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US and Japanese forces are preparing for island hopping amphibious warfare in the jungles near Okinawa through a series of joint air-land-sea combat operations, an exercise supported by more than 7,500 US Marines and the Navy’s USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group.
F-15s & F-35s
There was a significant air-ground-sea synergy in the exercise as well, wherein US Air Force and Marine Corps strike aircraft joined Japan Self-Defense Force F-15s to provide crucial Close Air Support to units fighting in the jungle.
The aircraft used for support included the carrier-launched US Navy F-35C and Marine Corps F-35B along with US Air Force F-15s. Networking the assets and “war nodes” to one another was a key emphasis of the operation, called “Jungle Warfare Exercise 22,” as new hardened communications networks enabled a multi-domain networked of “meshed” nodes within a combat system to find target specifics, transmit them and shorten the “kill web.”
“Each mission focused on the refinement of new tactics, techniques, procedures, and technologies such as rapid dispersion and utilization of a digitally interoperable kill chain,” Col. Cristopher Murray, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 36, said in a Marine Corps report.
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The Corps report emphasized this multi-domain connectivity and stressed that newer kinds of island, sea-land integrated combat operations would be required of an amphibious force should the US and Japan need to occupy or liberate jungle island areas in the Pacific.
“Higher headquarters facilitated integration with friendly assets at sea and in the air. By tying together sensors and information sharing, ground-based Marines increased battlefield awareness for joint and allied forces and extended the range of what they can detect and target,” the report says.
Part of any ability to maintain amphibious warfare and any kind of continuous maritime combat will rely upon an ability to refuel air assets across a vast expanse of ocean area throughout the Pacific. With this in mind, the leaders of the Jungle Warfare Experiment 22 ensured that forward arming and refueling points were available throughout the theater of operations to ensure continued functionality.
During the exercise, Marines used surface connectors, small boats and helicopters to support jungle combat operations and ensure the consistent delivery of critical supplies such as drinking water.
“One of the new ways we are experimenting is utilizing the Navy’s small boat squadrons to retrieve re-supply bundles intentionally delivered by both Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft into predetermined water drop zones,” said Lt. Col. Brett Bohne, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 4. “This exercise showcased the ability of joint forces to rapidly mobilize, integrate, and provide flexible logistics solutions to sustain combat momentum.”
Preparing for this kind of “island-hopping” amphibious warfare in the Pacific informs some of the key concepts inspiring the Marine Corps’ rapid development of its new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW). The LAW is intended to support evolving concepts of operation in which ship-to-shore, island-to-ocean, expeditionary land-sea combat operations will need mobile support systems such as artillery, armored vehicles, supplies and of course Marines, all things the new LAW is being engineered to support.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.