US Missile Defence:The Way Forward


Member of The Month SEPTEMBER 2009
Senior Member
Jun 8, 2009

09:11 GMT, July 20, 2009 The possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles by potential adversaries is an urgent security issue for the United States and our allies. Effective missile defences can contribute to US non-proliferation objectives by devaluing ballistic missiles in the eyes of our adversaries as a useful delivery system for conventional munitions and WMD. Equally important, missile defence can help the country prepare for situations where diplomacy and non-proliferation initiatives have failed by deterring aggression and, after ballistic missiles are launched, by limiting damage locally or regionally.

Threat Assessment

The proliferation of ballistic missiles of all ranges continues. Current trends indicate that proliferation of ballistic missile systems, using advanced liquid- or solid-propellant propulsion technologies, are becoming more mobile, survivable, reliable, accurate and capable of striking targets over longer distances. The proliferation of ballistic missiles is increasing the number of anti-access weapons available to potential regional adversaries. These weapons could be used to reduce military options available to Combatant Commanders and decrease the survivability of regional military assets. Iran has grown its short- and medium-range missile inventories, while improving the lethality, deployability, and effectiveness of existing systems with new propellants, more accurate guidance systems, and sub-munitions payloads. With the successful launch of the SAFIR Space Launch Vehicle on 2 February 2009, Iran demonstrated technologies that are directly applicable to the development of ICBMs. North Korea deploys a NO DONG ballistic missile capable of reaching Japan and South Korea and US bases throughout the region, and continues to develop a new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) capable of reaching Guam and the Aleutian Islands.

Despite the failure to place an object in orbit on 5 April 2009, North Korea successfully demonstrated the same staging and separation technologies required to launch a two-stage TAEPO-DONG 2 ICBM capable of reaching much of the United States. An additional concern is North Korea’s and Iran’s repeated demonstrations of salvo launches, indicating large ballistic missile attack raid sizes must be considered in developing the BMDS capability. Syria continues to field updated short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) systems and acquire SCUD-related equipment and materials from North Korea and Iran.
In sum, there has been an increase of over 1,200 additional ballistic missiles over the past five years, bringing the total of ballistic missiles outside the US, NATO, Russia and China to over 5,900 (with SRBMs making up 93% of this total and MRBMs making up 6%), with hundreds of launchers and missiles within the range of our deployed forces today (with SRBM launchers making up 91% of this total and MRBM launchers making up 9%).

Missile Defence Approach and Strategy

The mission of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is to develop defences to protect the US homeland, deployed forces, Allies and friends against ballistic missiles of all ranges and in all phases of flight. Given the unique characteristics of short-, medium-, intermediate-, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, no one missile defence interceptor or sensor system can effectively counter all ballistic missile threats. Warfighters are not only faced with the challenge of intercepting relatively small objects at great distances and very high velocities, but they may have to counter large raid sizes involving combinations of SRBMs, MRBMs, IRBMs, and ICBMs and, in the future, countermeasures associated with sophisticated ballistic missile attacks.
While countermeasures can be developed to degrade the performance of autonomous missile interceptor systems, it is much more difficult to develop countermeasures that degrade fundamentally different missile defence interceptor systems operating together in different phases of a ballistic missile’s flight. Thus, the most operationally effective missile defence architecture is a layering of endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric missile interceptor systems with ground and space sensors connected and managed by a robust Command and Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) infrastructure. Moreover, the most cost-effective missile defence architecture is one that emphasises early intercepts during a threat missile’s ascent phase of flight before countermeasures can be deployed and before the remainder of the BMDS architecture is required to track and kill a threat re-entry vehicle and associated objects.

