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Fire for Effect!

Its a debate that's been raging since the early 1990s one that pits American Sailors against their Marine brethren.

As the last of the Navys battleships was put into mothballs in 1992, the Corps increased its plea for a replacement of the venerable 16-inch guns that, since WWII, had softened the enemy before storming ashore. But the Navy has spent billions on aircraft carriers and cruise missile ships, largely ignoring a combat capability it sees as a relic of a bygone era.

These days, the Marines have the puny 5 guns of the Navys destroyer and cruiser fleet to guard their backs and soften up targets a gun that at 13 nautical miles range, barely touches the lethality of the retired battleships arsenal.

But soon there could be hope. After years of back and forth, the Navy now seems serious about developing - and paying for an advanced cannon round that can support Marines ashore with volume fires from their 5 gun-equipped ships.

Built with guidance fins, a GPS-enabled seeker head and a rocket motor to launch the round higher, the Extended Range Guided Munition can hit targets farther away from shore more accurately than todays 5 ammo.

Using the Raytheon-developed ERGM, the Navy hopes to reach out and touch bad guys from at least 43 miles. Thats nearly double the range of a battleships guns, which put warheads on foreheads at 24 miles.

But dont get your hopes up Devil Dog. This has been a constant tug-of-war between the Marines and Navy since the decommissioning of the battleships in the early 1990s. The Navy loves its planes and long-range missile firing ships. Why isnt that enough fire support for Marines who rarely assault beaches these days?

But the Marines still want dependable volume fires in any weather. Cruise missiles and F-18s arent going to cut it when the sky turns into soup or a ships captain has to justify firing a $750,000 Tomahawk missile for covering fire to Marines in contact. Aint gonna happen.

The Navy may be stalling for the next-gen gun an electromagnetic rail gun to replace the 5-incher. But Marines need this support now, and its good to see the Navys starting to take this requirement seriously.

-- Christian

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