Budget Problems May Force Marines To Hitchhike With The French
A series of cutbacks have forced the Marine Corps to consider hitching a ride on French ships in order to rapidly respond to crises around the world.
Currently, the Marines have a limited ability to deploy to West Africa and Europe. Warfighting requirements stipulate that 38 ships is ideal, but the Navy only possesses 30 at the moment, USA Today reports. The Navy will not be able to meet that goal until 2028, citing severe budget constraints, and so officials are discussing the possibility of deploying a force of 100-120 Marines, as well as up to four MV-22B Ospreys, on foreign ships.
While the Navy has emphasized that foreign ships aren’t comparable to U.S. vessels, something is better than nothing, and so officials are working together with foreign allies like France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom to determine which ships are most appropriate, both in terms of securing favorable agreements and meeting technical requirements.
Under the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative, Marines will test out ships from NATO members later this year. Starting in September, the Marines will board an Italian ship, and then a British gator in November. Pilots have already experimented with landing the MV-22B Osprey on a Dutch ship and will continue similar tests with other allies.
Aside from training exercises, Marines reported positive experiences with Dutch vessels in the past.
One Marine recounting his three-month deployment aboard a Dutch ship in 2013, noted that in contrast to American ships, the Dutch design their craft to be far luxurious and include a bar, an Internet café, table tennis, foosball tables and stairs rather than ladders.
“I can’t speak for every Marine, but I know I would love to do that all over again if I could,” Sgt. Marco Mancha told Marine Corps Times. “It was such a fun experience to meet all these people and the amenities were great.”
The reason why the Navy prefers ships is that deploying land-forces in individual countries is much slower than transport by vessel.
“We are looking for alternatives because there is not much amphibious shipping for European Command,” Brig Gen. Norm Cooling, deputy commander of Marine Forces Europe and Africa, said, according to Marine Corps Times. “Working with some partner nations, we could put our forces aboard their maritime platforms and it is consistent with NATO interoperability objectives.”
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