All posts in “The Maritime Strategy”

Sea-Based BMD — Another Successful Test

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source:


Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2).  The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol.  Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via

The Naval Operations Concept 2010 — Implementing the Maritime Strategy

Click on the image to download the NOC


Three years ago this coming October the new maritime strategy (“A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”) was published to some acclaim and much criticism. The new maritime strategy proposed a sea-change in missions and direction of the maritime services (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) in light of the emerging post-Cold War world. Leading the way was the signatory statement that “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars” which sets the tone for what followed. 

And what followed was a list of strategic imperatives that included the traditional (limit regional conflict, deter major war, etc.) and new (foster and sustain cooperative relationships, prevent/contain local disruptions, etc.) and laid out the capabilities necessary to to execute those imperatives. The one thing that was missing was a companion document that laid out how this strategic vision would (1) be operationalized and (2) be equipped to carry out these missions. In other words — a naval operations concept or NOC. To be sure, since 2002 the Navy has had a NOC in one form or another, but it was hamstrung by a lack of a new maritime strategy. Thus, when the new maritime strategy came out, it was with some relief and anticipation that we learned a NOC would be not far behind. And so we waited. 

And waited. And waited. 

Being one of the more vocal critics of the apparent lack of progress (especially frustrating since I’d seen advanced drafts as well as having a historical piece of the document) I note it’s arrival on the scene late yesterday. Where the Maritime Strategy was a relatively short 15 or so pages, the NOC is a meatier 112, including Annexes. With detailed chapters on such topics as forward presence, sea control, power projection, deterrence, it promises to be a deep read (and likely focus of most of my energies as part of my daytime job). I will especially be interested in the discussion on the sea as maneuver space (given a certain project am currently engaged with), the discussion of the relationship of the NOC (actually called NOC 10) and the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation process as well as the chapter I’m sure most of DC will dive right to today — Chapter 10, Force Structure, for that was one of the main criticisms of the Maritime Strategy – the lack of an accompanying force structure document. 

Stay tuned to these spaces as I’m sure the discussion will be animated in the days that follow. In the meantime, let me leave you with these opening statements: 

“The basic premise of our newly published Maritime Strategy is that the United States is a force for good int he world — that while we are capable of launching a clinched fist when we must — offering the hand of friendship is also an essential and prominent tool in our kit. That premise flows from the belief that preventing wars means we don’t have to win wars.” — General James T. Conway, USMC 

“We do more than respond; we prevent. In our Maritime Strategy we state that we believe that it is just as important to prevent wars as it is to win wars. That is done through our worldwide presence; our well-trained Sailors, and our very capable ships, airplanes, and submarines.” — Admiral Gary Roughead, USN 

“The Coast Guard completely subscribes to this strategy. It reinforces the Coast Guard Strategy for Safety, Security, and Stewardship and it reflects not only the global reach of our maritime services, but the need to integrate, synchronize and act with coalition and international partners to not only win wars — but to prevent wars.” — Admiral Thad W. Allen, USCG

(crossposted at USNI blog)

Thoughts on ‘A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower’ Two Year’s Later: Author’s Response

Bryan McGrath, lead author of CS21 (as it is coming to be called in shorthand) stopped by in the comments section in the previous post to leave the commentary now shown below.  I opted (head nod to Peter S. per our earlier discussion) to elevate it to a post of its own for wider dissemination and comment.  Bryan makes some good points, especially where the two other missing pieces are concerned and some interesting revelations as to what he expected to follow from the influence of CS21 in the form of actual metal.  On the whole, I think we’re in pretty violent agreement about many items.  One in particular is where we go from here.  The next couple of years are going to be crucial ones for Navy.  If one of the unwritten intents of  CS21 was to build an advocacy for the Navy and naval forces for the long view, mindful of the prolonged land engagement(s) we have been and look to continue conducting, and that constituency is primarily outside Navy (e.g., the public and Congress), then there needs to be some serious effort applied by senior leadership to revitalizing that advocacy, especially on the Hill where the initial offering two years ago was received with, well, lukewarm (to put it charitably) enthusiasm.  In light of an ongoing failure to produce the other legs of the stool, as Bryan points out, and with diminished expectations for budgetary relief, Navy needs to revitalize the advocacy, fleshing it out with supporting force structure and operationalization documentation and re-engage the Hill. I’m hearing that CNO recently signed out the Naval Strategic Planning Guidance, and if so, that’s a first step. I’d give CS21, in its present form,  about two more years of potential worth in this regard but if the other parts don’t come through, then the strategy’s relevancy and potential to influence, shape and form the operations and force structure of future naval forces will rapidly  fade away. – SJS

