GMD Testing Update (March 19, 2019)

The FY 2020 RDT&E budget documentation for the Missile Defense Agency is now out, and unlike the previous year’s materials it includes currently planned quarterly dates for flight and intercept tests of the Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) system.  Through 2024 it appears that there are three intercept tests and two (non-intercept) flight tests planned.  Here they are:

Test

Date as of May 2017

Current Date

                                       Comments

FTG-11

4Q 2018

2Q FY 2019

Salvo intercept test. One CE-II and one CE-II Block I GBIs against an ICBM-range target.

BVT-03

      ?

4Q FY 2020

Flight test of upgraded GBI booster with selectable 2 or 3 stage capability.  It will be launched from  Vandenberg.

CTV-03

1Q 2020

2Q FY 2022

Flight test of Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV)

FTG-17

1Q 2021

1Q FY 2023

First RKV intercept test.

FTG-18

1Q 2022

1Q FY 2024

Second RKV intercept test.

 

The testing schedule for the RKV shows a slip of about two years.   This is consistent with the two year delay (from 2023 to 2025) in RKV deployment that was announced at the March 12 MDA press briefing on its FY 2020 budget.

 

 

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MDA Briefing on FY 2020 Budget (March 13, 2019)(Updated March 14)

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) presented their proposed budget for FY 2019 yesterday.  Although there is not yet any information about the budget posted on their website, a video of the briefing was posted today. I have put the slides shown at the briefing into a Word file, which is here: MDA-Budget_Briefing-Slides-03122019

(The first slide was not shown on the video, but it is probably just a title slide as there was no discussion of it.)

I expect that a transcript of the briefing will be available soon.  If so, I will add a link to it.

[Added March 14: The transcript is here.]

The two most interesting (to me) things I learned in the briefing:

(1) The RKV is delayed.  The development and deployment of Redesigned Kill Vehicle, intended to be more reliable than the current kill vehicles deployed on the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) of the current U.S. national missile defense system, has been delayed by two years, from 2023 to 2025.  Since the RKVs were to be deployed on the 20 additional GBIs (bringing the total to 64) that were scheduled to begin deployment in Alaska in 2023, the beginning of the deployment of these additional GBIs has also delayed by two years from 2023 to 2025.

(2) The Neutral Particle Beam is back.  Much discussed during the “Star Wars” days, the state of technology at the time ultimately was shown to be far from allowing an actual neutral particle beam weapon to be built. However, in FY 2020 MDA plans to initiate a new program to develop a neutral particle beam that will “offer new kill options.”  MDA claims that this program could lead to an on-orbit demonstration as early as 2023.

New S-Band Missile Defense Radars in the Pacific (February 11 2018)

The United States is in the process of building (or selling) a number of new missile defense radars focused on coverage over eastern Asia and the Pacific Ocean.  All of these radars will operate in S-Band, which extend from 2 to 4 GHz.  These radars are the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), the Homeland Defense Radar – Hawaii (HDR-H), the Homeland Defense Radar – Pacific (HDR-P), and the Lockheed Martin Solid State Radars (SSRs) that Japan intends to buy for its two planned Aegis Ashore facilities. Most if not all of these phased-array radars will be built by Lockheed Martin using relatively new Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology.  There is little publicly available information about these radars, so there will not be much in the way of technical details in this post.  This post will also include an update on Raytheon’s new S-Band Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).

The Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR)

A previous post discusses the LRDR up until April 2015.  This discussion picks up where that one left off.

In October 2015, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded Lockheed Martin a $784 million contract to develop, test and build the LRDR.[1]  The objective was to have the LRDR operational at Clear Air Force Station in central Alaska by 2020.  Military construction costs (including a shielded mission control facility, shielded power plant, radar foundation and a maintenance facility) will add another $329 million, bringing the total cost of building the LRDR to over $1.1 billion.[2]  However, it is typically described in the press as a $1.2 billion project.  Construction of the LRDR in Alaska began in September 2017.[3] As of March 2018, “initial fielding” of the LRDR was expected in 2020 with “operational readiness acceptance by the warfighter in the 2022 timeframe.”[4]

Read the full post »

The LRDR: (Not) The Best Discrimination Money Can Buy? (January 30, 2019)

Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the then recent announcement that the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) would operate in the S-Band of radar frequencies.  (S-Band covers the range from 2 to 4 GHz.) I found this development quite surprising. The LRDR was to be the key discrimination sensor for the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system. I had been expecting the LRDR to operate at X-Band (8-12 GHz), which appears to provide a significant advantage in discrimination capability relative to S-Band. At the time, I speculated that this choice may have been made to save money, or that perhaps missile defense flight and intercept testing had shown X-Band did not provide any advantage in discrimination over S-Band in actual practice.

