For years, confusion over the state of amphibious warships has caused headaches for both the US Navy and Marine Corps. Delays in deployments of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), the core of amphibious assault operations, became a recurring issue.

However, a new joint effort is being made to bring these two vital US military branches to the same page regarding ship readiness.

The root of the problem lies in a communication gap.

The Navy and Marines weren’t speaking the same language regarding how “mission-ready” a ship was. This led to mismatched expectations and logistical nightmares when planning deployments.

Standardizing Readiness: A Common Language for a Common Goal

A new era of clarity has finally set sail.

A recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines a standardized system for measuring the readiness of amphibious warships.

Now, as defined in the MOU signed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith on June 12, ships can be classified as fully mission-capable, mission-capable, partially mission-capable, or non-mission-capable.

This seemingly simple change is a game-changer, according to leadership from both branches.

Admiral Franchetti emphasized in a statement released last Monday (June 17) the importance of a well-coordinated Navy-Marine Corps team to “preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and win decisively in war.”

General Smith echoed this sentiment, highlighting the benefit for “all our Marines, Sailors, and the American people.”

Navy-Marine Corps MOU
Smith and Franchetti discuss the Navy-Marine Corps MOU, which clearly defines the readiness levels and availability of amphibious warships. (Screenshot)

A Clearer Picture for MEU Operations

The impact of this new system goes beyond improved communication.

The latest amphibious warfare ship MOU directly addresses the issues that have plagued recent MEU deployments.

The lack of readily available amphibious warships, particularly the large-deck ships crucial for carrying Marine helicopters and jets, threw deployment schedules into disarray.

For example, the 15th MEU’s deployment to the Western Pacific for key exercises like Cobra Gold in Thailand was split in two due to maintenance delays on the USS Boxer (LHD-4). This meant scrambling to adjust plans and potentially sacrificing valuable training opportunities.

Lt. General Karsten Heckl, the Marine Corps deputy commandant for combat development, attributed these problems to the lingering effects of long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We’ve ground our forces up pretty good,” Heckl said during a panel in May, “[…] and now we’re paying for it.”

The constant operational tempo took a toll on the Navy’s amphibious fleet, leading to a backlog of maintenance and a shortage of truly mission-ready ships.

While the new standardized readiness system won’t solve the maintenance backlog overnight, it’s a crucial step towards smoother deployments and a more effective amphibious warfare capability.

15th MEU
A Marine, assigned to VMM-165 (Reinforced) 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, mounts a .50-caliber machine gun aboard a CH-53E Super Stallion during aerial gunnery live-fire training in the Pacific Ocean June 24, 2024. (Image source: DVIDS)

The Navy and Marines can ensure their MEUs are ready to deploy as a cohesive unit by speaking the same language. This translates to a faster response time in crisis situations and a more credible deterrent to potential adversaries.

The agreement also paves the way for improved training opportunities.

With a clearer picture of ship availability, the Navy and Marines can tailor training exercises to maximize their effectiveness. This translates to a more skilled and confident force, ready to tackle any challenge that may arise.

You can check out the signed joint MOU here.

Closing Thoughts: A Stronger Partnership for a More Capable America

While challenges remain, the new MOU marks a significant step forward for the Navy-Marine Corps partnership. By working together and adopting a common language for ship readiness, these two vital branches are ensuring that America’s amphibious warfare capabilities remain a force to be reckoned with.

Disclaimer: SOFREP utilizes AI for image generation and article research. Occasionally, it’s like handing a chimpanzee the keys to your liquor cabinet. It’s not always perfect and if a mistake is made, we own up to it full stop. In a world where information comes at us in tidal waves, it is an important tool that helps us sift through the brass for live rounds.