The Marine Corps is in the throes of what is arguably their most significant force structure redesign in the Corps’ long and storied history. Gone are the days of decades-long land warfare campaigns—instead the Marine Corps is preparing to face a near-peer rival in the Pacific: China. And in order to better face that challenge, the Marines are changing their force structure as well as the weapons they use to wage war.
The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest. The sheer size of the Pacific combined with the Chinese navy—hull for hull the largest navy in the world—presents a real challenge. But, the Marines are fielding a potent new anti-ship capability.
Perhaps one of the Corps’ more unique solutions is the NMESIS, essentially a modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) equipped with a pair of the Navy’s powerful Naval Strike Missiles. The JLTV truck would have both its crew cabin as well as the front driver and passenger seats removed in order to create enough space to house a dual NSM missile pod.
In this configuration, the JLTV, dubbed the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE, would be somewhat akin to a remotely piloted drone, able to fire at distant targets while keeping faraway pilots out of harm’s way.
Though nominally a U.S. Navy missile, putting the NSM into Marine hands would significantly augment the Corps’ anti-ship capabilities. Kongsberg, the missile’s Norwegian manufacturer, lists the missile’s characteristics—and they are potent indeed. The NSM is a high-subsonic missile with a 100+ nautical mile range and a highly agile terminal phase. In addition, it can fly in a low, sea-skimming flight profile to avoid enemy anti-missile systems as well as escape enemy radar.
Recently released imagery largely conforms with the JLTV’s ROUGE expectations. A cab-less JLTV with an array of antennas likely related to driving the vehicle can be seen with its NSM pod mated to a missile rail and raised in firing position.
The tentative Marine plan is to place missile-toting JLTVs on remote island locations throughout the Pacific in order to both push Chinese ships farther out to sea and to deny them use of important land locations for support services like refueling and rearming.
Though the new remotely operated JLTV would indeed provide Marines with a powerful anti-ship missile capability, the Corps would ultimately like to replace the missile system with the even more powerful Ground-Launched Cruise Missile. That missile could offer even greater range than the NSM. Either way, the Corps is poised to become a potent ship-hunting force.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.