Looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit highlights certain warfighting capabilities that are well-suited to comparatively low-technology forces, largely comprised of draftees fighting on interior lines. Especially prior to and at the start of hostilities, the littoral state would have opportunities to take the initiative using surprise and mass while U.S. forces were still building up in the theater-before U.S. decision makers have made a firm commitment to use armed force in the situation.
Mines, both sea and land, are a relatively cheap, simple way to slow, channel, and harass U.S. forces. While the United States has invested considerable resources in defeating this threat, geopolitical reality usually will prevent this country from employing the most effective mine countermeasure tactic: forcibly preventing the laying of the minefields in the first place. Torpedoes, launched from fast attack craft or small diesel-electric submarines, are a considerable problem for a Navy that relies primarily on a limited number of large, multipurpose ships, and that is stronger in open-ocean antisubmarine warfare than in the shallow, noisy, and cramped waters adjacent to the coasts of our likely adversaries.
Terrorist or suicide attacks by individuals or small squads of fanatics determined to guide a boat, vehicle, or light aircraft filled with explosives or weapons of mass destruction into the immediate vicinity of a U.S. ship or facility pose a very real threat. Given U.S. adherence to the Laws of Armed Conflict and other domestic and international rules pertaining to the use of force against non-combatants, and the casual acceptance of dissimulation and deception by many non-Western states as a means to catch an enemy unawares, U.S. forces almost always will be at a disadvantage against adversaries who are ready to strike first. Even the best security procedures, perimeter sensors, and other countermeasures are not always effective against secrecy, deception, and ferocity.
Cruise missile attack, especially weapons launched from small, low-value mobile launchers, are a significant issue. Cruise missiles are cheaper, require a much lower level of operator proficiency, and are somewhat more difficult to detect and engage than manned attack aircraft. While moderate numbers of missiles might be readily countered by Aegis defenses—and the firing units scattered or destroyed by air strikes, missile attack, or naval gunfire—multiple azimuth attacks with several missiles, or a combined attack involving multiple types of threats, could overwhelm U.S. forces.
Ballistic missile attack is probably the most lethal and psychologically powerful method for a potential adversary to attack U.S. forces or their potential staging areas. Ballistic missiles require a much lower level of operator proficiency than manned attack aircraft, and are much harder for U.S. forces to defeat, owing both to the technical challenge of destroying relatively small, fast, high-angle targets and politically imposed limitations on development and deployment of such defenses as are technologically feasible and affordable. For the near term, U.S. antiballistic missile defenses are large, costly, time-consuming to deploy and set up, and limited in effectiveness, because they are primarily descent-phase engagement systems.
Accordingly, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) should cooperate with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a real-time link between Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) central nodes in Aegis ships, for starters, and national overhead and airborne sensors (e.g., staring Imaging Infrared arrays) optimized for real-time reporting of missile launches. In addition, NavSea should make provisions for CEC growth to support eventual deployment of an Air Force Airborne Laser Counter-Boost Phase system or a space-based interceptor capability—or both.
The Navy should focus CEC's operational implementation on near-real-time engagement of missiles and launchers. The Aegis program should intensify efforts to modify Aegis SPY-1D(V) radar system and weapon system Baseline 6 for Theater Ballistic Missile Defense missions. In addition, the Navy should expedite development of a Navy Tactical Missile system as an area-kill weapon complementing Tomahawk missiles for use against ballistic missile and cruise missile launch vehicles.
Similarly, the Navy should refocus naval tactical aviation's air-defense and strike missions from the outer air battle to antimissile defense. The F-14D Tomcat is a neglected asset in this arena. The Naval Air Systems Command should cooperate with Naval Space and Warfare Systems Command to modify the aircraft's AWG-9 radar and optimize the massive speed-and-payload capability of the aircraft as a standoff ballistic missile and cruise missile killer.
The radar should be enhanced to track and engage multiple small, high-speed targets. A modified Endo-atmospheric Reentry Interceptor Vehicle (ERINT) upper-stage missile would be a readily available kill vehicle for TBMD, and the Tomcat can outperform the Air Force F-15 that was successfully tested in an antisatellite role with a comparable missile. The AIM120B Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile should prove effective as a fast, highly maneuverable, weapon against cruise missiles. The offensive counter-air concept also can be updated to the missile age by equipping Tomcats with precision stand-off weapons such as the Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to engage mobile missile launch vehicles and their supporting C3 assets.
The Enabler concept can provide defense-in-depth against missile attack on both the Naval Expeditionary Group and the port areas U.S. forces are using for entry into the theater. By using a mix of space-borne, airborne, and surface-force sensors and shooters, the likelihood of an adversary missile launcher being able to hit a U.S. target successfully, much less survive the attempt, will be reduced greatly. The Enabler concept will refocus the Navy on a vital mission that will augment, rather than being perceived as competing with, the efforts and capabilities of the other members of the joint force.
Major Daskal , an Air Force Reserve intelligence officer supporting the Joint Staff, works at Mystech Associates, Falls Church, Virginia, in support of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. He recently completed work as an electronic warfare consultant to the Aegis Program.