Counterforce and Theater Missile Defense: Can the Army Use an ASW Approach to the SCUD Hunt?

  • March 01, 1995
  • Dr James J Wirtz

The Gulf War demonstrated that theater missile defense (TMD) will be an important mission for the U.S. Army and its Patriot defense system in the years ahead. The author suggests that Army planners should view TMD not just as a simple tactical problem, but as an exercise that has important political and strategic ramifications that cut to the core of U.S. efforts to create and maintain international coalitions. A factor that will shape the political and military effectiveness of TMD is the resolution of the strategic problem of integrating counterforce options, active defenses and passive defenses. He argues that instead of developing strategy on an ad hoc basis, the philosophy that influences the U.S. Navy s approach to anti-submarine warfare (ASW) might serve as a guide to counterforce operations against mobile missiles. Counterforce attacks would reduce the tactical problem faced by Patriot crews, improving the overall performance of TMD. He also notes that an ASW approach to counterforce should help the United States achieve its political objectives of alliance formation and deterrence in the face of regional aggression.