With sequestration and whatnot, the US Navy is suffering for resources. So it's getting creative. Creative like launching drones off aircraft carriers? Well, yes, actually — but it gets more exciting than that. The US Marines might soon start fighting pirates.
Foreign Policy reports that the Marine Corps is considering a new strategy of deployment involving ships parked off the coast, in what's known as the littoral zone. This is made infinitely easier with the advent of the Osprey, an aircraft that can fly like a plane in the air but take off and land like a helicopter. Pirates make a likely target for the new approach. There are a dwindling number of them, and a confrontation would amount to pretty low-intensity combat experience. FP's Dan Lamothe describes the shift:
The plan comes as the Marine Corps withdraws thousands of personnel from Afghanistan and realign forces for new missions across the globe, including in Africa. They will do so at a time when there are fewer Navy ships available than there has been in decades, forcing Marines to use the ships available in unconventional ways. In other words: this isn't the deployment of a single group of Marines; this could be a model for how the entire Corps operates for years to come.
Of course, the Marine Corps is also going to help local governments and security forces to take care of themselves. After all, aspokesman told FP that Africa needs "comprehensive, inter-agency and multi-national approaches and collaboration with industry." And the Marines are taking a similar approach in other regions, like the Middle East and Caribbean.
If the shift really is as big as FP makes it sound, it could still be quite a while before we see Marines swashbuckling. That is, if we see them swashbuckle at all. Fighting pirates nowadays isn't quite the same as it used to be. [@NoahShachtman/FP]
Picture: Flickr / expertinfantry