MDA Fact Sheet is Back (April 23, 2018)

On April 15, I put up a blog post saying that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) had removed from its website its Fact Sheet on missile defense testing.  The fact sheet contained tables showing the outcome of intercept tests for the GMD, Aegis BMD and THAAD systems. I explained that the fact sheet was actually still on the website, but the link to it had been removed.    However, its last update was on May 30, 2017, since which there have been seven intercept tests of the Aegis BMD and THAAD systems.  In response, I created my own version of these tables, which you can see here.

Sometime between April 15 and April 22, MDA put an updated version of this fact sheet back on its website. You can see the new MDA fact sheet here.  Since my version of the tables contains additional information, I plan to continue to update it as additional intercept tests take place.

 

 

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Tables of Intercept Tests (April 15, 2018) (updated 4/22/2018)

Update (4/22/2018): Sometime after I put up this post, the MDA put a newly updated version of their testing results fact sheet back on their website.  I will still continue to update this post as new test results become available.

The Department of Defense appears to be in the process of sharply reducing publicly available information about its missile defense testing activities.  In late February, it was announced that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) would no longer publicly provide advance information on planned missile defense tests, information that had always previously been made publicly available.  MDA Director Lt. General Samuel Greaves stated on February 22 that: “Due to the need to safeguard critical defense information, the DOD will not provide timing or test details in advance beyond the required safety notifications for any planned flight tests.”[1]

The next month it was revealed that the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) had ceased publishing an unclassified version of its annual Assessment of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a report mandated by Congress.[2]  The last publicly available version of this Report (which is different from the brief annual assessments of specific weapons systems that are still available on the DOT&E website) is the 2015 Report, dated April 2016.  It is available here:  www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/1011964.pdf.

Now it appears that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has removed the “Ballistic Missile Defense Intercept Flight Record” fact sheet from its website.  This fact sheet covered the intercept tests of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system, the SM-3, SM-6 and SM-2 Block IV interceptors of the Navy’s Aegis BMD system, and the Army’s Terminal High-Altitude Defense Defense (THAAD) interceptors (since 2006).  The fact sheet had tables for each type of interceptor with the name, date, and outcome (hit or miss) for each intercept test.  For each failure, it briefly described the cause of the failure.

The fact sheet actually is still on the website, but the link to it has been removed.  You can find it by searching for “testing record” on the MDA’s website.  However, its last update was on May 30, 2017 – the same day as FTG-15, the most recent intercept test of the GMD system (which was successful).  Since then, there have been seven intercept tests of the Aegis BMD and THAAD systems, five of which were successful.

I found this fact sheet to be useful, so I have made my own set of tables, updated to today, which are posted below.  These tables contain more information than those in the MDA fact sheet, are organized a little differently, and in one case (GMD test FTG-02) have a different outcome.  I plan to update this post as future intercept tests take place.

 

Summary Table

 

GMDInterceptTests

No Test = Target failed and interceptor was not launched.     * = MDA scores FTG-02 as a “hit” but DOT&E scores it as a “no kill” because the EKV only achieved a “glancing blow.”

 

 

AegisBlockITesting

Target: SR = short-range (< 1,000 km), MR = medium-range (1,000-3,000 KM), IR = Intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 KM), S = separating warhead, U = unitary (warhead does not separate)

No Test = Target failed and no interceptor was launched.

Salvo = two interceptors were fired and the first one hit the target.

AA = Interceptor launched from Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii.

TU = Threat upgrade

 

AegisBlock2Tests

Target: SR = MR = medium-range (1,000-3,000 KM), IR = Intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 KM)

AA = Interceptor launched from Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii.

 

THAADInterceptTests

Target: SR = short-range (< 1,000 km), MR = medium-range (1,000-3,000 KM), IR = Intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 KM), S = separating warhead, U = unitary (warhead does not separate)

No Test = Target failed and no interceptor was launched.

Salvo = two interceptors were fired and the first one hit the target.

Endo = within the atmosphere,  Exo = above the atmosphere


[1] Jason Sherman, “DOD Now Treating Missile Defense Flight Plans – Once Public – As Classified,” Inside Defense SITREP, March 1, 2018.

[2] Jason Sherman, “Pentagon Now Classifying Once-Public Report on BMDS Operational Effectiveness,” Inside Defense SITREP, March 12, 2018.

 

 

Quick Highlights of Today’s Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Ballistic Missile Defense (March 22, 2018)

Quick highlights of the March 22 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ballistic missile defense based on the video of the hearing and MDA Director Lt. General Greaves’ prepared statement.

(1) Only four senators asked questions. Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Senator Fischer (R), Ranking Member Senator Donnelly (D), Senator Cotton (R) and Senator Sullivan (R).  So not a lot of questions.

(2) The Missile Defense Review (MDR, formerly BMDR) still has some issues to be worked through, according to John C. Rood, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.  He would not commit to it being done in April but said it would be in the next few months.

(3) The Aegis Ashore facility in Poland, originally scheduled to be operational by the end of 2018, will not be operational until at least 2020. According to General Greaves, the delay is due to “an unsatisfactory rate of construction progress.”

(4) MDA plans to test an Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor against an ICBM range target by the end of calendar year 2021, as required by the FY-2018 NDAA.

(5) MDA plans to reach 64 deployed GBI interceptors in 2023. Beyond the new silo field, MDA plans to build two additional silos and buy six additional GBIs so as to be able to maintain 64 operational GBIs at all times. In response to Senator Sullivan, General Greaves said that the 2023 date could not be moved up without risking the same sort of problems and delays encountered in the initial deployment of GBIs.

(6) Senator Cotton strongly pushed General Greaves on the possibility of deploying hit-to-kill boost-phase interceptors on unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs). General Greaves agreed that this approach could be effective against North Korea but not Russia or China but that MDA was only at a “technology development” phase for such an approach.

(7) There was some additional information on testing schedules for the GBI and Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptors that I will summarize in another post.

Scope and Scale of Missile Defense Plans in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — February 25, 2018

 

Jaganath Sankaran

The 2018 NDAA outlines an ambitious range of programs on missile defenses.[1] It also provides a staggering funding increase to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), indicating a willingness by both the Congress and the Trump administration to support both existing missile defense programs as well as new ones.

In addition to a $1.5 billion increase for “various missile procurement and development,” the 2018 NDAA also authorizes $12.3 billion for the MDA “to bolster homeland, regional and space missile defenses.”[2] The large amount increases seem to be motivated by a late White House request for “an additional $4.0 billion to support urgent missile defeat and defense enhancements to counter the threat from North Korea…”[3] In fact, the authorization substantially exceeded the initial MDA request of $7.9 billion for FY 2018, which in itself was a $379 million increase from the previous year.[4]

On the matter of the defense of continental United States, the document places substantial stock on the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) deployed in Alaska and California. Many proposed upgrades to the system are advised under the proviso “if consistent with the direction or recommendation of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review that commenced in 2017.” For instance, the 2018 NDAA has asked the Secretary of Defense to “designate the preferred location of a potential additional continental United States interceptor site” to host GBI interceptors if so suggested by the BMDR.[5] It also asks to “increase the number of ground-based interceptors of the United States by up to 28” subject to the 2018 defense appropriations and if consistent with the BMDR.[6] These 28 additional interceptors would add to the 44 planned to date.[7] Furthermore, the 2018 NDAA asks for a plan “to further increase such numbers” of interceptors to a total of 104 to be potentially deployed in “existing or new [sites] on the East Coast or in the Midwest.”[8] The document is silent on the strategic justification for such numbers and the potential risks to strategic stability. The decision to include such a request might also be a reflection of the internal bargaining that ensued in obtaining consensus on the 2018 NDAA. The BMDR might provide more clues as to the evolution of the future numbers of GBI interceptors to be deployed with the continental United States.

However, there are also some tangential limitations imposed to ensure sufficient rigor in testing and development. The 2018 NDAA states that the MDA “should continue to flight test the ground-based midcourse defense element at least once each fiscal year” and should “establish a more prudent balance between risk mitigation and the more rapid testing pace needed to quickly develop and deliver new capabilities to the Armed Forces.”[9] The document, however, does not define what would constitute prudent balance and under what conditions the system would be considered effective.

Also, on homeland defense, the 2018 NDAA asks the Director of the MDA to demonstrate the capability of SM-3 Block IIA interceptors to “defeat a complex intercontinental ballistic missile threat” no later than December 31, 2020.[10] Any such demonstration might open up substantial opposition from the Russia and China, further stonewalling any attempts to reduce nuclear arsenals through cooperative arms control. Also, if such a capability of SM-3 IIA interceptors is accepted as demonstrated, it is not evident how clear separation of SM-3 IA/IB and SM-3 IIA deployment methods can be achieved.

Without convincingly demonstrating such separation, it might be very difficult convince Russia, China, and other nations that the United States is not pursuing national missile defenses against Russia or China. The 2018 NDAA document, to its credit, does seem to anticipate potential risks to arms control and strategic stability from the demonstration. It tasks the Secretary of Defense to submit, not later than 120 days after the enactment of the 2018 NDAA, a report whether such a demonstration “poses any risk to strategic stability.”[11] The tasking also asks the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan “to address and mitigate such risks.”[12] The details of such plans will have important consequences for future nuclear arms control and risk reduction.

