The EFV and the Future of Marine Amphibious Operations

It has been two decades since the Marine Corps crowned the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle as the replacement for the ‘70s era Amphibious Assault Vehicle. It has been a long, expensive and apparently fruitless road. Defense Secretary (and Occasional Superhero) Robert M. Gates who has stood by the vehicle may be wavering. The Corps has cut its “requirement” from more than 1,000 to 573, and discussions on the merits of the EFV are on the rise.

Do the Marines need the EFV, and what is the future of amphibious global stomp-and-romps?
The nature of warfare has changed somewhat (a recycled statement) as has the nature of amphibious warfare. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim “Not in My Corps” Conway agrees: beach landings a la World War II are doubtful, though the tactic will remain in the Corps’ bag o’ tricks. (During World War II, at least one famous Marine leader, whose name eludes me, was critical of the Corps’ deadly up-the-middle approach to amphibious warfare.)

Despite being America’s second land Army, a title the Marines deplore, the Corps is sticking to its “soldiers of the sea” mantra. Documents like the “Marine Corps Operating Concepts” and the “Vision and Strategy 2025” underscore the importance of the Corps’ amphibious mission. My guess is the Boys’ Gun Club actually believes its own rhetoric. They also may see their future tied to the Navy’s fan tail cruising the world’s waterways looking for the next hot spot. Regardless, given a decade of mostly ground warfare, it is natural to question why the U.S continues to fund a Marine Corps, let alone the EFV.

The Marines have a good response but have done a horrible job explaining to Americans the importance of maneuver from the sea. A bunch of Marines and a few ships can operate in disaster areas as well as hostile regions where traditional forces can’t. Today’s Navy will operate over-the-horizon and the Marines must make their way to their objective be it by air as with the V-22 Osprey or by sea in a waterborne MRAP like the EFV. (Whale boats would make a great visual as the Marines row ashore.)

Warfare will continue to change and the Corps deserves to reclaim its amphibious crown, but the behind-schedule and over-budget EFV may not be the way to go.

With Conway’s looming retirement so goes the EFV.

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