Over the past decade, the lethality of foreign anti-ship missiles has improved at a rate greatly exceeding that of defensive missile development. The prime driver
is a technological development cost gap: It is far cheaper to
develop missiles to hit relatively slow-moving ships than to intercept other missiles moving at supersonic speeds. As a result, near-peer nations are fielding antiship missiles that possess greater range, speed, lethality, and, most important, numbers than U.S. Navy defensive missiles.
For too long, the Navy has promoted a defensive missile strategy, using Aegis cruisers and destroyers to protect a single, high-value target—the aircraft carrier.1 Against modern
offensive missiles, this strategy no longer is sound.
1. See CDR L. Paul James, USN (Ret.), “Rethink Navy Ballistic Missile Defense,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 10 (October 2019).
2. “3M-54 Klub/Caliber SS-N-27 Sizzler,” globalsecurity.org.
3. Wendy Minnick, “China Puts Guam within Missile Range,” Defense News, 12 May 2016.
4. Joan Johnson-Freese and Ralph Savelsberg, “Why Russia Keeps Moving the Football on European Missile Defense,” Breaking Defense, 17 October 2013.
5. “3M55 Oniks/P-800 Yakhont/P-800 Bolid/SS-N-26,” globalsecurity.org.
6. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer, “Program Acquisition Cost by Weapon System: United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request,” May 2017.
7. Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Pit LRASM against Tomahawk for Anti-Ship Missile: VADM Aucoin,” Breaking Defense, 5 August 2015.
8. Alex Hempel, “The SM-2, SM-3, SM-6, ESSM, and RAM: A Guide to U.S. Naval Air Defense Missiles,” whitefleet.net, updated 15 June 2017.
9. Vitaliy O. Pradun, “From Bottle Rockets to Lightning Bolts: China’s Missile Revolution and PLA Strategy against U.S. Military Intervention,” Naval War College Review 64, no. 2 (2011): 6.
10. Lauren Dickey, “Chinese Animators Envision a Future War in Asia—and Blow Up the Internet,” The National Interest, 5 September 2015. The video is available at https://news.qq.com/zt2015/ddzy/index.htm?tu_biz=188.8.131.52. Pay special attention at 2:17 in the video; it depicts a DF-21 salvo attack on a U.S. carrier strike group resulting in massive damage.
11. Hunter Stires, “The Navy Is Teaching This Old Missile Some New (and Deadly) Tricks,” The National Interest, 12 August 2018.
12. Military and Aerospace Electronics, “America’s Powerful Tomahawk Cruise Missile Is Getting a New Upgrade,” The National Interest, 31 August 2019.
13. Steven Stashwick, “U.S. Navy to Re-Fit Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to Attack Ships,” The Diplomat, 14 September 2017.
14. Jared Keller, “The Navy’s Much-Hyped Electromagnetic Railgun May End Up Dead In the Water,” taskandpurpose.com, 4 December 2017.