The 2018 NDAA also asks the Director of MDA to develop “a highly reliable and cost-effective persistent space-based sensor architecture capable of supporting the ballistic missile defense system” if the BMDR recommends it.[13] The NDAA document indicates that such a system should be able to perform among other things (1) precision tracking of threat missiles; (2) enabling of launch-on-remote and engage-on-remote capabilities; (3) discrimination of warheads; and (4) enhanced shoot doctrine. MDA began the development of the most recent such space-based sensor architecture, the Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS), in 2009.[14]

The PTSS program was canceled after spending around $231 million when it could not provide immediate and applicable benefits to the missile defense mission.[15] Also, a 2012 National Academies study claimed that PTSS does not “provide better [capabilities] and at a lower cost both initially and over the life cycle” in comparison to existing systems. The study also argued that “PTSS contributes little if anything to midcourse discrimination.”[16] The new program suggested in the 2018 NDAA would have to demonstrate how changes in technologies, threat estimation, operating parameters or other considerations can justify another similar venture.

Depending on the outcome of the BMDR, the 2018 NDAA also recommends that “the Secretary of Defense should rapidly develop and demonstrate a boost phase intercept capability for missile defense as soon as practicable.”[17] The document advises that “existing technologies should be adapted” in developing a boost phase system with the goal to “address emerging threats…in the Asia-Pacific region.”[18] The threat is predominantly an implied reference to North Korean missiles. However, not many more details are outlined. Is the boost phase system air-borne or ship-borne? Will it be designed specifically to address North Korean threats with a planned phasing down if and when the threat is mitigated? How will the deployment of such a system affect Chinese and Russian strategic security sensibilities? The BMDR might provide clues to these, and many other questions a boost-phase missile defense might raise.

Reflecting the concerns over North Korean missiles, the 2018 NDAA also takes up the matter of the defense of Hawaii suggesting a “sequenced approach.”[19] Some recent suggestions have been made to use the SM-3 launchers at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility along with an AN/TP-2 radar, to provide defensive coverage over Hawaii.[20] However, the 2018 NDAA suggests as part of its sequenced approach protecting the “test and training facilities of the Pacific Missile Range Facility” rather re-purposing the facility.[21] Later on in the document, without providing specifics, it suggests “the feasibility of improving missile defense of Hawaii by using existing missile defense assets that could materially improve the defense of Hawaii.” Given recent events,[22] the BMDR will probably explore the defense of Hawaii in more depth including the possibility of new missile defense deployments to the state.

In essence, the 2018 NDAA is motivated more by threat perception and less by strategic stability concerns. It discusses a plethora of programs without a detailed plan to optimize various systems. It also does not enable a broader discussion of the strategic stability concerns missile defenses provoke or the deterioration of arms control possibilities. However, once the BMDR is published, it may provide more clues to the Trump administration’s preferences on the many issues pertaining to missile defenses.

 

[1] “H.R. 2810 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, 115th Congress (2-017-2018),” Online at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2810/text. Hereafter referred to as “H.R. 2810.” Ballistic Missile Defense programs are discussed in “Subtitle E – Missile Defense Programs.

[2] “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018,” United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Conference Report Highlights. Online at https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SASC%20Summary%20of%20FY18%20NDAA%20Conference%20Report.pdf.

[3] The letter requesting for additional funds can be found online at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/DOD_budgetamendment_package_nov2017.pdf.

[4] Missile Defense Agency, “Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Estimates: OVERVIEW,” 15 May 2017. Online at https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/budgetfy18.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Pentagon to Field Additional Ballistic Missile Interceptors in Alaska,” 15 March 2013. Online at http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/pentagon-field-extra-missile-interceptors-calif-alaska-report/

[8] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1686.

[9] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1690.

[10] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1680.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1683.

[14] Missile Defense Agency, “Fact Sheet: Precision Tracking Space Systems.” Online at https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/ptss.pdf

[15] David Willman, “How the U.S. Missile Defense Agency burned $231 million on a program that never should have left the drawing board,” Los Angeles Times, 26 December 2015. Online at http://graphics.latimes.com/missile-defense-satellite/

[16] National Research Council of the National Academies, Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense (Washington D.C.: National Academies), p. 16. Online at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13189/making-sense-of-ballistic-missile-defense-an-assessment-of-concepts

[17] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1685. In addition to boost phase missile defense, there is also mention about developing a space-based missile defense layer. By virtue of immutable orbital mechanics, a space-based missile defense layer would also at least theoretically possess intercept capabilities against Russian and Chinese strategic missiles. Such a threat might force Russian and Chinese countermeasures, including in the increase in the number of deployed weapons. It should also be noted that a boost phase capability to be effective against a regional threat such as North Korea would be extremely costly and very difficult to accomplish. See: American Physical Society, Report of the APS Study Group on Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense: Executive Summary and Findings (College Park, MD: American Physical Society, July 2003). Online at https://www.aps.org/policy/reports/studies/upload/boostphase-intercept.PDF

[18] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1685.

[19] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1680.

[20] Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, “Paradise Intercepted: Defending Hawaii from North Korea,” The Cipher Brief, 18 January 2018. Online at https://www.thecipherbrief.com/column/expert-view/paradise-intercepted-defending-hawaii-north-korea?utm_source=Aggregators&utm_campaign=87e6f0ebda-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_01_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b02a5f1344-87e6f0ebda-122460921

[21] H.R. 2810, Sec. 1680..

[22] Zachary Cohen, “Missile threat alert for Hawaii a false alarm; officials blame employee who pushed ‘wrong button’,” CNN Politics, 14 January 2018. Online at https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/13/politics/hawaii-missile-threat-false-alarm/index.html

Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness   (October 22, 2017) 

This is an updated list (previous version was May 2017) of claims by U.S. government officials about the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system.  It adds eleven additional claims (#43 – #53).

(1) September 1, 2000: “… I simply cannot conclude, with the information I have today, that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system to move forward to deployment. Therefore, I have decided not to authorize deployment of a national missile defense at this time.”  President Bill Clinton, at Georgetown University, September 1, 2000.

(2) March 18, 2003:  “Effectiveness is in the 90% range.[1]   Edward Aldridge, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

 

(3) March 23, 2003:There are a lot of things that go into [determining] effectiveness.  Everybody can be right.[2] MDA Director Ronald Kadish, in response to a question about Aldridge’s statement.

(4) July 21, 2005: “We have a better than zero chance of intercepting, I believe, an inbound warhead.”  That confidence will improve with time.”  MDA Director Lt. General Henry Obering.[3]

(5) March 14, 2006:When the president declares limited defensive operational capability, we are prepared as the shooter, if you will, to execute the mission to defend our country.  And I’m very confident in the efficacy of that system.[4]  Admiral Timothy Keating, Commander of U.S. Northern Command.

(6) June 2006:(From) what I have seen and what I know about the system and its capabilities I am very confident.[5]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.

(7) July 6, 2006:If it headed to the United States, we’ve got a missile defense system that will defend our country.” President George W. Bush in response to a question on Larry King Live about North Korea’s unsuccessful test of a long-range ballistic missile the day before.

(8) September 1, 2006:I would say that if we had to use the system in an operational mode, it would be very capable.[6] MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.

(9) January 29, 2007: “We are Confident The Ballistic Missile Defense System Would Have Operated As Designed Had The Taepo Dong-2 Threatened The U.S.,” MDA Deputy Director Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly.[7]

(10) October 2, 2007:– does the system work? The answer to that is yes. Is it going to work against more complex threats in the future?  We believe it will.”  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.[8]

(11) November 2, 2008:I have very high confidence we could defend the United States against that threat.[9] MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, about one or two missiles launched from North Korea.

(12) March 27, 2009:And Senator, I’ll tell you, if we felt the North Koreans were going to shoot a ballistic missile at us today, I am comfortable that we would have an effective system able to meet that threat.”[10]  General Victor Renaurt, Commander U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Transportation Command.

(13) June 9, 2009:I think that the judgement and advice I got was that the 30 silos we have now, or are under construction, are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years.[11] And “I have confidence that if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to defend ourselves against it.”  Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

(14) June 16, 2009: Confidence that a North Korean missile could be shot down is: “ninety percent plus.”[12]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

(15) June 18, 2009 (approximately):  “I’d believe we have a reasonable chance” of intercepting a North Korean missile.  Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Charles McQueary, in an interview on his last day in the job.[13]

(16) July 28, 2009:Well, we have a very proven missile system in the area of missiles coming out of North Korea.[14]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

(17) April 21, 2010:It is the belief of the — of the leaders of this department that we have the capability to defend the United States against the — against an ICBM threat from a rogue nation such as Iran or North Korea.  We are confident in the system we have at this point.[15]  Geoff Morrell, Pentagon Press Secretary.

(18) December 1, 2010: “…the probability will be well in the high 90s today of the GMD system being able to intercept that today.” MDA Director Patrick O’Reilly in response to a question from Representative Trent Franks about countering “one ICBM coming from Tehran to New York.”[16]

(19) April 13, 2011:The posture we have today is one that has us well-protected against the initial ICBMs that might be deployed by states like North Korea and Iran with — that are few in number, relatively slow and lack sophisticated countermeasures.”[17]  Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.

