Tag Archives: coast defense missiles

Little Groups of Marines with Switchblades

One of the most inspiring, and telling in my opinion, modern battles was the morning-long scrap between LT Keith Mills and 22 of his Royal Marines against an Argentine force on remote South Georgia Island. Ordered to give the Argies a “bloody nose,” on 3rd April 1982 his sub-platoon-sized unit did better than that.

Mills’ Marauders

Outfitted only with small arms and man-portable anti-tank weapons (an 84mm Carl G recoilless rifle and 66mm LAWs), they downed an Argentine helicopter and mauled ARA Guerrico, a corvette that came in to the harbor to support the invasion of the British territory.

ARA Guerrico, showing one of her two 84mm holes at her waterline. The other destroyed her Exocet launcher whilst a 66mm round wrecked the elevation mechanism on her main gun. She also had been raked by over 1,200 rounds of 7.62mm. Only the Carl Gustav misfiring prevented more hits.

A great, and lengthy, interview with Mills was filmed earlier this year, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Falklands Islands War. :

Let’s talk about Loitering Munitions

U.S. Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, launch a [AeroVironment Switchblade] lethal miniature aerial missile system during an exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Sept. 2, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Forti)

Rapidly deployable loitering missile systems, designed as a “kamikaze” being able to crash into its target with an explosive warhead, are the “hot new thing.” However, as witnessed in the recent five-week Nagorno-Karabakh war, between Azerbaijan– supported by Syrian mercenaries and Turkey — and the so-called Republic of Artsakh together with Armenia (who had the low-key support of Moscow), they are a 21st Century game changer. In a nutshell, the Azerbaijanis claim to have smoked almost 400 high-value military vehicles– ranging from main battle tanks to SAM batteries– with such munitions, for zero lives traded.

The U.S. Army, Marines, and Naval Special Warfare Command have been experimenting with such systems over the past decade, such as the Switchblade shown above. The small (6-pound) Switchblade 300 and the larger 50-pound Switchblade 600 both use the same Ground Control Station (GCS) as other small UAVs in the military’s arsenal such as the Wasp, RQ-11 Raven, and RQ-20 Puma. Quiet, due to their electric motors, and capable of hitting a target with extreme accuracy out to 50 nm with a 100-knot closing speed in the case of the larger munition, they could easily target ship’s bridges or soft points with lots of flammable things such as hangars and small boat decks.

So where is this going?

As perfectly described by a panel consisting of CAPT Walker D. Mills, USMC, along with U.S. Navy LT Lieutenant Joseph Hanacek and LCDR Dylan Phillips-Levine in this month’s USNI Proceedings, possibly to a Pacific atoll near you. In short, while it is nice that the Marines are looking at long-range NMESIS coastal defense cruise missile (CDCM) systems, smaller munitions like Switchblade could prove an important tool when it comes to area denial in a littoral.

Introducing loitering munitions that the Marine Corps can use to strike warships creates combined-arms opportunities—a flight of loitering munitions autonomously launched from a small rocky outcropping could knock some of an enemy ship’s self-defense weapons offline, sending that ship home for repairs or setting conditions for a strike by larger CDCMs that deliver the coup de grace. Loitering munitions also can strike ships at close range—inside the minimum-engagement range for larger missiles. With smaller, cheaper, and more mobile loitering munitions, small units and teams operating as “stand-in forces” can contribute to sea denial and expand the threats the Marines pose to an enemy. The case for employing these weapons goes beyond speculation—loitering munitions have already been used with great effect in recent history and have proved their worth on the future battlefield.

More here.

Access Denied: A New Role for the Marines in the WestPac

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear

Gen. David H. Berger, who celebrated his 40th anniversary in the USMC and is currently serving as the Marine’s 38th Commandant, wrote an excellent piece in this month’s Proceedings on the subject of “Stand-in Forces,” the pared-down direction the service is going towards in which they can (quietly) seize and hold forward areas with small units to deny access to larger sea forces.

From Berger’s piece:

Small, lethal, low signature, and mobile, stand-in forces (SIF) are relatively simple to maintain and sustain, designed to operate across the competition continuum within a contested area as the leading edge of a maritime defense-in-depth. Depending on the situation, SIF may include elements from the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, special operations forces, interagency forces, and allies and partners. This last element is the most critical: every aspect of these deployments must be carried out in close partnership with host nations and partners. Whenever U.S. forces operate in a host nation, they must do so with the full involvement of that nation in conceptualizing and executing the overall mission.

