The 2022 Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation: Mobilization, Maritime Law, and Socio-Economic Warfare

By Olga R. Chiriac

On July 31, 2022, Russian Navy Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of the new Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation in a speech given during a parade at the Kronstadt naval base. To be fully understood, the doctrine must be put into a much broader, global context, factoring in the historical timeline, internal dynamics, especially the general direction of Russian foreign policy and the vertical power structure of the Russian state.

The new doctrine replaced a previous document from 2015 that was published after the Russian annexation of Crimea and is strikingly different in content and tone. A notable difference is that the new version has a more dominant socio-economic dimension. It is important to analyze the doctrine from a Russian vantage point, one that understands it as “a strategic planning document that reflects the totality of official views on the national maritime policy of the Russian Federation and maritime activities of the Russian Federation” and not to zoom in too much on the “why,” which quickly devolves into guesswork. The essence of the new doctrine is communicating Russian national interest as it is conceptualized by Russian leadership.

Total “Hybrid War” with the West and Multipolarity

At the macro level and through a great power politics perspective, the new Russian maritime doctrine confirms that Russia considers itself in direct confrontation with the West or a “total hybrid war with the Collective West.” The new document is meant to be analyzed in concert with the 2021 National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, where Russia declared that it was “effectively resisting attempts at external pressure” and defending its “internal unity” and “sovereign statehood.” The same Security Strategy confirms that Russia is taking a leading role in “the formation of new architecture, rules and principles of the world order.” In August 2022, Russian Defense Minister, General Sergei Shoigu, spoke at the opening of the Moscow Conference on International Security. Among other important points that he made, one referred specifically to the confrontation with the West: “The Western world order divides the world into “democratic partners” and “authoritarian regimes, against which any measures of influence are allowed.” General Shoigu was repeating a common belief/narrative in Russia, specifically that “the start of a special military operation in Ukraine marked the end of the unipolar world.” This assertion is in line with a much broader dimension of Russian foreign policy, one meant to dilute US influence and power and to redesign security arrangements for a multipolar world. Minister Shoigu underscored how Russia is at war not only with Ukraine, but with the West: “In Ukraine, Russian military personnel are confronted by the combined forces of the West, which control the leadership of this country in a hybrid war against Russia.” The new maritime doctrine reflects this view that the global order is no longer unipolar and that Russia is in a hybrid war with the “collective West” making it ever more important to analyze the doctrine from a Russian vantage point.

Redesigning Borders on Land and at Sea

The recent change in the tone of both speeches from Russian officials and official documents is clear: the Russian Federation believes it is in the business of redesigning borders, both on land and at sea. President Putin himself declared: “We have openly marked the borders and zones of Russia’s national interests.” The international community has or should have known this for decades, as the Russian tactic of using “separatists” to rewrite national borders started in the Republic of Moldova back in 1992 when the Russian backed “rebels” initiated a war with Chisinau and the Moldavian people. It happened again in 2008 with the Russo-Georgian War, and in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine the first time. The Maritime Doctrine touches on this and all the references are directly correlated to the maritime rules-based order. A conviction that great powers are entitled to redrafting borders and having zones of influence is prevalent in Russian official discourse as well as public opinion. The Helsinki Accords are often cited as a basis for “the division of spheres of influence between the USSR and the United States, with the recognition of existing borders, both formal (national) and informal (political), with the Russian Federation supposedly being understood as the inheritor of the USSR’s spheres of influence.

Russia’s top two “national interests” listed in the doctrine are: independence, state and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, the inviolability of the country’s sovereignty, which extends to the internal sea waters, territorial sea, their bottom and subsoil, as well as to the airspace above them and ensuring the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Russian Federation in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf. The geopolitical position of the Russian Federation and its role in world politics (Russian elites strongly favor a multipolar order) are closely tied to international maritime law. Changing or challenging borders at sea has been slowly happening and it directly threatens the integrity of maritime regimes and treaties, including UNCLOS. The annexation of Crimea is the most relevant example. By illegally seizing Ukrainian territory, Russia also changed maritime borders and created new EEZs and territorial waters. This directly affects all regions covered by the new doctrine: from the Arctic and its Northern Sea Route to the Black Sea and the blockade of Azov or the “fluid” EEZs and territorial waters of the Russian Federation. International law is essentially what states make of it and by claiming Crimea, Moscow challenged the existing legal framework.

The doctrine is very specific about which areas Russia considers zones of “vital interest.” For example, it prioritizes: “fixing its external border in accordance with Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982.” Member of the State Duma Artur Chilingarov eloquently synthesized the essence of said “fixing” in 2007: “The Arctic is Russian.” Russia’s proposal to extend the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is another example of “fixing borders.” Professor Chilingarov reference to the Arctic carries even more weight due to his extensive knowledges and experience in the Arctic. Artur Chilingarov, led several expeditions to the Arctic and is special Presidential Representative for international cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctica.

