Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Syria this week, along with M777 Howitzers armed with 155 millimeter explosive shells.  Their presence is intended to bolster the coalition of militias, collectively referred to as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as they continue their offensive to take ISIS’ self-declared capital, Raqqa.

While the Pentagon has not officially confirmed the arrival of the Marines, multiple defense officials have anonymously corroborated reports of hundreds of Marines arriving with their highly-mobile artillery platforms in tow.

According to reports, the Marines are already pre-positioning the M777 Howitzers in strategic locations to assist in the fight for Raqqa.  The thirty-five-foot-long Howitzers are capable of firing as many as five explosive artillery shells per minute at targets within approximately twenty miles.  Modified Excalibur models have a maximum range of twenty-five miles, but it has yet to be confirmed which model M777 the Marines have with them in Syria.

The Marines are not the only U.S. forces to arrive in Syria as local forces prepare to take the fight to the ISIS capital; as Jack Murphy reported earlier this week, Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment have also been spotted in the area, traveling via Stryker armored vehicles en route to Manbij.