Experts Testify on DOD Missile Defense System

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2012 — Tech­ni­cal chal­lenges remain for the com­plex bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem designed to pro­tect the Unit­ed States and its allies, but the capa­bil­i­ty is cru­cial to the nation’s defense pos­ture, experts told a con­gres­sion­al pan­el this week.

Bradley H. Roberts, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for nuclear and mis­sile defense pol­i­cy, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, direc­tor of the Defense Department’s Mis­sile Defense Agency, and oth­er experts tes­ti­fied March 6 before the House Armed Ser­vices Committee’s sub­com­mit­tee on strate­gic forces.

Since 1999, the Unit­ed States has invest­ed more than $90 bil­lion in mis­sile defense. The fis­cal 2013 bud­get request for mis­sile defense is $7.75 bil­lion.

Roberts said the mis­sile defense strat­e­gy bal­ances the need to defend the home­land with the need to address region­al threats over­seas to U.S. forces, allies and part­ners, and he described the plan to bol­ster both.

“We live in an era of mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion, we project pow­er for­ward glob­al­ly, [and] we have secu­ri­ty com­mit­ments in regions where mis­siles are pro­lif­er­at­ing,” he told the pan­el. “We must pro­tect our forces, we must pro­tect our allies, [and] they must par­tic­i­pate in pro­tect­ing them­selves. To not do that calls into ques­tion the very foun­da­tion of our secu­ri­ty role in the inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment today.”

New capa­bil­i­ties have emerged over the past 10 to 15 years that now are avail­able to bol­ster region­al mis­sile defense, Roberts said. “So we’ve put in place a pro­gram to ramp up these region­al defense capa­bil­i­ties over the years ahead … in part­ner­ship with allies,” he added. “They are not along for a free ride. We’ve giv­en them many oppor­tu­ni­ties to strength­en their own self-defense, and many are ris­ing to this chal­lenge.”

The Unit­ed States has mis­sile defense coop­er­a­tive pro­grams with the Unit­ed King­dom, Japan, Aus­tralia, Israel, Den­mark, Ger­many, the Nether­lands, the Czech Repub­lic, Poland, Italy and many oth­er nations.

Roberts said the two-stage plan for bol­ster­ing home­land defense includes strength­en­ing the ground-based mid­course defense sys­tem, or GDM, and in the next decade, shift­ing to a land-based stan­dard mis­sile called SM-3 Block 2B as a com­ple­men­tary sec­ond lay­er of the sys­tem. GDM is an ele­ment of the bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem made up of ground-based inter­cep­tors and ground sys­tems com­po­nents.

Defense strat­e­gy calls for ground-based inter­cep­tors to be enhanced over the next 10 years, Roberts said. When SM-3 2B mis­siles become avail­able around 2020, he told the pan­el, those will be added to the sys­tem to pro­vide a sec­ond lay­er of pro­tec­tion on the ground in the Unit­ed States.

“For region­al defense, we now have two lay­ers of pro­tec­tion,” he added. “The home­land deserves the same. Depth and redun­dan­cy are bet­ter than reliance on a sin­gle sys­tem.”

Such ground- and sea-based inter­cep­tor mis­siles destroy an incom­ing mis­sile using a direct col­li­sion, called “hit-to-kill” tech­nol­o­gy, or an explo­sive-blast-frag­men­ta­tion war­head.

O’Reilly told the pan­el that the Mis­sile Defense Agency’s top pri­or­i­ty is to pro­tect the home­land from the grow­ing threat of inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile attacks from Iran, North Korea, Syr­ia and oth­er nations.

“We have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in enhanc­ing our cur­rent home­land defense over the past year,” he added. Progress includes acti­vat­ing a for­ward-based trans­portable radar in Turkey and an upgrad­ed ear­ly warn­ing radar at Thule, Green­land, to track inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles from the Mid­dle East.

The agency has also upgrad­ed three ground-based inter­cep­tors, or GBIs, acti­vat­ed a sec­ond com­mand-and-con­trol node — part of the com­mand, con­trol, bat­tle man­age­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work that links the warfight­er to sen­sors and inter­cep­tor mis­siles — and com­plet­ed the newest mis­sile field at Fort Greely, Alas­ka.

“Fur­ther enhance­ment of our home­land defense is paced by the res­o­lu­tion of a tech­ni­cal issue iden­ti­fied in the last GBI flight test and the need for a suc­cess­ful inter­cept with the newest ver­sion of the GBI exo-atmos­pher­ic kill vehi­cle by the end of this year,” O’Reilly said.

A suc­cess­ful non­in­ter­cept GBI flight test this sum­mer, he added, will con­firm that the prob­lem is resolved.

This year, O’Reilly told the pan­el, bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ty will be built into five more Aegis ships, three SM-3 Block 1B flight tests will demon­strate res­o­lu­tion of the pre­vi­ous test-flight fail­ure, and materiel release is planned for a sec­ond ter­mi­nal high-alti­tude area defense, or THAAD, bat­tery for area defense, space-based sen­sors and sea-based capa­bil­i­ties.

The agency’s 2013 bud­get will deliv­er a third THAAD bat­tery and three more Aegis bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense upgrades, for a total of 32 BMD-capa­ble ships, he said.

“This year and in 2013,” the gen­er­al said, “we will con­duct the largest, most com­plex, inte­grat­ed lay­ered region­al mis­sile defense tests in his­to­ry by simul­ta­ne­ous­ly engag­ing up to five crews and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tar­gets with Aegis, THAAD and Patri­ot inter­cep­tor sys­tems, a for­ward-based [trans­portable] radar, and a com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem oper­at­ed by sol­diers, sailors and air­men from mul­ti­ple com­bat­ant com­mands.”

An impor­tant part of the bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem that’s under devel­op­ment is the Pre­ci­sion Track­ing Space Sys­tem, or PTSS, a space-based con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites that will for the first time be able to track a mis­sile over its entire flight.

“There is no sen­sor that can fill the func­tion of track­ing a mis­sile over its entire flight from space and the broad field of views that we need to cov­er an entire the­ater, where we could see mis­siles simul­ta­ne­ous­ly launched,” O’Reilly said.

“The com­bi­na­tion of [ground-based mid­course defense], SM-3 2B, PTSS and oth­er pro­grams,” the gen­er­al said, “will pro­vide effec­tive and adapt­able mis­sile defense for our home­land to counter the uncer­tain­ty of ICBM capa­bil­i­ty from today’s region­al threats for decades into the future.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)