Now we have the answer: It was about cost. According to a 2018 article in the Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest(The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory led the systems engineering portion of the LRDR sensor trade studies, identified performance requirements, siting suitability and developed the LRDR element specification.):

“The choice of S-Band for LRDR was a compromise: S-Band was assessed to provide acceptable performance for much lower cost than an X-Band (~10 GHz) system at the same sensitivity and field of view. Trade study analysis indicated that although discrimination performance at X-Band would be superior, it was not sufficiently better than the performance at S-Band to justify the cost differential.”[1]

Discrimination is not only essential for any midcourse defense, it is the most difficult problem facing any such defense.  As discussed below, two recent government-sponsored studies (by the National Academy of Sciences and the Defense Science Board) had criticized the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for not taking the discrimination problem seriously enough.  The decision by MDA to deploy the LRDR seemed to be at least a partial response to this criticism. However, while tradeoffs must often be made, MDA’s decision to accept inferior discrimination performance from the LRDR now raises the possibility that it still is not taking the discrimination issue seriously enough.

The two following sections discuss the relative discrimination capabilities and costs of the LRDR at S-Band rather than at X-Band.

Figure 1: LRDR Conceptual Drawing (Image Source: MDA)[2].

Countermeasures, Range Resolution, Discrimination and the GMD system

The most challenging aspect of building an operationally effective ballistic missile defense (BMD) system is dealing with steps (often referred to countermeasures) that a missile attacker could take to defeat the defense.  This is particularly the case for midcourse defenses with interceptors that operate above the atmosphere (exo-atmospheric), such as the Ground-Based Interceptors of the U.S. GMD national missile defense system and the SM-3 interceptors of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis BMD system. The lack of atmosphere makes it possible for attacker to implement a wide range of light weight but potentially very effective countermeasures.[3]

A 2011 report by the U.S. Defense Science Board stated that “The importance of achieving reliable midcourse discrimination cannot be overemphasized” and concluded that “Yet discrimination in the exo-atmosphere is still not a completely solved problem. Robust research and testing of discrimination techniques must remain a high priority.”[4]

A report released the next  year by U.S. National Academy of Sciences similarly concluded that “The hard fact is that no practical missile defense system can avoid the need for midcourse discrimination – that is, the requirement to identify the actual threat objects (warheads) amid the cloud of material accompanying them in the vacuum of space.  This discrimination is not the only challenge for midcourse defense, but it is the most formidable one, and the midcourse discrimination problem must be addressed far more seriously if reasonable confidence is to be achieved.”[5]

At present, there are two primary sources of data that might be used for midcourse discrimination: the infrared seekers on interceptors and surface-based (land or sea) radars.  However, an infrared seeker at best sees each object in a target complex as only a single pixel of light until a very few seconds before an intercept attempt.  For this and other reasons, the burden of the discrimination problem must fall primarily on surface-based radars.

When the GMD system was declared operational in late 2004, it had essentially no discrimination capability.  At that time, its core radar infrastructure consisted of two large phased-array radars, the Cobra Dane radar on Shemya Island at the western end of the Aleutians and the PAVE PAWS early warning radar at Beale Air Force base in California.  These radars were upgraded to give them capabilities to guide interceptors to attacking missiles and are now referred to as Upgraded Early Warning Radars (UEWRs).  Subsequently, four more UEWRs were added (in Britain, Greenland, central Alaska and Massachusetts) were added to this radar core.

The inability of the UEWRs to discriminate was acknowledged by the Government Accountability Office in 2004:

“Neither the Cobra Dane radar nor the upgraded early warning radar at Beale is capable of performing rigorous discrimination, a function acheivable only by the X-band radar. Rather, both radars will utilize common “target classification” software that enables them to classify objects as threatening or non-threatening. For example, debris would be classified as non-threatening, but objects like deployment buses and decoy replicas would be classified as threatening.”[6]

A December 2018 Government Accountability Office Report on the Cobra Dane radar indicates this situation remains unchanged today.  It states that the Cobra Dane radar can “Track” and “Classify” missile threats but cannot “Discriminate Missile Threats from Deployed Decoys” or “Determine if a Missile Threat is Successfully Intercepted.”[7]

The most fundamental reason that the UEWRs cannot contribute to discrimination is that they operate at relatively low frequencies (or equivalently, at long radar wavelengths).  The Cobra Dane operates at about 1.2 GHz (wavelength about 23 cm); the other five UEWRs operate at about 0.44 GHz (wavelength about 70 cm).[8]  These low operating frequencies limit the range resolution of these radars to 5 meters or more.  For a phased array radar, its bandwidth β is typically limited to roughly 10% of its operating frequency. The best possible range resolution ΔR is then about ΔR = c/2β, where c is the speed of light.  The UEWRs other than Cobra Dane have a bandwidth of β ≤ 30MHz.  For β = 30 Mhz, this gives ΔR ≥ 5 meters.

The range resolution is the smallest distance along the range axis (the line between the radar and the target) for which the radar can resolve separate objects (or separate features along one object.) The resolution along the other axes is typically much worse. Thus a radar with a range resolution of 5 meters or more can provide little information about the shape of a 2 meter long missile warhead or a similarly-sized decoy or other object other than that which can be gleaned from how its radar cross section varies with time. [Cobra Dane actually can provide a range resolution of about 1.1 m, but only over a very limited range of angles.  Because of its orientation Cobra Dane has never participated in a BMD intercept test.]

As the 2004 GAO report quoted above suggests, much better range resolution, and thus higher quality discrimination data, can be obtained by going to higher frequencies, such as X-Band.  For example, at X-band (~10 GHz, corresponding to a wavelength of about 3 cm), a phased-array radar can achieve a range resolution of about 0.15-0.25 meters.  With such range resolution, multiple features along a 2 meter long object (such a missile warhead) could be resolved.  Moreover, through the use of Doppler measurements, a similar or better resolution can be achieved along an axis perpendicular to the range axis, producing a 2-dimensional image of a target (and with enough time a 3-dimensional image might even be constructed).  While a capability to make such high resolution measurements would not completely solve the discrimination problem, it would clearly be a step in the right direction.

Accordingly, in 2006-2007, the MDA deployed the Sea Based X-Band (SBX) radar.  The SBX is a very large (249 m2 antenna area) phased-array X-Band radar on a self-propelled, semi-submersible sea-going platform. [9]  The SBX, which operates out of Honolulu, is optimized for long-range precision tracking and discrimination, and reportedly has a bandwidth of 1 GHz and range resolution of about 0.25m.[10]  However, the SBX was built initially as a testing asset and it has a number of serious limitations, most notably a very limited electronic scanning field of view (about ±12 degrees) that significantly limits its usefulness as an operational discrimination sensor.  (Many phased array radars have electronic scanning fields of view of about  ±60 degrees.)

Figure 2: The SBX (Image Source: MDA).

In addition, MDA operates five forward-based X-Band radars in Japan (2), Turkey, Israel and Qatar.  These TPY-2 forward-based radars are essentially the same (differing only in software and communications equipment) as the radar in each of the seven U.S. THAAD batteries.  These forward-based radars likely have the same range resolution as the SBX, but have much shorter ranges and can only view the early stages of a missile’s flight towards U.S. territory.

The LRDR will be in S-Band, which extends from 2 to 4 GHz.  The current SPY-1 radar on U.S. Aegis cruisers and destroyers also operates in in S-Band, between 3.1 and 3.5 GHz, and apparently has a bandwidth of about 300-400 MHz.[11]  It is also capable of using Doppler measurement to produce two-dimensional images. Thus, very roughly, we can expect that the LRDR will have a bandwidth about one-third and a range resolution and imaging capability correspondingly about 3 times poorer than what an X-Band version of the LRDR would have had.  This difference seems to be large enough to justify the Johns Hopkins APL paper’s statement that an X-Band version of the LRDR would have discrimination capabilities “superior” to that of the currently planned S-Band LRDR.

The LRDR: Cost at S-Band vs X-Band

MDA’s initial March 2014 LRDR Request for Information (RFI) to industry stated that it was not specifying the operating frequency band for the radar but rather was “looking for recommendations with rationale” based on tradeoffs necessary for the radar to perform its “precision tracking, discrimination and hit assessment” missions.[12]  It also raised the possibility that the radar could have a limited field of view (LFOV) phased-array antenna instead of a full field of view antenna.

According to the 2018 Johns Hopkins APL paper:

“In 2014, the MDA initiated the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) effort to identify and procure a new midcourse discrimination capability to supplement the existing BMDS.   Key characteristics of the radar include operation at S-Band (~ 3 GHz), wide instantaneous field of view to enable wide-area defense against raids, wide instantaneous bandwidth and a large suite of discrimination features to support robust midcourse discrimination, and high sensitivity to provide this discrimination capability at the long ranges required.”

This establishes two things: That the LRDR will operate at S-Band and that it will have a wide electronic scanning field of view (EFOV), here assumed to be ± 60 degrees.

Each of the two LRDR antenna faces will be populated with large number of GaN transmit/receive (T/R) modules.  For radars of this type, the T/R modules are the primary driver of a radar’s cost.

The requirement for a wide EFOV sets the maximum spacing between the T/R modules.  For an EFOV of ± 60º and a wavelength λ, the spacing between T/R modules in a square array must be 0.536λ or less in order to avoid grating lobes (essentially additional main beams).[13]  This gives an antenna area 0.278λ2 per module.  For an equilateral triangular module arrangement, the area per element is somewhat larger — 0.332λ2 per module.