Many thanks to Steeljaw Scribe for getting the discussion started here.  Several weeks ago, he reached out to me to see if I wanted to collaborate on some kind of a two-year retrospective in view of the second birthday of CS21; I declined, fearing that I was simply too close to the subject to be objective (which may now be confirmed with this post).  As some may know, my last tour on active duty was to lead the team that put together the document, a tour I found fascinating and rewarding, mostly for the incredible quality of people I came to be associated with both inside the strategy team and in the broader, Newport and DC based strategy communities.

Steeljaw poses three interesting questions, but they are questions I am largely unqualified to answer, as thorough answers (in my estimation) presuppose in-depth knowledge of the Navy’s plans for POM12.  POM12 represents the first concerted effort on the Navy’s part to program in the guidance set in CS21, buttressed by the presence of a CNO no longer in the first months of his job trying to find his way.  I suspect if CS21 is going to have any influence, it will be reflected in POM12.

I make this statement largely due the lack of–as Steeljaw reminds us–the accompanying parts of what VADM John Morgan used to refer to as “the strategy layer-cake”, which consisted of:  the strategy itself,  how it would be implemented (the NOC) and the resources required (a revision to the 30 year shipbuilding plan).  Put another way, our three-legged stool is missing two of the three legs.  This represents an institutional and bureaucratic decision on the Navy’s part, and understandably serves to open up the one extant document to legitimate criticism.  It does not however, obviate either the thinking that went into the strategy or the shifts that it portends.

I ask critics of the strategy a simple question; when you criticize the THINKING and the concepts of the strategy, what are you comparing it to?  Exactly what did it replace?  Prior to October 2007, what was the Navy’s strategy? Come on now–one or two sentences.  I think most folks who’ve read the current strategy can cite some version of the following–that there is a global system of trade, finance, information, etc that works to the benefit of the people of the US and other nations who participate in it, and that US Seapower–increasingly in a cooperative fashion–plays a unique and critical role in the protection and sustainment of that system.  There you have it.  Again–someone suggest in a sentence or two what it replaced.

Moreover, the strategy suggests a shift from the last named strategy of the 80′s–which was clearly postured for the strategic offense–to a posture of the strategic defense–defense of the global system.  It is a strategy of consolidation and defense.  It is the strategy of a status quo power seeking to protect and extend its position within the global system.  It answers the question “why do we need those ships strung out all over the world?”  Previously, the answer was some version of “well, security and stability”, which always begged the question as to why nations in that region couldn’t do it themselves.  The answer of course, is that they can’t, at least not without our help.  And that inability threatens the health and welfare of the increasingly interconnected world.  Put another way, the global system demands the presence of the US Navy–just as it demanded the presence of the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy.

While I have little insight into OPNAV’s plans in POM 12, I can quite readily suggest how I thought CS21 would change the Navy.  Firstly, I believe that CS21 represents a growth strategy for the Navy, and that as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan exact their toll on the national will, it would provide the intellectual basis for an expansion of the Navy.  We didn’t set out to make a strategy to grow the Navy–as a matter of fact, in one of my first days in the job, I asked the question bluntly of VADM Morgan…”what if our deliberations lead us to believe that the proper course is for a smaller Navy”.  “Write that strategy” was his answer.

With respect to specifics–I suspected that the strategy would 1) lead to the design of a small, lightly armed, mass produced surface vessel with considerable endurance that would serve as the backbone of the “globally distributed mission tailored forces” mentioned in the document and 2) MIGHT lead to a decision to move away from the DDX–as budget realities and operational requirements would eventually pit it against the CGX, a ship more attuned to the expanded concept of deterrence mentioned in the strategy and 3) (most regrettably) would lead to a loss of carrier force structure.  Cutting carrier force structure seems odd in a “growth strategy”, but reading the tea leaves, I believed some portion of that growth would have to come from within, and power projection and strike did not receive the same level of emphasis as in past strategic documents. In general, I thought we’d see additional investment on the low-low end (small combatants and riverine) and the high-high end (CGX and missile defense).

