US Marine Corps could soon take out enemy ships with Navy missiles

David Larter, Jeff Martin

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps could soon get the Navy’s new Naval Strike Missile for use as a shore battery, according to the Navy’s acquisitions chief.

“Just yesterday [Jan. 14] we had the team in that has the Naval Strike Missile on LCS working hand-in-hand with the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps does ground launchers, we do command and control," Assistant Secretary of the Navy James “Hondo” Geurts told reporters after his Jan. 15 speech at the annual Surface Navy symposium. “We’ll make that immediately available to the Marine Corps.”

Geurts said the effort on Naval Strike Missile, a Kongsberg/Raytheon product, was emblematic of a more coherent approach where instead of a dedicated Marine Corps effort to examine, test and field a system, the services were leveraging each other to get capabilities out faster.

The missile was recently deployed to the Pacific on the littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords, and the weapon is capable of flying more than 100 miles. It can passively detect enemy ships with imagery in its brain and is so precise that it can target individual parts of a ship, like the engine room or bridge.

In May, Raytheon announced it had been awarded $48 million through an other transaction authority contract to integrate the Naval Strike Missile into the Marine Corps’ force structure, but very few details were available at the time.

This won’t be the first time the missile is based on land, as Poland’s coastal defense forces already have several batteries in service. And in 2018 at the Rim of the Pacific exercise, the U.S. Army fired a Naval Strike Missile at a decommissioned ship as part of a live-fire demonstration.

It’s unknown what the Marine Corps will use as a launcher, as it is unclear whether or not the service’s M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System can be used to fire the Naval Strike Missile. However, it is likely that the Corps’ manned launchers will fire the missiles while on the deck of Navy amphibious ships, as the Corps has been testing the capability with HIMARS launchers.

“We’re serious about it,” Geurts said. “You’ve heard the commandant and the assistant commandant talk about more lethal anti-ship activity. ... It’s certainly something we are looking at closely.”