(20) December 12, 2012: “I’m very confident that American defense capabilities are able, no problem, to block a rocket like this one.”  U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in response to a question from CNN on the capability of U.S missile defenses, December 12, 2012.[18]

(21) March 7, 2013: “I can tell you that the United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack.  And our recent success in returning to testing of the upgraded version of the so-called GBI, or the CE2 missile, will keep us on a good trajectory to improve our defense capability against limited ballistic missile threats such as those from North Korea.  But let’s be clear, we are fully capable of dealing with that threat.”  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in response to a question at White House Daily Press Briefing, March 7, 2013.[19]

(22) March 15, 2013: “We have confidence in our system.  And we certainly will not go forward with the additional 14 interceptors until we are sure that we have the complete confidence that we will need.  But the American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in response to a question at a Pentagon press conference, March 15, 2013.

(23) April 9, 2013:I believe we have a credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward-deployed forces and defend our allies.”  Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 9, 2013 in response to a question about intercepting North Korean missiles.[20]

(24) May 9, 2013:We do have confidence in the ability of the ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States against a limited attack from both North Korea and Iran today and in the near future.” Lt. General Richard Formica, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, in response to a question from Senator Mark Udall about the capability of “our current GMD system to defend all of the United States, including the East Coast, against current and near-term ballistic missile threats from both North Korea and Iran?”[21]

(25) May 9, 2013:The East Coast is well-protected as the result of — well, it was protected before the additional — and this additional ’14 provides additional protection both for anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran should that threat develop.”  Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, in response to a question from Senator Mark Udall (and referring to the recently announced plan to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska).[22]

(26) July 2013: “I stand by my response in the testimony I provided on May 9.”  Lt. General Richard Formica, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, when asked about the effectiveness of the GMD System shortly after failure of FTG-07 on July 5, 2013.[23]

(27) July 10, 2013:  But we maintain that we have a robust missile defense system in place to defend the United States and our allies from a range of threats.”   “We have a range of assets that can support American missile defense, and we are confident that we can defend this country from the missile threat.” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little , July 9 2013 (four days after the failed FTG-07 intercept test of the GMD system).[24]

(28) Sometime before August 21, 2013:  “Of course you’re protected. Yes, you’re protected.  We’re proud to protect you.”  MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, in response to the question “Am I protected where I live?” asked by a person sitting next to him on an airplane.[25]

(29) March 25, 2014: Regarding the GMD system: “We have confidence in the current capability.  Do we need to do more?  Do we need to continue to do the necessary testing?  Yes. But we have confidence in the operational employment, the rules of engagement that we would use that would address maybe some reliability or some uncertainty associated with the system.” Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commanding General U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.[26]

(30) March 25, 2014: “As a policy official who is often briefed by those who develop and operate the system, I am confident that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system can defend the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack.”  Elaine M. Bunn, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.[27]

(31) March 19, 2015: Regarding the GMD system: “We have high confidence in the ability of this system to defeat an ICBM strike against the United States from an enemy with limited ICBM capabilities.”  Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Command and U.S. Northern Command.[28]

(32) March 25, 2015: Regarding the GMD system: “As the Secretary of Defense and various Combatant Commanders have previously testified, the Warfighter remains confident in our ability to protect the Nation against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack, even in the face of the changing fiscal environment.” Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commanding General U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.[29]

 

(33) October 7, 2015: Speaking about the North Korean ICBM threat to the U.S. homeland: “We’re ready for him, and we’re ready 24 hours a day if he should be dumb enough to shoot something at us.” Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, at an Atlantic Council event, October 7, 2015.[30]

(34) April 13, 2016: In response to a question about missile defense coverage of Hawaii: “The people of Hawaii are protected today from the North Korean threat.” MDA Director Vice Admiral James D. Syring.[31]

(35) April 13, 2016: “The U.S. homeland is currently protected against potential ICBM attacks from States like North Korea and Iran if it was to develop an ICBM in the future.” Brian P. McKeon, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.[32]

(36) April 14, 2016: In response to a question about the GMD system’s coverage of Hawaii: “We’re prepared to engage and protect Hawaii, Alaska and the rest of the states with the existing system and have high confidence in its success.” Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.[33]

(37) December 2016: “Previous assessments of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system remain unchanged. GMD has demonstrated a limited capability to defend the U.S. Homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate-range or Intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea or Iran. DOT&E cannot quantitatively assess GMD performance due to lack of ground tests supported by accredited modeling and simulation (M&S).”[34] J. Michael Gilmore, Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

(38) January 3, 2017: “We have a ballistic missile defense, a missile defense umbrella that we’re confident in for the region and to protect the United States homeland and we’ll continue to be confident in it, given where we are today in the technology and the skill with which our forces are using the – that technology.”[35]  Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, in response to a question.

(39) January 9, 2017:I am very confident in the system and procedures” the U.S. Northern Command, which operates the missile shield “will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it towards our territory.”[36] MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, in response to a question about the DOT&E assessment in (37) above.

(40) April 6, 2017: “I am extremely confident of our capability to defend the United States of America and be able to intercept an ICBM should it reach our homeland” and “Today we have exactly what we need to defend the United States of America against North Korea.” [37] General Lori Robinson, Commander U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Command.

(41) April 11, 2017: “I’ve read articles, you read it in the paper, ‘Oh it’s only got a 50 percent hit rate.’ I’d take 50 percent.”[38] Major General Jeffrey L. Bannister, Commander, Fort Drum, New York (one of three sites under consideration as a possible east coast GMD deployment site).

(42) April, 2017: The Pentagon “is confident in our ability to defend the homeland against ballistic missile threats.” “… we have made significant improvements over the last several years to ensure the system is able to operate as designed.”[39]  Chris Johnson, MDA spokesman.

(43) April 2017. The chances of any missile or missiles getting though in my calculation is .000001 – that’s five zeros – percent.[40]  George Charfauros, Guam’s homeland security advisor.

(44) May 30, 2017. This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.[41]  Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, following a successful test of the U.S. GMD national missile defense system.

(45) June 2017. It’s at least as good as a coin toss. (the chance that any individual interceptor could down a warhead at the time the system was set up in 2004).[42]  Lt. General (retired) Patrick O’Reilly, former Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(46) July 22, 2017. The United States military can defend against a limited North Korea attack on Seoul, Japan and the United States.[43]  General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff speaking about North Korea’s missile threat.

(47) July 30, 2017. As the commander responsible for defending the homeland, I want to assure our citizens the USNORTHCOM remains unwavering in our confidence that we can fully defend the United States against this ballistic missile threat.[44]  General Lori Robinson, Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, speaking about the North Korean ballistic missile threat.

(48) August 2017. Yes, we believe that the currently deployed ballistic missile defense system can meet today’s threat and we’ve demonstrated that capability through testing.[45]  Lt. General  Samuel Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(49) August 2017. 100 per cent confidence the missile system would work.[46] Col. Kevin kick, Commander of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Fort Greely and Vandenberg).

(50) August 2017. Guam is very heavily protected by missile defense systems at sea and also on the ground.  They are very proven missile defense systems.  Lt. General (retired) Patrick O’Reilly, former Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(51) September 6, 2017. If your children tonight ask if we’re safe from North Korea, I will tell you we have the strongest defense possible against that threat right now, today.[47]  Rear Admiral Jon Hill, Deputy Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

(52) September 2017. Guam is very well protected against North Korean missile attack and Very confident in the United States’ ability to protect all 50 states.[48]

(53) October 11, 2017.  We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time, and if you send two of them, it’s going to get knocked down.[49]  U.S. President Donald Trump discussing the North Korean ICBM threat in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, October 11, 2017.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

[1] BAYH: Let me withdraw the question and move on. I think you see where I was heading. Let me ask you Mr. — Secretary Aldridge, about the effectiveness of the system that’s to be deployed in 2004 and 2005 in protecting against this developing North Korean threat — the 10 land-based missiles proposed for the end of fiscal year 2004 — how effective would they be against the North Korean missile if it were, in fact, launched against our country? ALDRIDGE: Well, we think that it would be effective. Probably shouldn’t go into a lot of details of… BAYH: Well, how do you define effective — 90 percent success rate — 75 — 50? ALDRIDGE: Yes, sir — you would — and you — the way you could achieve these rates is you don’t have to fire just one interceptor per target, you could fire two, as we do in PAC-3. BAYH: Of course. ALDRIDGE: And so the effectiveness is in the 90 percent range. Of course, we want the effectiveness to be high enough that we never have to use these things. I mean, that’s the ultimate effectiveness is that they’re never used. BAYH: There are — there are — there are — there are 10 going online in 2004 — 10 in 2005. The radar is not going to be available — when will that go into place — 2006? ALDRIDGE: Well, General Kadish has probably got the specific dates for all of those. Let him… KADISH: We’ll have radars online to handle the early warning and usefulness of the system in ’04, when we put the missiles on alert if everything works out all right. We’ll add the sea-based X-band (ph) if it proves out by — the following year — it’s currently scheduled by September of ’05. BAYH: So, Secretary Aldridge, your testimony is that with the 10 interceptors going in at the end of fiscal year ’04 and the radar that will be online at that time, we would have a 90 percent effectiveness in shooting down a NATO (ph) Dong II? ALDRIDGE: Well, it depends on — a lot depends on the continuation of the — of the test and the effective — this precise effectiveness numbers. But I would put — you know, as of today, the projected effectiveness would be in the 90 percent range. Senate Armed Services Committee, March 18, 2003.

