This Picture (Plus F-35s) Is How the U.S. Marines Would Fight China in a War

This Picture (Plus F-35s) Is How the U.S. Marines Would Fight China in a War

David Axe


Getting firepower to warzones at lightning speed.

Key Point: HIMARS packing new missiles could give the Corps a serious and survivable anti-ship capability. Adding F-35s could help the rockets strike with greater accuracy. And swiftly moving the launchers by air could protect them from counterattack … and keep the enemy guessing.

The U.S. Marine Corps is practicing a new method of speeding firepower across a war zone. And that could have big implications for America’s military strategy in the western Pacific.

On Dec. 7, 2018, Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 hauled two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers from Camp Pendleton in California to Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, where a war game was underway.

At least one of the 12-ton HIMARS, a wheeled vehicle that fires a variety of surface-to-surface rockets, rolled off its KC-130J transport, quickly fired a training rocket, then loaded back into the KC-130J for its return flight.

There’s a name for the practice of deploying a rocket launcher via aircraft, promptly firing then redeploying. The U.S. Army, which pioneered the method, calls it “HIMARS Rapid Infiltration” or HIRAIN.

Combined with other new tactics and new rockets, HIRAIN could allow U.S. force to quickly position long-range artillery, frustrating an enemy’s own movements. The method might even allow American troops to impede China’s expansion in the western Pacific.

Beijing considers the string of islands stretching from Japan south to The Philippines — what it calls the “first island chain” — to be China’s historical sphere of influence. The Chinese Communist Party uses trade deals, diplomacy and the threat of military force to exert influence over the region and, in the event of war, could seize many islands along the chain.

The Pentagon aims to complicate this expansion. While air and sea forces are central to American strategy in the region, ground troops could play a role, too. Retired U.S. Army general H.R. McMaster, who briefly served as Pres. Donald Trump’s national security advisor, said he wanted the Army to consider “projecting power outwards from the land.”

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