For short wavelengths and large antenna faces, these module spacing limitations can lead to requirements for very large numbers of modules.  For example, the SBX’s antenna face has an active area of 249 m2.  Assuming a frequency of 9.5 GHz (λ = 3.16 cm), a square module array and an EFOV = ±60º, about 870,000 modules would have been required to fully populate the antenna array, which would have been prohibitively expensive.  In actual practice, the SBX uses a module spacing of about 2.35λ.  Together with the use of other techniques to reduce grating lobes, this spacing reduces the required number of modules to about 45,000, but at the price of a very reduced EFOV of only about ±12º.[14]

Figure 3.  The SBX Antenna Inside its Radome.  Image Source: MDA[15]

The LRDR is intended primarily for precision tracking and discrimination.  For such a radar, a standard figure of merit is its Power-Aperture-Gain (P-A-G) product. Assuming all else (noise figure, system losses, target radar cross section (RCS), etc…) is equal, an X-Band and an S-Band will obtain the same signal-to noise ratio on a target if:

PX*AX*GX = PS*AS*GS,

where PX is the average power of the X-Band radar, AX is its antenna area and GX is its antenna gain.

Since G = 4πA/λ2 and writing the antenna power as P = N*pm, where N is the number of modules and pm is the average power per module, this becomes:

(NX*pmx*AX2)/λX2 = (NS*pms*AS2)/λS2.

Assuming the average powers of the S-Band and X-Band modules are equal (as discussed below, probably not a valid assumption) and noting the antenna area for each module is proportional to λ2, we can solve for NX:

NX = NS*(λS/λ­X)2/3.

Assuming the S-Band radar operates at 3.5 GHz (λ = 8.57 cm) and the X-Band at 9.5 GHz (λ = 3.16 cm), then:

NX = 1.94*NS.

Thus the required number of X-band modules would likely be at least twice the number of S-band modules to get a radar with equal sensitivity and EFOV.  The number of modules will be quite large, as in a subsequent post I will argue that number of S-Band modules required for both faces of the LRDR may be as great as 240,000.  The ratio of modules alone suggests that the X-Band version of the radar would cost nearly twice as much as the S-Band version.  This difference could amount to a substantial amount of money as the contract to Lockheed Martin to develop, build and test the LRDR was for $784 million.

Moreover, the actual cost ratio may be significantly higher.  In particular, GaN T/R modules are a relatively new technology compared to the GaS modules used in the SBX or TPY-2 radars.  The LRDR and the Space Fence are the first very large radars to use GaN technology (at least as far as I know).With such new technology, it is likely the average power obtainable from an S-band module will be greater than that from an X-Band module, and the noise figure at S-Band could also be lower.  In addition, over wide ranges of angles, the radar cross sections of warhead-shaped targets tend to decrease as the radar frequency increases. These factors could significantly increase the number of X-Band modules required to get a sensitivity equal to a LRDR radar using S-Band modules.

Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that an X-band version of the LRDR would cost at least twice as much as the currently planned LRDR and it could cost much more.


[1] Kenneth W. O’Haver, Christopher K. Barker, G. Daniel Dockery, and James D. Huffaker, “Radar Development for Air and Missile Defense,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2018), pp. 140-152.  Online at: https://www.jhuapl.edu/techdigest/TD/td3402/34_02_OHaver.pdf.

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

[3] A.M. Sessler, J.M. Cornwall, B. Dietz, S. Fetter, S. Frankel, R. L. Garwin, K. Gottfried, L. Gronlund, G. N. Lewis, T. A. Postol, and D. C. Wright, Countermeasures: A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned US National Missile Defense System, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Union of Concerned Scientists /MIT Security Studies Program, 2000, pp 35-37, 145-148. Online at: www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nwgs/cm_all.pdf.

[4] U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Science Board, Defense Science Board Task Force Report on Science and Technology Issues of Early Intercept Ballistic Missile Defense Feasibility, Washington, D.C.: Defense Science Board, September 2011, p. 5.  Online at: http://www.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA552472.

[5] U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Committee on Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives, Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, September 2012, p. 10.  Online at: www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13189.

[6] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Actions Being Taken to Address Testing Recommendations, but Updated Assessment Needed,” GAO-04-254, February 26, 2004, p. 17. Online at: https://www.gao.gov/assets/250/241487.pdf.

[7] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Air Force Report to Congress Included Information on the Capabilities, Operational Availability, and Funding Plan for Cobra Dane,” GAO-19-68, December 2018, p. 7 (Table 2).  Online at: https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696076.pdf.

[8] For technical details about the UEWRs, see “Appendix 10: Sensors” of Laura Grego, George N. Lewis, and David Wright, Shielded From Oversight: The Disastrous US Approach to Strategic Missile Defense, Union of Concerned Scientists, July 2016.  Online at: https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/07/Shielded-from-Oversight-appendix-10.pdf.

[9] For details about the SBX, see “Appendix 2: The Sea Based X-band Radar,” of Laura Grego, George N. Lewis, and David Wright, Shielded From Oversight: The Disastrous US Approach to Strategic Missile Defense, Union of Concerned Scientists, July 2016.  Online at: https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/07/Shielded-from-Oversight-appendix-2.pdf.

[10] The SBX uses essentially the same radar transmit/receive modules as the THAAD radar (TPY-2), which has a bandwidth of 1 GHz and range resolution of 0.25 m. Philip A. Ingerwesen, William W. Camp and Alan J. Fenn, “Radar Technology for Ballistic Missile Defense,” Lincoln Laboratory Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (2002), pp. 109-147 (p. 141).

