USA — General Calls Layers Key to Missile Defense Strategy

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2010 — The key to a suc­cess­ful mis­sile defense strat­e­gy is lay­ers, the direc­tor of the Mis­sile Defense Agency said today.

“Dif­fer­ent mis­siles sys­tems [are need­ed] so that if one fails or one can be tricked, you have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent mis­sile sys­tem going after the sec­ond shot,” Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reil­ly said. It’s “very chal­leng­ing to get through two systems.” 

O’Reil­ly cov­ered every­thing from U.S. mis­sile defense pri­or­i­ties to coop­er­a­tive efforts with Rus­sia dur­ing a Defense Writ­ers Group break­fast here. 

The Mis­sile Defense Agency is in the midst of devel­op­ing the imple­men­ta­tion for the Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Review, which was released in Feb­ru­ary, O’Reil­ly said. This review set sev­er­al pri­or­i­ties based on a 10-year outlook. 

The No. 1 pri­or­i­ty is the defense of the Unit­ed States, the gen­er­al said, fol­lowed by enhanc­ing region­al defens­es. Next is the devel­op­ment of a test­ing pro­gram that estab­lish­es which mis­sile defense sys­tems work, and gain­ing a sense of their capa­bil­i­ties and lim­i­ta­tions before mak­ing a purchase. 

By doing so, “we devel­op a fis­cal­ly sus­tain­able mis­sile defense, and we also devel­op one that hedges against future threats,” O’Reil­ly said. 

The final pri­or­i­ty is to expand inter­na­tion­al capac­i­ty, he said. 

“In oth­er words, have not only capa­bil­i­ty, but have the capac­i­ty in this defense area to work close­ly and rely and lever­age on the con­tri­bu­tions from our allies,” O’Reil­ly said. These pri­or­i­ties are what “dri­ve our bud­get devel­op­ment, our tech­nol­o­gy pri­or­i­ties and so forth,” he added. 

On the tech­nol­o­gy front, O’Reil­ly not­ed that long-range tar­gets pose the great­est chal­lenge for the Unit­ed States. Intel­li­gence experts work to pre­dict whether coun­tries can build a long-range mis­sile, such as an inter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile or inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, on their own. 

O’Reil­ly said his agency works close­ly with the entire intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty “con­stant­ly judg­ing this.” The chal­lenges are deter­min­ing how an adver­sary will build and devel­op a mis­sile and deter­min­ing infor­ma­tion in a gen­er­al­ly “clan­des­tine busi­ness,” the gen­er­al said. 

“We do see a growth of under­ground fac­to­ries,” O’Reil­ly said, as well as mis­siles being built in caves and launch­er vehi­cles being cam­ou­flaged as civil­ian vehi­cles. None of this is new, he not­ed, but it does indi­cate the dif­fi­cul­ties in try­ing to judge how much progress has been made. 

He point­ed out a pro­lif­er­a­tion of Scud mis­siles that orig­i­nate from the old Sovi­et Union. Accord­ing to intel­li­gence, he said, more than 6,000 mis­siles are in coun­tries oth­er than NATO, the Unit­ed States, Chi­na and Rus­sia, as well as more than 1,000 launchers. 

The Unit­ed States has wit­nessed many fail­ures in the devel­op­ment and test­ing of these sys­tems. How­ev­er, O’Reil­ly cau­tioned against com­pla­cen­cy in the face of oth­er coun­tries’ efforts. The Unit­ed States expe­ri­enced fail­ures as well in the 1960s and in mis­sile defense in the 1990s, he noted. 

“His­to­ry shows that if they are per­sis­tent, they will be suc­cess­ful,” he said. “But his­to­ry also shows that it is extreme­ly chal­leng­ing to be pre­cise on when they will be successful.” 

On a poten­tial mis­sile threat from Iran, O’Reil­ly not­ed, “If we’re look­ing at one or two or even five Iran­ian mis­siles. … we have a large abil­i­ty to respond to that.” To pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat, the coun­try not only would have to be suc­cess­ful in devel­op­ment, but in num­bers, he said. 

“In my esti­ma­tion, it would have to be more than 10,” he said. “And they would have to be able to suc­cess­ful­ly launch 10.” That would pose a chal­lenge for the U.S. pro­gram, let alone a pro­gram in a dif­fer­ent stage of devel­op­ment, he added. 

Iran has shown a space-launch capa­bil­i­ty, he acknowl­edged, based on a test in Feb­ru­ary. And there’s no indi­ca­tion they won’t attempt anoth­er, he said. 

“Space launch does give you some of the capa­bil­i­ty you need to devel­op an offen­sive mis­sile,” he said. How­ev­er, the gen­er­al under­scored the dif­fi­cul­ty of design­ing a mis­sile to re-enter the atmos­phere and be some­what accu­rate, let alone sur­vive re-entry. This abil­i­ty lev­el would require sophis­ti­cat­ed sci­ence and test­ing, “and we don’t see evi­dence of that test­ing,” he added. 

O’Reil­ly said the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia have been work­ing togeth­er on joint threat assessments. 

“We’ve also had a lot of inter­ac­tion from a tech­ni­cal point of view of open­ing the access so they can bet­ter under­stand our mis­sile defense,” he said. “We have had now, for a cou­ple of years, a stand­ing open invi­ta­tion for the Rus­sians to vis­it our mis­sile defense assets and go to our mis­sile defense fields.” 

Despite the lack of response to that blan­ket invi­ta­tion, he said, Rus­sia recent­ly accept­ed an invi­ta­tion to attend a test of the The­ater High Alti­tude Area Defense system. 

“There is more engage­ment than we’ve seen before, but it is still at the pre­lim­i­nary steps,” he said. 

On the road ahead, O’Reil­ly pre­dict­ed remote­ly pilot­ed vehi­cles will fig­ure promi­nent­ly and said the Mis­sile Defense Agency is work­ing close­ly with the Air Force to max­i­mize their poten­tial. The goal, he said, is to “have an air­craft at the right place at the right time in order to intercept.” 

An advan­tage of remote­ly pilot­ed vehi­cles is that they’re per­sis­tent — they can get into a region and stay there for long dura­tions of time, O’Reil­ly explained. The oth­er advan­tage is their sen­sor capability. 

“We lit­er­al­ly were shocked when we found out the capa­bil­i­ty for mis­sile defense,” he said. “You can be well over 1,000 kilo­me­ters away, and you have a very good track of a missile.” 

Preda­tors now fly in many of the agency’s tests, he said. Preda­tors and future ver­sions of the sen­sor sys­tem on board are “fan­tas­tic” at track­ing mis­sile clus­ters, he added. A pos­si­ble future devel­op­ment is attach­ment pods that can go on a wing, enabling any remote­ly pilot­ed vehi­cle to have a mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ty as a sen­sor, he said. 

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

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →