Theater Ballistic Missile Defense from the Sea
Charles C. Swicker - Newport Paper 14


As we enter a new millennium, many nations are striving to acquire advanced weapons of war. Since the 1980s, the most favored symbols and instruments of power among lesser powers have been theater ballistic missiles. In concert with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction, theater ballistic missile systems present a challenge to American military forces, threatening three vital centers of gravity: the forces themselves, the unity and resolve of potential regional partners and allies, and the political will of the United States to exercise a military option.

In the next decade, sea-based ballistic missile defense will offer joint power projection forces a vital, flexible, and increasingly robust theater defense capability. Weapon and sensor development; communications, computers, and intelligence architectures; and battle management command and control issues are all being addressed with vigor—a measure of the gravity of this evolving and imminent threat.

However, defensive power from the sea emerges from a unique and complex arena, where combat takes place in three dimensions against many dissimilar threats, in three overlapping and competing environments which, by their very nature, cause conflicting tasking of limited assets. Therefore, the promise of naval theater ballistic missile defense must be studied with this operational complexity in mind.

In this Newport Paper, which originated as an Advanced Research Project in the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College, Commander Swicker proposes that naval theater ballistic missile defense can realize its full potential only if the Maritime Component Commander understands and addresses the key issues involved in its operational employment. I urge all involved in conceptualizing, planning, and executing naval surface warfare to take heed of his deep and discerning examination, which provides valuable insights and encourages us to address the full range of possibilities for, and requirements upon, tomorrow's naval theater ballistic missile defense.

Arthur K. Cebrowski
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy
President, Naval War College