[2] Randy Barrett. “Lawmakers Question Effectiveness of Missile Defense System.” Space News, March 24, 2003, p. 6.

[3] Ann Scott Tyson, “U.S. Missile Defense Being Expanded, General Says,” The Washington Post, p. A10, July 22, 2005.

[4] Jason Sherman, “Experts Question U.S. System’s Ability To Intercept North Korean Missile,” Inside Missile Defense, June 21, 2006.

[5] Robert Burns, “Missile Defense Chief Confident in Ability To Hit Missile,” The Associated Press State and Local Wire, June 23, 2006.

[6] Pentagon Briefing, September 1, 2006.

[7] “Missile Defense Program Overview For The Washington Roundtable On Science And Public Policy,” MDA Briefing Slides, Januaary 29, 2007.

[8] “DoD News Briefing with Gen. Renuart and Lt. Gen. Obering from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.”, October 2, 2007.

[9] “Obama To Be Told U.S. Missile Defense Capable, General Says,” CNN.com, November 2, 2008.

[10] Senate Armed Services Committee,  March 17, 2009.

[11] “I think that the judgement and advice I got was that the 30 silos we have now, or are under construction, are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years.”

“I was just in Fort Greely last week, and its an immensly capable system.”  And one of the things that I think is important to remember is, it is still a developmental system.  It has real capabilities, and I have confidence that if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to defend ourselves against it.”

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, June 9, 2009.

[12] SEN Bayh: I’ve bumped up against my time limits here, but there was one final question.  You’re briefing the President of the United States.  He asks you based on — you know,  he’s got to take into consideration what you’re doing in terms of facing these threats.  He asks you if there is a rogue launch, what are the percentages that we’re going to be able to hit it and bring it down, what would you tell him?

GEN. O’Reilly: Ninety percent plus.

SEN. Bayh: Ninety percent plus confidence that we could  — if there’s a rogue launch from North Korea, let’s say, we could intercept that target and bring it down?

Gen. O’Reilly: Yes. Sir.

Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 16, 2009.

[13] Viola Gienger, “Gates: Take Defense Steps,” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 18, 2009.

[14] Gen O’ Reilly: ‘Well, we have a very proven missile system in the area of missiles coming out of North Korea.  The testing we have done to date, we have a lot of testing still to do against all our capability in all scenarios, but in the scenarios out of North Korea, we have intercepted three times out of Fort Greely, Alaska.  The missiles, we actually test them out of Vandenberg, but they’re up at Fort Greely. And then for Hawaii, we have multiple systems (inaudible).  A theater high-altitude-area defense system, its an Army mobile system, and then we have the Navy Aegis system.  And we also have the…”    Margaret Brennan, “US Missile Defense Director Patrick O’Reilly on Bloomberg TV,” Bloomberg TV, July 28, 2009.

[15] “DOD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon,” News Transcript, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), April 21, 2010.  Available at:  http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4612.   Morrell is the Pentagon Press Secretary.

[16] Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, December 1, 2010.

[17] “Now what does that mean?  The posture we have today is one that has us well-protected against the initial ICBMs that might be deployed by states like North Korea and Iran with — that are few in number, relatively slow and lack sophisticated countermeasures.  And against this threat, we have the current posture of 30 GBIs and the expected enhancements to come in the defense of the homeland with the future deployment in 2020 time frame of SM-3 2B.”  Opening statement of Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, April 13, 2011.

[18] Bradley Clapper, “U.S. Hesitant in Condemning North Korean Launch,” The Associated Press, December 13, 2012.

[19]The White House, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney,” March 7, 2013.  Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/07/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-372013

[20] SEN. MCCAIN: Do you believe that we have the ability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch a missile, as is widely reported they would do in coming days.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: I believe we have a credible ability to defend the Homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward-deployed forces and defend our allies.

SEN. MCCAIN: Do we have the capability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch within the next several days?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: We do.

[21] Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 9, 2013.

[22] Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 9, 2013.

[23] Jason Sherman, “Top Army General Still Confident ib=n GMD System Despite Intercept Test Failure,” Inside Defense SITREP, July 10, 2013.

[24] U.S. Department of Defense, “Department of Defense News Briefing with George Little,” News Transcript, July 9, 2013.  Available at: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5269.

[25] Amy Guckeen Tolson, “MDA Director Gives Update on Missile Defense,” www.theredstonerocket.com, August 21, 2013.

[26] Lieutenant General David L. Mann, prepared statement, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2014.

[27] Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2014.

[28] Admiral Bill Gortney, prepared statement for FY 2016 Missile Defense Hearing, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 19, 2015.

[29] Lieutenant General David L. Mann, prepared statement, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2015.

[30] Andrea Shalal, “U.S. Says Ready to Defend Against North Korean Nuclear Threat,” Reuters, October 7, 2015.

[31] Subcommittee on Defense, Senate Appropriations Committee, April 13, 2016.  Video available at: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-on-the-fy2017-missile-defense-agency-budget-request.

[32] Written statement, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 13, 2016.  Available at: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/McKeon_04-13-16.pdf.

[33] Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2016.  Video available at: https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/missile-defeat-posture-and-strategy-united-states-fy17-presidents-budget-0.

[34] Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY 2016 Annual Report, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense,” p. 421, December 2016. Online at http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2016/pdf/bmds/2016gmd.pdf.

[35] U.S. Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook and Acting Under Secretary of Defense Peter Levine in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” News Transcript, January 3, 2017. Online at https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1040947/department-of-defense-press-briefing-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-and/.

[36] Anthony Capaccio, “Stopping a N. Korean Missile No Sure Thing, U.S. Tester Says,” Bloomberg.com, January 10, 2017.  Online at https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-10/stopping-a-n-korean-missile-no-sure-thing-u-s-tester-says-ixr2dcu3.

[37] Hearing before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, April 6, 2017, in responses to questions.  Transcript available at https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/17-34_04-06-17.pdf.

[38] Gordon Block, “Fort Drum Commander Voices Support of Potential Missile Site,” Watertown Daily Times, April 14, 2017.  Online at http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news03/fort-drum-commander-voices-support-of-potential-missile-site-20170414.

[39] Ken Dilanian, “US May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts, NBC News April 19, 2017. Online at http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-may-not-be-able-shoot-down-north-korean-n748046.

[40] Patrick Goodenough, “Guam’s Homeland Security Advisor: 0.000001%  Chance of Missile ‘Getting Through’ Defenses,” cnsnews.com, April 15, 2017.

[41] “US Military Successfully Shoots Down Simulated ICBM for the First Time amid North Korean Threat,” cbsnews.com, May 30, 2017.

[42] Katrina Mason, “Can the United States Defend Itself from a Missile Attack from North Korea?,” Financial Times, June 30, 2017.

[43] Lee Haye-ah, “US Military Chief Says N. Korea Capable of ‘Limited’ Missile Attack,” Yonhap News Agency, July 24, 2017.

[44] Great Falls Tribune, July 30, 2017.

[45] Bill Gertz, “U.S. and Guam Shielded from North Korean Missiles by High-Tech Defenses,” Freebeacon.com, August 10, 2017.

[46] Debra Killalea, “’incredibly Fast’: America’s Desperate Last Line of Defence,” Central Telegraph (Australia), September 1, 2017.

[47] Barbara Opall-Rome, “DoD Missile Defense Deputy: US Children Are Safe from North Korean Threat, Defensenews.com, September 6, 2017.

[48] “Guam ‘Very Well Protected’ against N. Korean Attack: US Nuclear Commander,” Korean Times, September 21, 2017.

[49] Glenn Kessler, “Fact Checker: Trump’s Claim that a U.S. Interceptor Can Knock Out ICBMs ’97 Percent of the Time,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2017.

Delays in Planned GMD Tests (June 7, 2017)

My post of April 20, 2016 provided a description of planned future GMD flight and intercept tests through the year 2022.  It described six tests (five of which were intercept tests).  The first of these tests, FTG-15, was at that time scheduled for the 1st  quarter of FY 2017 and was successfully completed in the 3rd quarter of FY 2017.  All of the remaining tests have also been delayed.

The table below shows the planned dates of these tests as of my April 2016 post and the currently planned dates as reflected in the Missile Defense Agency’s May 2017 budget materials.  Each test has a brief description – for more details seem my April 20, 2016 post.  No current date is provided for FTO-04 because data was only available through the year 2022.

GMDTestDelaysJune2017

 

 

Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness   (May 12, 2017) 

This is an updated list (previous version was April 14, 2016) of claims by U.S. government officials about the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system.  It adds six additional claims (#37 – #42).