Second, I thought that the process that went into the production of CS 21 would be a repeatable part of the Navy’s strategic planning process; that is, I thought (and advocated) that CS21 ought to be reviewed–that’s right–as part of every POM process to make sure we got the entering presumptions right.

Third, I believed that CS21 would add some weight to the Navy’s push to raise the prominence of its Language Skills, Regional Expertise and Cultural Awareness programs.  I believed these competencies would be critical to a Navy out operating independently (but cooperatively) in places it wasn’t used to operating.

Fourth, I believed that CS21 would resonate with friends, allies and partners alike, letting them know that not only were they important to us but that they were a critical part of our strategy. I believed that this emphasis would be recognized and acted upon by them.

Fifth, I believe the strategy presented the Chinese with an interesting dilemma; do they get with the program, recognize that the global system in place handsomely rewards their people, and pony up to the responsibilities of a first-rate nation in terms of contributing to that system’s protection and sustainment, or do they remain neo-mercantilist free-riders, fattening their coffers due in no small part to the largess of the US Navy (and subject to its continued forbearance).  While we did not name the Chinese in the document, we knew they’d read themselves into it.

I leave it up to others to determine how much of what I believed would be the legacy of CS21 has come to fruition.  I hope this has been helpful to those interested in this matter, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on what I’ve said.

Crossposted at Information Dissemination and USNI blog.

‘A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower’ Two Years Later: Three Questions

Maritime Strategy coverTwo years ago this week, the CNO, CMC and USCG Commandant released the naval services’ new maritime strategy – A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, at the International Seapower Symposium being hosted by the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The release of a new maritime strategy was significant given the length of time, post-Cold War, the naval services in general – and the Navy in particular, had planned, budgeted and operated without one.  To be sure, there were iterations and evolutionary versions that followed the seminal 1980’s strategy that called for a 500 (later 600) ship navy to take the fight to the Soviet Union, but for the most part they were a ‘check-in-the-box’ and left on the shelf to collect dust.  In fact, during the earlier part of this decade, we were personally told on more than one occasion (forcefully and with exasperation at times) by senior Navy leadership that a new strategy was no longer required as we had moved beyond that and had Seapower 21 to guide our way.  Selah.

Mid-decade though, that began to change with new leadership and a growing realization that new constructs and approaches would be required in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world.  Beginning with open and closed sessions with strategists, planners and “thinkers” drawn from across public and private enterprise, in venues reaching from local to national and international, a small team of planners, thinkers and writers – operators all, began to build the new strategy.

The new strategy was released with a fair degree of fanfare and was greeted with somewhat mixed reception, ranging from the enthusiastic to mildly curious and in some quarters, generally dismissive (some examples here, here, here and especially here).  The blogsphere, especially the naval blogsphere that has evolved, was no less silent.  Writing extensively and critically, the blogs pried deeper into the nuances of the strategy, seeking fuller meaning of the principles therein.  Galrahn, CDR Salamander and here as well, all devoted considerable column inch space to various aspects (and in some cases, opened our pages to direct response from the lead author of the strategy) of the strategy.

While there were compliments, there were also many concerns aired – chief of which went to the heart of strategy, the linking of ends and means.  To wit, the new maritime strategy, while making bold declarations (and what could be more bold in the post-Cold War era than the opening statement “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars”?), the maritime strategy fell short in lacking an accompanying force structure plan and means to operationalize the strategy (e.g., a naval operating concept or NOC).  Both, we were promised, would be forthcoming “soon” (although the former, perforce, had to be classified).

Two years on there has been neither and this in turn has prompted further concerns over naval vision and strategic direction.  On the one hand, there has continued to be considerable drum-pounding, using the maritime strategy as justification or rational for any one of a number of actions, planned or as crisis response.  Certainly the PA aspect of the maritime strategy has been and continues to be well resourced.  Yet two years on we still do not have a long-range ship building plan (despite Congressional mandate) and the NOC is still MIA.   The latter is increasingly important as planners inside and out of the naval services wrestle with new concepts and capabilities, the most recent example being the significant shift in BMD emphasis in the European theater from a land-based GBI system designed to protect CONUS from Iranian ICBMs to a primarily sea-based theater defense against MRBM’s using Aegis-BMD equipped ships and supplemented with a shore-based system (“Aegis BMD Ashore”).  This redirection and the attendant gossamer-light expositions of how we will employ sea-based BMD in the maritime strategy has led to a fair degree of mis-information and erroneous assumptions as to general operational capabilities, requirements, and necessary force structure.  More detailed explanation, as wouldbe found in a NOC would go a long ways to alleviate this condition.

