Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, speaks at the LANPAC military conference in Honolulu, Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, speaks at the LANPAC military conference in Honolulu, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Army is getting into the ship-sinking business.

U.S. Army Pacific will fire a Naval Strike Missile from shore to destroy an old ship during next year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, the head of U.S. Pacific Command said Wednesday.

Japanese ground forces will also fire a shore-based missile during RIMPAC, Adm. Harry Harris said at the LANPAC military conference in Honolulu.

The exercises are an important part of making PACOM’s “multi-domain battle concept” ready for a potential conflict, Harris said.

The heart of the concept is to keep an enemy guessing and each service — particularly the Army — capable of fighting anywhere.

“Simply put, this concept provides us a way to ensure access to the global commons in the run-up to war and [to] fight in those same commons should war come,” Harris said. “Components must increase their agility and provide support to each other across the war-fighting domains."

America’s military advantage in the domains of air, sea, land, cyber and space have eroded as adversaries and rivals have obtained advanced military technology, according to military officials who spoke at the conference.

Multi-domain battle is intended to restore some lost advantage by adding options for joint maneuvering and firing, while confounding enemies with numerous and changing scenarios.

Harris introduced the concept during a speech at the 2016 LANPAC conference, sponsored each year by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare.

This year’s conference focused largely on multi-domain battle and how the U.S. Army Pacific could better use its land-based forces in a theater that’s mostly ocean.

Harris said he’d “like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile — near simultaneously — in a complex environment where our joint and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains.”

Standing in the way of that vision are differing sensor and weapons systems used by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, some of which are not linked.

The chasm widens with the addition of systems used by allies and international partners.

The immediate goal is to get “our alphabet soup of sensors and shooters talking to one another,” Harris said.

“Service-specific systems must be able to talk to one another if any of this is going to achieve the effects that we’re looking for,” he said. “Ideally we’ll get to a point where we see the joint force as a network of sensors and shooters allowing the best capability from any single service to provide cross-domain fires.”

Brig. Gen. Lawrence Thoms, commander of the 311th Signal Command, which operates and defends the Army’s secure network in the Pacific, summarized the difficult task ahead.

The concept requires distilling a lot of combat information into a coherent, common picture for commanders at different levels, Thoms said.

“Then we have to nest this complete Army picture with joint partners — and we have to be able to do that at great speed, over great distances and against computer adversaries who fight us on every level.”

Harris said that with adversaries “fielding advanced weapons in numbers approaching the zombie apocalypse,” it is critical to implement the multi-domain concept with “a sense of urgency.”

Using a series of baseball analogies, Harris said military commanders must not be afraid of “striking out.”

“Even when we miss, I want to learn from the experience and continue to swing for the fences,” he said.

Noting North Korea’s recent spate of failed ballistic missile tests, Harris said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “isn’t playing small ball.”

“He’s not afraid to fail in public,” Harris said. “In fact, he’s swinging for those fences. And so, too, must we.” Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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