(1) September 1, 2000: “… I simply cannot conclude, with the information I have today, that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system to move forward to deployment. Therefore, I have decided not to authorize deployment of a national missile defense at this time.”  President Bill Clinton, at Georgetown University, September 1, 2000.

(2) March 18, 2003:  “Effectiveness is in the 90% range.[1]   Edward Aldridge, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

(3) March 23, 2003:There are a lot of things that go into [determining] effectiveness.  Everybody can be right.[2] MDA Director Ronald Kadish, in response to a question about Aldridge’s statement.

(4) July 21, 2005: “We have a better than zero chance of intercepting, I believe, an inbound warhead.”  That confidence will improve with time.”  MDA Director Lt. General Henry Obering.[3]

(5) March 14, 2006:When the president declares limited defensive operational capability, we are prepared as the shooter, if you will, to execute the mission to defend our country.  And I’m very confident in the efficacy of that system.[4]  Admiral Timothy Keating, Commander of U.S. Northern Command.

(6) June 2006:(From) what I have seen and what I know about the system and its capabilities I am very confident.[5]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.

(7) July 6, 2006:If it headed to the United States, we’ve got a missile defense system that will defend our country.” President George W. Bush in response to a question on Larry King Live about North Korea’s unsuccessful test of a long-range ballistic missile the day before.

(8) September 1, 2006:I would say that if we had to use the system in an operational mode, it would be very capable.[6] MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.

(9) January 29, 2007: “We are Confident The Ballistic Missile Defense System Would Have Operated As Designed Had The Taepo Dong-2 Threatened The U.S.,” MDA Deputy Director Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly.[7]

(10) October 2, 2007:– does the system work? The answer to that is yes. Is it going to work against more complex threats in the future?  We believe it will.”  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.[8]

(11) November 2, 2008:I have very high confidence we could defend the United States against that threat.[9] MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, about one or two missiles launched from North Korea.

(12) March 27, 2009:And Senator, I’ll tell you, if we felt the North Koreans were going to shoot a ballistic missile at us today, I am comfortable that we would have an effective system able to meet that threat.”[10]  General Victor Renaurt, Commander U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Transportation Command.

(13) June 9, 2009:I think that the judgement and advice I got was that the 30 silos we have now, or are under construction, are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years.[11] And “I have confidence that if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to defend ourselves against it.”  Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

(14) June 16, 2009: Confidence that a North Korean missile could be shot down is: “ninety percent plus.”[12]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

(15) June 18, 2009 (approximately):  “I’d believe we have a reasonable chance” of intercepting a North Korean missile.  Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Charles McQueary, in an interview on his last day in the job.[13]

(16) July 28, 2009:Well, we have a very proven missile system in the area of missiles coming out of North Korea.[14]  MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

(17) April 21, 2010:It is the belief of the — of the leaders of this department that we have the capability to defend the United States against the — against an ICBM threat from a rogue nation such as Iran or North Korea.  We are confident in the system we have at this point.[15]  Geoff Morrell, Pentagon Press Secretary.

(18) December 1, 2010: “…the probability will be well in the high 90s today of the GMD system being able to intercept that today.” MDA Director Patrick O’Reilly in response to a question from Representative Trent Franks about countering “one ICBM coming from Tehran to New York.”[16]

(19) April 13, 2011:The posture we have today is one that has us well-protected against the initial ICBMs that might be deployed by states like North Korea and Iran with — that are few in number, relatively slow and lack sophisticated countermeasures.”[17]  Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.

(20) December 12, 2012: “I’m very confident that American defense capabilities are able, no problem, to block a rocket like this one.”  U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in response to a question from CNN on the capability of U.S missile defenses, December 12, 2012.[18]

(21) March 7, 2013: “I can tell you that the United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack.  And our recent success in returning to testing of the upgraded version of the so-called GBI, or the CE2 missile, will keep us on a good trajectory to improve our defense capability against limited ballistic missile threats such as those from North Korea.  But let’s be clear, we are fully capable of dealing with that threat.”  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in response to a question at White House Daily Press Briefing, March 7, 2013.[19]

(22) March 15, 2013: “We have confidence in our system.  And we certainly will not go forward with the additional 14 interceptors until we are sure that we have the complete confidence that we will need.  But the American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in response to a question at a Pentagon press conference, March 15, 2013.

(23) April 9, 2013:I believe we have a credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward-deployed forces and defend our allies.”  Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 9, 2013 in response to a question about intercepting North Korean missiles.[20]

(24) May 9, 2013:We do have confidence in the ability of the ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States against a limited attack from both North Korea and Iran today and in the near future.” Lt. General Richard Formica, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, in response to a question from Senator Mark Udall about the capability of “our current GMD system to defend all of the United States, including the East Coast, against current and near-term ballistic missile threats from both North Korea and Iran?”[21]

(25) May 9, 2013:The East Coast is well-protected as the result of — well, it was protected before the additional — and this additional ’14 provides additional protection both for anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran should that threat develop.”  Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, in response to a question from Senator Mark Udall (and referring to the recently announced plan to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska).[22]

(26) July 2013: “I stand by my response in the testimony I provided on May 9.”  Lt. General Richard Formica, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, when asked about the effectiveness of the GMD System shortly after failure of FTG-07 on July 5, 2013.[23]

(27) July 10, 2013:  But we maintain that we have a robust missile defense system in place to defend the United States and our allies from a range of threats.”   “We have a range of assets that can support American missile defense, and we are confident that we can defend this country from the missile threat.” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little , July 9 2013 (four days after the failed FTG-07 intercept test of the GMD system).[24]

(28) Sometime before August 21, 2013:  “Of course you’re protected. Yes, you’re protected.  We’re proud to protect you.”  MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, in response to the question “Am I protected where I live?” asked by a person sitting next to him on an airplane.[25]

(29) March 25, 2014: Regarding the GMD system: “We have confidence in the current capability.  Do we need to do more?  Do we need to continue to do the necessary testing?  Yes. But we have confidence in the operational employment, the rules of engagement that we would use that would address maybe some reliability or some uncertainty associated with the system.” Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commanding General U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.[26]

(30) March 25, 2014: “As a policy official who is often briefed by those who develop and operate the system, I am confident that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system can defend the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack.”  Elaine M. Bunn, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.[27]

(31) March 19, 2015: Regarding the GMD system: “We have high confidence in the ability of this system to defeat an ICBM strike against the United States from an enemy with limited ICBM capabilities.”  Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Command and U.S. Northern Command.[28]

(32) March 25, 2015: Regarding the GMD system: “As the Secretary of Defense and various Combatant Commanders have previously testified, the Warfighter remains confident in our ability to protect the Nation against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack, even in the face of the changing fiscal environment.” Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commanding General U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.[29]

(33) October 7, 2015: Speaking about the North Korean ICBM threat to the U.S. homeland: “We’re ready for him, and we’re ready 24 hours a day if he should be dumb enough to shoot something at us.” Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, at an Atlantic Council event, October 7, 2015.[30]

(34) April 13, 2016: In response to a question about missile defense coverage of Hawaii: “The people of Hawaii are protected today from the North Korean threat.” MDA Director Vice Admiral James D. Syring.[31]

(35) April 13, 2016: “The U.S. homeland is currently protected against potential ICBM attacks from States like North Korea and Iran if it was to develop an ICBM in the future.” Brian P. McKeon, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.[32]

(36) April 14, 2016: In response to a question about the GMD system’s coverage of Hawaii: “We’re prepared to engage and protect Hawaii, Alaska and the rest of the states with the existing system and have high confidence in its success.” Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.[33]

(37) December 2016: “Previous assessments of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system remain unchanged. GMD has demonstrated a limited capability to defend the U.S. Homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate-range or Intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea or Iran. DOT&E cannot quantitatively assess GMD performance due to lack of ground tests supported by accredited modeling and simulation (M&S).”[34] J. Michael Gilmore, Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

(38) January 3, 2017: “We have a ballistic missile defense, a missile defense umbrella that we’re confident in for the region and to protect the United States homeland and we’ll continue to be confident in it, given where we are today in the technology and the skill with which our forces are using the – that technology.”[35]  Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, in response to a question.

(39) January 9, 2017:I am very confident in the system and procedures” the U.S. Northern Command, which operates the missile shield “will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it towards our territory.”[36] MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, in response to a question about the DOT&E assessment in (37) above.

(40) April 6, 2017: “I am extremely confident of our capability to defend the United States of America and be able to intercept an ICBM should it reach our homeland” and “Today we have exactly what we need to defend the United States of America against North Korea.” [37] General Lori Robinson, Commander U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Command.

(41) April 11, 2017: “I’ve read articles, you read it in the paper, ‘Oh it’s only got a 50 percent hit rate.’ I’d take 50 percent.”[38] Major General Jeffrey L. Bannister, Commander, Fort Drum, New York (one of three sites under consideration as a possible east coast GMD deployment site).