There already have been numerous events and incidents which have plagued the security of maritime regimes and there are major open legal cases addressing said violations: the International Court of Justice in the Hague and Ukraine v. Russia (re Crimea) (dec.) [GC] – 20958/14 address the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg Case No. 26 concerning the detention of three Ukrainian naval vessels by the Russian Federation is on the roll, and the International Court of Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm handles the Dispute Concerning Coastal State Rights in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Kerch Strait. Essentially all these tribunals are now discussing Ukraine’s valid complaints vis-à-vis a Russian encroaching on Ukrainian territory, territorial waters, or continental shelf.

Socio-Economic Focus and “Mobilization”

In their coverage of the new maritime doctrine, Western press has focused on the NATO mentions and the paragraph which singles out the Alliance, particularly the United States, as the main threat to the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, there are numerous and very significant non-militaristic changes as compared to the 2015 document. Notably, the 2022 doctrine emphasizes the socio-economic and scientific-technological components of maritime security. 

The 2022 doctrine contains a marked focus on maritime activities aimed at “ensuring Russia’s economic independence and food security” to protect Russian national interest. Ports and maritime infrastructure play an important role in the new doctrine. There are plans to create new transport and logistics centers on the basis of Russian seaports that can handle “the entire volume of sea exports and imports of the Russian Federation.” Furthermore, the doctrine voices concern about the lack of naval bases located outside of Russia, as well as an inferior number of vessels, both military and commercial, under the Russian state flag. The doctrine establishes goals to form marine economic centers of national and interregional purpose in what the document calls “zones of advanced development” (Crimea, Black Sea-Kuban, and Azov-Don). A great deal of emphasis is put on the development of Russian merchant and transport fleets as well as “non-military and civil fleets.” The doctrine encourages an increase in the number of Russian-flagged vessels, but does not give any sort of indication as to how this will be achieved specifically.

The 2022 Maritime Doctrine attaches particular strategic importance to the development of offshore pipeline systems for the transportation of hydrocarbons, including those produced on the continental shelf of the Russian Federation. An important change both from an economic perspective and from a maritime law perspective, given that several areas are in international litigation and illegally occupied. In comparison with the 2015 Maritime Doctrine, the development of offshore pipeline systems is singled out as an independent functional direction of the national maritime policy of the Russian Federation. In the same ranking for functional directions, naval activities are ranked last (fifth). Energy infrastructure in the Federation is under the control of state-owned companies, and we have yet to understand the scope of Russian Maritime “specialized fleets.” 

Finally, in this socio-economic direction, an interesting point is the repetitive mention of “mobilization training and mobilization readiness in the field of maritime activities.” The reference is not specific when it refers to vessels. It can be assumed that this will make it possible to introduce civilian vessels and crews into the Russian Navy, and ensure the functioning of maritime infrastructure in wartime. The doctrine is however very specific by region, for instance, it calls for further development of the forces (troops), as well as the basing system of the Baltic Fleet. In the Black Sea, the doctrine specifically declares the intention to address the “international legal regulation of the regime and procedure for using the Kerch Strait.”

The socio-economic direction is an important change in the new document, but it should not come as a surprise. The changes further subordinate other elements of Russian maritime power into a legal framework. This is very important when interpreting Russian maritime documents: the overreaching security strategy and Russian strategic thinking and political culture have a vertical power structure where maritime or energy assets are instruments of power first and foremost and economic/civilian ones second. And the doctrine underscores the primacy of Russian law over any other international legal arrangements.

Regional Directions: NATO, the Arctic, the Black Sea, and the Russian Far East

The new doctrine was approved by the Russian President “in order to ensure the implementation of the national maritime policy of the Russian Federation,” and it serves as a compass for “maritime activities” in the “regions” of strategic interest. The main regional directions of the national maritime policy of the Russian Federation are the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific, Caspian, Indian Ocean, and Antarctic directions. The regional directions have shifted in priority compared to the 2015 doctrine. Put into the wider context of overall Russian foreign policy, it does not mean that the Black Sea is less important than the Arctic, but that the global security situation requires regional solutions fitted to regional specificities. For Russia, the Black Sea is already a theater of war, while the Arctic presents both opportunity for cooperation and the potential for further escalation. In both regions, Western strategists must re-conceptualize their approach to Russia in order to remain relevant and to produce effective results.

In the Atlantic region, the new Russian maritime policy is now “focused only on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the imperfection of legal mechanisms for ensuring international security.” Considering the structure of Russian maritime forces, what this means for NATO is that it must take into account how to balance its mandate of military-political alliance with the task at hand. Clearly there will be a need for a more innovative operational approach. The United States will have to take on more leadership in the European maritime space and support allied navies in the Black Sea to modernize fleets with interoperable equipment. If in the Baltic Sea the military balance is quite favorable to the Alliance, especially after the accession of Sweden and Finland, then the Black Sea becomes more vulnerable. 