That is but one aspect – there are many others including rationale for the next generation CG, numbers of carriers and big deck amphibs, operational concepts for emerging technologies in ISR and UAVs, ASW, integrated air and missile defense, presence operations…and the list goes on.

Two years ago we summarized our initial read of the new maritime strategy as follows:

“It is an imperfect and flawed document – but so was the 1986 strategy and almost any other similar document extant. Nevertheless, there are significant strengths to build upon and serve as a reliable starting point for further definition and refinement in the panoply of documents that will follow. Most importantly, it has CNO approval and, tacitly at least, that of SECDEF as well – and as such, serves as the maritime strategy of record. This bodes well for post-Iraq planning and budgeting if – IF it does not become fodder for collecting dust on a shelf someplace.” (

080313-N-5549O-110Today, in view of the concerns raised above and our contention that the maritime strategy serves as a starting vice ending point, we submit the following questions as to the efficacy and relevance of the maritime strategy and its role in shaping future naval forces two years after its release:

  1. What new requirements/capabilities follow from the maritime strategy?
  2. What direct influence has the maritime strategy had on naval shipbuilding plans and budgets?
  3. How has the maritime strategy been implemented and operationalized?  In other words – what are we doing differently now or are in the in the process of changing (especially in view of #1 above) that we weren’t on 11 Oct 2007?

(crossposted at USNI blog)

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the 80′s Maritime Strategy*

np33*But were afraid to ask

Available now via the Newport Papers online - print version still TBD. Be forewarned, this is a huge document (34M worth) and will take a while to download. 

This is an outstanding work by Dr. Hattendorf and Peter Swartz and has been long in the birthing process.  It is the benchmark for the development of what many consider to be one of the most important documents in the modern US Navy’s history and, for better or worse, the benchmark strategy against which future strategies, including the current strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” is compared and judged.  Expanding one’s view, it also  should be of interest to students of modern history, especially the latter days of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath.  To quote the opening paragraph:

The decade of the 1980s was the decade of “the Maritime Strategy,” the U.S. Navy’s widely known and publicly debated statement that was associated with President Ronald Reagan’s buildup of American defense forces and Secretary of the Navy John Lehman’s efforts to create “the six-hundred-ship navy.” The strategy is most widely understood only in terms of the Navy’s January 1986 public statements published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings and summarized in testimony that the Navy’s leaders had given to Congress. This volume is designed to complement and extend the previously published history of The Evolution of the U.S.Navy’s Maritime Strategy, 1977-1986, and to present publicly for the first time the detailed changes and developments that occurred during the decade in the five (now declassified) official versions of the strategy and three directly associated unclassified public statements by successive Chiefs of Naval Operations that were made in the years between 1982 and 1990.

Bottomline – this important document should be the part of any professional’s library.

Naval Operations Concept (NOC) To Be Released Oct 08

This little notice arrived in the mail yesterday:

New Navy Operations Concept Will Include Force Structure Details NOC Due By October (INSIDE THE NAVY 22 SEP 08) … Zachary M. Peterson

The 2008 Navy Operations Concept, known as the NOC, will include force structure details not included in the tri-service maritime strategy released last year and in the 2006 version of the document, a high-ranking Navy admiral said last week.

 more details:

“We are working hard to incorporate [into the NOC] force-structure analysis that we’ve been working on, so when we go to our partners in Congress, in [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] . . . it tells you I need ‘X’ number of ships, ‘X’ number of airplanes to operate the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard in a manner required in the Naval Operations Concept to support the maritime strategy,” Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of resources and capabilities, said Sept. 16 at a luncheon sponsored by the Surface Navy Association.

