The late General Omar Bradley, a famed and highly distinguished commander within the U.S. Army, oversaw combat operations during World War II, in Africa, Europe (including the  D-Day invasion), and finally during the Korean War. Without question, he was a great leader who knew what it took to keep his soldiers moving forward and winning. It then was highly fitting for him to state these famous words: “Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.”

As the clouds of war gather, the U.S. faces the elephant (or shall I say dragon) in the room, the conventional military strength of Communist China. Whether the U.S. engaged in a protracted or short, sharp engagement with the Chinese military, U.S. forces would face a steep logistical challenge, while China would have a home-field advantage. To make matters worse, any combat operations and their requisite resupply would have to take place under a constant threat of deadly cruise missile attacks and rocket bombardment.

While there are no easy answers, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been preparing for this contingency. Smaller, highly mobile, forward-deployed groups of missile-carrying Marines are at the heart of their new strategy. These Marines will be charged with sinking Chinese naval vessels and destroying their forward-based infrastructure on their manmade islands.

The In-Theater Chinese Missile Threat

While the Marines and the Navy have been reorganizing to confront an increasingly belligerent China, the Chinese military has been very busy as well. They have been modernizing their army, drastically increasing their Navy, and producing and fielding many missiles. In 2021, China’s rocket force had approximately 1,950 rockets.

china Missiles
From Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project, by Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2017. In the public domain.

By 2022, this number had grown to 3,150 (Panella, 2024). Specifically, their short—medium—and intermediate-range ballistic missile stocks have doubled during this time. The Department of Defense’s information displayed in the following table (Panella, 2024) demonstrates this.

This massive increase in missiles enables the Chinese rocket force to create and sustain an umbrella under which any large U.S. naval vessel or military base is susceptible to crippling damage. Therefore, for any U.S. naval operations in response to an attack on a regional ally to have a reasonable chance of avoiding being hit or sunk, the U.S. Navy would have to keep its aircraft carriers (or any large vessel) outside of an arc that runs east of Japan and south of the large New Guinea islands.

missile chart

Operating Under China’s Missile Umbrella

Presently, the Navy and Marine Corps have the most well-defined and implemented plan for a scenario that calls for a direct confrontation with the military forces of China. This plan is collectively known as Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). Within this plan, the Marines have reshuffled at least two infantry regiments, now termed Marine Littoral Regiments (MLR).