(42) April, 2017: The Pentagon “is confident in our ability to defend the homeland against ballistic missile threats.” “… we have made significant improvements over the last several years to ensure the system is able to operate as designed.”[39]  Chris Johnson, MDA spokesman.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

[1] BAYH: Let me withdraw the question and move on. I think you see where I was heading. Let me ask you Mr. — Secretary Aldridge, about the effectiveness of the system that’s to be deployed in 2004 and 2005 in protecting against this developing North Korean threat — the 10 land-based missiles proposed for the end of fiscal year 2004 — how effective would they be against the North Korean missile if it were, in fact, launched against our country? ALDRIDGE: Well, we think that it would be effective. Probably shouldn’t go into a lot of details of… BAYH: Well, how do you define effective — 90 percent success rate — 75 — 50? ALDRIDGE: Yes, sir — you would — and you — the way you could achieve these rates is you don’t have to fire just one interceptor per target, you could fire two, as we do in PAC-3. BAYH: Of course. ALDRIDGE: And so the effectiveness is in the 90 percent range. Of course, we want the effectiveness to be high enough that we never have to use these things. I mean, that’s the ultimate effectiveness is that they’re never used. BAYH: There are — there are — there are — there are 10 going online in 2004 — 10 in 2005. The radar is not going to be available — when will that go into place — 2006? ALDRIDGE: Well, General Kadish has probably got the specific dates for all of those. Let him… KADISH: We’ll have radars online to handle the early warning and usefulness of the system in ’04, when we put the missiles on alert if everything works out all right. We’ll add the sea-based X-band (ph) if it proves out by — the following year — it’s currently scheduled by September of ’05. BAYH: So, Secretary Aldridge, your testimony is that with the 10 interceptors going in at the end of fiscal year ’04 and the radar that will be online at that time, we would have a 90 percent effectiveness in shooting down a NATO (ph) Dong II? ALDRIDGE: Well, it depends on — a lot depends on the continuation of the — of the test and the effective — this precise effectiveness numbers. But I would put — you know, as of today, the projected effectiveness would be in the 90 percent range. Senate Armed Services Committee, March 18, 2003.

[2] Randy Barrett. “Lawmakers Question Effectiveness of Missile Defense System.” Space News, March 24, 2003, p. 6.

[3] Ann Scott Tyson, “U.S. Missile Defense Being Expanded, General Says,” The Washington Post, p. A10, July 22, 2005.

[4] Jason Sherman, “Experts Question U.S. System’s Ability To Intercept North Korean Missile,” Inside Missile Defense, June 21, 2006.

[5] Robert Burns, “Missile Defense Chief Confident in Ability To Hit Missile,” The Associated Press State and Local Wire, June 23, 2006.

[6] Pentagon Briefing, September 1, 2006.

[7] “Missile Defense Program Overview For The Washington Roundtable On Science And Public Policy,” MDA Briefing Slides, Januaary 29, 2007.

[8] “DoD News Briefing with Gen. Renuart and Lt. Gen. Obering from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.”, October 2, 2007.

[9] “Obama To Be Told U.S. Missile Defense Capable, General Says,” CNN.com, November 2, 2008.

[10] Senate Armed Services Committee,  March 17, 2009.

[11] “I think that the judgement and advice I got was that the 30 silos we have now, or are under construction, are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years.”

“I was just in Fort Greely last week, and its an immensly capable system.”  And one of the things that I think is important to remember is, it is still a developmental system.  It has real capabilities, and I have confidence that if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to defend ourselves against it.”

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, June 9, 2009.

[12] SEN Bayh: I’ve bumped up against my time limits here, but there was one final question.  You’re briefing the President of the United States.  He asks you based on — you know,  he’s got to take into consideration what you’re doing in terms of facing these threats.  He asks you if there is a rogue launch, what are the percentages that we’re going to be able to hit it and bring it down, what would you tell him?

GEN. O’Reilly: Ninety percent plus.

SEN. Bayh: Ninety percent plus confidence that we could  — if there’s a rogue launch from North Korea, let’s say, we could intercept that target and bring it down?

Gen. O’Reilly: Yes. Sir.

Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 16, 2009.

[13] Viola Gienger, “Gates: Take Defense Steps,” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 18, 2009.

[14] Gen O’ Reilly: ‘Well, we have a very proven missile system in the area of missiles coming out of North Korea.  The testing we have done to date, we have a lot of testing still to do against all our capability in all scenarios, but in the scenarios out of North Korea, we have intercepted three times out of Fort Greely, Alaska.  The missiles, we actually test them out of Vandenberg, but they’re up at Fort Greely. And then for Hawaii, we have multiple systems (inaudible).  A theater high-altitude-area defense system, its an Army mobile system, and then we have the Navy Aegis system.  And we also have the…”    Margaret Brennan, “US Missile Defense Director Patrick O’Reilly on Bloomberg TV,” Bloomberg TV, July 28, 2009.

[15] “DOD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon,” News Transcript, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), April 21, 2010.  Available at:  http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4612.   Morrell is the Pentagon Press Secretary.

[16] Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, December 1, 2010.

[17] “Now what does that mean?  The posture we have today is one that has us well-protected against the initial ICBMs that might be deployed by states like North Korea and Iran with — that are few in number, relatively slow and lack sophisticated countermeasures.  And against this threat, we have the current posture of 30 GBIs and the expected enhancements to come in the defense of the homeland with the future deployment in 2020 time frame of SM-3 2B.”  Opening statement of Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, April 13, 2011.

[18] Bradley Clapper, “U.S. Hesitant in Condemning North Korean Launch,” The Associated Press, December 13, 2012.

[19]The White House, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney,” March 7, 2013.  Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/07/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-372013

[20] SEN. MCCAIN: Do you believe that we have the ability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch a missile, as is widely reported they would do in coming days.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: I believe we have a credible ability to defend the Homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward-deployed forces and defend our allies.

SEN. MCCAIN: Do we have the capability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch within the next several days?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: We do.

[21] Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 9, 2013.

[22] Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 9, 2013.

[23] Jason Sherman, “Top Army General Still Confident ib=n GMD System Despite Intercept Test Failure,” Inside Defense SITREP, July 10, 2013.

[24] U.S. Department of Defense, “Department of Defense News Briefing with George Little,” News Transcript, July 9, 2013.  Available at: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5269.

[25] Amy Guckeen Tolson, “MDA Director Gives Update on Missile Defense,” www.theredstonerocket.com, August 21, 2013.

[26] Lieutenant General David L. Mann, prepared statement, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2014.

 

[27] Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2014.

[28] Admiral Bill Gortney, prepared statement for FY 2016 Missile Defense Hearing, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, March 19, 2015.

[29] Lieutenant General David L. Mann, prepared statement, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 25, 2015.

[30] Andrea Shalal, “U.S. Says Ready to Defend Against North Korean Nuclear Threat,” Reuters, October 7, 2015.

[31] Subcommittee on Defense, Senate Appropriations Committee, April 13, 2016.  Video available at: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-on-the-fy2017-missile-defense-agency-budget-request.

[32] Written statement, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 13, 2016.  Available at: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/McKeon_04-13-16.pdf.

[33] Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2016.  Video available at: https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/missile-defeat-posture-and-strategy-united-states-fy17-presidents-budget-0.

[34] Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY 2016 Annual Report, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense,” p. 421, December 2016. Online at http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2016/pdf/bmds/2016gmd.pdf.

[35] U.S. Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook and Acting Under Secretary of Defense Peter Levine in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” News Transcript, January 3, 2017. Online at https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1040947/department-of-defense-press-briefing-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-and/.

[36] Anthony Capaccio, “Stopping a N. Korean Missile No Sure Thing, U.S. Tester Says,” Bloomberg.com, January 10, 2017.  Online at https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-10/stopping-a-n-korean-missile-no-sure-thing-u-s-tester-says-ixr2dcu3.

[37] Hearing before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, April 6, 2017, in responses to questions.  Transcript available at https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/17-34_04-06-17.pdf.

[38] Gordon Block, “Fort Drum Commander Voices Support of Potential Missile Site,” Watertown Daily Times, April 14, 2017.  Online at http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news03/fort-drum-commander-voices-support-of-potential-missile-site-20170414.

[39] Ken Dilanian, “US May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts, NBC News April 19, 2017. Online at http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-may-not-be-able-shoot-down-north-korean-n748046.

 

Aegis SM-3 Block IIA First Intercept Test Successful, but Testing Schedule Appears To Be Slipping (February 7, 2017)

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) recently announced the completion of the  first intercept test for the Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor.[1]  The test was designated SFTM-1 (SM-3 Cooperative Development (SCD) Project Flight Test Standard Missile).    In two previous flight tests, no intercept was attempted.

The test took place at about 10:30 pm Hawaii Standard Time on February 3 (February 4 EDT).  The test had been planned for late January but was delayed due to bad weather.[2]  The MDA stated that the test was successful, specifically saying “Based on preliminary data the test met its primary objective.”[3]  The test was conducted jointly with Japan, which is co-developing the missile.

The SM-3 Block IIA missile is larger and much faster than the Block IA and Block IB interceptors currently deployed on U.S. and Japanese ships and at the Aegis Ashore site in Romania.  It also has a much more capable homing kill vehicle.  Relative to the current SM-3 Block IB, the SM-3 Block IIA kill vehicle has “more than doubled seeker sensitivity” and “more than tripled divert capability.”[4]  These performance improvements are intended to allow the Block IIA to defend much larger areas against longer-range missiles.

