A new paper by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and the Hudson Institute advises the Pentagon to undertake a study to determine the most cost-effective long-range strike systems to develop and field.

“Reshaping the U.S. military to meet challenges in a renewed era of great power competition will require DOD to invest in capabilities that are fundamentally different from what it fielded for counter-terror and counterinsurgency operations over much of the past two decades,” the paper says. “Doing so in an era of flat defense budgets means DOD should seek the best, most cost-effective solutions instead of allowing initiatives that create excessive redundancy by seeking new roles. The latter now appears to be the case for the Army’s long-range strike investments. Although “letting a thousand flowers bloom” might be an appropriate approach given unconstrained resources, allowing excessive redundancy in long-range strike systems would reduce, not increase, the U.S. military’s ability to meet emerging threats.”

Earlier this month, Gen. Timothy Ray, the head of Air Force Global Strike Command, questioned the Army long-range strike effort and said that “it’s a stupid idea” to duplicate “something that [the Air Force has mastered.” Ray said that he understands the wish of the Army to develop hypersonic weapons to target enemy missile launchers and airfields in Europe, “but I completely don’t get it in the Pacific,” as the Army, he said, would not have such a capabilty for five years or more and basing rights for such missiles would be a problem in the Indo-Pacific region, while long-range bombers do not require such basing rights and are to have firing capability for hypersonic missiles, including the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) in the next several years.

But Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, said recently that the Army’s Precision Strike Missile and hypersonics weapon programs do not duplicate Air Force long-range strike programs, but instead provide combatant commanders with options that do not ‘necessarily’ involve putting pilots at risk (Defense Daily, March 30).

“DoD’s civilian leadership should direct a comprehensive study to determine the mix of capabilities that would maximize its future long-range strike capacity as a whole, instead of on a ‘stove-piped’ service-by-service basis,” according to the new Mitchell Institute paper. “This assessment should compare the cost effectiveness of air-to-surface and surface-to-surface—including shipborne—long range strike alternatives, as well the best mix that will provide theater commanders with multiple options to strike peer adversaries without excessive redundancy.”

The Mitchell Institute report said that while, Army mid-range strike batteries may be most useful in Europe, the Army and Marine Corps “should cooperatively develop operating concepts, tactics, techniques, and procedures that would integrate their littoral counter-maritime strikes in the Indo-Pacific along with Air Force and Navy capabilities.”