By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2013 – U.S. Strategic Command has been leading an international effort for the past eight years to promote cooperation and interoperability in missile defense around the globe.
Known as Nimble Titan, it’s a series of two-year experimentation campaigns that bring together 22 nations to address missile defense challenges in the coming decade, said Army Col. Michael Derrick, director of allied integration for Stratcom’s Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.
Nimble Titan is now in its fourth two-year iteration, with a mix of seminars, tabletop exercises, war games and instrumented experiments, Derrick explained during a telephone interview from his office at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.
All are aimed at promoting partnership Derrick called essential to standing up to ballistic missile threats.
Each participating nation realizes that none can go it alone in missile defense, he said. That includes nations such as the United States, Japan and the Netherlands, among others that have their own missile defense systems, he added. The U.S. system, for example, depends in part on basing sensors and interceptors in other countries and using their airspace and ground facilities to operate.
“As the United States developed its own ballistic missile defense system, we realized that the system is inextricably engaged with our allies around the world,” Derrick said. “Integration with our allies around
the world in the field of missile defense is absolutely necessary. We simply cannot do this without them.”
But international cooperation brings more to the effort, he said, increasing transparency about missile defense and setting the conditions for nations to share information and leverage one another’s assets. This may save money at a time when many militaries are experiencing severe budget cutbacks, while providing more comprehensive missile defenses, he noted.
Collaboration is particularly vital at a time when several nations as well as non-state actors are ratcheting up the threat. “We have those nations that consistently threaten us, either with real capability or with rhetoric,” Derrick said.
“Nimble Titan creates an environment where these likeminded nations can discuss and try to solve the challenges that we have now or anticipate that we will have in the next 10 years,” he said. “Instead of doing things independently against a common foe, we are able to work together.”
Through Nimble Titan events, participants explore ways to improve information-sharing and distribution and develop plans, including command-and-control procedures, to provide coordinated, synchronized missile defenses.
“We discuss concepts of operation such as how to put the capabilities from different nations together to build a coherent and effective unit,” Derrick said. “The goal is to put mechanisms in place to optimize those international efforts.”
Nimble Titan 14, the latest in the series of campaigns, kicked off in February with an orientation seminar for new participants. It will be followed by other activities over the next several months.
The most significant takeaways from these individual events will be incorporated into the Nimble Titan 14 capstone event planned for next spring in Suffolk, Va. “This will be a program that allows nations from around the world to see the global implications of what is going on in each region,” Derrick said.
Although Nimble Titan isn’t designed to address any particular threat, and activities all involve notional perpetrators, sometimes the events correspond with those in the real world.
Last year, for example, the capstone event for the Nimble Titan 12 series kicked off just four days after North Korea’s failed three-stage missile launch. Over the course of four days, participants and observers planned military, as well as political and civil defense responses, to mock launches a decade into the future from two fictitious countries.
But Derrick said the cooperation developed during Nimble Titan has a huge payoff when real-world challenges develop.
“You can’t work with a nation until you have some basis upon which to build that cooperation. And through Nimble Titan, we have a group of people, now in 22 nations, who know the topic, who know one another, and who know the challenges we all face,” he said. “We have been very successful in building a cadre of people around the world who can work together.”
This assures U.S. allies of the United States’ commitment to standing with them in missile defense. “We want them to know that we are not only willing, but able to work with them,” Derrick said.
But even more importantly, he said, is its deterrent effect -- one Derrick said every participating nation can agree to.
“Missile defense is an important deterrent because it doesn’t threaten and can’t hurt anyone,” he said. “If someone launches a missile at you, being able to destroy that missile in space and cause no damage or harm whatsoever gives you the moral high ground. You have defended yourself, but you haven’t caused your attacker any harm.”
This makes missile defense an important complement to U.S. Strategic Command’s other assets, most of which have offensive capabilities, he said.
One of its greatest advantages, Derrick said, is that it provides the opportunity for informed, coordinated responses.
“It gives our leadership at the national level a whole lot of options that otherwise would not be available: to pursue diplomatic outcomes, to arrange responses with other nations, or to go to the United Nations if they need to,” he said. “That’s one of the real advantages of missile defense. It provides options and time for the leadership that otherwise would not be available.”