The main ideas behind the SIF concept are deceptively simple. First, find a potential adversary’s people and things (such as weapon systems, sensor systems, submarines, etc.) in a given area, and then track them at a level that facilitates targeting by fleet or joint weapons until they leave that area. This finding and tracking effort starts as soon as the possible target is identified and continues at every point along the competition continuum. Next, SIF must be hard for a potential adversary to find by maintaining a low signature, moving frequently and unpredictably, and using deception. If armed conflict begins, use knowledge of the adversary to help the fleet or other elements of the joint force attack quickly and effectively, blind the adversary, and deny him maritime areas to disrupt his plans and force him to move into other places where SIF and the fleet have an advantage.

Stand-in forces’ enduring function emerges from these straightforward ideas: win the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight in support of the fleet and joint force—and do so at every point on the competition continuum.

The full piece, which is a good read, is here.

In very related news, the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), which recently proved capable of hitting a target in a SINKEX at least, is set to become operational in 2023 with the newly formed 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. Basically, a pack of Naval Strike Missiles on a remote control JLTV truck platform, the unmanned launcher can be landed by LCAC, LCU, or the planned new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) LST design as well as (likely) by the CH-53 or C-130.

Naval News talked to the USMC about the NMESIS system, including this gem on why it is remote controlled.

Naval News: Why is the launcher “unmanned” ? Is it because it is intended to be controlled by company (i.e. small) sized Marine units ? Or is it because NMESIS is intended to be deployed on remote islands or locations with no human operators on those islands?

USMC: The launcher is remotely operated in order to enable a smaller, more expeditionary deployable capability. Additionally, remote firing position increases personnel survivability. Marine crews are still expected to be in the vicinity to provide security for the systems.

Food for thought.

A Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher, a command and control vehicle and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are transported by a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion from Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, out to U.S.S. San Diego, Aug. 16, 2021. The movement demonstrated the mobility of a Marine Corps fires expeditionary advanced base, a core concept in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 efforts. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units came together from across 17 time zones as they participated in Large Scale Exercise 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Luke Cohen, released)

First pic of the Marines’ new Ship Killing Trucks

Raytheon just released a Navy-credited image of the Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, at work at Point Magu Mugu. The vehicle, which looks to be Oshkosh’s unmanned variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) known as “ROGUE Fires,” is loaded with a containerized module that includes a Norwegian Kongsberg-developed Naval Strike Missile, which is dramatically taking flight.

U.S. Navy photo via Raytheon

The planned successor to the 1970s-developed Harpoon as the Navy’s dedicated OTH anti-ship weapon, NSM has a greater range as well as a laundry list of attack profile updates. JLTV, meanwhile, is amphibious, helicopter, and fixed-wing transportable.

With the assumption that at least two, if not four, of the 900-pound NSMs could be carried on each of the ROGUE Fires trucks, a battery of six vehicles could carry up to 24 missiles linked to a central CCV truck with a platoon-sized crew (or smaller). That’s a small footprint for two dozen AShMs. Like atoll-sized or even oil platform-sized small.

Worst case scenario on a “shoot and scoot” after the missiles are expended from such pieces of tiny real estate: blow the vehicles with WP grenades and evac the battery crew by fastest means possible, e.g. MV-22, or provide them with rubber raiders to fall back just offshore for a submarine recovery– something the Marines have been revisiting lately. 

Of course, the scale is the key to something like this. If you only have a couple of these batteries the whole concept is academic. However, if you could sow, say, 50 batteries around a battlespace on every strip of sandy beach, hidden in every mangrove thicket, and hiding under netting on every coral reef, that is a serious distruptor. Like a “don’t bother going to battle” type of disruptor, which is the point of peace through superior firepower, right?

The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers.

However, these units could also be of use afloat. 

The Marines are already theorizing using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

From USNI News:

“Going back to uncoiling the lethality of the MAGTF, I see containerized weapon systems that the Marine Corps is using: when we jump onboard a ship, that becomes available to the ship’s captain. So maybe we don’t need to install launchers and NSM; maybe the Marine Corps [expeditionary advance base operations] forces serve as the main battery when we’re moving out,” Maj. Gen. Tracy King, who until recently served as the expeditionary warfare director on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said.

“To me, that just makes sense. We give the latitude and the flexibility to that ship’s captain to use those assets when he needs to. There’s been some naysayers to that, mostly in my tribe, because if you use all my missile before I get there, I don’t have my missiles. But I’m a little bit dismissive of that complaint because the ship’s got to get there first. So I think you’re going to see us employing containerized weapon systems that we can use wherever we want to use them.”