Interesting etymology note — First citation above speaks of the Navy Operations Concept and VADM McCullough’s quote talks about the Naval Operations Concept – an important distinction in that the former concentrates only on Navy while the latter, like the Maritime Strategy, incorporates the Marines and Coast Guard, an important distinction especially where force structure discussion is concerned.  Of course it could also just be lax journalism or casual useage of seemingly indistinguishable terms (highly doubtful if that is the case where VADM McCullough is concerned however…).  We’re calling it the Naval Operations Concept until we see the actual hardcopy.


We’ve disussed the NOC and its role before on these pages and while we feel it is about 8 months late, we nevertheless recall the birthing pains from our own experiences and look forward to this version, particularly to see if it assists in filling some of the missing parts of the Maritime Strategy.  We also hope that the NOC will be publically advocated via fora like the DoD Blogger’s Roundtable (hint, hint) and other public venues besides the usual suspects(The Hill, etc.).  Of course we’ll have a copy posted and offer the same venue and critique as when the Maritime Strategy was released last year – at about this time…

Stay tuned.

Sea-based BMD and the Maritime Strategy

Deterrence. Preventing war is preferable to fighting wars. Deterring aggression must be viewed in global, regional, and transnational terms via conventional, unconventional, and nuclear means. Effective Theater Security Cooperation activities are a form of extended deterrence, creating security and removing conditions for conflict. Maritime ballistic missile defense will enhance deterrence by providing an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces and friends and allies, while contributing to the larger architecture planned for defense of the United States . . . We will use forward based and forward deployed forces, space-based assets, sea-based strategic deterrence and other initiatives to deter those who wish us harm.  – A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (Oct 2007)

USS Lake Erie passes the USS Arizona Memorial

USS Lake Erie passes the USS Arizona Memorial

Longtime readers (all 2 of you) will remember when we wrote some two years ago about the first of the Aegis-CG’s being dispatched in a SINKEX at the ripe old age of 18 years.  Following the wholesale decommissioning of the Spruances and their dispatch in other SINKEX’s, some wondered aloud about the future of the remaining CG-47s and even the newer Burke-class DDGs.

Well, we have an answer – sort of.

There is an extensive plan being put into action to ensure a full 35 years of relevant operational service will be gained from the Burkes (assuming, of course, proper corrosion prevention and other PMS – comments Byron?) and the remaining Ticonderoga CG’s.  The program for the Burkes will begin in 2012 and will concentrate on Hull, Mechanical and Electrical repairs, to be followed by combat systems improvements.  First out of the chute will be Arleigh Burke and Barry, followed by 3 x DDGs/yr. until 2006 when it would accelerate to 9 ships per year.  What caught our eye in this re-work process was a commitment to convert the entire Burke class to BMD capability.  At present, the Navy & MDA are in the final stretch of converting 18 ships – 3 CG’s and 15 DDG’s, to BMD 3.6 engage which will mean 18 ships capable of employing the SM-3 Blk 1/1A against SR- and MRBM threats.  Later this year they will begin a further step/spiral upgrade to 3.6.1 which adds a terminal defense capability with the SM-2 Blk 4 to supplement shore-based terminal defenses.  Seventeen ships will get that mod while the Lake Erie, the BMD test and development platform, will begin receiving the next generation of BMD capability with the trial installation of BMD 4.0.1.  All but 2 of those sips are based with PACFLT (3rd or 7th Fleets) with the remainder on the East Coast.

That disparity is one reason why we have advocated for a wider deployment of the BMD configuration to the DDG-51 class (and to the CG’s as well – more on that later).  There are compelling reasons.  The ballistic missile threat to our deployed forces and friends, allies and partners overseas grows – at present it is concentrated in short- and medium range heater systems, but as we have consistently noted, there are major actors who continue to develop longer ranged theater systems with a natural developmental process that can reach to intercontinental capabilities sooner rather than later.  Still, the bulk of the threat in the near and mid-range term (now to say the next 5 years) is primarily in the theater.

USS Decatur

USS Decatur

To be sure, there are shore-based systems, some proven and deployed, others in development, but like so many other shore-based systems, there are limits in mobility, footprint, deployability, host-nation restrictions and the like which circumscribe their utility.

