The Naval Strike Missile will provide the Marine Corps with a missile capable of sea-skimming, high maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side. Credit: Aviation and Defence Universe.

It’s official, the Pentagon is freaked out over China’s exponential military rise in the Pacific — America just can’t stand to see China’s navy grow stronger, so it’s time to spend money.

So much so, that the US Marine Corps is all in on fielding mobile anti-ship missiles in the Pacific to challenge China’s growing navy, according to a special report by David B. Larter at Defense News.

The proposition was declared in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee to be its highest ground modernization priority, the report said.

“A ground-based anti-ship missile capability will provide anti-ship fires from land as part of an integrated naval anti-surface warfare campaign,” the written testimony reads. “This forward-deployed and survivable capability will enhance the lethality of our naval forces and will help to deny our adversaries the use of key maritime terrain.”

The designation of the Marines’ ship-killing ambitions as its top modernization priority comes as the Marine Corps is going full-steam toward reorienting itself as an extension of naval power, rather than the lighter version of the Army that it evolved into during its involvement the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the report said.

The Marine’s are moving out on rapid fielding of at least two ground-based anti-ship systems, according to 2021 budget documents.

The Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) pairs its Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires) drone vehicle and the Navy’s new ship-killer Naval Strike Missile, the report said.

The second is a ground-launched version of the Tomahawk Missile, made possible by the recent US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that prohibited intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles, the report said.

NMESIS uses the Marines’ High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) on the chassis of a remotely operated version of the Army’s Oshkosh-built Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, loaded with a Kongsberg/Raytheon Naval Strike Missile.

“The Naval Strike Missile is identical to the Navy’s over-the-horizon weapon system deployed on the littoral combat ship and will provide the Marine Corps with a missile capable of sea-skimming, high maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side rather than top-down,” the testimony reads.

The Marine Corps’ concept of operations, as outlined by Berger in last year’s planning guidance, calls for the Marine Corps to more intimately align itself as an arm of naval power, the report said.

As part of that, the Marines want to be able to spread their forces in small groups around islands in the Pacific and deny freedom of maneuver to the Chinese fleet, the report said.

Marine Corps requirements and development chief Lt. Gen. Eric Smith told reporters that the Marines want to fight on ground of their choosing and then maneuver before (Chinese) forces can concentrate against them, the report said.

“So, if I’m maneuvering in support of the fleet commander in a contested, confined space, through the mobility I bring in air and with surface connectors I can get to a point and block or strike something that has been herded into a contested space – something that has been herded into that space by the fleet commander,” Smith said.