Accomplishments and Challenges

During FY 2008 and FY 2009, the Missile Defense Agency achieved many accomplishments, including:

* The execution of successful AEGIS STANDARD Missile (SM)-3 Block IA and SM-2 Block IV interceptor salvo flight tests and delivery of 28 additional SM-3 Block IA interceptors (including deliveries to Japan);
* A Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) intercept test utilising the entire sensor and command and control suite deployed in the Pacific;
* Emplacement of two GBIs and refurbishment of two GBIs at Fort Greely, Alaska;
* Deployment of a AN/TPY-2 radar to Israel;
* The execution of an experiment involving the closest data collection to date of a boosting missile from a satellite;
* The safe destruction of a malfunctioning US satellite;
* Repeated demonstration of the atmospheric laser beam compensation during Airborne Laser (ABL) flights;
* Delivery of the first THAAD unit for testing; and,
* Three THAAD intercepts, including the launching of a salvo of two THAAD interceptors using operational firing doctrine.

In early May 2009, we also successfully placed in orbit the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Advanced Technology Risk Reduction satellite to serve as a pathfinder for next-generation space sensor technology. However, in addition to our successes, we also faced challenges developing the BMDS. During FY 2008 and FY 2009 to date, we experienced eight significant flight test delays, four target failures out of 18 target launches, and one interceptor failure in flight. These and other contributing factors have resulted in $264 million of cost growth. Further, we have incurred over $252 million in unplanned costs and 25 weeks of schedule revisions due to unplanned operational deployments of our systems under development. In response to those challenges, we have worked with our leadership and stakeholders to enhance our management oversight, strengthen our relationship with the warfighter community, and improve BMDS acquisition and test planning. We have adopted a series of initiatives to improve acquisition and oversight of the contracts we will award over the next 18 months. We are also institutionalising MDA and Service roles and responsibilities for elements of the BMDS that the Deputy Secretary of Defense has designated a lead Service.

FY2010 Budget Request

The proposed FY 2010 budget for the Department of Defense’s missile defence programme amounts to approximately $7.8 billion. This budget has been formulated in response to Defense Secretary Gates’s budget guidance and to allow for programmatic flexibility to respond to the Quadrennial Defense Review and the congressionally mandated Ballistic Missile Defense Review.

As Secretary Gates announced on April 6, this budget was the result of “a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks and needs” for the purpose of meeting the Secretary’s vision to “institutionalise and enhance our capabilities to enhance the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies.” Specifically, “we will restructure the programme to focus on the rogue state and theatre missile threat.”

Due to the previous accomplishments of the Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) programme, the technical risk that our current inventory of operationally ready Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) is sufficient to destroy the number of rogue nation ICBM threat missiles that could be launched at any one time today, or over the next decade, is low. However, the technical risk that the inventory of our theatre missile defences can be overwhelmed by the large number of theatre-class threat missiles and launchers is considerably higher. Furthermore, the previous programme’s ability to develop future capability to destroy missiles in the highly advantageous early phases of flight will not be operationally available until the later years of the next decade. Thus, to better protect our forces and those of our Allies in theatre from ballistic missile attack, we propose to add $700 million to field more of our most capable theatre missile defence systems, specifically the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and STANDARD Missile (SM)-3 programmes. We also propose to add $200 million over three years to fund the conversion of six additional AEGIS ships to provide ballistic missile defence capabilities. Finally, we propose to invest $368 million in FY 2010 for the development and deployment of capabilities to cost-effectively intercept missiles in their ascent phase of flight during the first half of the next decade.

