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North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members maintain amphibious capabilities that provide versatile and responsive forces for crisis response and national defense. Like the posture of other military capabilities within the Alliance, NATO's collective amphibious force posture depends primarily on the sum of individual national developments. In light of these developments, this Perspective examines the past, present, and future of NATO's amphibious forces. Both the historical and recent employment of these forces offer pertinent lessons for unlocking the full potential of amphibious forces and reimagining operational concepts to address the evolving threat landscape in a new era of great power competition. Even as NATO leaders focus on evolving their amphibious forces to address emerging threats, it is important that they sustain the demonstrated value of these capabilities for baseline activities and crisis response. A visible and aggressive amphibious exercise program advances Alliance objectives by improving key military capabilities, reassuring Alliance members and partners, and demonstrating military strength to potential adversaries.

In the course of this research, RAND investigators identified several lines of effort that should be pursued to advance NATO's amphibious capabilities. First, the Alliance should develop a comprehensive concept paper that articulates the value, capability, and principles for employing its amphibious capabilities. Next, the Alliance should continue to evolve its brigade and multi-brigade capabilities. Finally, it is important that NATO members with amphibious capabilities collaboratively explore new concepts and promising technologies, such as long-range precision fires and unmanned systems.

This research was sponsored by U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa and conducted within the Navy and Marine Forces Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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