Marines scored direct hit on target at sea in first live-fire test using Navy missile and unmanned vehicle

  • The Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System has been tested successfully against a target at sea.
  • NMESIS combines two existing technologies — Naval Strike Missiles and modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicles — for a deadly new way to hit targets offshore.
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Marines scored a direct hit in a first-ever live-fire test in which they launched a Navy missile from the back of an unmanned tactical vehicle to strike a surface target at sea.

The Marine Corps has combined two existing technologies to produce a deadly new way to hit targets offshore. Coined NMESIS, the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System can launch Naval Strike Missiles from the back of a modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, to destroy targets on land or at sea.

Raytheon Missiles and Defense, which makes the Naval Strike Missile, announced Wednesday that the Marine Corps used NMESIS to hit a target in the water from Point Mugu Sea Range in California. The missile can take out targets from more than 100 nautical miles away.

Commandant Gen. David Berger showed a photo of the test launch to lawmakers Thursday when discussing the need for funding for ground-based anti-ship missiles. He called the test the result of the “brilliance of a couple of young officers” and Oshkosh Defense, a Wisconsin-based company that makes the JLTV.

“The people at Oshkosh and these couple of majors thought, ‘We can do this,’ so they took the cab off the back and they put a missile in the back with a fire-control system,” Berger said. “Now, we can move this around on vessels or put it ashore and hold an adversary’s navy at risk … to ensure that the lines on the sea are kept open.

“This is the speed at which we have to move,” he added.

Getting funding for ground-based long-range precision fires out of the next budget will be crucial for the Marine Corps’ mission, Berger told lawmakers. He wrote in his 2019 planning guidance that the service had fallen “woefully behind” in the development of ground-based long-range precision fires.

“We must possess the ability to turn maritime spaces into barriers so we can attack an adversary’s sea lines of communication … while defending our own in support of the Fleet or Joint Force,” Berger wrote.

In 2021, the Marine Corps requested $125 million to buy nearly 50 Tomahawk missiles it could launch from land. Congress ultimately did not fund the move. Adm. Phil Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told lawmakers in March that the decision to slash those funds hurt the military’s ability to deter China.

The JLTV used in the test at Point Mugu is an unmanned version known as a ROGUE — or remotely operated ground unit for expeditionary — fires vehicle. The Naval Strike Missile fired from the back carries a 500-pound class warhead, according to Raytheon. The Navy uses the missile on littoral combat ships.

Combined, the missile and ROGUE fires vehicle form NMESIS, which is operated by artillery Marines, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, the deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration, told reporters this month.

Berger said using a modified JLTV and a proven strike missile gives commanders flexibility since they can fire the munition from a ship or ashore.

“It’s the same missile, so as needed, the commander can move the ordnance where it’s needed most,” he said. “… [It also] speeds up our ability to field it. It’s a proven missile. … This is not a new missile system — we know how it performs. So we’re riding on the backs of something that is already developed and putting it on a platform that we’re very confident in.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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