Secretary Gates also emphasised that we were stopping programmes with technologies not reasonably available to affordably meet cost or schedule goals. We will not increase the number of current ground-based interceptors beyond the 26 silos in Alaska and four operational silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base. But we will continue to robustly fund continued research and development to improve the capability we already have to defend against long-range rogue missile threats. We will cancel the second Airborne Laser (ABL) prototype aircraft, but we will keep the existing aircraft and shift the programme to a R&D effort to address affordability and technology issues while assessing the programme’s proposed operational role. We will terminate the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) programme because it is not a necessary capability to defeat rogue threats, and its significant technical challenges and long development timeline warrants review of other capabilities to provide a more near-term hedge against future threats. We will also terminate the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) programme since its capability is also inconsistent with the missile defence mission to counter rogue nation threats and for cost growth, schedule delays, and its lack of technology maturity. It is our intention to enhance the cost and operational effectiveness of our missile defence architectures by increasing our near-term ability to engage missiles in all phases of flight.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Joint Staff, Combatant Commanders, and Armed Services have intensified collaboration on developing missile defence capabilities. As a result, a great deal has been learned about our Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS) technology, doctrine, and tactics. As announced by Secretary Gates, and in response to the war fighter’s specific needs, we are making the BMDS more affordable and effective by:

* Reshaping our programme to enhance protection of our deployed forces, allies and friends against existing threats;
* Maintaining a ground-based midcourse capability to defeat a limited long-range rogue state attack or accidental launch against the United States; and
* Preparing to leverage emerging Ascent Phase Intercept (API) technologies to hedge against threat growth and realise the greatest potential for reducing cost and increasing operational effectiveness of missile defence. This rationale is based in part on a Defense Science Board 2002 Summer Study, which emphasised the benefits of ascent phase intercepts. The study also noted that the technological and operational challenges of intercepting threat missiles in the ascent phase (the phase after powered flight, but prior to apogee) and significantly less challenging than boost phase intercepts. API would allow us to intercept early in the battle space and optimise our ability to execute a shoot-look-shoot tactic to defeat a threat before countermeasures are deployed, minimise the potential impact of debris, and reduce the number of interceptors required to defeat a raid of threat missiles. Additionally, by destroying missiles early, we do not have to incur the costs of maintaining a significant number of expensive interceptors to destroy advanced countermeasures in a later phase of a threat missile’s flight.

With this budget we also will continue to execute to the fullest extent of the law the upper tier European Capability programme to counter long-range attacks from Iran, deferring radar and interceptor deployments until policy reviews are complete. We also intend to achieve efficiencies by eliminating redundancy and increasing the centralised management of missile defence acquisition programmes.

We will execute a rigorous test programme to build the confidence of US and allied stakeholders in the BMDS, bolster deterrence against their use, and send a powerful message to potential adversaries looking to acquire ballistic missiles. Thus, testing figures prominently in our proposed budget for FY 2010. Furthermore, we are collaborating with the Services’ Operational Test Agencies (OTA) with the support of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) to restructure our test programme in order to improve confidence in the missile defence capabilities under development and ensure the capabilities transferred to the warfighter are operationally effective, suitable, and survivable.

Missile Defence Technology Development

A robust advanced missile defence technology development programme is part of our strategy to hedge against future threat uncertainties. MDA is intensifying its focus on enabling the capability to intercept a threat missile early in its flight, prior to its apogee. A missile defence architecture that emphasizes an early intercept capability places a premium on persistent surveillance of threat missile launches in specific regions of interest. Likewise, the emerging architecture will emphasise the forward positioning of mobile and transportable flexible missile defence assets, which would include sensors for early detection, a highly responsive and reliable C2BMC infrastructure, and energetic and agile weapons.


Member of The Month SEPTEMBER 2009
Senior Member
Jun 8, 2009
For FY 2010, we are requesting $180 million for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) to demonstrate the technology to track threat objects from space by using two STSS demonstration satellites to be launched this summer. Sensors on STSS satellites could provide fire control quality tracking data for engagements of threat re-entry vehicles and, when combined with radar data, will provide improved threat object discrimination. Following launch of the STSS, we will enter into a six-month on-orbit check-out period, after which we plan to use both targets of opportunity and dedicated targets to demonstrate STSS capabilities. Knowledge point-based lessons learned from these demonstrations will guide our decisions on the development of an affordable, continuously available operational precision track space sensor constellation.

The Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) satellite launched in April 2007 continues to operate in good health. We conducted NFIRE test mission 2B in September 2008 to collect first-of-a-kind high resolution plume and hard body data of a boosting missile at approximately 8 km range from a boosting missile. In this test, we collected multiple frames of data in multiple wavebands, which will help anchor plume to hard body handover algorithms for boost phase intercept applications. We continue to collect data on other targets of opportunity. We also demonstrated very high capacity laser communications on board the NFIRE satellites.

Our boost phase intercept technologies include the Airborne Laser (ABL) and Net Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) technology programmes. We are requesting $187 million for FY 2010 to further develop these technologies. In FY 2008 we verified ABL can acquire, track, and perform atmospheric compensation in flight against a non-cooperative target and completed installation of the high power laser on the aircraft. We achieved first light through the Beam Control/Fire Control and successfully fired the complete high energy laser weapon system from the aircraft on the ground in November 2008. While we will cancel the planning for Tail #2 aircraft, we will maintain Tail #1 and continue ABL research and development to address many of the programme’s affordability, technical, and operational challenges. We are focusing the ABL programme on achieving repeated shoot-downs of missiles in their boost phase in FY 2010. We are requesting funding for two lethal shoot-downs in the first half of FY 2010, retaining critical skills needed for optics and fire control, and continuing test flights. We are also prepared to de-commission the Tail #1 aircraft if the shoot-downs are unsuccessful. We addressed an optics contamination issue which delayed the return to flight, but we currently flying a fully integrated ABL today and are on track for a shoot-down of a ballistic missile later in 2009.
In 2008 we also demonstrated the NCADE, a promising air-launch missile defence concept that uses a modified AIM-9X seeker to intercept a boosting missile target. Plume-to-hard body aim point transition was completed, and sensors on-board an F-15 aircraft successfully detected, acquired, and tracked three stages of a boosting missile target. We are requesting $3.5 million for FY 2010 for continued work on NCADE technologies and to study the concept further.

Collaboration with the Services

In September 2008, the Deputy Secretary of Defense established “business rules” that outline the transition and transfer of missile defence capabilities between the Missile Defense Agency and the Services. These rules designate that “transition” of an element of the BMDS begins when the Deputy Secretary of Defense designates a “lead Service” to ultimately receive that capability through formal transfer. MDA is responsible for the development, manufacturing and testing for the lifecycle of BMDS elements, and the Services are responsible for developing the doctrine, organisations, training, logistics, personnel and facilities to effectively field and operate the element sub-systems of the BMDS. Research, development, manufacturing, and testing activities remain the responsibility of MDA after a BMDS element capability has been transferred to a lead Service. Accordingly, “hybrid” program offices, consisting of organisations reporting to either MDA or the lead Services will be formed to execute this division of responsibilities once a lead Service has been designated for a BMDS element.

In support of the MDEB as the COCOM advocate for missile defence, USSTRATCOM, in collaboration with the other Combatant Commands, Joint Staff, and the Services, assesses and prioritises the development of future missile defence capabilities. USSTRATCOM also performs Military Utility Assessments (MUAs) to determine the capabilities and limitations of our systems under development when they are considered for contingency deployments by the Combatant Commanders.

MDA and the Services have begun developing Memorandums of Agreements (MOAs) to define the management and interrelationship of MDA’s research, development, testing and manufacturing responsibilities and align them with the Services’ Title 10 Operations and Support responsibilities. A key aspect of these MOAs is the establishment of MDA/Service Boards of Directors to collaboratively review cooperative development, resolve issues associated with the development and fielding of the Service designated BMDS elements, and raise unresolved issues to the MDEB.

