Tag Archives: IAMD

The Aegis Warship: Joint Force Linchpin for IAMD and Access Control

This article originally appeared in the National Defense University’s Joint Forces Quarterly 80, and is republished with permission. It can be read in its original form here.

By John F. Morton

Under defense strategic guidance, U.S. combatant commanders have been rebalancing joint forces along the Asia-Pacific Rim with recalibrated capabilities to shape the regional security environments in their areas of responsibility. The mission of what the 2012 guidance calls “Joint Force in 2020” is to project stabilizing force to support our allies and partners, and to help maintain the free flow of commerce along sea lines of communication in the globalized economic system.1

Forces postured forward for deterrence and conflict prevention are a substantial component to U.S. global engagement. The combatant commanders, joint community, and Services are working together to plan and resource this joint force with credible, effective, and affordable warfighting capabilities that assure friends and deter adversaries—should deterrence and conflict prevention fail.

Complicating the combatant commanders’ calculus are the advancing antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities in the hands of potential adversaries and rogue states that pose a major challenge to the maritime domain. From the Arctic to the Arabian Gulf, Russia, North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran all have to varying degrees either deployed or are developing nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities. Combined with other A2/AD capabilities that include sea-skimming and high-diving supersonic cruise missiles, these threats to the global maritime commons translate into powerful tools for diplomatic coercion.

The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review put specific priority on increasing overall joint force capabilities to counter growing A2/AD challenges. In what the Pentagon characterizes as the A2/AD environment, defense officials are now conceptualizing the high-end level of the warfighting spectrum around the integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) mission. In December 2013, General Martin Dempsey, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released his Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense: Vision 2020 that spoke of the need for IAMD to “be even more Joint—advancing interdependence and integrating new capabilities.”2

Senior military officials conceive of high-end operations as IAMD-centric. They view IAMD as a joint capability to be employed at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war. Competitive IAMD strategies for today’s A2/AD environments are comparable to those strategies formulated during the Cold War with reference to the Fulda Gap, such as the Follow-on Forces Attack subconcept. The strategies inform IAMD requirements generation and acquisition, as well as the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution process for systems and architectures.

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville recently completed combat systems update with latest Aegis Baseline 9 combat system, June 18, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Peter Burghart)
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville recently completed combat systems update with latest Aegis Baseline 9 combat system, June 18, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Peter Burghart)

Joint IAMD describes the IAMD environment as an expanding battlespace requiring plans and operations that range across global, regional, transregional, and homeland domains. “The regional and intercontinental reach of ballistic missiles,” it continues, “alters the strategic and operational decision space.”3 IAMD forces in a specific theater can extend to regional, transregional, and homeland operations. As such, combatant commander plans must allow for coordination and handoff across combatant command areas of responsibility.

Since May 2013, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has had technical authority over the IAMD mission. MDA now leads all joint IAMD engineering and integration efforts, including defining and controlling the IAMD interfaces and the allocation of IAMD technical requirements. MDA’s current director is Vice Admiral James Syring, the first Navy head of the agency. His arrival in 2012 coincided with a time when the Aegis ship-based combat system came to be seen as a core element of U.S. and partner nation efforts in ballistic missile defense (BMD) in line with the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the administration’s missile defense strategy for Europe.4 Syring previously served as the program executive officer for integrated warfare systems (PEO IWS) in the Navy office that was responsible for modernization of Aegis cruisers and destroyers, new construction, and ongoing baseline upgrades to their combat systems.

Working with MDA in driving IAMD jointness is the Joint Staff’s Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate (J8), specifically the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization (JIAMDO). This group leads in developing and fielding a comprehensive, integrated joint and combined air and missile defense force in support of Joint IAMD. Since June 2014, JIAMDO directors have been two other Navy flag officers, Rear Admiral Jesse A. Wilson, Jr., and his recent successor, Rear Admiral Ed Cashman. They have led JIAMDO in planning, coordinating, and overseeing joint air and missile defense requirements, operational concepts, and operational architectures. They have also headed the U.S. delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air and Missile Defense Committee that develops and steers Alliance IAMD policy, all the more important in view of the current situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

These Navy appointments to the joint community reflect the reality that the foundational maritime IAMD enablers for active defense will be the surface Navy’s modernized fleet of Aegis-equipped warships. Mobile, forward-deployed Aegis cruisers and destroyers, variously upgraded, will serve as the combatant commanders’ net-enabling nodes for globally integrated joint force operations for access control. (Augmenting the missile defense capability of at-sea Aegis platforms in the NATO area of responsibility will be the land-based Aegis Ashore variant. Under EPAA Phase II, Aegis Ashore is in Romania with a technical capability declaration that came at the end of 2015; the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy has planned for initial operational capability [IOC] in July 2016. Phase III Aegis Ashore is due in Poland in 2018.)

Modernized Aegis as the IAMD Game Changer

The linchpin of regional IAMD is surface warfare, then-Captain James Kilby wrote in April 2014.5 The deputy for ballistic missile defense, Aegis combat systems, and destroyers in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) Surface Warfare Directorate (N96), Kilby explained that the surface Navy’s fleet of 30 Aegis cruisers and destroyers is capable of conducting ballistic missile defense. His main points, however, addressed how a host of additional Aegis ships are undergoing modernization and will be equipped with a new combat system baseline that provides advanced IAMD capabilities. Now a rear admiral, Kilby became the first commander of the newly established Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center in San Diego in mid-2014. Prior to his OPNAV service, he commanded the cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61), the first Aegis BMD ship to deploy to the Mediterranean in March 2011 to support EPAA.

sm launch
Crew of guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones successfully engaged 6 targets with 5 Standard Missiles during live-fire test, June 19, 2014 (U.S. Navy)

Kilby stated that the key feature of Aegis IAMD modernization is the Baseline 9 combat system upgrade that provides the ability to conduct integrated fires via a sensor net linking ships and aircraft. Four Baseline 9 ships—two cruisers and two destroyers—underwent certification in 2015. An additional BMD destroyer, the lead Baseline 9 destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), is homeported in Hawaii. In August 2014, the John Paul Jones replaced the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) as the deployable BMD test ship assigned to the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai to support MDA and Navy testing of IAMD capabilities. (The John Paul Jones Baseline 9 upgrade was co-funded by the Navy and MDA. Although the ship is an “integrated baseline ship” that is also deployable, it is not a combatant command asset.) John Paul Jones has to date successfully completed four flight test events intercepting both short-range ballistic missile and cruise missile targets using the Standard Missile (SM)-6 Dual I and SM-2 Block IV missiles.

The most complex variant of integrated fires, wrote Kilby, is the emerging Navy Integrated Fire Control–Counter Air (NIFC-CA) capability that dramatically extends the sensor net to allow for missile engagements beyond the radar horizon. NIFC-CA provides integrated fire control for theater air and antiship cruise missile defense in the tactical environment. The capability greatly expands the over-the-horizon air warfare battlespace for surface combatants to enable third-party targeting and use of smart missiles. “If properly employed with the right tactics,” Kilby wrote, NIFC-CA, the SM-6 surface-to-air/space missile, the E-2D Hawkeye with the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), and 5th-generation F-35 fighter aircraft will be “IAMD game changers.”

OPNAV’s Surface Warfare Directorate is working to enhance the utility of NIFC-CA. Among the concepts considered is making the Baseline 9 ships less reliant on assets of the carrier strike group by using an organic unmanned aerial vehicle with the necessary data links to provide the tracking and targeting information to the ship’s system as a way forward for Aegis in its IAMD role.

In 2013, then–Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert directed the Service to accelerate NIFC-CA’s fielding, achieving IOC of Increment 1 with the E-2D in 2014. The Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group deployed with a squadron of E-2Ds and the USS Normandy (CG 60), a Baseline 9 cruiser. The lead Baseline 9 cruiser, USSChancellorsville (CG 62), is now under operational control of U.S. 7th Fleet. The third Baseline 9 cruiser, USS Princeton (CG 59), underwent combat system ship qualification trials and integrated testing in July 2015. The initial NIFC-CA concept of operations, however, still requires additional testing and refinement as the Navy delivers the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) needed to exploit the new IAMD capabilities.

