Tag Archives: F-35

The Evolution of the Modern Carrier Air Wing

CIMSEC is excited to share that the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will release on 8 October on Capitol Hill a report on the future of the aircraft carrier. Titled “Sharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict,” it systematically analyzes Carrier Strike Group vulnerabilities and offers a number of innovative recommendations in terms of concepts, capabilities, and capacities. This article is inspired by the forthcoming report.

By Timothy A. Walton

In the period following World War II, the U.S. Navy sought to leverage its relatively uncontested sea control to develop the capability to conduct nuclear strike missions from carriers. Until the removal of carriers from the Single Integrated Operational Plan in 1976, the nuclear strike mission led to the development of heavy attack aircraft that could conduct long-range missions against Communist targets. Carrier aviation also played a crucial role in providing fighter, attack, and electronic warfare aircraft for employment in conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft carriers were decommissioned in 1975, thus concentrating airborne ASW capability in the now multi-mission large deck carriers.

During the 1980s, a carrier air wing normally consisted of nine squadrons of various aircraft: two F-14 fighter squadrons, one E-2C AEW squadron, one EA-6B electronic warfare squadron, one S-3 ASW squadron, one A-6 medium-attack squadron, two A-7 light-attack squadrons, and one helicopter squadron, for a total of approximately 90 aircraft.[1] In the 1980s, the Navy decided to introduce the F-18 in order to replace the A-7. Trading range for speed in order to increase aircraft survivability, the F-18’s 370 NM combat radius paled in comparison with the A-7’s 608 NM combat radius, drawing significant criticism.[2] Test pilots decried: “Replacing the A-7 with the F-18 will constitute a reduction in battle group standoff range from the enemy and/or a reduction in ordnance delivered per aircraft on the target with no measurable increase in accuracy. […] Our current ability to engage the Soviet fleet at ranges well beyond that of their newest surface-to-surface weapons will markedly diminish, and the vulnerability of our battle groups in war at sea will increase concomitantly.”[3] The F-18 (and its successor Super Hornet) would replace the F-14 as well, continuing a trend of reduction of range in the air wing. Additionally, the air wing’s medium-attack aircraft, the A-6 (with a combat radius of approximately 1,000 NM) was retired in the 1990s and the A-12, its envisioned long-range, stealthy replacement, was cancelled.

By 2015, a typical carrier air wing consists of two squadrons of F-18C/D Hornets strike aircraft (10-12 aircraft per squadron), two squadrons of F-18E/F Super Hornets strike aircraft (10-12 aircraft per squadron), one squadron of EA-18G Electronic Attack aircraft (5 aircraft per squadron), one squadron of E-2C/D AEW aircraft (4 aircraft), and varying numbers of SH-60 and MH-60 helicopters, for a total of approximately 64 aircraft.[4] The C-2 Carrier Onboard Delivery detachment aircraft do not fall under the CVW construct.  The air wing eliminated S-3s that had provided organic open ocean ASW capabilities, replacing it with the short range SH-60 helicopter. Moreover, the carrier’s dedicated organic aerial refueler, the KA-6D, had been replaced first with tanking from the S-3B following elimination of its ASW role, and then solely with buddy tanking from F-18Es and F-18F’s. This significantly reduced the organic range of the air wing, made the air wing more reliant on Air Force tanking, and reduced the number of aircraft in the air wing available for combat missions.

Compared to the 1980s, the contemporary air wing is significantly smaller. In the 1980s a typical air wing had approximately 90 aircraft, 60 of which were fighter or strike aircraft; in contrast, contemporary air wings hold a mere 64 aircraft approximately, 44 of which are fighter or strike aircraft. Consequently, the fighter or attack portion of the air wing has been cut by more than a quarter and the total size of the air wing has diminished by approximately 30%. The planned introduction of the F-35C to the air wing is expected to further cut the size of squadrons by 2-4 aircraft.[5] The F-35C’s low observable features, advanced sensors and networking, and approximate 613 NM combat radius will improve carrier fighter performance compared to the 390 NM combat radius of the F-18E/F.[6]  Overall, though, the size of the air wing has been shrinking. Ironically, the Navy has gone on to procure the FORD Class carrier, capable of embarking more aircraft and conducting operations at a higher sortie rate than the NIMITZ Class.