The Block IIA interceptor was launched from the U.S. destroyer John Paul Jones.  This is the first time the Block IIA missile has been launched from a ship.  The John Paul Jones was equipped with most recent version of the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, the Baseline 9.2.C (BMD 5.1).  This was the first intercept test for this version, which is not only capable of conducting anti-air and anti-missile operations simultaneously, but also adds an engage-on remote capability.  However, the engage-on-remote capability was not demonstrated in this test.[5]

[Engage-on-remote means that the interceptor can be both launched and guided to intercept by sensors remote from the launching ship (such as a land-based TPY-2 radar).  Thus in engage-on-remote mode, the launching ship does not need to be able to detect or track the target.]

The SM-3 Block IIA is the centerpiece of Phase III of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) system, under which Block IIs are to be deployed at a new Aegis Ashore site in Poland by the end of 2018.  The MDA has insisted that the Block II interceptor will be developed under a “fly before you buy” policy.   In practice (see, for example, my post of February 2, 2017), however, their policy appears to commit them only to not operationally deploying the missile before completing a single successful intercept test.  Thus the successful test may have already fulfilled the “fly” requirement, thus clearing the way for deployment.  (However, MDA has stated that all the tests listed in Table 1 below will be used to inform production decisions on the Block IIA.)

However, if the Phase III EPAA deployment occurs as planned by the end of 2018, it appears it will do so with far fewer intercept tests than was originally planned.  Table 1 below shows that as of 2014, MDA planned to conduct six Block IIA intercept tests, including 3 operational tests before the end of 2018.  However, it now appears that there will be no more than three and none of them will be an operational test.

 

Test After April 2, 2014[6] ~ February 2015[7] ~ February 2016[8]  
CTV-1 1Q 2015 2Q 2015 2Q 2015 Non-intercept Test, Accomplished 2Q 2015
CTV-2 3Q 2015 4Q 2015 4Q 2015 Non-intercept Test, Accomplished 4Q 2015
SFTM-1 2Q 2016 2Q 2016 3Q 2016 Intercept Test, Accomplished 1Q 2017
SFTM-2 4Q 2016 4Q 2016 2Q 2016* Intercept Test
FTM-29 4Q 2017 4Q 2017 4Q 2017 Intercept Test
FTO-3 E1 2Q 2018 Operational Intercept Test
FTO-3 E2 2Q 2018 Operational Intercept Test
FTO-3 E3 3Q 2018 Operational Intercept Test

Table 1. Planned SM-3 Block IIA flights at several points in time (* = this is likely an error in the FY 2017 budget documentation).  All dates are calendar year.

Although Table 1 shows the first two, non-intercept, tests occurred on schedule, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that there were delays in them (which likely occurred before the dates listed in the “After April 2, 2014” column were published).  The GAO states that CTV-1 was delayed by about 5 months and that CTV-2 was originally scheduled for the 3rd quarter of 2015.[9]  According to the GAO, the CTV-2 delay was due to “delays in hardware deliveries.”[10]

Table 1 shows that the first intercept test, SFTM-1, had slipped by one quarter by early 2016 and by a total of three quarters by the time it occurred this month (relative to the 2014 plan).  The second intercept test, SFTM-2, will also be delayed relative to the 2014 schedule.  (Unfortunately, as noted by the asterisk in Table 1, the “~ February 2016” date for this test appears to be incorrect.)

Although Table 1 shows the third intercept test, FTM-29, on schedule for 4Q 2017, if the same 3Q delay for the first intercept test also applies to it, then it would slip to 3Q 2018, and another two quarters of delay would push it past the end of 2018 plan for deploying phase 3 of the EPAA. According to a 2016 GAO report, the Block IIA program has experienced “technical challenges and schedule delays, some of which are expected to continue to impact developmental efforts through 2017.”[11]

More interestingly, the three operational tests do not appear in the FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget materials (the 2nd and 3rd columns of dates), although FTO-03 E2 and FTO-3 E3 did appear in the FY 2015 budget materials. (FTO-03 E2 actually does appear in the FY 2017 budget, but as a test of the THAAD interceptor.)  It is possible that the three operational test have been given new designation, but the FY 2017 budget materials show that there are no Aegis BMD tests planned for either FY 2018 or CY 2018.

Thus it now appears that there will be no more than three SM-3 Block IIA tests before the end of 2018, and that this number could slip to two. (For comparison, MDA conducted six intercept tests of the SM-3 Block IB (five successful) before it was first deployed on ships and one more successful intercept test before it was deployed at the Aegis Ashore site in Romania).

———————————————————————–

[1] U.S. Missile Defense Agency, “U.S., Japan Successfully Conduct First SM-3 Block IIA Intercept Test,” News Release, January 30, 2017.  Online at https://www.mda.mil/news/17news0002.html.

[2] James Drew, “First Intercept Test of Beefed-Up Standard Missile Imminent,” Defense Daily, January 3, 2017.

[3] MDA, “U.S., Japan Successfully Conduct.”

[4] Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission, Missile Defense Agency, RDT&E. Vol. 2a, February 2016, p. 2a-891.  Online at http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/FY2017/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/MDA_RDTE_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2017_1.pdf.

[5] Sam LaGrone, “Lockheed: SM-3 Block IIA Missile Shot Next Month Will Also Test New Aegis Build,” USNI News, September 1, 2016.  Online at https://news.usni.org/2016/09/01/lockheed-sm-3-block-iia-missile-test-next-month-will-test-new-aegis-bmd-build.

[6] Written response by MDA Director Admiral Syring to a question by Senator Udall, April 2, 2014 at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Online at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-113shrg91192/pdf/CHRG-113shrg91192.pdf (pp. 170-171).

[7] Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission, Missile Defense Agency, RDT&E, Vol. 2a., February 2016, pp. 2a-839, 2a-840.  Online at http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/FY2017/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/MDA_RDTE_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2017_1.pdf.

[8] Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 President’s Budget Submission, Missile Defense Agency, RDT&E, Vol. 2a., February 2015, pp. 2a-891. Online at http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2016/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/MDA_RDTE_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2016_1.pdf.

[9] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Ballistic Missile Defense System Testing Delays Affecting Delivery of Capabilities,” GAO-16-333R, April 28, 2016, p. 46.

[10] GAO-16-333R, p. 46.

[11] GAO-16-333R, p. 46

Could FTG-15 Delays Prevent the Deployment of 44 GBIs by the End of 2017?  (February 2, 2017)

As of April 2016, the first intercept test of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system against an ICBM-range target, designated FTG-15, was planned for the last quarter of calendar year 2016.  An ICBM-range missile is defined as having a range greater than 5,500 km (3440 miles), although many ICBMs have much longer ranges.  According to Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Vice Admiral James Syring, in FTG-15, “…we’re getting now out to the long-range and closing velocities that certainly would be applicable from a North Korean or Iran type of scenario.” [1]

However, FTG-15 has not yet taken place.  In early January 2017, a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) spokesman stated that the test is now scheduled for “early this calendar year.”[2]  A few days later, MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring was somewhat more specific, saying the next GMD intercept test is tentatively planned for the April to June time frame.[3]  If the test slips to June, it will then be three years after the last successful intercept test, FTG-06b on June 22, 2014.  Perhaps more interestingly, it will be only 6-7 months before the end of 2017 deadline for deploying a total of 44 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) set by the Department of Defense in March 2013.  Could these delays in FTG-15 prevent MDA from achieving this objective?

FTG-15 also will be the first flight and intercept test of the new CE-II Block-I version of the Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).   The CE-II Block I EKV appears to be a relatively modest upgrade that eliminates some of the known problems with the CE-II EKV and is intended to provide improved reliability.  The MDA plans to build eleven CE-II Block I interceptors – one for FTG-15 and the other ten for deployment.  MDA needs to deploy at least some of these CE-II Block I interceptors (possibly as many as eight) before the end of 2017 in order to meet the objective of 44 deployed GBIs.[4] However, MDA has stated that it will not deploy any of these CE-II Block I interceptors until after a successful intercept test.

Although no reason for the FTG-15 test delays has been announced (at least none that I have seen), a May 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stated that “The GMD program is following a high risk approach for acquiring the CE-II Block I…”[5]  The GAO report went on to say:  “In addition, the GMD program has encountered issues with a number of the component modifications being developed for the CE-II Block I. The developmental issues have caused the program to delay necessary design reviews, generated significant schedule compression, and has pushed out the completion of CE-II Block I deliveries to the second quarter of fiscal year 2018.”[6]  Note that this assessment was made before the most recent 4-6+ months delay.

The GAO report concluded with the recommendation that: “For GMD, delay production of CE-II Block I interceptors intended for operational use until the program has successfully conducted an intercept flight test with the CE-II Block I interceptor.”[7]  In other words, the GAO was recommending a “fly before you buy” approach to deploying the CE-II Block I interceptors.