While the Baseline 9 cruisers go by the name “air defense cruisers,” the Baseline 9 destroyers will be full-up IAMD Aegis ships with both NIFC-CA and BMD capabilities. The Baseline 9.C1 destroyers USS John Paul Jones, USS Benfold (DDG 65), and USS Barry (DDG 52) were slated to achieve Navy certification in 2015 with open architecture BMD 5.0 combat system computer software. Benfold is now on station with the 7th Fleet’s Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Yokosuka, Japan. Barry will follow by 2017.

Based on the tactical threat picture, Baseline 9 Aegis destroyers will be able to allocate their computer resources more dynamically in a single computing environment to maximize their BMD performance without degrading their air defense role. The principal enabler of this capability is the multi-mission signal processor (MMSP) for the Aegis SPY-1D radar. Earlier BMD computing suites for the radar used a separate signal processor, meaning a BMD-equipped surface warship could engage either a ballistic missile or an aircraft/cruise missile threat, but not both threats simultaneously. This situation resulted in difficult trade-offs that limited the system’s anti-air warfare (AAW) capability to an unknown extent. The MMSP, however, effectively integrates signal-processing inputs from the BMD signal processor and the legacy Aegis in-service signal processor for the radar. This integration enables the SPY radar to go from single-beam to dual-beam capability to meet the power resource priorities for simultaneous anti-air warfare and BMD sector coverage. The MMSP’s up-to-date commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software algorithms control radar waveform generation and allow for simultaneous processing of both AAW and BMD radar signals.

Critically, the MMSP improves Aegis SPY radar system performance in littoral environments, for example, against sea skimmers in a high-clutter environment. For BMD, the processor also enhances search and long-range surveillance and tracking and BMD signal processor range resolution, discrimination, and characterization, as well as real-time capability displays.

The Navy’s PEO IWS strategic vision for Aegis modernization is simple. Smaller and more frequent upgrades to modular combat systems with open architecture and standard interfaces will best enable the surface Navy to maintain operational superiority in support of the joint force in the A2/AD environment.

Aegis baseline upgrades strive for commonality to reduce the combat system footprint onboard ships. Future baselines will bring additional IAMD capabilities, notably, integration of additional off-board sensors as the joint force “sensor-shooter” networks mature and A2/AD counters in the access environment. A key developmental focus is determining what other off-board elements can integrate into the fire control loop and federated network to increase overall affordability and lethality.

JIAMDO: An Ally for Driving Data-Sharing over the Sensor-Shooter Net

Guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie equipped with second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system used launch-on-remote doctrine to engage target from Pacific missile range facility, February 12, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Mathew J. Diendorf)
Guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie equipped with second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system used launch-on-remote doctrine to engage target from Pacific missile range facility, February 12, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Mathew J. Diendorf)

The good news is that the question of how to share data is no longer a “cultural issue.” The Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization is helping to forge strong relationships across PEO IWS, MDA, combatant commands, and the Services. The bad news, however, is that going from interoperable to integrated systems that seamlessly share data will require investments in systems testing and evaluation among the Services. The era of declining defense budgets and increasing demand from combatant commanders for capacity as well as capability provides impetus to leverage efficiencies with joint and possibly Allied systems. “Importantly, IAMD will need to be even more Joint—advancing interdependence and integrating new capabilities,” states the Joint IAMD.6 Affordability is key to the joint IAMD vision for fielding more systems. The JIAMDO Vision and Roadmap describe the “to be” goals and desired states of IAMD in 2020 and 2020–2030, respectively. Not anticipating a quantum leap to interoperability, JIAMDO is working closely with MDA’s IAMD technical asessment to determine what interoperability is possible given Service budgets and willingness.

