U.S. Missile Defense Counters Growing Threat

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 — Six days after North Korea’s failed long-range rock­et launch, the head of the Defense Department’s Mis­sile Defense Agency tes­ti­fied on Capi­tol Hill about bol­ster­ing U.S. defens­es against a grow­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat.

Agency Direc­tor Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly appeared yes­ter­day before the Sen­ate Appro­pri­a­tions Committee’s defense sub­com­mit­tee to dis­cuss the administration’s fis­cal 2013 bud­get request of $7.75 bil­lion for his agency.

The request is a reduc­tion of more than $650 mil­lion from the fis­cal 2012 appro­pri­a­tion. Since 1999, the Unit­ed States has invest­ed more than $90 bil­lion in mis­sile defense.

The lat­est request, O’Reilly said, “bal­ances our poli­cies as doc­u­ment­ed in the 2010 Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Review [with] U.S. Strate­gic Command’s inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense pri­or­i­ties, [Mis­sile Defense Agency] tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­i­ty assess­ments, afford­abil­i­ty con­straints and cur­rent intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty esti­mates of the bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat.”

But the direc­tor expressed con­cern to the pan­el about two crit­i­cal­ly need­ed pro­grams that are in jeop­ardy because of past con­gres­sion­al fund­ing reduc­tions.

The first, he said, is a mis­sile defense sen­sor capa­bil­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the pre­ci­sion track­ing space sys­tem, which allows space-based track­ing of bal­lis­tic mis­siles. The sec­ond is the need to devel­op a sec­ond inde­pen­dent lay­er of home­land defense with the SM-3 IIB inter­cep­tor, a high­ly deploy­able mis­sile that would destroy threat mis­siles ear­li­er in their flight paths than the cur­rent archi­tec­ture.

“I request your sup­port for these pro­grams,” O’Reilly said, “so that our home­land ben­e­fits from the same lay­ered mis­sile defense approach that we suc­cess­ful­ly employ in our region­al defens­es.”

The direc­tor described improve­ments made last year to the com­plex bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem designed to pro­tect the Unit­ed States and its allies. These include acti­vat­ing a new mis­sile field and a fire-con­trol node at Fort Greely, Alas­ka; acti­vat­ing an upgrad­ed ear­ly warn­ing radar in Thule, Green­land; and upgrad­ing the reli­a­bil­i­ty of three ground-based inter­cep­tors, or GBIs, he said.

“This year,” O’Reilly told the pan­el, “we con­tin­ue to aggres­sive­ly pur­sue the agency’s high­est pri­or­i­ty — to con­duct a mis­sile inter­cept with the newest ver­sion of the GBI’s exo-atmos­pher­ic kill vehi­cle after two pre­vi­ous flight-test fail­ures.”

A fail­ure review board of gov­ern­ment and indus­try experts redesigned crit­i­cal GBI kill vehi­cle com­po­nents and estab­lished more strin­gent man­u­fac­tur­ing and com­po­nent require­ments, he added.

“These require­ments have pre­vi­ous­ly not been encoun­tered any­where in the aero­space indus­try,” O’Reilly not­ed, adding that these have caused delays in prepar­ing for the next flight tests.

“We will fly a non­in­ter­cept test by the end of this year to ver­i­fy we have resolved all issues, and then we will con­duct our next inter­cept flight test ear­ly next year to reac­ti­vate the {ground-based mid­course defense] pro­duc­tion line,” the direc­tor said. “We will not approve the exe­cu­tion of a flight test until our engi­neers and inde­pen­dent experts are con­vinced that we have resolved all issues dis­cov­ered in pre­vi­ous test­ing.”

Also this year, the agency will acti­vate a hard­ened pow­er plant at Fort Greely, increase the fire­pow­er of field­ed GBIs by test­ing and upgrad­ing GBI com­po­nents, and boost the capa­bil­i­ty of sea-based X-band radar, the track­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion radar used for the GMD ele­ment of the Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Sys­tem.

“Region­al defense high­lights over the past year include the on-time deploy­ment of the first phase of the Euro­pean Phased Adap­tive Approach,” O’Reilly said, “con­sist­ing of the com­mand-and-con­trol node in Ger­many, for­ward-based radar in Turkey and an Aegis mis­sile defense ship on sta­tion in the Mediter­ranean Sea.”

The agency also demon­strat­ed the first Aegis inter­cept of a 3,700-kilometer tar­get using remote for­ward-based radar, he said, and the simul­ta­ne­ous inter­cept of two mis­siles by the ter­mi­nal high-alti­tude area defense sys­tem, called THAAD.

The THAAD ele­ment gives the mis­sile defense sys­tem a glob­al­ly trans­portable, rapid­ly deploy­able abil­i­ty to inter­cept and destroy bal­lis­tic mis­siles in or out of the atmos­phere dur­ing the final, or ter­mi­nal, flight phase.

“This year the first two THAAD bat­ter­ies will be avail­able for deploy­ment, increas­ing the num­ber of Aegis-capa­ble ships to 29,” the direc­tor said, and three SM-3 Block IB flight tests will show that last year’s flight-test fail­ure is resolved.

Com­ing up, he said, the largest mis­sile defense tests in his­to­ry will involve the first simul­ta­ne­ous inter­cepts of mul­ti­ple short and medi­um-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles and cruise mis­siles by Patri­ot for­ward-based radar.

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. O’Reilly said the agency works with more than 20 coun­tries, “includ­ing our coop­er­a­tive devel­op­ment pro­grams with Israel and Japan and our first for­eign mil­i­tary sale of THAAD to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates,” and sup­ports tech­ni­cal dis­cus­sions with the Rus­sians on mis­sile defense.

Phas­es 2 and 3 of the Euro­pean phased, adap­tive approach to mis­sile defense are on track to meet the 2015 and 2018 deploy­ment dates, the direc­tor said.

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