SUFFOLK, Va. -- Twenty-two participating nations and organizations joined forces here in early April to examine political and military operations and policy issues to potential scenarios involving ballistic missile threats 10 years in the future.
Known as Nimble Titan, the two-year global ballistic missile defense campaign of experimentation focuses on regional and global challenges through cooperatively developed concepts, objectives, and analysis.
"Nimble Titan is an unclassified future-focused experiment that builds awareness and understanding regarding potential cooperative responses and concepts in missile defense between the U.S. and our allies and partners," said U.S. Air Force Col. Marc Caughey, director of Plans, Policy, and Allied Integration, or J-5, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense. As part of U.S. Strategic Command, JFCC IMD is responsible for the synchronization of global missile defense planning and providing operational support, as outlined in the U.S. Government's Unified Command Plan.
Nimble Titan is a USSTRATCOM-sponsored event, and Caughey is the senior U.S. representative to all of the international partners who participate. He spoke about the purpose of the experiment and how it benefits all participants.
"Nimble Titan is very allied- and partner-focused," Caughey said. "It is a collaborative effort, so all partners basically decide what they want to do and accomplish through the experiment. It provides everyone with a chance to experiment with their own national contributions and objectives."
Nimble Titan is a venue to try new ideas and to see how countries without missile defense can contribute, how they would work with other allies and partners, and why that is important, Caughey explained.
"Twenty-two countries and two organizations participated from all over the globe this year," Caughey said. "It has grown from eight participating nations in 2008 to 15 in 2012, and 22 in 2014. The term of the day is 'cooperation.' One important thing here is you get a lot of perspectives. You get a lot of people who are all going to have a play or stake in ballistic missile defense.
"If a ballistic missile is fired toward Europe, everyone is at risk. So they all need to participate and understand what defenses are possible; what consultation mechanisms need to be put in place; and what relationships need to be in place for their collective defense," he added.
"If all else fails, it is to gain an awareness of how nations are stronger together, and how we can collectively address common security challenges and leverage collaborative relationships today and in the future," Caughey continued. "The more nations contributing to the event, the greater the understanding of what the problem set is and what needs to be done in the future.
"Going forward, it's going to be less U.S. centric or U.S. led," said Caughey. "It's going to be about these people and these types of conflicts that could occur in their regions. As more nations participate from each region, there is a greater level of understanding and integration that can occur, if there is ever a conflict."
Discussing Nimble Titan's goals and objectives, Caughey said, "Each nation comes here with its individual national goals and objectives. From a U.S. perspective, it is to engage the widest community possible about missile defense and help them understand what we have and how it works; how they would integrate into that; and the policy and processes it would take to work collectively for ballistic missile defense."
He also spoke about missile defense and how important it is to deterrence. "Within the concept of deterrence, you have multiple parts," Caughey noted. "One is to impose costs, one is to deny benefits, and one is to reward restraint. So, basically, missile defense denies the benefits of employing ballistic missiles by defeating them before they can impact their intended targets.
Caughey's role as the J-5 at JFCC IMD makes him the senior U.S. operational lead representing Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, commander, JFCC IMD and commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, during Nimble Titan.
"For the resources that are put into executing the game, we have the widest participation and cover the widest range of topics related to ballistic missile defense in an allied forum that you'll find anywhere in the U.S. Government or across the globe," Caughey said. "So I think it's a very powerful forum. I think it's very useful for our allies. I'm proud to be a part of it and to see what we accomplish in the experiment."
As participants became active during Nimble Titan, they spoke of the virtues of working together to defend each other, if the need arises.
"This is a unique event; there is nothing like it," said Royal Netherlands Air Force Col. Ben Kamstra, the bi-national, Dutch and German, Extended Air Defense Task Force commander. "You are free to join or to step out. To couple on a strategic level all the visions that nations have in this atmosphere is still unique. Even being here is already part of the success. We bring the world together."
Participants from NATO also talked about Nimble Titan, and how it is beneficial to NATO, and how each nation is focused not only on their own defenses, but also the defense of their neighbors.
"Nimble Titan provides a great opportunity for NATO nations and other allies to come together and focus on missile defense, do some experimental work, and think outside of the box," said Carsten Koepper, NATO headquarters ballistic missile defense officer. "Of course, it is a great opportunity to build relationships with all of the missile defense players who come from their capitals and represent the respective authorities here. What the experiment shows is that we must all work together for mutual defense."
"The big importance is the fact that we bring 22 nations together and talk about missile defense, which is, in the day-to-day business, a little bit more complicated when you are sitting in your capital thousands of kilometers apart," Koepper said. "The other thing is that people who are not dealing with missile defense every day see, in Nimble Titan, what missile defense means to their nation and how they fit into the larger picture. One day, they may have to think about missile defense, even though right now, they may not feel threatened," he added. "So this is a great opportunity to bring people in the business together and get their thoughts about missile defense."
With cooperation being the key to Nimble Titan, those playing a role in the experiment insisted that coming together is one of the best deterrence messages for would-be aggressors.
As Nimble Titan wrapped up, Mann emphasized the importance of the various nations and organizations coming together in joint cooperation.
"The United States does not have all the answers. So this kind of collaboration and discussion about some challenging policy issues and also the implications of taking action are very, very important," Mann said. "Because, by sharing, we can do better at collaboration and ensure we have the necessary policies and procedures in place to really get after this.
"That's the reason why I'm really heartened to see how this experiment continues to grow year after year. Quite frankly, I don't think the threat's going to go away. In fact, I'm pretty confident in saying the threat is evolving both in terms of numbers and sophistication. So we're continuing to try and evolve this event to make it as useful as possible for everyone," Mann said.
"At the end of the day, for missile defense, it really gets down to understanding the nature of the threat because we all understand we will never have enough interceptors in the ground or on rails to take care of all the different threats out there," Mann added. "The only way we are going to be able to address this threat is to be as efficient and effective as possible with our systems that we have, and work together to use all of the different sensors and weapon systems all of the countries have."
Planning has already begun for the next Nimble Titan, which will continue to expand on the work accomplished through previous year's events, and will provide a forum to examine other potential future policy and military defense options for all participating nations.