Modernized Aegis cruisers and destroyers will plug into the strategic-level network of national sensors for missile defense. This sensor-shooter net will ultimately provide them with a flexible, combined launch-on-remote/engage-on-remote capability along the area and regional missile defense continuum, potentially extending to select homeland defense missions in the future.

The potential for further IAMD sensor-shooter networks to counter A2/AD capabilities is leading both combatant commanders and JIAMDO to focus on track correlation and data links. From an Aegis-platform perspective, the farther out the sensor-shooter mix, the more crucial the resolution of track correlation issues. Tracks and data are provided, for example, by Link 16, CEC, and the Command and Control Battle Management and Communications network, the integrating element of the ballistic missile defense system.

JIAMDO has been pushing the Services to share common tracks for a shared-picture, integrated fire control (IFC) and operational-level joint engagement zones (JEZs). JIAMDO funds and runs exercises for combatant commands and the Services to test TTPs for joint IAMD missions. The annual Black Dart exercises, for example, test countermeasures against unmanned aerial systems. Joint IAMD challenges JIAMDO to leverage ongoing efforts to improve the air picture (the common operational picture [COP] for wide-area surveillance and battlespace awareness), combat identification (CID), discrimination (for ballistic missiles), and IFC and battle management, for example, via automated battle management aids (ABMA). Having embraced the joint IAMD vision, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and combatant commanders have accepted localized JEZ integrated air and missile defense. JIAMDO is thus active in developing its JEZ approaches and their COPs. Indeed, it regards COPs as one of the so-called pillars of IAMD, along with CID, IFC, and ABMA.

JIAMDO has the responsibility for developing the IAMD operational architecture—the broad-based description of how things work conceptually over the entire IAMD mission area. A fully functional joint IAMD architecture supports execution of current and future concepts with operationally representative positions for these systems. Applying a systems-agnostic approach, a JIAMDO technical committee takes that architecture and then defines IAMD system requirements in concert with the MDA Joint Service Systems Engineering Team (JSSET), now that MDA has the responsibility over IAMD technical assessment.

Having technical authority over IAMD missions, MDA approaches interoperability architecture first by building on legacy systems that will then inform ground-up design for future systems. To execute the joint IAMD architecture requirements for Aegis, MDA works with its Aegis BMD component and the Navy’s PEO IWS 7.0 (Future Combat Systems). IAMD interoperability requirements also apply to the Army Terminal High Altitude Air Defense and Patriot missile systems, the Air Force Airborne Warning and Control System, F-15 and F-22 aircraft, the Navy E-2 and F/A-18 aircraft, and the Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor system, among others.

The JSSET is the specific MDA entity that coordinates the work on the architectures. This team serves as a joint acquisition effort to build the future framework for the near-term joint track management capability (JTMC) and long-term joint IAMD capabilities. JSSET now has a business structure for outreach as well as traction for the system architecture products that are releasable to NATO Allies and industry for the requirements definition process.

A priority product is the Army/Navy JTMC Bridge. JSSET is continuing development of the JTMC Bridge, which has been in the works for several years. Representing a successful translation of operational needs into joint requirements, the Bridge is in fact the only system architecture for an entire mission area. A hardware solution specific to connecting two systems—the Army Integrated Fire Control Network and the Navy CEC—the JTMC Bridge has the potential to enable additional kill chains. At this point, however, JIAMDO and the JSSET recognize the value of the Bridge. JIAMDO would like to see a broader, future-looking effort toward an IAMD-wide systems architecture based on the operational architecture. Studies are ongoing, including an operational benefits analysis and cost benefit analysis.

Looking Ahead

Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense: Vision 2020 aspires to integrate policy, strategy, concepts, tactics, and training. The overarching imperative that supports integration must incorporate:

  • Creating an awareness of the IAMD mission and the benefits of its proper utilization across the Department of Defense, to include the development of the enabling framework of concepts, doctrine, acquisition, and war plans that support full integration of IAMD into combat operations. Commanders must understand and embrace every weapon and tool available to them.
  • Educating personnel at every level on the need to integrate our capabilities into an interdependent joint force, how to employ joint elements together, how to employ elements in a joint engagement zone, what combinations create which capability, and which are ineffective when employed on a stand-alone basis.7


In his April 2014 commentary, Rear Admiral Kilby wrote, “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.”8 To exploit the Navy’s revolutionary Aegis IAMD capabilities, the admiral observed that, “Surface Warriors must embrace the art and science of IAMD. . . . 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.”

Kilby wants the Navy to assemble Strike Group Staffs, ship crews, and Air Wing personnel to do the significant, dedicated planning and integration essential for putting NIFC-CA, SM-6, Aegis Baseline 9, CEC, E-2D, and F-35 to sea. “This execution is operational rocket science,” he concluded. “Those who master it will be identified as the best and brightest.”

Under command of the best and brightest, modernized Aegis NIFC-CA and IAMD warships will enable the Navy to maintain its historical role as the Nation’s provider of general purpose fleets operating away from American shores to maintain maritime access and the security of the maritime commons. JFQ

John F. Morton is a Senior National Security Analyst for TeamBlue National Security Programs, Gryphon Technologies LC.


1 Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, January 2012), 3, available at <www.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf>. Referencing U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review speaks of “our commitment to free and open commerce, promotion of a just international order, and maintenance of open access to shared domains.” Quadrennial Defense Review 2014(Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2014), 4, available at <http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf>.

2 Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense: Vision 2020 (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, December 5, 2013), 1, available at <www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Publications/JointIAMDVision2020.pdf>.

3 Ibid., 1–2.

4 Rachel Oswald, “Missile Defense Agency May Go in New Direction with New Chief, Advocate Says,” Global Security Newswire, August 8, 2012, available at <www.nti.org/gsn/article/missile-defense-agency-may-go-new-direction-new-navy-leadership-advocate-says/>.

5 James Kilby, “Surface Warfare: Lynchpin of Naval Integrated Air/Missile Defense,” Center for International Maritime Security, April 4, 2014, available at<https://cimsec.org/surface-warfare-lynchpin-naval-integrated-airmissile-defense/10748>.

6 Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense, 1.

7 Ibid., 5.

8 Kilby.

Surface Warfare: Lynchpin of Naval Integrated Air/Missile Defense

By CAPT Jim Kilby

“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

Featured Image: Guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test. Approximately three minutes later, the SM-3 intercepted a unitary (non-separating) ballistic missile threat target, launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Within moments of this launch, the USS Lake Erie also launched a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) against a hostile air target in order to defend herself. The test was the eighth intercept, in 10 program flight tests. The test was designed to show the capability of the ship and its crew to conduct ballistic missile defense and at the same time defend herself. This test also marks the 27th successful hit-to-kill intercept in tests since 2001. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)

Flight III – A Piece in The Surface Combatant Puzzle


A Lockheed Martin AMDR conceptual depiction.
A conceptual depiction of the Flight III and AMDR.

For a distant observer, commenting on alternatives to the DDG Flight III would be difficult without the well written documents by Congressional Research Service writer Ronald O’Rourke.  His Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress lists most of the program’s considered possible alternatives, reducing the scope of the issue to selecting evaluation criteria and identifying a specific solution.  Besides the considered options there is also a recommendation that could broaden the scope of the discussion:

Conduct a thorough [Analysis of Alternatives (AOA)] in accordance with DOD acquisition guidance for its future surface combatant program to include:
(c) implications of the ability of the preferred ship to accommodate new technologies on future capabilities to determine the most suitable ship to carry [The Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR)] and meet near-term [Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD)] requirements and provide a path to far-term capabilities;
(d) implications on future fleet composition;

With the gradual disappearance of frigates from the Navy’s service, the truncation of DDG-1000 to three units, and LCS under critics’ fire, Arleigh Burke is slowly becoming the sole “can-do-all” class of surface combatant. There is an interesting critique of a homogenous ship class force structure related to the history of the Canadian Navy, with the judgment rendered thus:

Force structure planners should be aware that the history of the RCN shows that naval flexibility cannot be derived from a uniform fleet.”

