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Commander Lists Needs for Future Marine Weapons

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii, May 1, 1997 – The Marine Corps needs new weapons and equipment despite its high state of combat readiness, according to the senior Marine in the Pacific.

"Our trucks, amphibious vehicles and aircraft are the same ones we used in Desert Storm," said Lt. Gen. Jefferson Howell Jr., commanding officer of Marine Corps Forces Pacific. "We need to replace them, because it takes more and more man-hours to keep them up."

While Howell said the Marines would be happy for now with newer versions of the same equipment, they ultimately need different weapon systems that take advantage of technological advancements. At the top of his shopping list is the V-22 Osprey, a fixed-wing, tilt-rotor aircraft.

"The V-22 will revolutionize maneuver warfare," he said. "When you think about a machine that can carry two dozen combat Marines 500 miles at 300 knots airspeed, land vertically and scoot back out of there, it's remarkable." The Marines project the Osprey to replace Vietnam-era CH-46 helicopters, Howell said.

A new advanced amphibious assault vehicle developed by the Marines will replace aging vehicles that can achieve only 5-8 knots in the water and 25 knots on land. The new vehicle, Howell said, will nearly double the water and land speeds, enabling it to keep up with air-cushioned landing craft and, on ground, the powerful M-1A1 tanks.

Besides landing craft, Howell said, the Marines need more amphibious ships to move troops, their weapons and equipment to war zones. "During the World War II battle of Okinawa 1,300 U.S. ships surrounded the island. Of those, 365 were amphibious ships," the general noted. "Right now, there are only 37 amphibious ships in the entire Navy. We cannot be a viable naval force unless we have enough 'amphibs' to carry our Marines and provide presence."

Howell said he also wants to reconfigure and upgrade Marine tactical air. "For every different kind of airplane, we have to train our Marines at different schools," he said. The Marines currently fly F-18 Hornets, AV-8B II Harriers and EA-6B Prowlers. "If we could replace the Hornet and Harrier with something that could do both of their jobs, we'd have a winner," Howell said. "That's why we want to go with the Joint Strike Fighter. It will really enhance our ability."

Training Marines on one aircraft system instead of two would save time and money, as would replacing CH-46s with V-22s, then replacing older model HH-53 helicopters with newer models with heavier lift capabilities, Howell said. "And someday," he added, "we'd like a smaller variant of the V-22 to replace our smaller tactical and utility helicopters." Finally, he said, the Corps needs newer models of the reliable but aging KC-130 air refueling tanker.

As for the Marines' basic weapons, rifles and sidearms, Howell said he doesn't see any immediate need for replacements. "We're always looking at the latest developments, where maybe we could get a lighter weapon that's more lethal and more accurate," he said. "But the M-16 [rifle] and 9 mm [pistol] are good, reliable weapons."

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