In summary, contemporary and projected air wings display three key characteristics: they are shorter in range than Cold War predecessors, host significantly fewer aircraft, and lack dedicated fixed-wing aircraft for ASW and aerial refueling. Differences between the current and projected air wing include the addition of the F-35C and potential incorporation of a carrier-launched unmanned aircraft system. Of note, Section 220 of the FY 2001 defense authorization act stated, “It shall be a goal of the Armed Forces to achieve the fielding of unmanned, remotely controlled technology such that by 2010, one-third of the aircraft in the operational deep strike force aircraft fleet are unmanned.”[7] Clearly, the Joint Force has failed to meet Congress’ 2010 goal.

On 8 October 2015, the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will release a report that will examine whether it is worthwhile to continue to build large, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, given their considerable cost and mounting Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threats to sea-based operations.[8] In our report, Seth Cropsey[9], Bryan McGrath[10], and I will systematically analyze the employment of the carrier air wing as an element of a Carrier Strike Group and as a component of the Joint Force. The report will examine the role that carrier strike groups (CSGs) play in current and projected concepts of operation, especially against mature and evolving A2/AD threats such as China.

We can say that the current air wing has inadequate capability, range, numbers, and qualitative superiority to adequately counter the most challenging threats, in particular the threat posed by China. Given the growing importance of carrier aviation in Joint CONOPS, as Chinese sea control threats and threats against land-based tactical aviation rise, the Navy should address the existing and projected capability gaps in the carrier air wing. In general, this requires the Navy to increase air wing striking range, develop sea control aircraft, and develop new weapons. Lastly, the Department of Defense and Congress should critically evaluate the naval aviation portfolio, including potential portfolio trades between land-based, permissive environment aircraft and sea-based, contested environment aircraft. 

We thank CIMSEC for the opportunity to share these tidbits and look forward to sharing the more detailed study with you at its roll-out on 8 October.

Timothy A. Walton is a principal of Alios Consulting Group, a defense and business strategy consultancy. 

This article featured as a part of CIMSEC’s September 2015 topic week, The Future of Naval Aviation. You can access the topic week’s articles here

[1] Norman Polmar. Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and its Influence on World Events, Volume II-1946-2006, Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2008, 302.

[2] Richard Halloran. “Test Pilots Say Dual-Purpose F-18 Jet Is Unsuitable in Bomber Role”, The New York Times, 11 November 1982.

[3] Ibid.

[4] N.B. 4-6 of an air wing’s F-18E/F aircraft are normally used for the buddy tanking mission.

[5] Sam LaGrone. “Navy to Base F-35Cs at NAS Lenmoore”, U.S. Naval Institute, 2 October 2014,

http://news.usni.org/2014/10/02/navy-base-f-35cs-nas-lenmoore.

[6] “Selected Acquisition Report: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft (F-35)”, Department of Defense, 14, http://breakingdefense.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/04/F-35-2013-SAR.pdf#page=14.

[7] Ronald O’Rourke. “Unmanned Vehicles for U.S. Naval Forces: Background and Issues for Congress”, Congressional Research Service, RS21294, 25 October 2006, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RS21294.pdf.

[8] “Center for American Seapower”, Hudson Institute, http://www.hudson.org/policycenters/25-center-for-american-seapower

[9] “Seth Cropsey”, Hudson Institute, http://www.hudson.org/experts/530-seth-cropsey

[10] “Bryan McGrath”, Hudson Institute, http://www.hudson.org/experts/687-bryan-mc-grath

F-35 Fanboy Makes His Case

By Dave Schroeder

Fair warning: what follows is commentary about the F-35. However, this isn’t going to be a very popular commentary, as it doesn’t follow suit with the endless stream of recent articles, opinions, and blog posts making the F-35 out to be the worst debacle in the history of the militaries of the world. On top of those you’d expect, even automotive and IT blogs have piled on.

People who have no idea how government acquisition works, nor the purpose of the Joint Strike Fighter program — or even some who do, among many with ideological axes to grind — relish trashing the F-35, always managing to include “trillion dollar” (or more) somewhere in the title of the latest article to lambast the plane.

The F-35 is a multirole fighter that is designed to replace nearly every fighter in not just the Air Force inventory, but the Navy and Marine Corps as well: the F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, and A-10, and to augment and partially replace the F-15 and F-22. The F-35 lifetime cost will be less than that of all the diverse platforms it is replacing — and their own eventually needed replacements.

China devoted significant national espionage resources to stealing everything they could about the F-35, and implementing much of what they stole in the J-31/F-60 and J-20, China’s own next-generation multipurpose stealth fighters. This theft added years of delays and hundreds of millions of additional redesign dollars to F-35 development.