International Cooperative BMD Activities

The global proliferation of MRBMs and IRBMs warrants an international coalition approach to deter further acquisition of these offensive missiles and employ an operationally effective missile defence that significantly contributes to deterrence. Therefore, under the guidance of Office of the Secretary of Defense, MDA works closely with Combatant Commanders, the US Department of State, and other government agencies to support their missions and goals. As a result, MDA has significant cooperative missile defence technology development efforts, including six “framework” agreements, signed by the Secretary of Defense, to facilitate BMD cooperative research with Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and, most recently, the Czech Republic. Cooperative activities are under consideration with several other nations. With the purchase of AEGIS BMD and PAC-3 assets, Japan is fielding a multi-layered system that is capable of being interoperable with the US system. Japan’s C2BMC (JADGE) system will integrate Japanese BMD sensors and interceptors and will be capable of exchanging information with US missile defences, including the forward-based X-band radar at Shariki and US AEGIS BMD ships in the region. The X-band radar at Shariki provides precise early detection and tracking to increase the probability we will destroy any lethal target launched by North Korea.

MDA’s C2BMC will continue leading the integration of the BMDS with NATO command and control. In November 2008 and January 2009, we completed initial tests confirming integration between the NATO ALTBMD programme office and our C2BMC.

MDA also continues to support Administration efforts to propose transparency and confidence-building measures, technology development programmes, and missile defence architectures to collaborate with the Russian government. Additionally, we have invited Russian representatives to view our test flights, which they have attended in the past, and participate in our annual Multinational Missile Defence Conference. I visited the Russian radar at Gabala, Azerbaijan, and personally assessed its valued contribution to US and NATO missile defence efforts. Furthermore, we have been able to identify several potential areas of cooperative technology development such as sensor netting, propulsion, and high energy lasers, collaborative testing, and information-sharing initiatives such as the Joint Data Exchange Centre. These areas of cooperation are under review by the DoD.

European IRBM and ICBM Defence Capability

We remain committed to working with our NATO partners to address the growing threat from ballistic missiles. In the Summit declaration issued on 4 April 2009, all NATO Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the conclusions of the Bucharest Summit, that “(b)allistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies’ forces, territory, and populations. Missile defence forms part of a broader response to counter this threat.” As part of this response, NATO agreed that “a future United States’ contribution of important architectural elements could enhance NATO elaboration of this Alliance effort.” The DoD has previously proposed to field sensors, interceptors, communications, and the C2BMC infrastructure needed to improve protection of the United States and, for the first time, with the United Kingdom and Denmark, extend upper-tier, ICBM and IRBM, defence coverage to all European NATO allies vulnerable to long-range ballistic missile attack from the Middle East. The NATO Active Layer Theatre Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme will develop the lower-tier, MRBM and SRBM, defence necessary for complete defence of NATO against all missiles of all ranges launched from the Middle East.

The previously proposed upper-tier European Capability focuses on relocation of the upgraded midcourse X-band radar, currently located at the Kwajalein test site, to the Czech Republic and the establishment of a midcourse interceptor field in Poland, pending ratification of signed missile defence agreements with both governments. We have signed a BMD Agreement and a supplemental Status of Forces Agreement with the Czech Republic. We have signed a BMD Agreement with Poland and continue to negotiate a supplemental Status of Forces Agreement. Whether Poland or the Czech Republic will ratify these agreements remains unclear. In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with both nations and NATO, and we will continue to assess potential missile defence architectures for optimum effectiveness. To accommodate the discussions and the architecture assessment we have deferred the fielding of ten GBIs at the European Interceptor Site in Poland and the European Midcourse Radar in the Czech Republic to beyond FY 2010. We will continue planning and design activities as allowed under the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act to preserve our opportunity to move forward with the start of military construction and site activation activities at both European Capability sites.

US-Israeli Cooperative Programmes

The United States and Israel have cooperated on missile defence for over twenty years, and we are requesting $120 million in FY 2010 for such cooperative efforts. Collaboration has grown from early feasibility studies to the development and employment of the ARROW System, a fully-operational missile defence architecture that is interoperable with US BMDS elements. New joint programmes have advanced this cooperation: US and Israeli industrial co-production of ARROW interceptors; the DAVID’s SLING joint SRBM defence programme; and an initiative to provide Israel an upper-tier defence system.

The upcoming year will include several significant events that will demonstrate combined US and Israeli missile defence capabilities. Israel conducted the first intercept test of the enhanced and co-produced ARROW-2 in April 2009, successfully acquiring, tracking, and intercepting a separating target. AN/TPY-2 and C2BMC sent cueing data on the target to the ARROW weapon system. The “Juniper Cobra” exercise between European Command (EUCOM) and the Israeli Defence Forces to be held later in 2009 will be the fifth and most complex exercise yet designed. US BMDS elements such as the AN/TPY-2, THAAD and AEGIS BMD will participate in these exercises to demonstrate the interoperability and develop operational tactics, techniques and procedures associated with this coalition architecture.

MDA and Israel are also jointly developing the DAVID’s SLING weapon system to defend against shorter-range threats, to include some ranges that the PAC-3 system cannot engage. The first booster fly-out was successfully conducted in February 2009, with additional interceptor fly-outs scheduled later this year. The first intercept test is scheduled to occur in 2010. Additionally, MDA is coordinating with the US Services to identify opportunities for US utilisation of the DAVID’s SLING STUNNER interceptor.

Finally, the United States and Israel have initiated development of an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defence architecture. An analysis of alternatives of a land-based SM-3 and a new ARROW-3 missile indicated that the latter may have a reduced 30-year life-cycle cost and potentially better performance to meet Israel's requirements, but was also deemed to have very high schedule and technical risk to meet the Israeli proposed need date. We have proposed FY 2010 funding for the Israeli upper tier project and are coordinating an agreement that contains knowledge points to measure progress and joint US-Israeli management responsibility. To mitigate the AROOW-3 development schedule risk, we are ensuring that the development of a land-based variant of the proven SM-3 missile is available to meet Israel’s upper tier requirements.


Proven missile defences can enhance protection by dissuading potential adversaries from acquiring them, deterring against their use, and defending against a ballistic missile attack. Proven missile defence assets can contribute to strategic non-proliferation and counter-proliferation objectives by undercutting the value of offensive ballistic missiles and dissuading foreign investment in them. Deployed missile defences can bolster deterrence and give confidence to our allies and friends by reducing opportunities for adversarial intimidation or coercion and creating uncertainty in the minds of the potential adversaries of the effectiveness of an attack on US or allied retaliatory military power. A robust research and development programme focused on API can provide a significant “hedge” against advanced threats.

If hostilities break out, missile defences can limit damage to US and allied critical infrastructure, population centres, and military capabilities for responsive operations.

The FY 2010 missile defence budget was the result of a comprehensive assessment of available and reasonably achievable capabilities, war fighter requirements, and development risks. It also provides a hedge against future uncertainty. With the $7.8 billion requested, MDA will implement a programme strategy to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of developing the BMDS.

While we are addressing challenges, our record of 16 of 18 successful intercept attempts over the past three years sends a clear message to potential adversaries considering the acquisition of ballistic missiles. But more work is needed to improve our oversight, collaboration with Combat Commanders and the Services, test planning, and programme execution.

Missile defence is expensive, but the cost of mission failure can also be very high _ the system must be affordable and effective. Integration of stand-alone missile defence systems into an integrated BMDS helps us achieve cost and operational efficiencies by improving protection with increased defended area and performance without incurring additional force structure costs. The Department is proposing a balanced programme to develop, rigorously test, and field an integrated BMDS architecture to counter existing regional threats, maintain our limited ICBM defence, develop new technologies to address future risks, and become more operationally and cost-effective as we prepare to protect against the more uncertain threats of the future.

Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly is the Director of the Missile Defense Agency. This article is a condensed version of Gen. Reilly’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Strategic Forces Subcommittee on 21 May 2009.

Global Defence

New threads