A Dedicated Air Element For MARSOC?

Editor of sister site Kit Up!, Christian Lowe forwarded me this quote he got from the commander of all Marine forces on the East Coast, Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik during a press briefing in Washington yesterday. Basically, Marine Special Operations Command, the amphibious service’s special ops corpus that’s set to expand in the coming years, may someday have its own air element.

When you look at MARSOC today … the Commandant of the Marine Corps has embraced MARSOC and that’s a term we use: “we’re going to embrace MARSOC” — they will be plussed up we’re still looking at that with the fisrig (Force Structure Review Group) but right now it’s right around 1,000. Someday I personally and professionally think that someday they will have air assets like a MagTaf. I firmly believe that. That will take some time just because of the cost and the war we’re in right now. But that’s where I see them going.

Apparently, the three-star didn’t elaborate on when a MARSOC air element would be stood up, how big it will be and what types of aircraft and missions it will perform for the Corps’ special operators.

If you look at the current USMC aviation inventory, it’s already pretty well suited to support a special ops cadre: It’s got MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors which are very similar to Air Force Special Operations Command’s CV-22 troop haulers. The Corps also has its new UH-1Ys that could be used as a light version of the MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators flown by the Army’s 119 Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Heck, the Marines even have KC-130 Hercules tankers capable of air-to-air refueling rotary-wing birds; including the Ospreys.  Some of those Herks have even been armed under the Harvest Hawk program, making them light-versions of AFSOC’s legendary AC-130 gunships.

I’e got to say, it will be interesting to see if the Corps tried to purchase a dedicated fixed-wing assault plane similar to the Embraer Super Tucano that supports Navy SEALs via the Imminent Fury program.

Now, standing up a special ops aviation unit will take years of training and may pull badly needed aviation assets away from the rest of the Corps; something that may meet resistance during a time of reduced budgets. Some may even insist that the Corps rely on its existing aviation elements or use the assets of AFSOC and other SOCOM entities. We’ll see what happens.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001038242731 Stephen N Russell

    Needed long overdue, proven since WW2 MC air power to Today. Same for MSSOC.

  • N P

    We’ll (the Corps) probably just use existing assets considering how budget crunched we always are. As for the super tucano, I think we’d be more likely to use the AT-6B/C since the entire training fleet is about to finished with their conversion. The AT-6B/C would be more cost effective with part interchangeability as well as a greater amount of pilots to draw from and less of a cost to train them for the missions they may encounter.

  • Solomon

    the good general has lost his mind.

    not even looking at the specifics of his plan but how does a nation afford a Special Operations Command that is almost as large as the entire British Army?

    when the bean counters come, they should take a real close look at Special Operations.

  • moose

    SEALs don’t need their own pocket aviation wing, they do quite well with HSC-84 and 160th SOAR giving them rides. The USMC could stand to supply a SOC aviation element to add to the units JSOC has available, but I don’t think they need one specifically for MARSOC.

  • http://twitter.com/Earlydawn @Earlydawn

    Here’s a thought; why not centralize SOCOM air assets, instead of spreading them organizationally throughout the entire military? The costs of, say, a light COIN wing would probably be far more acceptable if they were serving Rangers, SEALs, Special Forces, MARSOC, and AFSOC full-time.

    It seems like the Marines want to do everything outside of the scope of joint operations. They need their independent expeditionary capability, don’t get me wrong, but it’s getting a little crazy. I can accept that they need independent air power to support amphibious assault, but now they have their own little version of SOCOM that tries to do almost everything - direct action, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare..

    • Dan

      Well what do you expect when the Secretary of Defense calls them a second land army and there are talks about cuttin the Marines? They need to push their abilities and prove their worth constantly.

  • SJE

    While I understand the benefits of having equipment optimized for different uses, does every branch and sub-branch need an entire force of its own dedicated equipment? The marines as a force have more ships, aircraft and equipment than most entire militaries.

    The concern is not just cost, but flexibility in use of assets. Also cohesion among the branches: do you want to have a completely separate “republican guard”?

    • blight

      And a paramilitary Secret Service Presidential Security Detachment, augmented by the MSC-CD as the Special Republican Guard.

  • Oblat

    The marine mantra is - ‘and every girl can have a magic unicorn.’

    Classic example of how organizations that have no real role make personal empire building their primary mission.