Not so for BMD capable ships operating from the global maritime commons.  Using their inherent flexibility, maritime forces employing integrated and combined maritime air- and missile defense will provide a powerful deterrent and if that deterrence is ignored, a capable and credible defense – if…

If there are enough numbers.  Enough numbers meaning hulls and missiles.  For it does no good to concentrate the capability in a relatively small number of hulls.  On the one hand, it turns them instantly into high(er) value units whose loss wold have a disproportionate effect.  Numbers limit coverage and COA’s a COCOM can deploy and employ.  Numbers also play to just how fast you end up Winchester, for make no mistake, the competition is very much working on building numbers into their side of the balance sheet.  Finally, there is also the practical side of only x-amount of real estate in the VLS’ which must also be occupied with vanilla SAM’s, Tomahawks, and other ordnance as required by these multi-mission platforms.

So, what about the remaining CG’s?  Well, there’s the rub.  Older already than the oldest DDG-51, the CG-47s are also slated for similar HME repairs, but as of now the decision to upgrade all 22 of them to BMD capability is up in the air.  Money, of course, being the driving factor as well as the fate of the CG(X), CONOPS for which the Navy is still holding tight to its chest, but intimates quite openly will have BMD as a primary mission.

In the final analysis, the need, the requirement for a wider deployment of this capability is just as compelling today, looking to the near future as it was a few decades ago when the growing cruise-missile threat compelled the wider installation of area and point-defenses on a greater number of platforms – not just special purpose AAW cruisers.  Likewise, the Fleet needs to become as conversant in the language of BMD as it is in all aspects of AAW.  The time to start is now.

USS Curtis Wilbur

USS Curtis Wilbur

Implementing the Maritime Strategy: Integrated Missile Defense from the Sea

SM-3 Launch from JSMDF KongoBallistic missile defense from the sea – over the last six months the concept has moved further from test and development to operational reality.  Demonstrated capabilities are expanding the envelope and being delivered to certain designated ships within the fleet.  The question is – in describing these recent advances in ballistic missile defense, including the nation’s strong commitment and cooperation with international partners, what does that portend for the Navy and the Maritime Strategy?

In case you missed it, 2007 was a growth year for ballistic missile defense.  The US,  through efforts by the Missile Defense Agency and the Navy among others, demonstrated live kill capabilities across a range of threats from a simulated IR/ICBM brought down in mid-course by a California-based ground-launched interceptor, to a scenario where an Aegis BMD cruiser engaged and destroyed two near-simultaneous launched Scud-like ballistic missile targets in the mid-course flight phase.  The year was capped when the Japanese destroyer Kongo completed the first maritime ballistic missile intercept by a country other than the U.S. when it destroyed a short-range ballistic missile target.  It was followed in the new year with the intercept of the failing satellite and most recently, with a successful test of the sea-based terminal capability.

seeker image of target missile2007 represented a banner year of another sorts for ballistic missiles.  The rate of launches this past year was greater than in 2006 – a year marked by such signatory events as the July 4/5 North Korean missile crisis and Iran’s “Noble Prophet” exercises in the spring that unveiled the Shahab-3 MRBM with a 1300km range.  And while the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, on Iran’s development of nuclear weapons may lead some to dismiss the threat altogether, the fact remains that Iran continues to press for and develop long(er) range missiles while working to hold international inspectors at arm’s length.  And while the Six Party Accord has seen halting, inconsistent results at restraining North Korea’s nascent nuclear weapons program, there is no such progress in restraining their ballistic missile development and proliferation of the same.

So what bearing does this have on the Maritime Strategy (2007 edition)?  The vintage Maritime Strategy (circa 1986) certainly wasn’t concerned about ballistic missiles outside of going after the Soviet boomers in their protected lairs.  There are two important aspects – one of which is highlighted in the Maritime Strategy- the other, not quite.

In addition to the six strategic imperatives listed in the new Maritime Strategy (, there are six core competencies critical to its implementation.  Those competencies include forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.  Maritime BMD is singled out in one of these core competencies – deterrence.  According to the Maritime Strategy, the Navy’s maritime BMD capabilities will provide an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces and friends and allies while contributing to the larger architecture planned for the defense of the US homeland.  All well and true, but one is left with the sense that maritime BMD is pretty much a niche capability for homeland defense without much explanation or linkage to other key competencies.  In light of the asymmetric threat provided by ballistic missiles – and the defense thereof, a case can be made in light of the ongoing cooperation and success between the US and Japanese navies that maritime BMD crosses into other competencies as well.