The Russian Federation is the largest country by land mass spanning over 16,376,870.0 km² in both Europe and Asia. However, this landmass is connected to the broader maritime world in only four places, including the Pacific on the Sea of Japan at Vladivostok, in the Baltic at Saint Petersburg, the Barents Sea through Murmansk, and in the Black Sea through the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has many other ports, however none of them are ice-free warm-water ports, and therefore they require expensive procedures during the infamous Russian winter in order to keep them operational. Russia needs warm water ports year-round for military operations as well as commerce. This is addressed in the new document and a lot of emphasis is put on the development of the Northern Sea Route. Russia is looking to comprehensively develop the Northern Sea Route in order to turn it into a safe, year-round trade route, competitive with other routes from Asia to Europe. In an interview in June, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Representative to the Far East, Yury Trutnev, declared that he saw year-round navigation through the Northern Sea Route as a real possibility by 2024.

Russian internal dynamics have always had a tension between areas of progress and modernization and isolated portions of land and peoples left behind by development. Using maritime development to help overcome the economic and infrastructural isolation of the Russian Far East from the industrially developed regions of the Russian Federation is named as a priority in the doctrine. Establishing sustainable sea (river), air and rail links with cities and towns in Siberia and the European part of the Russian Federation, including the development of the Northern Sea Route would significantly improve the connection between the rest of Russia and the Far East. The doctrine is actually quite ambitious in this regard, it talks about developing “a modern high-tech shipbuilding complex in the Far East, designed for the construction of large-capacity vessels, including for the development of the Arctic and aircraft carriers for the Navy.”

The doctrine also looks to the Arctic with a focus on maintaining global leadership in the construction and operation of nuclear icebreakers, an area where the United States is already playing catchup. The doctrine also asserts Russia’s belief in the “the immutability of the historically established international legal regime of inland sea waters in the Arctic regions and the straits of the Northern Sea Route” and “control of the naval activities of foreign states in the waters of the Northern Sea Route.”


The 2015 Russian maritime doctrine was rightfully perceived as a “showy demonstrations of strength,” but the new version presents a very different image. If properly analyzed, it is obvious Russia still considers itself a great power, including in the maritime space, yet is more self-aware of its shortcomings, both in the maritime domain and beyond. In the previous doctrine, Russia was declaring itself to be the word’s second-best navy, now it is content to be a great maritime power among peers. Russian leadership is looking to consolidate the Russian Navy’s position among the world’s leading maritime powers, but it no longer boasts about supposed superiority. The striking emphasis on mobilization speaks to this self-awareness. Russia is a nuclear power that believes it is prepared for total war, while simultaneously looking for opportunities to open itself up for cooperation with the international community that is beneficial to Russia. 

There is also subtle symbolism in the way that the new doctrine was released: Kronstadt is very closely linked to the Russian Navy. Russian culture places a lot of emphasis on symbolism and the current regime often employs history and collective memory as a tool to send messages domestically. Peter the Great had considered making Kronstadt the capital of his empire, and maybe most striking in symbolism is the Kronstadt Rebellion. Although the sailors’ revolt against the reforms of the Bolsheviks was crushed, it forced the system to adopt the “New Economic Policy” a temporary retreat form the aggressive policy of centralization and forced collectivization brought upon by Marxism–Leninism.

Similarly, the new Maritime Doctrine shifted emphasis on socioeconomic aspects and mobilization of a nation preparing for total war with the collective West. Hopefully both the United States and allied strategists understand the pragmatism of the Russian perspective, the symbolism, as well as the importance of more nuanced changes which could bring upon a new order, including in the maritime space.

Dr. Olga R. Chiriac is a Black Sea State Department Title VIII research fellow for the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC and an associated researcher at the Center for Strategic Studies in Bucharest, Romania. She is an alumna of the Arizona Legislative and Government Internship Program and her research and forthcoming work is on the application of cognitive sciences in security and defense, with a focus on joint special operations and the maritime domain.

Featured Image: Russian Navy frigate Admiral Essen. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Sea Control 392 – Russia’s Arctic Strategy in a Changing Region with Katarzyna Zysk

By Zsófia Wolford

The Arctic is warming at least four times faster than the rest of the globe, opening up new trade routes and making natural resources more accessible to Arctic states. Changes driven by climate change, and regional competition and militarization have increased over the past decade, with Russia being a dominant player in the Arctic.

Katarzyna Zysk, Professor of International Relations at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies (IFS), joins Sea Control to discuss current security trends in the Arctic. The discussion focuses on Russia’s Arctic strategy, the impact of the war in Ukraine on Russia’s abilities to strengthen its presence and influence in the region, and the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO and its effects on the security environment in the High North.

