Key point: The Marines—as a specialized amphibious force—argue that they need unique hardware to conduct their unique missions.
The U.S. Marine Corps prides itself on being America’s 911 force—a fire brigade that the president can call upon to fight the nation’s battles in an emergency.
Though the Marines have largely been treated as a de facto second land army over the past dozen years, the service is an integral component of the Department of the Navy and is primarily a maritime force. Therefore, the Marines—as a specialized amphibious force—argue that they need unique hardware to conduct their unique missions. While the service has many different types of weapons, here is a selection of their five key systems:
While not a “weapon system” in the traditional sense of the word, the Marine Corps warrior ethos and superb training make the service what it is. Every single Marine, from the lowest private to the Commandant himself is trained first and foremost as an infantryman.
Even the Marines’ naval aviators undergo nine months of infantry training as part of Officer Candidate School and the Basic School before they go off to flight school. The shared experience of fighting alongside Marines on the ground gives the service a level of cohesion that the other branches lack. Ultimately, it is the Marine Corps’ people that make it arguably the most effective branch of the armed forces.
With the United States theoretically ending combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service will shrink to a total strength of 182,000 Marines by 2017. But even at that reduced manning level, it will be nearly as large as the entire active British military.
While the Marine Corps prides itself on being a strategically mobile medium-weight force, there are times when it needs the brute force of heavy armor. That brute force is provided by the General Dynamics M1A1 Abrams.
While not quite as advanced as the U.S. Army’s M1A2 SEPv2, the Marines’ M1A1 Firepower Enhancement Package suits the Marine’s purposes of supporting the service’s infantry. The Abrams is armed with a 120mm cannon and is protected with an armor matrix that incorporates depleted-uranium armor. With a 1,500hp Honeywell gas-turbine engine, it can move at more than 45 miles per hour.