The Marine Corps is producing a remotely-fired and land-launched variant of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) to multiply attack options in multi-domain, integrated warfare. This land-fired NSM is called the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS).
NMESIS integrates a Naval Strike Missile Launch Unit (NLU) capable of launching two NSMs onto a Remotely-Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires carrier. The NLU is controlled by a Weapons Control System located externally in a command and control vehicle.
Essentially, the weapon is a teleoperated robot missile, called the Remotely-Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires. It will help enhance the survivability of the Marine Corps’ now-being-acquired NMESIS weapon, a new system which adapts the ship-launched Naval Strike Missile to be fired from land. Part of the program’s application includes the use of a missile-armed robot.
“By going with a teleoperated vehicle, we increase the survivability of the crews because they’re not co-located with the launcher, which tends to be what gets targeted,” Joe McPherson, program manager for Long Range Fires at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement last year.
Mounted on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle type of platform, the so-called ROGUE Fires operates with a remote controller to command multiple launchers. Interestingly, the vehicle can function either in teleoperations mode or more fully in autonomous mode.
A teleoperated option enables human decisionmakers and Marines to make the key decision about when or if to fire the missile, yet the targeting, sensing, and surveillance can all be done independently by the vehicle itself.
Advancing levels of autonomy make it such that the robot vehicle is engineered with advanced algorithms to avoid obstacles or independently change course as needed. In keeping with Pentagon doctrine, McPherson was clear to emphasize in the Corps report that humans will always remain in control when it comes to the use of lethal force firing from the robotic-vehicle.
“The actual fire control system that fires the missile is completely separate from all of the self-driving and autonomy,” said McPherson. “There’s always a Marine who does the mission plan and actually fires the missile.”
The NSM-armed ROGUE Fires robotic vehicle has been demonstrated multiple times, including instances where it adapted its flight trajectory to adjust to a new target and maneuver around obstacles. Described as a “non-linear” flight path trajectory, the NSM was able to fly as far as 100 miles while maneuvering around obstacles to its target.
“We made it fly a [non-linear] route to simulate what Marines would experience in a real-world situation, where they may have to navigate around friendly and neutral shipping or any other impediments between the ground-based firing position and the target,” said McPherson.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.