Download Sea Control 392 – Russia’s Arctic Strategy in a Changing Region with Katarzyna Zysk


1.  “Russia in the Arctic: Gauging How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Will Alter Regional Dynamics,”by Andrea Kendall-Taylor et al.,  Center for New American Security, September 15, 2022.
Russia Assumes Arctic Council Chairmanship amid Regional Tensions,” by Mary Chesnut and Anya Fink, Center for Naval Analyses, May 26, 2021.
3. “The Arctic Ice between Russia and The US Is Melting. What’s at Stake at The Top of The World?”, by Sherryn Groch, The Age, October 21, 2022.

Zsofia Wolford is a Co-Host and Producer of the Sea Control podcast. Contact the podcast team at

The Politics of Naval Innovation: Cruise Missiles and the Tomahawk

The following republication is adapted from a chapter from The Politics of Naval Innovation, a paper sponsored by the Office of Net Assessment and conducted by the Strategic Research Department of the U.S. Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies. Read it in its original form here.

By CDR Gregory A. Engel

This chapter explores the origins of the modern cruise missile and the ultimate development of the Tomahawk cruise missile, particularly the conventional variant. In keeping with the theme of the study, it focuses on the politics of cruise missile development and the implications as they relate to a Revolution in Military Affairs. The full history of cruise missiles can be traced to the development of the V-1 “buzz bomb” used in the Second World War. Since this history is available in many publications, it will not be discussed here nor is it especially pertinent to modern cruise missile development. Worth noting, however, is that the enthusiasm of many early Harpoon and Tomahawk advocates can be linked to the Regulus and other unmanned aircraft programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

What this chapter will show is that although air- and sea-launched cruise missiles (ALCM/SLCM) began along different paths neither would have come to full production and operation had it not been for intervention from the highest civilian levels. Having support from the top, however, did not mean there were not currents, crosscurrents, and eddies below the surface (i.e., at the senior and middle military levels) stirring up the political waters. Studying the challenges faced by cruise missile advocates and how they were overcome can provide valuable lessons for those tasked with developing tomorrow’s technological innovations.

The development of the modern cruise missile spanned nearly fifteen years from conception to initial operational capability (IOC). To those introduced to the cruise missile on CNN during the Gulf crisis in 1991, however, the modern cruise missile seemed more like an overnight leap from science fiction to reality. But as this chapter will show, both cruise missile technology and doctrinal adaptations were slow to be accepted.

The political and bureaucratic roads to acceptance of the sea-launched cruise missile were never smooth. As Ronald Huisken noted, “The weapons acquisition process is a most complex amalgam of political, military, technological, economic, and bureaucratic considerations …. Rational behavior in this field is particularly hard to define and even harder to enforce.”1 Since they first became feasible, the Navy demonstrated an interest in cruise missiles. But finding a champion for them among the Navy’s three primary warfighting “unions” (associated with carrier aviation, submarines and surface warfare) proved difficult. Despite the cancellation of the Regulus program in the 1960s, some surface warfighters aspired to develop an antiship cruise missile which could compete with evolving Soviet technologies. But carrier aviation was the centerpiece of naval war at sea, so initially little support could be garnered for a new variety of surface-to-surface missile. As the requirement for an antiship missile became more evident following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were given some surface-to-surface capability.2

However, following the 1967 sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an Egyptian SSN-2 Styx missile, Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr., then a Rear Admiral and head of the Systems Analysis Division, was directed by Paul Nitze, the Secretary of the Navy, via Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations, to initiate a study on cruise missiles that eventually led to the Harpoon.

When Nitze directed the Navy to undertake the study on surface-to-surface missiles, there were two prevailing military requirements. The first was that the US needed such a capability to counter the growing strategic potential of the Soviets. The second was to improve the US’s strategic balance. During this period, there was growing alarm over the rapidly expanding Soviet nuclear missile arsenal and the naval shipbuilding race which (to some) the Soviets appeared to be winning. Admiral Zumwalt was one of those concerned individuals and saw the cruise missile as a required capability. He brought this conviction with him when he became the Chief of Naval Operations in July 1970.3

Naval doctrine at this time held that US surface vessels did not need long-range surface-to-surface capabilities as long as carrier aviation could provide them.4 Many in Congress shared this view. Against this backdrop, Zumwalt and other likeminded advocates of cruise missiles began their efforts to gain acceptance of cruise missiles within the Navy and on the Hill.

Following over two years of study and tests, a November 1970 meeting of the Defense Select Acquisition Review Council (DSARC) approved the development of the AGM-84 Harpoon missile. By this time, the Harpoon had both sea- and air-launched variants. Within the Navy, the Harpoon had been bureaucratically opposed by the carrier community because it posed a threat to naval aviation missions. During the Vietnam War period, the carrier union was a major benefactor of naval defense funding and it did not want to support any weapons system which could hinder or compete with aircraft or carrier acquisition programs. In order to gain their support, the Harpoon was technologically limited in range.5

The Harpoon project had been under the direction of Navy Captain Claude P. “Bud” Ekas with Commander Walter Locke serving as his guidance project officer. Both officers were later promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1971, the Navy began studying a third Harpoon variant, one which could be launched from submarine torpedo tubes. Concurrently, the Navy began a program to study the Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM). This advanced model was to have an extended range of over 300 miles and to be launched from vertical launch tubes.6 This proposal was generally supported by the submarine community (the criticality of this support will be discussed later).

