WASHINGTON -- The "seabasing" capability being developed for the Marine Corps will enable the service to deploy 15,000 troops anywhere in the world in as little as 10 to 12 days, according to the commandant of the Marine Corps.
"And when you are able to respond that fast, it is going to change the calculus of the battlefield," Gen. Michael W. Hagee explained during an interview with the Pentagon Channel.
The concept, expected to be in full swing within the next 10 to 15 years, involves pre-positioning ships with critical wartime assets. In the event of an operation, the Marines would fly directly to the ships and begin preparations.
"We'll do the rehearsal, the arrival (and) assembly at sea, and then launch them to wherever they need to go," Gen. Hagee said. "It is essentially using the sea as maneuver space."
This will significantly reduce the time it takes to deploy Marines to operations, whether they're major combat operations or humanitarian relief efforts, the general said.
"For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, we put about 60,000 to 70,000 Marines and sailors into Kuwait, with all their equipment, ready to cross the line of departure (into Iraq) in less than 60 days," he said.
Despite that impressive speed, which Gen. Hagee said "no one else in the world" can match, seabasing will make deployments even faster.
"With seabasing, we will be able to put 15,000 Marines and sailors anywhere in the world in 10 to 12 days," he said. "We can't do that today, but ... between 2015 and 2020, we are going to be able to do that."
Seabasing will eliminate the need for a land base when conducting military operations. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Marines used Kuwait as their initial ground base to launch their operations.
"If, in 2020, we had to do Operation Iraqi Freedom," Gen. Hagee said, "ships would come into the (Persian) Gulf, we'd do the arrival and assembly at sea, (and) the Marines would launch - instead of from Kuwait, from the sea base - directly into ... Iraq."
The ability to respond more quickly to operations or contingencies can have a big impact on how they proceed, the commandant said. "You might be able to get there so quickly that you may not need large follow-on forces," he said.
"At the same time, you keep your footprint very small ashore," Hagee said, reducing the likelihood of force-protection problems and better recognizing the host country's autonomy.
"What we want to do is erase that line between the sea and land," the commandant said. "That's the vision."