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China and Russia Won’t Like the Marine Corps’ New Navy-Killer Missiles

A Naval Strike Missile streaks out to sea before striking a naval target ship, Aug. 15, 2021, aboard Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii. The missile flew more than 100 nautical miles before finding its mark. The live-fire sinking exercise demonstrated a Marine fires expeditionary advanced base’s ability to sense, target and strike a target at sea, providing sea control or contributing to sea denial in fleet operations. The Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 centers on Marines providing long-range precision strike capabilities as a stand-in force during littoral operations in a contested environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dillon Buck, released)

China and Russia have continued to tout the capabilities of their anti-warship missile systems. Russia has conducted multiple tests of its 3M22 Tsirkon (Zircon), while China has poured money into the development of its DF-21D medium-range ballistic “carrier killer” missile. The United States military has also been working to develop such anti-ship weapons, and this week the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) successfully hit its target in support of Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, during Large Scale Exercise 21 (LSE 21) on Sunday.

According to Marine Corps Systems Command, the exercise showcased the U.S. maritime forces’ ability to deliver lethal, integrated all-domain naval power. The NMESIS could provide the Marine Littoral Regiment with ground-based anti-ship capability that could facilitate sea denial and control, while also persisting within a potential adversary’s weapons engagement role. The recent demonstration of the platform at LSE 21 provided such a venue for the program team to validate some of those concepts.

“This scenario is representative of the real-world challenges and missions the Navy and Marine Corps will be facing together in the future,” said Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command. “This exercise also provided an opportunity for us to work alongside our service partners to refine Force Design 2030 modernization concepts.”

Two Years of Development

Development of the NMESIS began about two years ago, and this marked the first time it was used in a live-fire demonstration against a sea-based target – in this case, the decommissioned U.S. Navy frigate Ingraham, which was positioned off the coast of Hawaii. The NMESIS was mounted on a Joint Lightweight Tactical Vehicle Chassis located in Hawaii more than 100 nautical miles away.

Each of the two missiles from land struck the warship, which was positioned off the Hawaiian island of Kaua’I at the U.S. military’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Because the system is not yet fielded capable, engineers from the Marine Corps Systems Command actually managed the fire control piece of the system during the exercise. Several Marines did practice maneuvering the system and validating the system’s interoperability with their Naval and Air Force partners.

“This week was very successful,” added McPherson. “In addition to the two live fire shots that hit the target, we also successfully deployed the system aboard the Marine Corps’ primary transport systems, the C130 and LCAC.”

MCSC also announced that it is currently developing and fielding new anti-surface warfare weapons capabilities, including NMESIS, which are no on pace to support Force Design 2030 objectives. These new capabilities contribute to the Fleet’s ability to achieve sea control, sea denial and defense against adversary amphibious force missions. This is part of a transformation that the United States Marine Corps is undergoing as it moves away from being a “second Army.” Last year, the USMC began to retire its tank force, as it seeks to return to its amphibious roots.

This transformation could make it a nemesis of America’s naval adversaries, and the NMESIS could soon be a powerful new weapon in its arsenal.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on



  1. Lac Dirk

    August 21, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    The problem is that the US, China and Russia do not suffer similarly when naval killer missiles become better and more widespread. Russia and China do not deploy large surface fleets, and can not hope to challenge the US navy with their own navies for decades.
    But if navies become pointless, or even just liabilities, it’s mainly the US that suffers.
    So the US having the same or better anti-ship missiles only hurts the US, which disproportionally relies on naval projection of power.

  2. Harry Huntington

    August 22, 2021 at 11:04 am

    So let’s get this straight. The Marines drop one of their new small more flexible and mobile contingents on some small otherwise defenseless Pacific Island. The drop a NMESIS missile system with them. It is unclear from the article what serves as the Marines over the horizon eyes so they can target this system, but we can just pretend on that point. The surrounding waters get rough with enemy fire and the carrier task force, the landing force, and all fo the support ships are driven away. Because the US Navy stopped planning for ASW when the Cold War ended, Chinese submarines sunk two of the supply vessels before they could unload. The Marines sit without resupply on this island for two months. They run out of fuel for the F-35s. What exactly are the missiles supposed to do? Sink the Chinese ships that come to re-take the Island? And what sensors again tell the Marines the Chinese are coming? I suppose the marines have some commercial of the shelf solar power system they can use to support a satellite up link for an Apple computer to get images from French satellites (as the Chinese have already disable the American satellites). Exactly what do the Marines plan this system for other than a big cash payout to a defense contractor?

  3. Chris Cha

    August 22, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    Great development here as it brings the capability to damage an enemy ship force that would already be hard pressed to oppose us. I’d be greatly interested in what the Navy is doing for anti-missile defense on its ships.

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