With the advent of the ACM, it was decided to create the advanced cruise missile project office with Locke as director. The Naval Ordnance Systems Command (NAVORD) wanted control of the ACM project and argued that it was the appropriate parent organization for submarine-launched missiles. Admiral Hyman Rickover and other OPNAV submarine admirals opposed this believing that Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was more imaginative and efficient than NAVORD. The earlier assignment of the ship- and air-launched Harpoon to NAVAIR had effectively co-opted the technical leadership of naval aviation. As a result, the ACM program remained under NAVAIR where work proceeded rapidly….7

….The ACM program of 1971, which barely lasted two years, was significant in that it formed the political, fiscal, and technological connection between the Harpoon and the Tomahawk. Long-range cruise missile advocates within the Navy were having difficulty promoting the larger submarine-launched cruise missile because of the ACM’s need for a new submarine. In 1973, they admitted they had no urgent military requirement for a long-range tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM, but they justified it as a bargain with small added cost to strategic cruise missile development. SLCM represented a technological advancement of untold potential that begged for a home. Congressional and OSD acceptance of the ACM paid the bulk of the development costs of a tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM.19 This all fit fortuitously into the timeframe when SALT I negotiators were searching for strategic options.

By mid-1972, there was little support for the tactical nuclear variant of the ACM and the critics within the Navy were powerful. Thus Ekas and Locke worked to link the ACM development team with OSD strategic advocates. Funding and advocacy remained available within OSD for strategic versions of the SLCM. “It was thus only sensible to arrange a marriage of convenience. With Zumwalt’s manipulation, Laird’s intervention thus set the Navy on a nearly irreversible course. By 6 November 1972 – the date of the consolidation order – surface fleet proponents of a new surface-to-surface missile had effectively won their battle, even if they did not realize it at the time.”20 In December 1972, a new program office, PMA-263, was established and Captain Locke was transferred from the Harpoon Program Office to become the Program Manager.21

Admiral Locke has noted that others in the Navy Department did not believe in the cruise missile. He received a telephone call in June 1972 from an OPNAV staff Captain directing him to “do the right thing” with the recently allocated project funding, i.e., get the money “assigned to things doing work that we can use afterward.” The implication was that the Pentagon had decided it was going to be a one-year program and then was going away. Cruise missiles were seen as a SALT I bargaining chip that made Congressional hawks feel good.22 Not even all submariners were infatuated with the idea; but two submariners who did support it were Admiral Robert Long and Vice Admiral Joe Williams. Admiral Long, who was OP-02 (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Undersea Warfare), believed cruise missiles would do more than take up space for torpedoes – the most common complaint heard from submariners – and was its most influential advocate.23 He was supported by Vice Admiral Williams, who was noted by Locke as also being important to the cruise missile program in the early 1970s….24

….Initial technical studies indicated that desired cruise missile ranges could not be obtained from a weapon designed to fit in a 21-inch torpedo tube; thus, the missile necessitated development of a new submarine fitted with 40-inch vertical launch tubes. Zumwalt, who understood this relationship, directed his Systems Analyses staff, OP-96, to argue against the submarine and criticize the cruise missile.27 A curious position to be in as cruise missile advocates.28 ADM Zumwalt was not prepared to concede the 60,000 SHP submarine to ADM Rickover for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it would decrement funding for other Project 60 items. Submariners believed that getting approval for installing the newly envisioned encapsulated Harpoon would eventually lead to a newer, increased capability torpedo. Without ADM Zumwalt’s knowledge, Joe Williams and Bud Ekas received approval from the Vice CNO, Admiral Cousins, to discretely prototype and test the encapsulated Harpoon. When advised of the results, ADM Zumwalt was chagrined that there was a possible submarine conspiracy underfoot but was eventually persuaded that the funding for further testing would be minimal (mainly for the canisters, tail sections, and the test missiles). There was also the possibility of SSNs carrying later versions of the Harpoon with greatly extended ranges which would allow strikes on the Soviet Navy when weather might preclude carrier aviation strikes in the northern latitudes.29

