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Moving the Marine Corps by Sea in the 1990s: A Special Study

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The U.S. Navy currently operates 63 amphibious warfare ships. These vessels have been designed from the keel up to transport and support forces of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Navy and Marine Corps provide the United States with an ability to project military power from the sea against targets on land that is unmatched by any other country. Since the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, this ability to conduct an amphibious assault has become the Marine Corps primary mission. Amphibious assault also has played a key role in a number of major military battles. For example, the amphibious assault at Inchon, South Korea, in 1950 is widely credited with turning the tide of the Korean War. Maintaining the capability to conduct large amphibious assaults will, however, add substantially to future U.S. defense costs. In addition to the costs of maintaining troops and providing necessary aircraft, many amphibious ships will reach the end of their service lives during the next 15 years or so and will have to be replaced if U.S. capability is to be maintained. Critics argue that these investments would not be wise because changes in technology, especially the proliferation of precision-guided weapons, have made amphibious assaults militarily obsolete. The Administrations goal is to provide enough capacity -- commonly referred to as amphibious lift -- in the amphibious warfare fleet to transport the assault echelons of one Marine Expeditionary Force and one Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which include about 50,000 troops and associated aircraft, vehicles, and equipment. This study focuses on alternative approaches to meeting the Marine Corps needs for amphibious ships. After describing the Administrations goal and analyzing how well the current shipbuilding plan meets the goal, the study examines three options for modernizing amphibious shipping that reflect different military priorities and budget strategies.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Marine Engineering

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