Navy test pilot LT Chris Tabert takes off in F-35C test aircraft CF-3 in the first launch of the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter from the Navy’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, set to install on USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

If anything, the F-35 suffers from being a “jack of all trades, master of none” — which is itself a bit of an overstatement — but we also can’t afford the alternative of follow-on replacement for all existing platforms. And for all the delays, we still have aircraft in the inventory to serve our needs for the next 10-20 years. Articles oversimplifying sensor deficiencies in the first generation, software issues with its 25mm cannon (the gun remains on schedule), or the oft-quoted 2008 RAND report, apparently choose overlook the reality that it’s not going to be instantaneously better in every respect than every aircraft it is replacing, and may never replace aircraft like the A-10 for close air support.

The F-35 development process is no more disorganized than any other USG activity, and if you want to look for people protecting special interests, it’s not with the F-35 — ironically, it’s with those protecting all of the myriad legacy platforms, and all of the countless different contractors and interests involved with not just the aircraft, but all of the subsystems made by even more contractors, all of whom want to protect their interests, and which are served quite well by a non-stop stream of articles and slickly-produced videos slamming the F-35.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was originally to cost $500 million, and is now expected to cost $8.8 billion and will be over a decade late. Shall we cancel it? Or take the pragmatic approach when the purpose of the mission is important and no reasonable alternatives exist? This isn’t a problem with just DOD acquisition. It’s the reality in which we live.

A F-35B hovers during testing.
A F-35B hovers during testing.

One of the reasons the JSF program, and the F-35, came into being is precisely because we won’t be able to afford maintaining and creating replacements for a half-dozen or more disparate aircraft tailor-made for specific services and missions.

The F-35 itself is actually three different aircraft built around the same basic airframe, engine, and systems. The F-35A is the Air Force air attack variant, the F-35B is the VSTOL Marine Corps variant, and the F-35C is the Navy carrier-based variant. If we had already retired every plane the F-35 is supposed to be replacing, there might be cause for concern. But as it stands, we have retired none, and won’t until the F-35 can begin to act in their stead.

The A-10, for instance, has found new life over the last 12 years in close air support roles, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is often held out as an either/or proposition against the F-35. No one ever claimed that the F-35 was a drop-in replacement for an aircraft like the A-10, and no one could have predicted the success the A-10 would again find in environments not envisioned when the JSF program came into being — though some of this success is overstated, claims otherwise notwithstanding. The Air Force is faced with difficult resource prioritization choices; if the A-10 is that critical, keep it. The debate on the future of CAS isn’t dead.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brad Matherne, a pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II aircraft before its first operational training mission April 4, 2013, at Nellis AFB, NV.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Brad Matherne, a pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II aircraft before its first operational training mission April 4, 2013, at Nellis AFB, NV.

If there are questions as to why we even need a fifth-generation manned multirole fighter with the rise of unmanned systems, cyber, and so on, the answer is an easy one: China and Russia both developed fifth-generation fighters, and the purpose of these aircraft isn’t only in a direct war between the US and either of those nations, but for US or allied military activity in a fight with any other nation using Chinese or Russian military equipment, or being protected by China or Russia. You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.

The F-35 isn’t just a US platform: it will also be used by the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Turkey, Singapore, and perhaps other nations. And the fact is, this is not only our fifth-generation manned fighter, it is likely the last. We cannot afford to have separate systems replace all or even most of the platforms the F-35 is replacing, nor can we simply decide to forgo replacements and extend the life of existing platforms by decades.

The F-35 is our nation’s next generation fighter, and it’s here to stay.


F-35B ship suitability testing in 2011 aboard USS Wasp (LHD-1)

Dave Schroeder serves as an Information Warfare Officer in the US Navy, and as a tech geek at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He holds a master’s degree in Information Warfare, and is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). He also manages the Navy IDC Self Synchronization effort. When not defending the F-35, he enjoys arguing on the internet. Follow @daveschroeder and @IDCsync.

Surface Warfare: Lynchpin of Naval Integrated Air/Missile Defense

“Events of October 1962 indicated, as they had all through history, that control of the sea means security. Control of the seas can mean peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the seas if it is to protect your security….”

– President John F. Kennedy, 6 June 1963, on board USS Kitty Hawk.

Introduction- Our Changing World

As America begins its drawdown in Afghanistan and embarks upon the Asia- Pacific rebalance, the U.S. Navy urgently needs to assess its approach to Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) and integrate emerging IAMD capabilities that will enable the fleet to successfully contend with our new reality.  This discussion addresses the high and unforgiving end of the operational spectrum and calls for renewed emphasis on innovation and proficiency in IAMD.  Substantial enhancements in the operational concepts and offensive warfighting capabilities of near peer competitors significantly shift the operational environment. In light of emerging capabilities and in order to maintain combat advantage, especially in the areas of tactical thought and doctrine development, we will accrue great benefits with a re-immersion into the art and science of IAMD.

What Has Changed? Back to the Future

The operational environment and technology that drove the need for innovation and proficiency in air warfare during the Cold War belong to a fleeting past  only a few active duty Sailors can recall.  Yet, the emerging challenges we face today mirror those faced not only a generation ago, when advances in warfighting technology demanded both technical and tactical innovation. Once again, we must master sophisticated threats and tactics in the aerospace domain.

The blue-water operational environment of the Cold War, relatively uncluttered by land mass reflections, dense commercial air traffic, and threats from non-state actors, envisioned a battle thick with hostile aircraft, surface combatants, and submarines launching saturation cruise missile attacks.  Especially in the 1980s, AW tactics evolved rapidly to keep pace with advances in both air threats and fleet air defense capabilities.  A well-organized spectrum of training, from classrooms ashore to advanced fleet exercises with allies, maintained tactical proficiency and often included proficiency firings of all AAW capable weapon systems.  While generally confined to the carrier battle group, some excursions ventured into multi-battle group combined operations.  Manual tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) perfected by frequent drill and regular live fire exercises achieved high degrees of proficiency and integration.

 A syndicate of naval officers renowned for their expertise in air defense came of age with the proliferation of ‘G’ (guided missile) ships and reached the pinnacle of their influence in the early days of the AEGIS program.  Commanding a cruiser designated as the Battle Group ‘Alpha Whiskey’ marked the brass ring of a Surface Warfare career.

The demise of the Soviet Union began a period without a credible naval competitor and the following thirteen years of fleet operations primarily focused on support for strike, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism.  The Fleet’s warfighting emphasis migrated from the primary sea-control missions of the Cold War to contemporary operations in the littorals and resulted in a drift away from a fleet-wide emphasis on air defense.   Anti-piracy, maritime interdiction, strike, and other operations in support of land operations prevailed.  Absent pressing credible threats, few ships distinguished themselves in this particular warfare area.

With our focus elsewhere, technology enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated threats and countermeasures.  Today’s cruise missile threats are stealthy, extremely fast, and can be employed at great ranges, using multiple independent seekers and dramatic terminal maneuvers.  The full range of ballistic missiles display similar capabilities, in addition to being longer range, widely dispersed, and capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.  Mobile launchers that quickly relocate and change launch axis, and theater ballistic missiles that dispense decoys and obscurants allow more capable adversaries to present daunting threats. In essence, ballistic missiles have become an asymmetric air force.

Finally, small, slow and numerous reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles, intrusive cyber capabilities, and space based surveillance now threaten presumed net-centric advantages. We seldom contemplate the major or total loss of supporting information networks.  In most A2AD scenarios, these threats will impede the freedom of access and action of commercial shipping, naval forces, and defended assets ashore and hold them at risk of damage.

In response, we have fielded an impressive array of material solutions.  The AEGIS Weapon System remains the world’s preeminent air defense system and is evolving to include advanced IAMD capabilities.  Today our navy has thirty cruisers and destroyers capable of conducting Ballistic Missile Defense with additional ships undergoing installation and certification.  Additionally, if properly employed with the right tactics, Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), the next variant of the Standard Missile family (SM-6), the E-2D with Cooperative Engagement Capability and 5th generation F-35 fighter aircraft will be IAMD game changers.

The emergence of these quantum leap capabilities compels us to re-evaluate how we train, maintain, command, control, and employ these forces.  Efficient and effective command and control (C2) of IAMD forces ensures that we employ these new capabilities to their maximum effectiveness, which requires moving beyond the C2 approach under which we currently operate.

Fighting multiple engagements in today’s fight is likely.  We will achieve success by developing innovative C2 based on rigorous experimentation by the Aviation and Surface Warfare communities using both high fidelity simulation and fleet wargames.  The initial NIFC-CA CONOPS is currently under stakeholder review and will require testing and refinement as we deliver the tactics, techniques and procedures needed to exploit our new IAMD capabilities.  In this process, we need to apply the focus, rigor, and innovation, which enabled us to master AAW in the 1980s.