Why is this important to emphasize?  Like cruise-missile defense before it, BMD will perforce have to become a core competence of the fleet and not just the province of a handful of specially configured cruisers and destroyers.  BMD is a home and away game – but it is most certainly not a pick-up game.  Its demands in terms of training, sensor and network resources and weapons can be daunting.  Adding regional partners leverages capabilities, enhancing forward presence and maritime security while bringing about improvements via integration and interoperability.  Working with partner nations and their navies early in the development process, especially those with Aegis-configured ships ensures a common baseline to work and build upon.  Integrated and Combined maritime BMD also underscores the inherent flexibility of maritime forces operating from the global maritime commons.  This plays to the ability of maritime forces to choose the time and locale of operations.

As we move into putting substance to the Maritime Strategy via operational concepts and force structure plans, BMD needs to be part of the core thinking – not an afterthought.  When we talk missile defense we need to be thinking cruise and ballistic missile defense because the threat is very much present, growing in numbers and sophistication and maritime BMD is among our best and brightest hopes at defense.  Besides those programs already online with a dedicated BMD purpose – BMD upgrades to Aegis, Sea-Based X-band radar, SM-3 Blk IB and Blk IIA, a Sea-Based Terminal capability via the SM-2 Blk IV and a follow on missile; we need to look at other programs’ contributions while avoiding stove-piped solutions.  For example, is there a role for a marinized version of the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element, or NCADE (a modified AMRAAM designed to engage SRBMs in their boost phase) on the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter?  What about employing the future E-2D Advanced Hawkeye/EA-18G Growler/UCAV-N team in mobile launcher hunts?  Is there a role for the SSGN?  What non-kinetic methods can be brought to bear from the sea?  These and other considerations need to be undertaken now, in the fuller course of debate and discussion to bring about the right kind of future fleet, fully integrated with BMD capability.

USS Lake Erie

Implementing the Maritime Strategy: Interview With 4th Fleet

Well, you know what the poet said about the best plans of mice and men. We had been scheduled to participate in the blogger’s roundtable today with RADM Stevensen regarding the standup of 4th Fleet. Alas, our day job intruded with unplanned, last minute tasking but the host, Jack Holt graciously submitted our questions during the roundtable. Full transcript may be found here and the audio file here.

The question we were particularly interested in had to do with support. Having spent a good portion of our years batting (some will get the pun) about the AOR, we note that a good portion of the infrastructure, such as it was even then, has subsequenly been closed down and, well, let’s go to the tape:

And we would hope, as the Joint High Speed Vessel program gets going, that we could do that, or that the Navy decides to renegotiate some contracts,and that we can get those types of vessels, because it’s not only just what we do. It’s the capabilities that they can bring to any service down here, kind of like an afloat staging base, if you will, with a number of endless possibilities that you could embark up on it.

MR. HOLT: That kind of brings up the question that Steeljaw Scribe sent in to me. And it is, his question is, quote, “With the decline of the supporting infrastructure in the region and the closure of naval stations Roosevelt Roads and Rodman, et cetera, how sustainable do you see the Fourth Fleet’s small unit presence in the AOR, particularly outside the Caribbean?”

ADM. STEVENSON: Well, right now I would think that if you do an analysis of the countries — I mean, 15 years ago, there wasn’t any democracies in Central or South America, period. And this year, if you look, you’ll see just about all democracies with the exception of one and a couple that are very, very far left. But that is the good thing. And the good thing about that is that they welcome the United States into their ports, and so the at-sea sustainment really isn’t an issue.

However, if you look at, you know, the capabilities that the United States have — has if you have have a big-deck amphibious ship, if you have aircraft carriers, if you have high-speed vessels, then essentially you can kind of have your own afloat staging base, where, you know, acting as mother ships and can refuel ships, and we can maintain our presence down here, and we can maintain our cooperation through exercises and training venues and what have you.

So I think it’s dependent, and I think that’s the huge value that our Navy brings in some of its core competencies, which is its forward presence and the ability to sail anywhere, any time and sustain itself. And we’re doing that right now with the deployment of the George Washington Strike Group.

