America, Japan forces work together in historic missile operation

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    General Robert Brown, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, right, listens to pre-operation briefings at Pacific Missile Range Facility with Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force officials during a RIMPAC 2018 test of the Japanese SSM12 missile.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Colonel Chris Wendland, head of the U.S. Army Multi-Domain Task-Force, explains the test launch of a Japanese Type 12 surface-to-ship missile (SSM12) on Thursday at Pacific Missile Range Facility during a 2018 RIMPAC exercise.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    An American rocket shoots through the sky through a trail of the first rocket shot from their truck-mounted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    An American rocket shoots through the sky through a trail of the first rocket shot from their truck-mounted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    General Robert Brown, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, watches impact of two American rockets on a screen at Pacific Missile Range Facility with Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force officials during a RIMPAC 2018 test of the Japanese SSM12 missile.

The Japanese Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, SSM12, didn’t launch when it was supposed to on Thursday during a historic multi-domain exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility.

That was after already holding fire on the test launch of the SSM12 and six American rockets in order to accommodate an airplane and a ship that went through the target area about 60 miles off shore of Kauai’s Westside.

“It’s a great training exercise, though in a real fighting situation they wouldn’t wait three hours, they’d just dump it and come back and detonate it later,” said United States Army chief of public affairs Christopher Garver. “In that situation, if you sit too long in one place, you become a target.”

Anticipating a potential three-hour wait, civilian and soldier spectators were surprised as the “hang-fire” SSM12 launched a few minutes later and a boom echoed through PMRF.

It’s all part of the 2018 Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, which has brought 26 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel to Hawaii. The exercise runs from June 27 through Aug 2.

The theme for the 2018 RIMPAC exercise is “capable, adaptive, partners” and multi-domain connectivity is the goal — integrating air, land, sea, cyber and space military domains to accomplish objectives by working together.

While Thursday wasn’t the first time the United States multidomain task force was working together, it was a historic event as American and Japanese forces worked side by side to accomplish the launch.

“This is the first time ever in history we have a Japanese Ground Self Defense Force weapons system SSM12, controlled by U.S. fire control and U.S. command in a multidomain task force,” said General Robert Brown, Commander of U.S Army Pacific.

The two countries’ forces worked together to detect the ship target 60 miles of the coast of Kauai and to make sure the target area was clear of endangered animals and other air or watercraft.

Then, the American command post sent the go-ahead to shoot the SSM12 and the Japanese command post shot their missile.

The plan was that the SSM12 would launch and then American forces would launch six rockets from their truck-mounted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The HIMARS rockets fired first, while the “hangfire” SSM12 took its time.

Garver pointed out during an actual event, the goal would be to overwhelm the ship with simultaneous fire from multiple angles.

That’s the multidomane operations concept in a nutshell — the ability to neutralize an adversary using assets from air, space, cyber, land and sea services.

“The ultimate goal would be nobody would be stupid enough to fight us, because we would deter them and they would lose,” Brown said.

It’s the next step in military evolution, Brown explained, comparing it to expanding operations to include air-land battle in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“The doctrine took 14 years to move from concept to doctrine and the air-land battle was a key to success,” Brown said. “The challenge is, we don’t have 14 years. Things move much faster now.”

Analyzing new concepts and turning them into teachable doctrine is part of the RIMPAC 2018 objective.

Another objective is to buy new weapons. U.S. officials confirmed the Army is in the market to put some money on the table and has eyes on a Norwegian missile they’re also testing.

“If we can buy one off the shelf, it’s easier than trying to develop the whole thing ourselves,” Garver said.

Officials declined to comment on the cost and other details, but said the Japanese SSM12 “is a fantastic asset, as well as the naval strike missile we saw demonstrated.”

Brown said in witnessing the multidomain training and exercises, he’s seen “some of the best teamwork I’ve seen in my 37 years in the military.”

Working with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force demonstrates a “rock solid connection” between the two commands,” he said, while pointing out that the training exercise is exactly that — a training exercise.

“You’re seeing the future, here,” Brown said. “We’re taking systems that weren’t designed to talk together in many cases.”

He continued: “We’re going to learn a lot from this. If you’re not learning, if some things don’t go wrong, you’re not pushing yourself enough.”

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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