The Marine Corps' 1st New Littoral Regiment Will Be Headquartered in Japan

U.S. Marines during a simulated amphibious assault at exercise Talisman Sabre 19.
U.S. Marines assess a terrain map during a simulated amphibious assault of exercise Talisman Sabre 19 in Bowen, Australia, July 22, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Tanner D. Lambert)

The first of three new units the Marine Corps will design to fight in hotly contested maritime spaces will operate in the Asia-Pacific region, the service's top leader said this week.

Leaders are working through plans this year to stand up a new Marine littoral regiment, Commandant Gen. David Berger told reporters Wednesday. The MLR, as Berger calls it, will be a new naval expeditionary force formation based in Hawaii and will fall under the Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force.

"We are already convinced, based on war games and modeling so far, that we have a fairly good idea of what an MLR with [III Marine Expeditionary Force] ... could look like," Berger said.

The commandant's plan for the new regiment is part of a months-long force design, which was unveiled last month. The Marine Corps will not only stand up the new units, which will be organized, trained and equipped to accomplish sea denial and control, according to planning documents, but will also pivot away from longstanding missions.

Related: Commandant Says He Won't Force Out Marines as the Service Shrinks

By 2030, the Marine Corps will get rid of its tank battalions, scale back the number of infantry units it has, and cut tiltrotor, rotary and fixed-wing squadrons. The number of Marines on active duty will also fall by about 16,000 in the next decade.

The goal: To reinvest that money in areas that will help the Marine Corps take on China or other sophisticated adversaries in a naval environment.

In the last year, Berger said, the service has held experiments in which a new Marine littoral regiment lands somewhere with a Multiple Launch Rocket System. They've tested how the units can get firing data on targets it needs to engage before moving on somewhere else.

"We have to experiment ... to find out what the best way to build those forces are and what kinds of equipment they need," he said. "[That's] all in the mindset of they have to be capable, but they also have to be able to displace -- to be able to move.

"We can't make them so big and heavy that they can't get out of their own way."

As those experiments continue, Berger declined to provide specifics about when the first one will be activated, what types of Marines will be assigned to it, or what equipment they'll operate.

He said only that it will be a "a phased approach" -- first the formation will be built and then "capabilities flowed in."

In a 15-page memo on the Marine Corps' new force design, Berger called transforming the service's current formations essential. The first Marine littoral regiment will serve as an "initial formation" to new concepts," he wrote.

"Before we undertake an ambitious force wide transformation, we must validate our assumptions, wargame rigorously, pursue the necessary modeling, and ensure that our primary warfighting partner -- [Navy] Fleet Commanders -- share our conclusions."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the unit's planned headquarters and basing arrangement.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Marines to Shut Down All Tank Units, Cut Infantry Battalions in Major Overhaul

Story Continues