[11] Ingerwesen, et. al., “Radar Technology for Ballistic Missile Defense,” p. 141 says 300 MHz.  A 1999 Lincoln Laboratory briefing slide shows a “Wideband Waveform Concept for AN/SPY-1 Radar” using a 400 MHz wideband waveform constructed from ten 40 MHz bandwidth pulses frequency jumping from 3.1 to 3.5 GHz.  Eric D. Evans, “Missile Defense Technology (Can BMD Systems Work?)” Mini DTS Course, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, December 10, 1999. (40 MHz was the bandwidth of the Aegis radar when it was initially deployed.)

[12] Missile Defense Agency, “Missile Defense Agency Long Range Discrimination Radar Request for Information,” SN HQ0147-14-R-0002, March 14, 2014. See https://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=42f1a95465dac067ca3ee0a665adf7f7&tab=core&_cview=1

[13] See Grego, et. al., “Appendix 2,” pp. 4-5.

[14] Grego, et. al., “Appendix 2,”

[15] Online at: https://www.mda.mil/global/images/system/sbx/sbxin.jpg.

Updated Tables of Intercept Test (November 30, 2018) (Updated December 11, 2018)

This post updates my tables of intercept test for the GMD, SM-3 and THAAD systems. This updates my post of April 22, 2018, adding two additional tests for the SM-3 Block IB and SM- Block IIA.   See that post for some background information on why I started to compile these tables.  This update also adds a brief description of the cause of each intercept failure. December 11 update adds one SM-3 Block IIA test.

Dec11-2018-TestingSummaryChart

 

TestingTableGBI-November 2018

TestingGMDText-November 2018

 

TestingBlockIB-November2018TestingBlockIB-PNG-November2018

Dec11-2018-BlockIIA-TableTestingBlockIIA-PNG-November2018

TestingTHAAD-PNGs-November2018TestingTHAADText-PNG-November2018

Update on Aegis SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs (June 5, 2018)

In a post nearly two years ago, I argued that the SM-3  Block IIA interceptor, scheduled to begin deployment on U.S. (and Japanese) ships and Aegis Ashore sites in the next few years, would almost certainly be capable of intercepting ICBMs (at least in the absence of effective countermeasures).  Moreover, they could cover the entire United States from a relatively small number of locations. I further argued that since these interceptors would likely be deployed in large numbers, and often on mobile platforms, their deployment could pose a severe threat for any possible reductions in nuclear forces by the United States and Russia.

 

In this post, I provide some updated additional information about the capabilities of the Block IIA against ICBMs and plans to test the interceptor against an ICBM-range target.

Sm-3vsICBM

A 2009 Missile Defense Agency slide illustrating the SM-3 Block IIA capability against an ICBM (although this slide is widely available on the internet, I have not been able to identify the original briefing it was part of).

Testing the SM-3 Block IIA against an ICBM Target

The most important recent development is the requirement laid out in the November 2017 FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that “The Director of the Missile Defense Agency shall – (1) not later than December 31, 2020 conduct a test to evaluate and demonstrate, if technologically feasible, the capability to defeat a simple intercontinental ballistic missile threat using the standard missile 3 block IIA missile interceptor.”[1] The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is currently planning for this test and could conduct it well before the end of 2020 deadline.  In May 2018, Rear Admiral Jon Hill, the Deputy Director of the MDA, said about this test: “It has been legislated, we have a plan, it is in our test plan, and we’re going to execute.” [2]

The MDA has recently severely cut back on making public information about its testing plans and schedules. Nevertheless, Admiral Hill did indicate that the Block IIA test against an ICBM would not occur until after the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system’s FTG-11 test, in which a salvo of two ICBMs were to be intercepted by two Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs).  He stated that: “We made a conscious decision within the agency to prioritize the GMD salvo test.  We want to test the GBI against a salvo of ICBM targets.  So we did not want to pull a target away to go do that IIA test and lose that opportunity to characterize the performance of two GBIs going after an ICBM.”[3]

As of April 2016, FTG-11 was scheduled for the last quarter of calendar year 2017.[4]  However, by May 2017, it had slipped to August or September 2018.[5] Since then, the date of the test has apparently further slipped. In March 2018, MDA Director Lt. General Samuel Greaves stated that the test would take place in Fiscal Year 2019.[6]  Thus it now appears that FTG-11 will not take place until at least October 2018, and the test of the Block IIA against an ICBM sometime after that.

SM-3 Capability against ICBMs

A May 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office stated that the SM-3 Block IIA seeker was not designed to operate against ICBMs and that some defense officials were concerned that the seeker has limitations that might “impact its discrimination capability and warfighter decision timelines.”[7] However, the same report also revealed that MDA intends to use the SM-3 Block IIA seeker in its new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) that will be deployed on the GMD system’s GBI interceptors beginning in the early 2020s.[8]

MDA seems confident that the SM-3 Block IIA can intercept ICBMs.  In May 2018, Rear Admiral Jon Hill, the MDA Deputy Director, also stated that “So we’ve got GBI, and to have this additional layer of the SM-3 Block IIA will be very exciting. So we’re going to do that test to prove it out. If you do the math and do the analysis, we’ve got that capability, and so we just need to go prove it to ourselves.”

