The US Armed Forces are working closely to integrate and adapt different missile systems within their inventories.

Most recently, the US Army sand Lockheed Martin launched a Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) missile segment enhancement interceptor from a US Navy (USN) ground-based, containerised Mk70 launcher platform against a cruise missile target mid-flight for the first time.

“This successful test showcases Lockheed Martin’s commitment to developing mission-focused, integrated technology to keep those who serve ahead of evolving threats,” said Tom Copeman, vice president of strategy and naval programmes at Lockheed Martin.

Mk70 ground-based launcher firing PAC-3 MSE interceptor. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Army leverages naval missile launcher

Meanwhile, earlier in May 2024, the USN similarly deployed a containerised, shipborne version of the Mk70 mod 1 payload delivery system just off Bornholm Island, a Danish territory in the Baltic Sea.

However, this containerised missile system used a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6). This was the second convoy rehearsal between the two militaries to feature the Mk70.

The Mk70 brings a containerised combat launcher housed within a 40-foot container equipped with four vertical launch system strike-length missile cells. The launcher adapts the Mk41 VLS currently used by the US Navy on Ticonderoga-class cruisers (CG-47) and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDG 51) into a rapidly deployable and relocatable ground system.

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Missiles at the heart of US deterrence projection

This multi-domain missile build-up points to the importance of the nation’s missile strike capabilities across air, land and sea.

For the Army, Lockheed Martin is working to deliver an enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) capability to the US’s most modern combat system to defend against simultaneous advanced air, surface and missile threats.

Meanwhile, the USN is preparing for a prospective peer-on-peer conflict in the Indo Pacific. Mark Cancian, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, observed:

“A problem for US surface ships will be Chinese missiles, and there are so many of them,” Cancian suggested. “Now their ranges are so long that US surface ships can get pushed out, really past Guam.”

A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the Mk41 vertical launching system forward missile deck aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) during a training exercise, August 2009. Credit: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons.