US Naval Expeditionary Forces a new feature of rivalry with China
Written by: (Contributed) on 30 March 2020
Moves by the US Marines Corps to establish Naval Expeditionary Units (NEUs) in the Pacific against China, have revealed military planning for real war scenarios. The ten-year military plan, which was unveiled in mid-March, is aimed at creating guerrilla-style operational groups for rapid deployment to strategic areas of the region.
The new US military plan has drawn upon earlier regional initiatives.
It is a policy Australia should refrain from joining as there is a great likelihood of being drawn into military hostilities, with little control over the initial planning.
A recent announcement from General David Berger, the US commander of the Marine Corps that the military were planning Naval Expeditionary Units (NEUs) for rapid deployment hostilities in the Pacific region can best be seen as a further step toward eventual real war scenarios. The NEUs have been planned for rapid movement between small strategically-placed landmasses every 48-72 hours, being moved by remotely piloted amphibious naval vessels. (1)
The announcement has followed concerns from the US military that their traditional bases were targeted by China's recent weapons and missile program. The Pentagon fears their command centres will be rendered non-operational following an attack and their main military GPS satellite system jammed. (2) They have therefore revamped their military planning to include operations under the direct line of missile fire with rapid access and egress onto small islands to avoid detection, more in keeping with classic guerrilla-style operations.
The announcement also coincided with a US military media release that it was planning to deploy miniature nuclear generators which 'could power a remote base'. (3) While the generators were planned for use as standby facilities should regular power grids be cut off, the so-called Pele project was also described as a 'safe, small, mobile nuclear reactor (which) would enable units to carry a nearly endless clean power supply, enabling expansion and sustainment of operations for extended periods of time anywhere on the planet'. (4)
The position adopted by the US has been the outcome of acknowledgement that the balance of forces is swinging heavily against the Pentagon. The rise of China as a serious social-imperialist competitor has been both significant and much faster than the US expected. Traditional war-games including Pacific Surprise and Ghost Fleet have focussed on the concern that 'the Marine Corps will not be in a position to be relevant in a clash with a peer competitor'; hence General Berger's new military plan 'to configure the corps to focus on the China threat'. (5)
The main aim of the NEUs will be to target China's navy before it manages to enter the main Pacific Ocean and follows the so-called Island Chain Theory (ICT), a largely discredited military plan from the previous Cold War. The military planning will draw heavily upon the extensive use of drones and other intelligence-gathering facilities. 'Targeting data' has been included in the military planning for transmission 'to air force and naval units further away, which would fire longer-range missiles'. (6)
The Pacific region is dotted with a large number of strategically-placed small islands, some of which are not inhabited. Others have become temporary home to fisher-folk. Historically the small islands have marked vital shipping-lanes and the ability of seafarers to gauge tidal movements and water depth. In recent times, however, serious diplomatic rifts have taken place following various US allies grabbing control of the islands for seemingly ulterior motives.
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1. Marines retool to meet China threat, Australian, 24 March 2020.
3. Pentagon plans portable mini nuke power plants, Australian, 11 March 2020.
5. Australian, op.cit., 24 March 2020.
7. Japan to nationalise 280 islands, The Age (Melbourne), 10 January 2014.
9. Japan puts disputed islands on school curriculum, The Age (Melbourne), 13 January 2014.
10. US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
12. US signs defence deal in Asia, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 2 May 2014.
13. US, Japan move closer on defence concerns, Australian, 14 January 2011.
14. 1421, The Year China discovered the world, Gavin Marshall, (London, 2002), page 113; and, Appendix One, Chinese Circumnavigation of the World 1421-3, Synopsis of Evidence, pp. 494-595.
15. Ibid., pp. 449-451.
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