The Royal Marine Commandos are changing.

The Royal Navy is getting two new aircraft carriers, and thus an expanded need for an organic force capable of Maritime interdiction operations (MIO), Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS), and personnel recovery (PR).

To assume this task, 42 Commando has reorganized as a Maritime Operations Commando (MOC).  With around 400 men, its tasks will expand beyond normal fleet protection and transcend into the specialized realm of maritime counter-terrorism (MCT).

MCT has been hitherto an SBS and, to a lesser extent, an SAS boat troop niche.

The Royal Marines are an amphibious light infantry force.  Organised in the 3 Commando Brigade, they are famous for their difficult selection process and arctic and mountain warfare capabilities.  Royal Marines were pivotal in the recapture of the Falklands and saw extensive service in Afghanistan.

The SBS used to belong to the Royal Marines.  And for many years only Marines could undertake its severe selection course and serve within its ranks.  In 2001, however, that changed in a reorganisation of UK SOF.  Since then, the SAS and SBS share a selection process, and recruits come from all branches of the military.

The recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have highlighted the need for specialized forces capable of undertaking counter-terrorism missions, whether on land or sea.

And 42 Commando’s new role seems to be a response to that threat.  In a leaked memo, the Commandant of the Royal Marines said that the new unit “will focus on maritime interdiction and boarding operations [and] will also provide our core contribution to UK domestic operations in response to a terrorist event.”