Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit load an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile on an F-35B Lightning II aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in the Pacific Ocean in 2019.

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit load an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile on an F-35B Lightning II aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in the Pacific Ocean in 2019. U.S. Marine Corps / Cpl. Luis Velez

New Marine Aviation Plan Reflects Changes Under Force Design 2030

Littoral regiments will get an anti-air battalion, among other changes.

The addition of an anti-air battalion to the new Marine Littoral Regiments is just one of the changes under the Marine Corps’ 2022 aviation plan, the first in three years and the first since the commandant set the Corps on a radical course for lightness and agility.

“So we've had these capability sets before, but the Marine Corps task-organized in the past. This is a task-organized unit that will be already located with the Marine Littoral Regiment. So it brings all of the aviation enablers to the ground side,” said Col. Craig Doty, who leads the Cunningham Group, founded nearly two years ago to help Marine Corps aviation prepare for the future and work closely with the other services, industry, and academia.

Released on Tuesday, the 2022 aviation plan arrives three years after Gen. David Berger’s initial planning guidance and two years after Force Design 2030 jettisoned the Corps’ tanks and artillery and touched off several rounds of experimentation to guide new unit structures and concepts of operations.

“So now we figure that there is enough stability—-not that we're done, but it's becoming a lot more mature that it is now something that we can publish and be relatively confident that a lot of it will stay very similar,” Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commandant for aviation, told reporters ahead of the plan’s release.

The new littoral regiments and their anti-air battalions are a product of the Force Design 2030 modernization efforts. The battalions support expeditionary advanced base operations by providing air defense, air control and surveillance. 

“The [Littoral Anti-Air Battalion] is key to the integrated fires and force protection of the MLR as a stand-in force within the first island chain. Most importantly, the LAAB allows the MLR to close tenuous kill webs as the stand-in force transitions to the early blunt phase,” the document said. 

The first anti-air battalion stood up in February in Hawaii, where Marines are working to bring it to initial operational capability, said Doty.

The F-35 aircraft remains an important part of the Marine Corps’ aviation future.  

“The commandant has been very vocal lately about the importance of the F-35 in Force Design 2030, as it supports not just the Marine littoral regiment, but crisis response and anything else we're asked to do,” Wise said.

The plan calls for expanding the “digital interoperability” of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, whereby communication and information—from voice and video to targeting data—can be shared “to the point of need…to the tactical edge,” Wise said, by Marines or other troops who are operating in the air or on the ground. The Marine Corps is working to extend battalion-level connectivity to lower echelons, including regiments and squadrons.

“What we're trying to do now is tie our tactical users to the larger pipes that we have had. So, if you were to walk into a command post–time now—you would see a lot of the digital interoperability. What we're trying to do is to take that situational awareness and now take it down to the tactical user, so it's proliferated across the battlespace,” Doty said.