  • GunnyJames

    Specialization is the reason for the dedication of any asset. It would not be cost-effective, and result in higher training casuties. to train all helo pilots in the night flying, nap of the earth level of the 160th SOAR. Like wise with other fixed-wing assets. By experience, AF pilots seem to consider close air support (CAS) to be anything below 5000 feet, while Naval Aviators (USN & USMC) KNOW CAS is anything down to 500 feet. If you open these special skills for rotation outside the SOC community, you’ll dilute the skill level in the community. and perpetually be training new guys. ==Gunny J

    • SJE

      You don’t have to have everyone at the same skill level as MARSOC etc. However, you should increase the skill set among pilots outside of SOC, not only to improve support within their current branch, but to support SOC etc when necessary. e.g. if an SOC helo crashes, are you going to wait for another SOC helo to replace it, or can you use other assets.

      The AF reluctantance to do true CAS supports this point. AF wants its pilots to be high in the sky and safe from everything, leaving infantry poorly supported. AF pilots should include true CAS or, if not, get out of the business, and let the Army also fly fixed wing planes: A10, C130, and whatever they feel like. Some time doing CAS might get the AF to realize that the military is not just about flying around in expensive toys.

      • SJE

        How about a C-23 with a ball turret and chain gun, and miniguns on pintle mounts? Not every situation requires an AC130, which has the firepower of several heavlily armored vehicles on one platform.

  • jamesb


    Before and rioght after 9/11 the Marines didn’t want anything to do with Special Ops….
    They where one for all ooufit….

    Now they want ‘dedicated’ air assets for their Spec Operators, huh?

    You go where the action….
    And the money is ……

    Like the dog robbers from the air force with C-27J….
    Someone should remind them…
    The Army Spec helo drivers have this mission….

  • jamesb

    sorry about the spelling….
    right after….


  • majrod

    “In business, empire-building is demonstrated when individuals or small groups attempt to gain control over key projects and initiatives in order to maximize job security and promotability. Project leadership hoards potential credit and prestige the project can produce. This sort of behaviour is supposed to be stopped by upper management but is nevertheless very common.

    In an organization, empire-building can also be demonstrated when an individual or small group eagerly and proactively suggests and pursues functions, activities or projects that are of questionable value to try to to enhance legitimacy and future value. Pursuit of these activities is initially done at little or no marginal cost, but later the activities are used to justify increased resource allocation, being part of the organizational status quo, and thus the individual or group’s overall command of resources, and influence, increases.” (Paraphtrased from wiki)

    There you have it…

  • Steve B

    The Army got the job because of a little botched job in the Iranian desert some years ago. Now they want to go back to doing crap the way it used to be? meh

  • John W.

    We don’t have the unlimited resources we once had or thought we had. We are going to have to learn how to coordinate joint operations and make use of the assets on hand. the more special units you make, the more difficult it gets to coordinate their actions, weapon types, and tactics. Each unit has its assigned mission and they don’t need to copy another units baggage.

    Special Forces “Delta Force”
    Navy Seals, AF commandoes, Marine SOC, hey someone tell them that you won’t be so special if we train everyone the same way. Which is impossible….

    De Oppresso Liber, if it ain’t broke leave it alone!

    • SJE

      Agreed, but its not just about weapons, but about military culture. Each branch should be able to rely on the other branches for their expertise, with only limited duplication, and learn to work together as one. The current set up sounds like it is being driven by beauracratic forces, with each General/Admiral etc fighting for his turf and power, instead of getting the job done.

      We should focus on the best way to deliver a bullet into a bad guy, instead of fighting over whose gun is doing the shooting.

  • SSgt. Yut!

    Bring back the OV-10 Bronco’s!

  • jamesb

    and give them to Army!

    Not the Air Force!

    And…..He, he, he….
    Gates is gone right?

    Give the Army the C-27J back!!!!!

    • SJE

      Exactly: a weaponized C27, or an OV10 with a ball turret, and get more of them to support squads on the ground. There are only so many C130Js, they are more expensive to run, and you don’t need their firepower all the time.

  • blight

    Feels like how GM had dozens of marques cranking out essentially similar cars. Next thing you know, the Air Force is fielding armor brigades and the Army will have surface warfare combatants.

    Navy needs to rein in the Marines before they start losing pie…

    • Riceball

      Well, the Germans did do that during WW II. Because of all of the petty infighting within the German military the Luftwaffe actually had their own Panzer division, the Hermann Goering Division. From what I’ve read it wasn’t a second rate unit either, they were actually equipped with first rate tanks like Tigers.

  • Skysoldier173

    I think it makes sense. Marines are on ships near hot spots, why not have a Spec Op aviation wing, like the 160 SOAR? Getting them in and out of tight spots you need to train together, get it right. The Corps should have additional CAS besides the Harrier. Those OV-10’s are sitting, gathering dust.

  • chartercollege

    It was stated intially that MARSOC would be supported by their own air assets. It does not have an air component. Elements of MARSOC will still deploy with MEUs