The Marines‘ fresh-off-the-presses operating concept deposits readers in the center of a military debrief, set at the base here in the year 2026.
Company- and field-grade officers are rehashing a major effort: Operation Littoral Resolve, the largest integrated naval force operation since the 1950 Battle of Inchon during the Korean War.
It’s never made clear where this fictional offensive takes place, but the officers in the scenario describe operations in a dense coastal city, during which Marines must monitor social media patterns to get a sense of who’s friendly and how to interact with the population.
In this world, drones are everywhere providing real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, various Marine Corps elements from dispersed small infantry elements to special operations teams to coastal riverine elements integrate seamlessly, and the emerging technology of today features prominently in the fight.
“Working from our F-35 feeds, we sent up our [unmanned aircraft system] killers to take out their crew-served positions and command posts,” a Marine expeditionary unit company commander reports in the debrief, referring to the new Joint Strike Fighter. “The mortar section got fire capped and was able to drop precision rounds right where the squad leaders told us to put ’em. They tapped the app and had rounds on target.”
Futuristic, yes, but also an educated projection of what fights 10 years from now will look like, according to the 32-page Marine Corps Operating Concept released Wednesday.
The document, intended to reboot the Expeditionary Force 2021 strategy of 2014, echoes the original document’s interest in small-unit operations in a dispersed environment and naval operations, but devotes more attention to the role emerging technology, electromagnetic signature monitoring and increasingly pervasive surveillance where information is used as a weapon will play in the fight.
It also anticipates the challenge of operating in densely populated littoral mega-cities, where Marines must operate in close proximity to large numbers of civilians and loyalties are often unclear. The document also anticipates the possibility of conflict with a peer or near-peer enemy force, in which Marines have to monitor their own signature to ensure it’s not giving them away.