Although ADM Zumwalt had relented, he remained wary of the submarine community’s desire for a new, larger submarine. As program manager for SLCM, Admiral Locke found himself allied with the submariners in order to garner funding support for his missile. Zumwalt threatened to end procurement of the 688-class SSN if Rickover continued to pursue the 60,000 SHP submarine.30 When wind tunnel tests, which had been directed by Locke, indicated that the required range could be obtained from a cruise missile which could fit in the 21-inch torpedo tube, Rickover and other submariners agreed to halt their quest for a larger attack submarine in exchange for continued procurement of the 688-class and continued development of the cruise missile soon to be known as the Tomahawk.31 Thus, the ACM project was quietly dropped in 1972, but the research on anti-ship cruise missiles continued as part of the SLCM program at Zumwalt’s personal insistence.32 Following a January 1972 memo from the Secretary of Defense to the DDR&E which started a Strategic Cruise Missile program using FY 72 supplemental funds that were never appropriated, the CNO ordered that priority be given to the encapsulated Harpoon.33

A fifth option eventually evolved and, as a result to Locke’s persistent effort with the OSD and OPNAV staffs, was accepted. That option was to proceed with the development of a cruise missile with both strategic and tactical nuclear applications that would be compatible with all existing potential launch platforms. What this fifth option really did was detach the missile’s technical challenges from a specific launch platform so that missile development could progress independently of the submarine issue.34

In 1973, Defense Secretary Laird was replaced by Eliot Richardson. Although Richardson stated he supported Laird’s views on SLCM, his endorsement was neither as enthusiastic nor emphatic. He merely indicated that the United States should give some attention to this particular area of technology, for both strategic and tactical nuclear roles. Support from OSD did not wane, however, and was kicked into high gear by William P. Clements, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. President Nixon had handpicked Clements to assemble a team of acquisition experts from civilian industries to fill the OSD Under Secretaries positions.35 Clements coordinated his efforts with Dr. Foster, who was still Director Defense Engineering and Research. All major defense projects were evaluated and those with the most promise were maintained or strengthened; those lacking promise were decreased or cancelled. He was also looking for programs that would give the US leverage, and when he learned about cruise missiles, he became a super advocate.36 The cruise missile represented the cutting edge of new technology and held promise of a high payoff for low relative cost. It’s fair to say that the US “wouldn’t have had a cruise missile without Bill Clements grasping, conceptually, the idea and pushing the hell out it.'”37

… Despite these technological breakthroughs, by 1974, missions for the cruise missile were still vague. Congress wanted to know why the Navy would be putting a 1,400 NM missile on submarines when, for years, they had been working to increase the distance from which they could launch attacks against the Soviet Union. They also wanted to know whether it was to be a strategic or tactical nuclear missile. The Air Force was still wary of a strategic SLCM because they didn’t want further Navy encroachment on their strategic missions.45 Congress had additional misgivings about what effect the cruise missile would have on strategic stability since the strategic and tactical variants were virtually indistinguishable. No one denied that the cruise missile exhibited great promise, but it lacked a specified mission…

… This indistinct mission for the SLCM proved politically useful within the Navy (even though some in Congress believed it was strategic nonsense). Conceptual flexibility offered naval innovators the means of overcoming significant obstacles in their quest for a long-range surface-to-surface missile. It also offered Defense Department officials the opportunity to urge the Air Force to work on the ALCM. And because it was ambiguous, the new SLCM mission did not raise undue suspicion in the carrier community. As long as a strategic cruise missile appeared to be the goal, the tactical anti-ship version could be treated as a fortuitous spinoff. So, although the Navy drafted a requirement for an anti-ship version of the cruise missile in November 1974, it purposely paced its progress behind the strategic version.48

This strategic rationale may have pacified Congress, but not Zumwalt. As early as 1974, Navy studies had specified the SSN as the launch platform for the SLCM even though that mission would require diverting them from their primary role, anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Zumwalt wanted cruise missiles on surface platforms as anti-ship weapons. Before he left office as CNO in 1974, he designated all cruisers as platforms for the SLCM, particularly the newly proposed nuclear-powered strike cruiser. This particular proposal was not well-received because some thought it would violate the requirement of minimizing the vulnerability of these platforms. Zumwalt received support from Clements who wouldn’t approve another new shipbuilding program unless Tomahawk cruise missiles were included. As a result, Zumwalt got what he wanted from the beginning – a capable anti-ship missile for the surface navy…49

… Pursuit of a conventional land-attack variant was a watershed for the Tomahawk. By placing a land-attack missile on a variety of surface combatants, the Navy’s firepower was dramatically increased as was the Soviet’s targeting problem. But the real doctrinal breakthrough was that surface combatants could now mount land-attack operations independently of the Carrier Battle Group in situations where only a limited air threat existed. The Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile (TASM) was the only version that any subgroup within the Services even lukewarmly desired, but the Navy surface fleet had to proceed cautiously and indirectly to get it.53 Furthermore, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, Tyler Marcy, stressed before procurement hearings in early 1977 that the Navy’s primary interest in the Tomahawk was the conventionally-armed anti-ship variant….