The author, Kenneth Hansen further elaborates his thesis in another article, concluding that  “If the strategic context is complicated, changing, or uncertain, a diversified fleet structure is required.” Armed with such knowledge, let’s step back and reconsider Navy assumptions for its old Future Surface Combatant Program. This envisioned:
• – A DD(X) destroyer for the precision long-range strike and naval gunfire missions;
• – A CG(X) cruiser for the air defense and ballistic missile defense missions; and
• – A smaller combatant called the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to counter submarines, small surface attack craft (boat swarms), and mines in heavily contested littoral (near-shore) areas.

Many things have caused the cruiser as originally conceived to become unaffordable, the destroyer (DDG-1000) has grown to the cruiser’s price and size, and LCS is suffering badly from a lack of operable modules. But the concept itself is not dead. The original requirements, changed under the pressures of the economy and a drive for efficiency, asked for an AMDR with a relative capability described as “SPY+30.”  The new solution for DDG Flight III has a relative capability of “SPY +15”, called in a GAO report “marginally adequate“. At the same time Ronald O’Rourke reports states:

As part of the [Maritime Air and Missile Defense of Joint Forces (MAMDJF)] AOA, the Navy identified that DDG 1000 can accommodate a SPY+25 radar. As part of a technical submission to the Navy, BIW, the lead designer for DDG 1000 also identified a possible design for a 21-foot radar on DDG 1000. The Navy did not include a variant with this size radar in the Radar/Hull Study.

Fancy a frigate?
                          Fancy a frigate?

Another conclusion from MAMDJF AOA study was that a smaller number of higher performance ships is preferable to networking less-capable but more numerous ships. On the other hand such a former approach deepens the deficit of cruiser/destroyers. Is there a way out of this trap? As controversial as it seems, it is theoretically possible to reintroduce a hi-lo mix into the surface fleet, consisting of cruisers and frigates. The aim would be to acquire one cruiser and two frigates for a price of two DDG Flight III. The result would be a Navy with a high-capability ship focused on IAMD undistracted by other tasks, such as ASW, with dedicated escorts in numbers allowing it to close the gap in surface combatants hulls. The fleet structure could therefore consist of:

1. Cruisers with the IAMD mission. If DDG-1000 fills this role it can retain its striking capability. Its towed sonar would be eventually cancelled and ASW mission limited to self-defense and shorter ranges. As an intermediate step toward future capabilities, an extant volume search radar could be retrofitted to the three hulls under construction, allowing more time for BMD software development and integration. This cruiser would represent a scaled-down version of CG(X).

2. Frigates would fill the escort mission focused on ASW and anti-air local area defense. For this purpose, a low-end Aegis could be used, possibly combined with a future, economy version of SPY-3 radar. Frigates should resemble the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen more than the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan-class with a the difference being a higher number of VLS cells. This class promises to be an affordable workhorse of the fleet, doubtful for the DDG Flight III, which looks more and more strategic.

3. DDG-51 and its follow-on class, which opens a discussion about the word “destroyer” in the U.S. Navy. In order to avoid a “can-do-it-all” syndrome, the follow-on class (a differently conceived Flight III perhaps) could specialize in strike and anti-air area defense capabilities without BMD, and limited ASW capabilities similar to the aforementioned cruisers. In other words, this class would represent a return to a more realistic representation of DD(X) idea. A flexible class would be a good companion both to carriers, supporting the strike mission, and to the corvettes below, providing air defense. It is also neutral towards follow-on decisions and permits the class to free up the extra room for needed growth margins.

4. Corvettes, with a mission to “clear littoral clutter” and focus on ASW, ASuW, MCM, and patrol tasks.

Such a mix would also open the path for new technologies like an all-electric drive, a Total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE), or Advanced Gun System (AGS) to develop in the Fleet. New technologies need enough numbers to evolve into something practical, otherwise they become unwanted expensive “gold-plating”. This four-tier structure also offers flexibility for forming surface task forces tailored to changing situations.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country