According to Raytheon (the manufacturer of the SM-3 Block IIA), the Block IIA already has the speed, range and altitude capabilities needed to intercept ICBMs.[9] All that is needed are some software changes.  According to Rondell Wilson, lead engineer for air and missile defense at Raytheon: “On the RKV program, we’re developing algorithms to improve the performance capability of that sensor. It’s nothing more than software and firmware.  That goes directly back into SM-3 Block IIA, and now you have an ICBM-killer capability.”[10]  He further stated: “We can provide SM-3 Block IIA ashore as an under-layer capability for GBI, thereby maximizing the magazine depth of those high-values GBIs.  We can do that immediately.”[11]

Other SM-3 Block IIA developments

(1) The FY 2018 2017 National Defense Authorization Act also requires the Secretary of Defense to prepare a report on the SM-3 Block IIA and strategic stability. Specifically, it states:

Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the Congressional Committees a report –

            (1) that indicates whether demonstrating an intercontinental ballistic missile defense capability against North Korean ballistic missiles by the standard missile 3 block IIA missile poses any risk to strategic stability; and

            (2) if the Secretary determines under paragraph (1) that such a demonstration poses such risks to strategic stability, a description of the plan developed and implemented by the Secretary to address and mitigate such risks, as determined appropriate by the Secretary.[12]

The due date for this report has passed, but I have seen no public mention of it. At a minimum, it does not seem to have affected MDA’s planning for the test.

(2) The estimated cost of the SM-3 Block IIA has increased significantly over the last several years.  A May 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office stated that the price of an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor had increased from $24 million in FY 2014 to $39 million in FY 2017, in part because of a decrease in the number of interceptors purchased.[13]

————————————————————————————————————————————

[1] FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, November 2017, section 1680.  Online at: https://www.congress.gov/115/crpt/hrpt404/CRPT-115hrpt404.pdf.

[2] Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA),” New Layers” briefing transcript, May 16, 2018.  Online at: http://missiledefenseadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/New-Layers-CRT-Transcript.pdf.

[3] MDAA, “New Layers.”

[4] “Update on Future Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) Flight Tests,” Mostlymissiledefense blog, April 20, 2016.  Online at: https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2016/04/20/update-on-future-ground-based-midcourse-gmd-flight-tests-april-20-2016/.

[5] U.S. Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Off-Camera Press Briefing by Vice Admiral James Syring on Missile Defense,” News Transcript, May 31, 2017.  Online at: https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1198464/department-of-defense-off-camera-press-briefing-by-vice-admiral-james-syring-on/.

[6] Prepared statement of Lt. General Samuel A. Greaves before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 22, 2018. Online at: https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/FY19_Written_Statement_SASC_SFS.pdf.

[7] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Some Progress Delivering Capabilities, but Challenges with Testing Transparency and Requirements Development Need to Be Addressed,”GAO-17-381, May 2017, p. 51. Online at: https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/685462.pdf.

[8] GAO-17-381, p. 51.

[9] James Drew and Jen Dimascio, “New Trajectory: As Pentagon Adds Dollars for Missile Defense, Raytheon Pitches SM-3s as ICBM Killers,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 16-29, 2017, p. 58.

[10] Drew and Dimascio, “New Trajectory.”

[11] Drew and Dimascio, “New Trajectory.”

[12] FY 2018 NDAA, section 1680.

[13] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: The Warfighter and Decisionmakers Would Benefit from Better Communication about the Systems’ Capabilities and Limitations,”  GAO-18-324, May 2018, pp. 61-62.

 

Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness (May 31, 2018)

This is an updated list (previous version was October 22, 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 six additional claims (#s 52,53,54,56,57,58) – the last three of which are about Guam. The list has also been slightly reorganized and some links added.

(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) 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.[40]  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.

(44) 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).[41]  Lt. General (retired) Patrick O’Reilly, former Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(45) July 22, 2017. The United States military can defend against a limited North Korea attack on Seoul, Japan and the United States.[42]  General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff speaking about North Korea’s missile threat.

(46) 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.[43]  General Lori Robinson, Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, speaking about the North Korean ballistic missile threat.

(47) 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.[44]  Lt. General  Samuel Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(48) August 2017. 100 per cent confidence the missile system would work.[45] Col. Kevin Kick, Commander of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Fort Greely and Vandenberg).

(49) 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.[46]  Rear Admiral Jon Hill, Deputy Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

(50) September 2017. Very confident in the United States’ ability to protect all 50 states.[47] General John Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

(51) 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.[48]  U.S. President Donald Trump discussing the North Korean ICBM threat in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, October 11, 2017.