…Presidents facing a crisis are now just as likely to ask “where are the Tomahawks” as they are “where are the carriers?” Conventional Tomahawks are now considered one of the weapons of choice to make political statements against rogue states. When the Soviet Union crumbled and the Russian submarine threat diminished, conventional Tomahawks assured that submarines and surface combatants still had a role and were capable of meeting the new security challenges. In fact, this dispersed firepower was a primary reason the Naval Services were able to contemplate the new littoral warfare strategic vision detailed in …From the Sea….54

OSD Assumes Control

…Finally on 30 September 1977, Dr. William Perry, the new Director of Defense Research and Engineering, issued a memorandum to the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy stating that because the ALCM flyoff was elevated to a matter “of highest national priority,” OSD would not allow the Air Force to continue to impede the creation of the Joint Cruise Missile Project Office (JCMPO) or its subsequent operation.85 Perry directed that the present project management team be retained, that all Deputy Program Managers were to be collocated with the JCMPO, and that the JCMPO was a Chief of Naval Materiel Command-level designated project office. He once again directed the Air Force and Navy to allocate their entire cruise missile program funds directly to the JCMPO. In addition, Perry established an Executive Committee (EXCOM) to provide programmatic and fiscal direction with himself as chairman.86 The original purpose of the EXCOM was to provide a forum for rapid review and discussion of problem areas and to build consensus concerning solutions. Dr. Perry, as the EXCOM chairman and now the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDR&E; DDR&E’s new title), acted as the senior authority whenever it became necessary to resolve disputes between the Services. It was probably the only way to force Service acceptance of a truly joint program in the 1970s.87

Thus within a span of a few months, management of cruise missile development evolved from one of Pentagon hindrance to one where the Under Secretary of Defense fostered rapid problem resolution. This probably wouldn’t have happened had not the ALCM emerged as a high national priority.88 …Without Dr. Perry’s direct intervention, expeditious and fiscally efficient development of the cruise missile would not have occurred.

Final Political Notes

Like any other organizational endeavor, military activity is fraught with political machinations. In this case, segments of the military Services did not want cruise missiles because they threatened their missions and doctrine, as well as competed for scarce funding. “The long-range air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) was rammed down the throat of the Air Force. The Army refused to accept development responsibility for the ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). The Navy – specifically the carrier Admirals – did not want the Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile because it represented a clear and present danger to the mission of the carrier-based aircraft.”89 There was a “not invented here” mentality that was almost insurmountable among the Services.90

Furthermore, the Air Force and Navy objected to a project manager who seemed to have been removed from their control. In order to streamline the cruise missile program, he was given direct communication links to the Under Secretary of Defense. This greatly facilitated program direction and allowed for rapid assimilation of technological breakthroughs.91 However, the JCMPO also aggravated and alienated the Services which had now effectively lost control of both their funds and their programs. The program director immediately became an outsider.92 The fact that the Navy and Air Force had completely different objectives also led to problems. “Anytime there’s not a consensus, the budgeteers, or budget analysts, will bore right in until they get two sides,” can demonstrate policy inconsistencies and then use them as justification to cut the budget.93 Perry’s Executive Committee was established to ensure inconsistencies did not develop, but was not designed to be a rubber stamp group where Locke could go and receive approval by fiat. The EXCOM was a vehicle where concerned parties could come together and quickly get a decision on important issues.94

Cruise missile development would not have proceeded as fast or gone as far had it not been for senior-level, civilian intervention bolstering the strong leadership provided by the Program Director.95 Technological innovation abetted the development process, but by itself would not have created a self-sustaining momentum.

“At every crucial stage in the development of each type of cruise missile, high level political intervention was necessary either to start it or to sustain it,” particularly during the period from 1973 to 1977 when SALT II forced cruise missile advocates to bargain hard for systems which many in the military did not want….96

….Service mavericks and zealots were required as well. Admiral Locke was certainly one, and as director of the JCMPO, he became a strong advocate who was able to professionally guide cruise missile development. He was replaced in August 1982 by Admiral Stephen Hostettler. The Navy insisted the change was necessary because of poor missile reliability and schedule delays.98 Naval leadership also wanted “their own man” in charge of the process. Because Admiral Locke had effectively bypassed naval leadership to overcome numerous problems, he was considered an outsider. In fact, Locke had been appointed because he was a good program manager and somebody whom OSD could trust. His unique power base automatically placed him at odds with the Navy.99 On several occasions, Clements intervened to save Locke’s career because the Navy was trying to get rid of him. Locke was working on a program that wasn’t in the Navy mainstream and they feared the emergence of another Rickover.100 Nevertheless, without Admiral Locke’s leadership, cruise missiles would not have been developed when they were.


1. Ronald Huisken, The Origin of the Strategic Cruise Missile (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981), p. xiii.