The MDA has for the last several years insisted that it is now following a “fly before you buy” approach with the GBIs, and even claimed to partially concur with the GAO’s recommendation.  However, MDA’s approach to deploying the CE-II Block I GBIs is actually almost exactly the opposite: it is buying and assembling CE-II Block I interceptors before even a flight test.

This is clear from the MDA’s response to the GAO’s recommendation: “To ensure a sound acquisition approach, the DOD will delay emplacement of CE-II Block I interceptors intended for operational use until the program has successfully conducted an intercept flight test with the CE-II Block I interceptor.”[8]  MDA further stated that it had “two interceptors scheduled to complete integration before completion of the intercept flight test” and that “Delaying this integration would unacceptably increase the risk to reaching the Secretary of Defense mandate to achieve 44 emplaced interceptors by the end of CY 2017 to defend the homeland against the threat of limited ballistic missile attack.[9]

In fact, the GAO reported in 2015 that the MDA had been building CE-II Block I interceptors for deployment for the past two years.[10]  All MDA has committed to do is to not actually place then in their launch silos before a successful intercept test.

If the MDA was in fact following a fly before you buy approach, it would never be able to meet the deadline for reaching 44 deployed interceptors, even without the most recent testing delays.  On the other hand, MDA’s approach of buying and assembling interceptors before an intercept suggests that the most recent delays may not prevent MDA from achieving it objective of 44 deployed GBIs by the end of 2017.  What the delay means is that a greater number of CE-II Block I interceptors will be assembled and ready to deploy before the test then would have been the case without the delay.

Of course, if FTG-15 fails, then MDA will have substantially less time to respond.  However, even if the test had occurred in the 4th quarter of CY 2016, a failure would likely have resulted in missing the deadline.

Finally, it is worth noting the CE-II Block I kill vehicle is not the only untested system in FTG-15.  FTG-15 will also be the first flight test of the new C2 version of the Ground-Based Interceptor booster rocket, which has improved avionics and resolves some obsolescence issues relative to the current booster.  GAO has described the new booster as an “extensive upgrade.”[11]

——————————————————————–

[1] Vice Admiral James D. Syring, “Ballistic Missile Defense System Update,” presentation at the Center for Strategic  and International Studies, January 19, 2016.  Video available at: http://csis.org/event/ballistic-missile-defense-system-update-0.

[2] Marc Selinger, “Missile Defense Agency Nears Next GMD Intercept Test,” Defense Daily, January 4, 2017.

[3] Anthony Capaccio, “Stopping a N. Korea Missile No Sure Thing, U.S. Tester Says,” www.bloomberg.com, January 10. 2017.  Online at  https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-10/stopping-a-n-korean-missile-no-sure-thing-u-s-tester-says-ixr2dcu3.

[4] As of early 2015, MDA planned to reach 44 deployed GBIs with the deployment of the 8th CE-II Block I in late 2017.  However, it may be possible for the MDA to reach the total of 44 with fewer CE-II Block I interceptors by retaining some CE-I interceptors longer than it had planned.

[5] Government Accountability Office, Missile Defense: Opportunities Exist to reduce Acquisition Risk and Improve Reporting on System Capabilities, GAO-15-345, May 2015, p. 22.  Online at http://gao.gov/assets/680/670048.pdf.

[6] GAO-15-345, p. 22.

[7] GAO-15-345, p. 29.

[8] GAO-15-345, p. 35

[9] GAO-15-345, p.35

[10] GAO-15-345, p. 28

[11] Government Accountability Office, Missile Defense: Assessments of DOD’s Reports on Status of Efforts and Options for Improving Homeland Missile Defense, GAO-16-254R, February 17, 2016, p. 4.  Online at http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/675263.pdf.

 

Did the Divert Thrusters Fail in the CTV-02+ Test?  (January 18, 2017)

On January 28, 2016 the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted its most recent flight test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system.  One of the key objectives of this test, designated CTV-02+, was to test a new alternate divert thruster (ADT) system.  Following the test, officials described it as completely successful.  However, in July 2016, The Los Angeles Times reported that, in fact, the ADT system failed in the test.  Following the Times report, MDA officials continued to insist that the test was completely successful.  So what’s going on here?  The 2016 Annual Report of the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, released to the public earlier this month, shows how, with some creative use of wording, both claims can be true.

The kill vehicle of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) uses four rocket divert thrusters to maneuver as it homes in on its target.  However, the divert thruster system used both in previous tests and on the currently deployed GBIs produces vibrations that can interfere with the kill vehicle guidance system.  These vibrations caused the failure of intercept test FTG-06a in December 2010.

Following the FTG-06a failure, deliveries of further GBIs was suspended until the problem that caused the failure could be identified and corrected.  Following the successful demonstration in intercept test FTG-06b in June 2014 of a repair to the guidance system to reduce the effect of the vibrations, deliveries of GBIs resumed.  However, these new GBIs still had the original divert system, and the vibrations produced by this system were still apparently enough of a concern that MDA decided to replace the original divert system in the last ten GBIs it planned to deploy.

These last ten GBIs to be deployed will be equipped with the new CE-II Block I kill vehicles, and will bring up the total number of deployed GBIs up to the total of 44 that MDA announced in 2013 would be deployed by the end of 2017.  These new kill vehicles will have the ADT system in place of the original divert system, and the most important objective of CTV-02+ was to demonstrate the effective performance of the ADT system before the first intercept test of the CE-II Block I kill vehicle.  This intercept test, designated FTG-15, was originally scheduled for the last quarter of calendar year 2016 but has not yet taken place.  The MDA has stated that it will not begin the deployment of the ten CE-II Block I interceptors until this test is successfully completed.

In CTV-02+, the kill vehicle did not attempt to intercept the target. Instead its modified CE-II kill vehicle was intended was intended to fly past it while making preplanned maneuvers to test the ADT system.  According to an MDA press release following the test: “Upon entering terminal phase, the kill vehicle initiated planned burn sequence to evaluate the alternate thruster diverters until fuel was exhausted, intentionally precluding an intercept.[1]

Following the test, all official sources indicated that the test had been a complete success.  The MDA press release went on to say that the test had succeeded in “successfully evaluating performance of alternate divert thrusters for the system’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle.”  In a  prepared Congressional statement from April 2016, MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring stated that: “This past January we successfully executed GM CTV-02+, a non-intercept flight test involving the launch of a GBI from Vandenberg Air Force Base and an air-launched IRBM target over the Pacific Ocean. We were able to exercise fully the new Alternate Divert Thruster in the CE-II EKV in a flight environment…”[2]

However, a July 6, 2016 article by David Willman in The Los Angeles Times, based on interviews with several unidentified Pentagon scientists, reported that the ADT system actually had failed in the test.[3]  One of the scientists stated that “The mission wasn’t successful.” “Did the thruster perform as expected? No, it did not provide the control necessary for a lethal impact of an incoming threat.”  The scientists further stated that the fly-by distance from the target was twenty times greater than planned.

The day after the The Los Angeles Times article was published, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) posted a report criticizing it.[4]  The MDAA report was largely based on a May 2016 classified MDA report to Congress and on additional information released by the MDA (the MDAA report did specify when and how this additional information was released).  According to the MDAA report, the classified MDA report stated that CTV-02+ had a 100% success rate on all of its primary objectives and 99% on its secondary objectives.  It also stated that one anomaly occurred, but that none of the test objectives were affected by it. The additional material released by MDA stated that “Performance data for all four thrusters has been evaluated and falls with expected parameters” and that the kill vehicle carried out “scripted burns as planned until the fuel was depleted.

Can these conflicting  reports be reconciled?

The 2016 Annual Report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation provides more specific information about CTV-02+ and in particular on the performance of the ADTs in the test.  It states that:

“The ADTs turned on and off as commanded and performed nominally.  One controller circuit board associated with one of the ADTs experienced a short and did not command the ADT to turn on for the latter part of the test.  This controller circuit board is contained within the GBI Guidance module and is not considered to be part of the ADT subsystem.”[5]

So this makes it clear that one of the ADTs did not fire as expected.  This would have caused the kill vehicle to deviate from its planned trajectory, consistent with the LA Times article.  However, the component that caused the failure was not considered by the MDA to be part of the new ADT system, and hence there was no failure of the ADT system.  Apparently the proper performance of the component that failed was not an objective of the test (unless it is the 1% secondary objective failure cited in the classified MDA report).  However, had this been an intercept test, it seems very likely that the failure would have caused a miss.

————————————————————————

[1] Missile Defense Agency, “Ground-based Midcourse Defense System Conducts Successful Flight Test,” News Release, January 28, 2016.  Online at: https://www.mda.mil/news/16news0002.html.

[2] Unclassified Statement of Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2016.  Online at: https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/FY17_Written_Statement_HASC_SF_Admiral_Syring_14042016.pdf.

[3] David Willman, “A test of America’s homeland missile defense system failed. Why did the Pentagon call it a success?” The Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2016.  Online at: http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-missile-defense/

[4] Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, “Veering Off,” July 7, 2016.  Online at: http://missiledefenseadvocacy.org/alert/veering-off/.

[5] Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, “Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” FY 2016 DOT&E Annual Report, December 2016, pp. 421-422.  Online at: http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2016/pdf/bmds/2016gmd.pdf.