Starting at the Beginning: Warfighting Expertise

The complexity of this mission boggles the mind, spanning the warfighting spectrum from strategic defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to defeating small, slow, drones with nothing more than a camera and a radio transmitter as their main battery.

We already possess formidable IAMD capabilities and even more potent ones are on the way.  In order to exploit these systems, there must be a relevant operational vision, a concept of operations, and updated tactics, techniques and procedures and a cadre of experts who understand the employment of joint and combined IAMD capabilities against current and emerging threats.   All of these begin with the operational idea of gaining and maintaining air superiority in the vicinity of defended assets at sea and ashore.

The inherent mobility, persistence and responsiveness of naval forces to conduct IAMD have never been more relevant.  More than ever, naval officers must think in terms of surface forces as the nucleus of IAMD forces in both developing and mature Theaters.  They must also view naval IAMD in the context of joint and combined operations.

The effort required to formulate the tactics to employ emerging capabilities is already underway in a series of wargames sponsored by Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.  Operationally experienced SWOs and aviators are collaborating to develop innovative tactics for these advanced weapons systems.  We require pioneering naval officers to master 21st century warfighting technology, discard outdated ideas, and generate, sometimes from scratch, the tactics, techniques and procedures essential for effective employment of new weapons systems.  

A philosophy of mission command lies at the heart of this innovation.  Mission command’s three elements of trust, understanding and commander’s intent are perfectly suited to high end IAMD.  The principle understanding demands not only the “I know my wingman so well, I know what he will do next” but also, “I know this system of systems so well, I know what it will not do next.”  Highly structured and static command and control fails to optimize the new systems’ agility and full design potential.

Air Warfare has for the past 20 years been a highly scripted undertaking, yet, the modern IAMD operational environment is ill-suited to scripted solutions, and the nature of the IAMD mission demands trust in and understanding of the capabilities of the other participants in the IAMD Fight.  This will come as the result of an increased emphasis on experimentation, wargaming and integration.

Because complex new IAMD systems rely on precise technical and operational integration and a high degree of proficiency and teamwork, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must dedicate periods of integrated IAMD training as a crucial part of deployment work-ups.  Commanders, strike leaders, pilots, TAO’s and crews from ships and air wings outfitted with these new IAMD systems must fully integrate.

Many naval officers have strong opinions, often negative, about the relevance of operational doctrine.  Doctrine presents fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces in coordinated and integrated actions toward a common objective.  It promotes a common perspective from which to plan, train, and conduct military operations and represents what is taught, believed and advocated as what works best.  It provides distilled insights and wisdom gained from employing the military instruments of national power in operations to achieve national objectives. [1]

Over the last 15 years, the lack of a pressing air threat and the reduction of commands dedicated to doctrine hindered the normal doctrine update cycle.  During this same period, the advent of ballistic missile defense, the rapid deployments of U.S. and adversary capabilities, and the introduction of IAMD as an operational concept, rendered much of the existing doctrine obsolete.  While the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC) and the Surface Tactics Development Group have taken steps toward improving the situation, the Navy is at a disadvantage in trying to formally articulate its IAMD equities in joint and combined arenas.  This sophistication of IAMD in this new age and the revolutionary capabilities described in the next section demand updated doctrine.

We must do better.

In a significant and profound step, the Surface Warfare community launched a commitment to develop expertise in IAMD.  NAMDC established a 19-week course that will deliver subject matter experts to the Fleet.  The IAMD Weapons Tactics Instructor (WTI) course focuses on the advanced IAMD training for individuals with the goal of improving unit level and strike group proficiency in IAMD.  Candidates will be challenged, as they become experts in the latest capabilities, TTP’s, training strategies and threats.  As the IAMD WTIs begin to reach the Fleet, their influence will extend well beyond the lifelines and impact both Fleet and Joint Operations.

Our Center for Surface Combat Systems and Afloat Training Groups developed Advanced Warfare Training (AWT) for all AEGIS ships.  AWT consists of multi-week classroom and hands on system training with individual watchstander and team training in a scenario environment.  This is a critical step in AEGIS baseline training, ensuring shipboard competency and improved performance executing the IAMD mission.