(52) February 15, 2018. I am 100 percent confident in my ability to defend the United States of America. General Lori Robinson, Commander of U.S. Northern Command in response to the question “So to be clear, do you have confidence in the ability of the GMD system to defend the United States from a North Korean ballistic missile attack?” asked by Senator Deb Fischer.[49]

(53) March 22, 2018. So I believe we are perfectly positioned to defense against today’s threat. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. General Samuel Greaves in response to a question about the North Korean missile threat asked by Senator Deb Fischer.[50]

(54) April 17, 2018. Senator she has.  And I would say with high confidence that I believe that the ground-based midcourse defense system in place today has the ability to defend against a North Korea ballistic missile strike. General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, at the hearing for his nomination to be the next Commander of the U.S. Northern Command when asked by Senator  James Inhofe if he had been convinced by the statement by the current Northern Command Commander General Lori Robinson that the GMD system would be 100% effective (see February 15, 2018 quote).[51]

And Some Quotes on Defending Guam (also see #23):

(55) April 2017. The chances of any missile or missiles getting though in my calculation is .000001 – that’s five zeros – percent.[52]  George Charfauros, Guam’s homeland security advisor.

(56)August 12, 2017. We are with you 1000 percent, you are safe. U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call to Guam Governor Eddie Calvo.[53]

(57)August 12, 2017. We are all over this…the wonderful island of Guam is very well protected, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in a phone call to Guam Governor Eddie Calvo.[54]

(58) August 14, 2017. You know, Guam is well protected. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.[55] Online at:

(59) 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.[56]  Lt. General (retired) Patrick O’Reilly, former Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

(60) September 2017. Guam is very well protected against North Korean missile attack.[57] General John Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

————————————————————————————————————————————

[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] “US Military Successfully Shoots Down Simulated ICBM for the First Time amid North Korean Threat,” abcnews.com, May 30, 2017. Online at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-31/us-military-shoots-down-simulated-icbm-amid-north-korean-threat/8574612.

[41] Katrina Manson, “Can the United States Defend Itself from a Missile Attack from North Korea?,” Financial Times, June 30, 2017. Online at: https://www.ft.com/content/3e2a5a24-5d41-11e7-9bc8-8055f264aa8b.

[42] Lee Haye-ah, “US Military Chief Says N. Korea Capable of ‘Limited’ Missile Attack,” Yonhap News Agency, July 24, 2017. Online at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2017/07/24/0401000000AEN20170724000400315.html.

[43] “Gen. Robinson: “We Can Fully Defend Against Ballistic Missile Threat,”” Great Falls Tribune, July 30, 2017. Online at: https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2017/07/31/gen-robinson-we-can-fully-defend-us-against-ballistic-missile-threat/524271001/.

[44] Bill Gertz, “U.S. and Guam Shielded from North Korean Missiles by High-Tech Defenses,” Freebeacon.com, August 10, 2017. Online at: http://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-guam-shielded-north-korean-missiles-high-tech-defenses/.

[45] Debra Killalea, “’Incredibly Fast’: America’s Desperate Last Line of Defence,” Central Telegraph (Australia), September 1, 2017. Online at: https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/incredibly-fast-americas-desperate-last-line-defen/3218864/.

[46] Barbara Opall-Rome, “DoD Missile Defense Deputy: US Children Are Safe from North Korean Threat, Defensenews.com, September 6, 2017. Online at: https://www.defensenews.com/smr/space-missile-defense/2017/09/06/dod-missile-defense-deputy-us-children-are-safe-from-north-korean-threat/.

[47] Zhenhua Lu, “Guam ‘Very Well Protected’ against N. Korean Attack: US Nuclear Commander,” Korean Times, September 21, 2017. Online at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/world/2017/09/672_236806.html.

[48] 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. Online at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/10/13/trumps-claim-that-u-s-interceptors-can-knock-out-icmbs-97-percent-of-the-time/?utm_term=.b47c136c557f.

[49] Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing on “United States Northern Command and United States Southern Command, February 15, 2018. Transcript online at: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/18-16_02-15-18.pdf.

[50] Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing on “Ballistic Missile Defense Policies and Programs, March 22, 2018.  Transcript online at: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/18-31_03-22-18.pdf.

[51] Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing on “Nominations,” April 17, 2018. Transcript online at: file:///C:/Users/George/Documents/MDDownloads/CongTestimony/2018-April17-SASC_Nominations-transcript.pdf.

[52] Patrick Goodenough, “Guam’s Homeland Security Advisor: 0.000001%  Chance of Missile ‘Getting Through’ Defenses,” cnsnews.com, April 15, 2017. Online at: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/guams-homeland-security-adviser-0000001-chance-missile-getting.

[53] Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, Facebook post, August 12, 2017. Online at: https://www.facebook.com/eddiebazacalvo/posts/1556954981038431.

[54] Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, Facebook post, August 12, 2017. Online at: https://www.facebook.com/eddiebazacalvo/posts/1556954981038431.