Happenstance has the George Washington shifting home ports from Norfolk,Virginia, to Yokosuka, Japan, and we took advantage of it. And right now they’re — have already visited Brazil. They’re conducting the UNITAS exercise on the Atlantic side of South America with Brazil and Argentina, and they’ll be circumnavigating South America and going up the western coast of South America and hitting a couple of countries there, doing another exercise before they even go to San Diego and on to Yokosuka. So it’s timing. It’s preparations. It’s, you know, the force allocation around the globe on where we think that we ought to put our assets.

And I think the Navy’s posture’s pretty good right now.

Hmm, seabasing anyone?

Think about it — the AFSB concept has already been operationally demonstrated twice (IKE and Kitty Hawk) and there is plenty of talk about a mother ship concept with LCS or perhaps with a new corvette. What better place to work on proof of concept than in the 4th Fleet AOR? Minimizes footprint ashore as well…and afterall, what’s the MS say?

The Sea Services will establish a persistent global presence using distributed forces that are organized by mission and comprised of integrated Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard capabilities. This global distribution must extend beyond traditional deployment areas and reflect missions ranging from humanitarian operations to an increased emphasis on counter-terrorism and irregular warfare. Our maritime forces will be tailored to meet the unique and evolving requirements particular to each geographic region, often in conjunction with special operations forces and other interagency partners. In particular, this strategy recognizes the rising importance and need for increased peacetime activities in Africa and the Western Hemisphere.

from which flows the next imperative

Although our forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and cooperation cannot be surged. They must be built over time so that the strategic interests of the participants are continuously considered while mutual understanding and respect are promoted.

Indeed, it will be most interesting to see what and how concepts are developed and incubated in 4th Fleet’s AOR that are in turn, deployed in Africa and Asia.

sea basing

Implementing the Maritime Strategy – Japan/U.S. Missile Defense Flight Test Successful

JDS Kongo arrives in Pearl Harbor 

JDS Kongo arrives in Pearl Harbor for JFTM-01  



Deterrence. Deterring aggression must be viewed in global, regional, and transnational terms via conventional, unconventional, and nuclear means. Effective Theater Security Cooperation activities are a form of extended deterrence, creating security and removing conditions for conflict. Maritime ballistic missile defense will enhance deterrence by providing an umbrella of  protection to forward-deployed forces and friends and allies, while contributing to the larger architecture planned for defense of the United States. ("A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower")

(17 Dec 07) Rear Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Lt. General Henry “Trey” Obering III, Director of the United Stated Missile Defense Agency, announced today the successful completion of the cooperative Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) intercept flight test, off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii. The event, designated Japan Flight Test Mission 1 (JFTM-1), marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis BMD.

The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173). At approximately 12:05 pm (HST), 7:05 am Tokyo time on Dec. 18, 2007, a ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. JS KONGO crew members detected and tracked the target. The Aegis Weapon System then developed a fire control solution and at approximately 12:08 pm (HST), 7:08 am Tokyo time, a Standard Missile -3 (SM-3) Block IA was launched. Approximately 3 minutes later, the SM-3 successfully intercepted the target approximately 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean. FTM-1 was the first time that a Japanese ship was designated to launch the interceptor missile, a major milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. Previous participation had been limited to tracking and communications exercises.

BMD is a home and away game – and one maritime forces are imminently suited to contribute to.  The above is yet another milestone on a path that traces its steps to the wake-up call engendered by the North Korean TD-1 shot that crossed over the northern Japanese islands in 1998.  The more participants that can be integrated as sensors and/or shooters into multi-layered theater and global missile defense architectures the better chance there stands to deter and if need be, defeat the use of ballistic missiles.  As such, the implications for regional defense should be clear to those nations who are seeking, or those who contemplate, to dominate the region via the threat of ballistic missiles.  To be sure, one joint test isn’t the final plank in a regional defense plan.  Nevertheless, it is a significant step forward and bodes well for more to follow.  

BMD is a mission area where Navy has demonstrated outstanding success.  We again underscore our concurrence in seeing it highlighted in the Maritime Strategy and encourage Navy to continue to take on major leadership roles within the missile defense community while expanding cooperative efforts with our allies and partners.


USS Lake Erie pass Arizona Memorial

USS Lake Erie (CG 70) also participated

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