Capability to Defeat the Threat

AEGIS Wholeness – Sustaining the World’s Best Weapon System

The AEGIS Weapons System (AWS) remains the finest and most advanced IAMD system ever put to sea.  In 2011, the Navy initiated AEGIS Wholeness, a no-holds-barred approach to improving AEGIS Readiness.  Many facets comprised this effort: Interoperability, Technical Support, Logistics, Type Commander sponsored SPY radar maintenance program, replacement of high failure SPY parts, and a revival of the SM-2 Fleet Firing Program. Impressive gains realized over the past two years include, increasing operational availability of deployed ships to over 96%.  There is simply no substitute for continuous attention to the details of AWS material readiness.  The effectiveness of the AWS strongly depends on how conscientious Captains and crews are about its material readiness.

Navy BMD – From Pioneering Capability to Primary Mission

Over the past decade, Navy Ballistic Missile Defense grew from a pioneering vision to a National Defense mission.   Given the proliferation of ballistic missile described above, BMD garners the highest priority maritime missions of Combatant Commanders and as a result, AEGIS BMD ships have the highest optempo in the fleet.  BMD is an inherently joint mission and AEGIS BMD ships (and soon, AEGIS Ashore) frequently integrate into the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a globally distributed and highly integrated combat system with elements from all the services and Functional and Geographic Combatant Commanders.  As complex as BMD technology already is, radar and missiles continue to grow in sophistication.  Mastery of the BMD mission requires sequential assignments at sea and ashore.  Additionally, BMD Specialty Career Path officers are a start, but we must increase our cadre of BMD experienced Sailors at sea.

Revolution at Sea: No Kidding, Truly Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD)

Our newest AEGIS Baseline 9 represents our first true IAMD AEGIS Combat System computer program.  Unlike previous BMD computer programs which had either AAW or BMD, both functionalities in Baseline 9 now reside in a single Combat Systems computer program.  This combat system program is being tested in USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG 53).  One of the key features of this baseline is the Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP), which allows operators to dynamically allocate radar resources in response to specific threats.

The most notable feature of Baseline 9 is the ability to conduct “integrated fires.”  Integrated fires can occur between ships and between aircraft, but the most complex variant is NIFC-CA.  NIFC-CA employs ships and aircraft to consummate missile engagements beyond the radar horizon.  This execution is operational rocket science. Those who master it will be identified as the best and brightest.

What we must change – Culture and Focus

The U.S. Navy is developing and putting to sea revolutionary IAMD capabilities with the potential to be credible deterrents to war and if necessary, decisive factors in battle.  However, in order to exploit these incredible advantages, Surface Warriors must embrace the art and science of IAMD.  As sophisticated as they may be, these sophisticated weapons will require the sharpest operational minds using the best new tactics flowing from the crucibles of experimentation in stressing virtual warfare simulation and realistic fleet exercises.

Developing a career long vocation as an IAMD expert must not be viewed as professionally stifling.  Like other specialties, the IAMD mission is so incredibly broad, deep and complex, that it takes a significant amount of education, training, and experience for any officer to master.  This is a professional commitment to which young officers must commit and senior officers must foster.  The Weapons Tactics Instructor program initiated by NAMDC is a step in the right direction.

While individual training provided ashore and within the lifelines Advanced Warfare Training are first important steps, we must redesign and revitalize our IAMD training for the Air and Missile Defense Commander (AMDC) and supporting elements within the Strike Group.  This includes building block courses prior to the Warfare Commander’s Conference for the IAMD team.  Putting NIFC-CA, SM-6, AEGIS Baseline 9, CEC, E-2D and F-35 to sea demands that we assemble Strike Group Staffs, ship crews and Air Wing personnel for significant, dedicated planning and integration periods to develop the mutual trust and the deep understanding of system capabilities and commander’s intent essential to successful operations.

These efforts, though significant, are not enough.  We must start to live and breathe Integrated Air and Missile Defense.  IAMD must become the first, the last and the many in between thoughts of the Surface Warrior’s professional day.

CAPT Jim Kilby is the Deputy for Ballistic Missile Defense, AEGIS Combat Systems and Destroyers in the Surface Warfare Directorate (N96).  He commanded USS RUSSELL (DDG 59) and USS MONTEREY (CG 61).  In MONTEREY, he deployed as the first ship to support the European Phased Adaptive Approach for Ballistic Missile Defense.


[1] Joint Electronic Library – http//www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jpintpub.htm

Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) – The F-35

seacontrolemblemFor the inaugural edition of Sea Control’s “East Atlantic” series, Alexander Clarke brings on Steve George, former engineer with the F-35 program and Royal Navy veteran to discuss the challenges and misconceptions of the F-35 program. Remember, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a comment and five stars!

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) -The F-35

Tune in next week for our interview with Erik Prince!