[55] “Press Gaggle with Secretary Mattis” News Transcript, U.S. Department of Defense, August 14, 2017. Online at: https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1278359/press-gaggle-with-secretary-mattis/.

[56] Zenny Phoung, “Missile Expert: Guam is ‘Heavily Protected by Missile Defense Systems at Sea’ and ‘On the Ground,’” cnsnews.com, August 11, 2017. Online at: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/zenny-phuong/missile-expert-guam-heavily-protected-missile-defense-systems-sea-and .

[57] Zhenhua Lu, “Guam ‘Very Well Protected’ against N. Korean Attack: US Nuclear Commander,” Korean Times, September 21, 2017. Online at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/world/2017/09/672_236806.html.

Update to “How Many SM-3 Block IIA Missiles?” (May 20, 2018)

In my post “How Many SM-3 Block IIA Missiles?” of January 25, 2016 I made some projections on how many Aegis SM-3 block IIA interceptors the United States might eventually deploy on its ships and at its Aegis Ashore sites.  The number of such interceptors is particularly important since these missiles have potentially significant capabilities to intercept intercontinental-range missiles and could therefore derail efforts to reduce the number of strategic nuclear-armed intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (see my post of June 20, 2016). It must be emphasized that these were at best very rough projections.

In the almost two and a half years since I made those projections, there have been some changes in plans and some additional information has become available.

Shortly after my original post, in April 2016, it was announced that the SM-3 Block IA missile would have its service life extended from 8 years to 12 years.[1]  Delivery of 150 Block I and Block IA missiles was complete by about 2015.  A total of 11 Block I interceptors were delivered and these have all been retired or expended in tests.  Taking into account Block IAs expended in testing, the number of Block IAs in service would have peaked at about 120 in 2015-2017 (the most recent Block IA  intercept test was in October 2015).  This number would then decline steadily until the last Block IA reached the end of its service life in about 2025 (although they could be taken out of service earlier).

Figure 1 below shows the number of Block IB and Block IIA in inventory based on past procurements and my projections of possible future procurements.

Sm3MissileNumbersMay202018

Figure 1.  Number of SM-3 Block IB and Block IIA interceptors in inventory.  Numbers do not include missiles expended in tests or retired because of reaching the end of their service lives.  Years are fiscal years.

The curves in Figure 1 up to and including FY 2023 are based on Table 1 of Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program,” April 27, 2018, and the corresponding tables in earlier versions of this report dating back to 2011.[2]

The blue curve in Figure 1 shows the number of Block IB interceptors in inventory.   In September 2015, it was reported that the Department of Defense’s planned to buy a total of 396 Block IBs.[3]  Reaching a total buy of 396 would require delivery of 34 Block IBs beyond O’Rourke’s projection for FY 2023, so I assume deliveries of Block IBs ceases in FY 2024 after the 396th missile is delivered.   The numbers of Block IBs assumed to be expended in tests are the actual numbers through FY 2017; beyond that one test per year is assumed.

I have not seen a figure for the Block IB service life.  As noted above, the Block IA service life was recently extended to 12 years.  I assume a service life of 15 years for the Block IB in Figure 1.  It is possible that a decision could be made to procure more than 396 Block IBs – such a decision would both increase the peak number of Block IBs and likely also extend the time they remain in service.

The red curves in Figure 1 show the numbers of Block IIA interceptors in inventory.  Up to 2023, the number of Block IIAs is from O’Rourke.  Beyond that, I make low, middle and higher projections.  All three projections  assume a 15 year service life (the officially announced figure is 12 years).

Low projection:  An April 2016 GAO report stated the United States planned to procure 351 SM-3 Block IIA missiles.[4] This projection assumes deliveries of 24 interceptors per year until a total of 351 are delivered, which would occur in FY 2036. This curve makes it clear that either there will be a successor missile to the IIA or it must continue to be delivered past 2036.

Middle projection:  This assumes spending on Block IIA deliveries starting in FY 2024 is approximately equal to the cost of combined Block IB and Block IIA deliveries in FY 2022.  MDA projects 37 Block IB and 15 Block IIA deliveries in FY 2022.  Assuming the IIA costs about twice as much as the Block IB, this is equivalent to about 33 Block IIAs per year.  Deliveries are assumed through FY 2040.

Higher projection:  This assumes that, beyond 2023, Block IIA interceptors are delivered at the same rate (52 per year) that was planned for Block IB Interceptors in the 2020s at the time I wrote the original January 25, 2016 version of this blog post. Deliveries are assumed through FY 2040.

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[1] MDA Director Vice Admiral James D. Syring, written statement, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2016, p. 12.  Available at: http://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/FY17_Written_Statement_HASC_SF_Admiral_Syring_14042016.pdf.

[2] Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report 33745, April 27, 2018 p. 6.  Available at: http://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL33745.pdf.

[3] Jason Sherman, “DOD Reinstates Plan To Buy Nearly 400 SM-3 Block IB Interceptors,” