By Motomatsu Takashi, former GSDF Western Army commander
The U.S. Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) are shifting away from large-scale landing operations, such as the Allied invasion of Normandy, and instead are taking up the concept of Stand-in Forces, in which small units of Marines equipped with fire power, agility, and relevant information are swiftly deployed and dispersed in the contested area for a limited time. These Marines will be tasked to maneuver boats and helicopters to advance and infiltrate areas under enemy fire and secure an outpost, remaining in position and preparing for the arrival of main Navy.
The Marine Corps is updating its combat principles based on its training exercises. The Resolute Dragon exercise was likely one of the opportunities to do this.
To strengthen the defense of the Nansei Islands, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has set up security units on Miyakojima Island (Okinawa Prefecture) and Amami Oshima island (Kagoshima Prefecture) that include anti-ship and anti-aircraft divisions. A plan is underway to establish a similar unit on Ishigaki island (Okinawa Prefecture).
In a contingency, these island units would formulate strategies and prepare for the arrival of rapid deployment regiments stationed outside of the prefecture. This function is similar to that of the EABO units.
Marine leadership probably is thinking of possible contingencies over Taiwan and the Nansei Islands. It is crucial that Japan and the United States deepen their strategic as well as tactical coordination of troops at each level to enhance the alliance’s deterrence and operational effectiveness. While the GSDF is tasked to focus on the defense of inhabited islands to protect lives of Japanese citizens, the Marines are capable of deploying more flexibly, including on uninhabited islets. Japan and the United States should collect and share a wide range of information, such as potential targets, so that multitiered firepower can be applied to crush enemy forces.
In the future, I expect the Japanese and U.S. forces to give logistical support to each other in fuel and ammunition. The allies can ensure more effective countermeasures by looking beyond firepower and deepening coordination with the GSDF’s Cross-Domain Operations, which include electromagnetic and cyber domains.