2. Interview with RearAdmiral Walter M. Locke, USN, (Ret.), McLean, VA, 5 May 1993.

3. Interview with Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 28 May 1993.

4. Richard K. Betts, ed., Cruise Missiles: Technology, Strategy, Politics (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1981), p. 380. ADM Zumwalt’s predecessor, ADM Moorer, chose to respond to the Eilat incident by enhancing the capabilities of the carrier fleet, not those of the surface fleet. (Ibid., p. 384).

5. Zumwalt interview, 28 May 1993.

6. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 84.

7. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

19. Ibid., p. 30.

20. Kenneth P. Werrell, The Evolution of the Cruise Missile (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1985), p. 387.

21. Ross R. Hatch, Joseph L. Luber andJames W. Walker, “Fifty Years of Strike Warfare Research at the Applied Physics Laboratory,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1992), p. 117.

22. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

23. Interview with Vice Admiral James Doyle, USN, (Ret.), Bethesda, MD, 11 August 1993.

24. Admiral Locke greatly credits their vision and assistance during the early formation years of the cruise missile. Locke interview, 14 July 1993.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Interview with Vice AdmiralJoc Williams, USN, (Ret.), Groton, CT, 26 August 1993. The majority of the information in this paragraph is from this interview.

30. Ibid.

31. Admiral Zumwalt acknowledged in his book that Rickover and carrier aviation were impediments to his Project 60 plan throughout his tenure as CNO. [Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch: A Memoir (New York: Quadrangle, 1976)] His apparent lack of advocacy for cruise missiles should not be misinterpreted. He used cruise missiles as a bargaining chip to obtain his higher goal of a balanced Navy which he felt was necessary to counter the Soviet threat. His threats to prevent Harpoon/cruise missile employment was merely a counter to Rickover’s “shenanigans,” as he referred to them.

32. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 386. The Soviets eventually fielded their own large cruise missile submarine, the Oscar-class.

33. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 151 and Locke interview, 28 August 1994.

34. Locke interview, 5 May 1993. (Emphasis added).

35. Interview with the Honorable William P. Clements, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Taos, NM, 16 June 1993.

36. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

37. Interview with Dr. Malcolm Currie, former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Van Nuys, CA, 21 September 1993.

45. Interview with Bob Holsapple, former Public Affairs and Congressional Relations Officer for the Tomahawk program, Alexandria, VA, 27 May 1993.

48. Rear Admiral Walter Locke’s testimony in Fiscal Year 1975 Authorization Hearings, pt. 7, pp. 3665-7.

49. ADM Zumwalt also saw the inclusion of SLCMs aboard surface ships as one final triumph over Rickover.

53. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 406.

54. … From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, September 1992).

85. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 6

86. Members of the EXCOM included DDR&E (chairman), the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (RE&S), the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (RD&L), the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of Defense (PA&E), and the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). After the first meeting, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commander Air Force Systems Command were added as permanent members. [Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 14.]

87. Interview with Dr. William Perry, Secretary of Defense and former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Newport, RI, 23 June 1993.

88. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 63.

89. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 360.

90. Clements interview, 16June 1993. The Navy Secretariat’s reasonable belief was that OSD was using the Navy to develop an Air Force missile. This contributed to its “not invented here” attitude. [Locke interview, 28 August 1994].

91. Wohlstetter interview, 18 September 1993.

92. Naval personnel, such as Vice Admiral Ken Carr, who held positions outside of the Navy’s organization, were critical. Carr was Clements’ Executive Assistant and helped maintain backdoor channels for Locke that were as important, if not more important, than formal chains of command. Interview with Vice Admiral Ken Carr, USN, (Ret.), former Executive Assistant for William Clements, Groton Long Point, CT, 24 August 1993.

93. Interview with Mr. Al Best, SAIC, Alexandria, VA, 14 July 1993.

94. Perry interview, 23 June 1993.

95. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 361.

96. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 361.

98. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 2 1 1 .

99. Currie interview, 21 September 1993.

100. Parker interview, 22 September 1993.

Featured Image: The battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) launches a BGM-109 Tomahawk missile against a target in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

Sea Control 391 – Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour with Blake Herzinger & Jimmy Drennan

In CIMSEC’s first podcast collaboration with the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies, we are airing the YCAPS Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour discussion, “Why the United States Needs a Real Maritime Strategy,” moderated by friend of the program John Bradford and featuring Jimmy Drennan and Blake Herzinger.

Download Sea Control 391 – Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour with Blake Herzinger and Jimmy Drennan


2. “Advantage at Sea: Prevailing with Integrated All-Domain Naval Power,” US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Coast Guard, December 2020.
3. “Goals and Objectives for a Stronger Maritime Nation: A Report to Congress,” Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, 2020.
4. “The National Strategy for Maritime Security, Department of Homeland Security,” September 20, 2005.
5. “National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone,” Prepared by the Ocean Science and Technology Subcommittee of the Ocean Policy Committee, June 2020.
6. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region,” The White House, October 2022. 

This episode was edited and produced by Nate Miller.

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.