, 2020).
2. Berger, Commandant’s Planning Guidance, 2, 5, 20.
3. Berger, 10; and Navy Warfare Publication 3-56, Composite Warfare: Maritime Operations at the Tactical Level of War (hereinafter NWP 3-56), 1-1.
4. NWP 3-56, 1-15–1-18.
5. Berger, Commandant’s Planning Guidance, 2.
6. Marine Corps Order 3120.3, Organization of Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (Washington DC: Headquarters Marine Corps, 27 December 1962); NWP 3-56, 3-4.
7. Joint Publication 3-30, Joint Air Operations, II-2.
8. Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-20, Aviation Operations (hereinafter MCWP 3-20), 4-2, 4-3. Additional warfare commander and coordinator responsibilities could include the airspace control authority for the CWC, and the helicopter element coordinator.
9. NWP 3-56, 3-2.
10. MCWP 3-20, 4-8–4-20.
11. NWP 3-56, 7-3.
12. MCWP 3-20, 5-8.
13. Proposed maritime aviation functions would include: ISR; counterair; land attack; electronic warfare; antisurface warfare; antisubmarine warfare; assault support and air mobility; and control of aircraft and missiles. In this construct, the Marine aerial reconnaissance function is merged into the Navy’s ISR requirements, Marine antiair warfare is brought into line with joint terminology of counterair, and offensive air support and strike warfare are merged with land attack. Antisurface and antisubmarine warfare are added. Assault support is expanded to include mobility operations. Electronic warfare and control of aircraft and missiles are retained. This construct could cover any conceivable function of Navy and Marine Corps aviation in a littoral combat environment, as well as support the joint force air component commander, thereby facilitating aviation planning.