Recent crises have seen U.S. forces committed to numerous operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, East Asia, and the Horn of Africa. One of the greatest challenges that forward-deployed Marine Corps forces will face in future conflicts is defending against a growing enemy missile strike capability—especially if the missiles carry weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In 1998, the Naval Doctrine Command's study, "Sea-Based Theater Air and Missile Defense," concluded that stand-alone theater missile defense (TMD) capabilities would be inadequate for protecting U.S. forces and critical interests from enemy theater ballistic missiles and land-attack cruise missiles.
The Marine Corps recognizes there is no single system or service answer to joint TMD (JTMD). Rather, the solution lies with the ability of the Corps to integrate its aviation command-and-control (C2) assets through Link-16 and the composite tracking network (CTN) to form an effective theater missile defense. This approach will require the Corps to work closely with the Navy on "Sea Power 21," specifically regarding the capabilties related to Sea Shield.
Historically, the main air threat to U.S. ground forces has been mass attack by piloted aircraft. The threat from aircraft-such as the Russian MiG-29 and SU-37-remains, but it has been worsened by the possible employment of WMD, whether nuclear, biological, or chemical. The most common means of delivery are tactical missiles, such as the Scud-B and FROG-7 systems developed by the former Soviet Union. Other means of delivery include self-propelled artillery and aerial sprays from aircraft.1 Recent operations in Iraq revealed a potential threat from unmanned aerial vehicles capable of dispersing WMD. To a terrorist movement or a rogue nation, these weapons can serve as an "equalizer" to the military superiority of the United States.
In that regard, North Korea, a longtime foe of the United States, has become one of its most pressing foreign policy concerns. In 1994, U.S.-North Korean relations grew so stormy that North Korean officials threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire."2 The tension is ongoing. Continued development of long-range missiles is particularly worrisome to U.S. military planners because they enable Pyongyang to strike U.S. bases in Japan and Guam (and possibly the northeast United States) with WMD.
A JTMD Vision
The Navy's "Sea Power 21" was presented by Admiral Vernon Clark in the October 2002 Proceedings (pp. 32-41). This blueprint foresees a strategy that will fully integrate U.S. naval forces into joint operations against regional and transnational dangers. It encompasses three fundamental concepts: Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing. Sea Shield extends defensive assurance throughout the world and is the focus here.
According to an article by Vice Admirals Mike Bucchi and Mike Mullen in the November 2002 Proceedings (pp. 56-59), Sea Shield will provide layered defense to protect the homeland, sustain access to contested littorals, and project a defensive umbrella over coalition partners and joint forces ashore in distant theaters. Providing an integrated TMD capability to joint forces requires advanced network-centric operations and the latest weapon-system technology, seamlessly fused to provide one integrated air picture available to all force elements.
For the Navy and Marine Corps, the integral elements of these networks and their relationships to Sea Shield are through Link-16 and the cooperative engagement capability (CEC). Through those networks, the Corps will be able to integrate its aviation C2 assets—principally, the AN/TPS-59 V(3) long-range surveillance radar—with existing sea-based TMD systems (such as Aegis) to adequately defend its forces ashore. The latest version of the Standard surfaceto-air missile is the SM-3 Block IVA currently in development. It will provide a lower-tier (area) defense and play a pivotal role in JTMD architecture.3 Thus, Marine units ashore normally will depend in large part on sea-based protection from theater missiles. In addition, the ability to integrate multiple sensors and weapon systems will furnish shared situational awareness to participating joint forces by enhancing the common operational picture (COP).
In 1998, the COP concept was demonstrated successfully during the All-Service Combat Identification and Evaluation Exercise held near Gulfport, Mississippi. The Marine Corps' multirole radar system will be added to CEC architecture. Further, integration of the Stinger/Avenger and Complementary Low Altitude Weapon System missile systems into the JTMD architecture will enhance the Corps' role as a "shooter." Finally, the CTN-the Navy's CEC processing set adapted to Marine Corps needs-will be part of the push toward integration that will enable Marine forces to participate fully in cooperative engagement environments.4 The CTN will meet the operational requirements of expeditionary maneuver warfare and provide real-time situational awareness by combining information from its organic sensors with information derived from the sensors of other forces.
Mobile defense in depth requires integration of mutually supportive, network-based operations to prevent hostile missile forces from disrupting operations. Successful JTMD network-based defense puts certain requirements on Marine commanders: they must integrate their command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems with the joint architecture, and they must establish and maintain "plug n' fight" interoperability. Plug n' fight means that anyone can use data from any source in the network. Its architecture adapts operations to changes in force structure as follow-on forces join the operation. Units no longer are limited to service-specific sensor types and data links; they can enter and leave the network rapidly.
Marine aviation C2 units must focus their integration efforts on the Joint Data Network (JDN)-which offers near-realtime tactical C2 through Link-16, Link-11, and Link-4A—and the Joint Composite Tracking Network (JCTN). Marines operate on the JDN through tactical digital information links (TADILs) that give the Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) the path needed to receive tracking information from other sensors. An example is the ground TADIL between a Marine tactical air operation center and an Army Patriot missile battery; or the TADIL that connects the MACCS to shooter platforms, such as Aegis cruisers.
The JCTN is a network of electronic communications systems that passes precision sensor measurement data and weapon engagement signals among cooperating units. The Marine Corps' connection to the JCTN is through Link-16. Distributing sensor data to multiple weapon systems simultaneously is the main challenge for the CEC. Interoperability between the Aegis weapon system and the Marine Corps AN/TPS-59 radar has been demonstrated during various exercises and operations. This kind of joint C4I interoperability is critical to the plug n' fight concept and JTMD
To use JTMD assets effectively, Marine units must provide a common tactical picture to all units operating on the joint network. Tactical integration of air space depends on the JDN, JCTN, and highly dependable combat identification capabilities. Enhanced combat identification and track correlation capabilities are the key to integrating airspace.5 Strong, high-confidence combat identification accommodates positive identification and tracking of friendly, hostile, and neutral forces. Because this can be an overwhelming task for one control agency, the AN/TPS-59 radar can be of considerable assistance in detecting and tracking tactical ballistic missiles and low radar cross-section cruise missiles. Its integration with CEC would help alleviate the enormous identification burden and provide joint forces with another effective C2 network.
Integration of Marine aviation command-and-control systems with the Navy's will lay the cornerstone for a powerful joint theater missile defense capability. The combined strengths of the systems will give Marine and joint force commanders the capacity to conduct operations in the face of theater missile threats. Because only sea- and land-based theater missile defenses can provide the mutually supporting umbrella needed to protect U.S. forces as they maneuver and press inland, the Navy-Marine Corps team must continue its efforts to build CEC and CTN into joint operations.
1 John Norris and Will Fowler, NBC: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare On the Modern Battlefield (London: Brassey's, 1997), p 33.
2 Michael Klare, Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995), pp. 130 and 136.
3 See www.acq.osd.mil/bnido/bmdolink/html/navy. html.
4 Marine Corps Concepts and Programs (Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps: Washington, DC, 2003), p.151.
5 "Naval Theater Air and Missile Defense Concept" (Norfolk, VA: Naval Doctrine Command, 1997).
In 1999-2002, Major Logan, an air command and control officer, worked extensively on joint theater missile defense issues in Korea. He currently attends the Naval War College.