US Marines with Stinger Anti-aircraft Missiles Use Small Rubber Boats Near Japan

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kallahan Morris)

As part of its bold new distributed expeditionary warfare concept to take on China, U.S. Marines were seen deploying man-portable, shoulder launched, FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles aboard small rubber boats near Japan. The new tactics, which I have written about, require small teams of Marines to island hop by fast boats and helicopters to quickly launch anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles at the enemy, then rapidly redeploying elsewhere before being located and targeted.

This most recent example occurred during the Hagatna Fury 21 exercise that took place earlier this month on Okinawa, as well as Ukibaru, a smaller island nearby. As The Drive notes, the exercises:

…involved mock airmobile assaults, utilizing CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, as well as the forces in the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC), a type of small, inflatable rubber watercraft. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, presently assigned to 3rd Marine Division in Japan, part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), was the main unit taking part in the training. 

The CRCCs, may or may not be suitable for actually firing the Stingers (it is yet to be determined), but will allow them to be quickly deployed ashore without the need for larger beach landing ships or helicopters.

According to the Marine Corps: “The exercise demonstrated that Marines are capable of seizing, defending, and providing expeditionary sustainment for key maritime terrain in support of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.” In regular English this means they can quickly take small islands to use as bases for other combat operations.

It should be noted that  back in the 1980s we had a rubber boat infantry raiding company aboard the Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEU-SOC) deployed to the Pacific. The other two primary infantry companies were helicopter assault (my company) and amphibious tractors (AMTRACS). But these rubber boats have gained new-found respect by the Marines, even before the latest focus on distributed operations.

In 2017, notes The Drive, the Corps was already talking about future operations involving swarms of small boats. Now-retired Marine Corps Major General David Coffman, then the Navy’s director for expeditionary warfare,  said then: “That’s part of how you counter the peer threat: ‘I’ll out-asymmetric you.’”

Coffman added: “The Marine Corps largely got out of what we call itty bitty boats … the commandant wants us to get back in the boat business. He’s recognizing he needs to distribute his force and be able to move in smaller discrete elements and different ways.”

As to the Stinger missiles being used, The Drive adds:

The FIM-92 is a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking, surface-to-air missile, also known as a Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS), that is designed primarily to engage low-flying targets, including fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and drones. In recent years, improved versions of the missile have been developed that offer improved capabilities against smaller unmanned aerial vehicles, which present a very real threat already and will only become more of a challenge to U.S. military operations…

Expect to see lots more Marines with portable missiles aboard ‘itty bitty boats’ throughout the Western Pacific, especially near China, in the months to come.

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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Jonathan shirer
Jonathan shirer
8 months ago

Great idea. So why are we telling the enemy?

Otto Zeit
Otto Zeit
8 months ago

Because “the enemy” monitors our military exercises.  There’s no point in trying to keep it under wraps – they already know. 

Herbert G. Chapman
Herbert G. Chapman
8 months ago
Reply to  Otto Zeit

Ya, that what all the chines are doing in our collages .

Herbert G. Chapman
Herbert G. Chapman
8 months ago

Because we need to let the enemy know where we are going to strike so they will not lose a man and we will. Besides you can’t keep news away from the media, They have their rights you know. Not only that , it makes Biden look like he knows what he’s doing .

Michael
Michael
7 months ago

Good response! Very interesting tactics.

Jerald Nott
Jerald Nott
7 months ago

This was first done during World War Two with PT boats, of which John F. Kennedy was a captain.

Invictus
Invictus
7 months ago
Reply to  Jerald Nott

Not quite this.

Floyd Hodgins
Floyd Hodgins
8 months ago

Paul Crespo is great. Keep up the informative honest reporting.

Brindley
Brindley
8 months ago

I would prefer that you not broadcast our capabilities so freely and openly. Remember: Walls have lips and lose lips sink ships! Bravo to our great Marines and Military! Blessings to them each and every day!

William Westmoreland
William Westmoreland
8 months ago

Very interesting read. Like your site.

Robert Sohn
Robert Sohn
8 months ago

Thank you for the update. The U.S. marines definitely need every strategic advantage to take down enemy aircraft to protect their own and defend U.S. interests. God bless.

Charles Martel
Charles Martel
8 months ago

“The boat business” is why they’re called ‘Marines.’ This story reminds me of the story of Washington’s Cruisers in the early days of the Revolutionary War for Independence. Gen. George Washington went to the Continental Congress for an appropriation for muskets, rifles, powder and ball for the troops, and was turned down. He said to his men “All we have left is an appeal to heaven,” and a new battle flag was created with that slogan below a pine tree. Then Washington got together whatever rowboats, fishing boats, etc. he could find, and used them to successfully attack a British supply ship in the harbor, capturing more muskets, powder and ball than the colonies could have possibly produced in an entire year. So now our U.S. Marines have come full circle!

Elvis
Elvis
7 months ago

We have had high level personal telling them a lot more than that for years. Isn’t that correct Admiral Kirby.

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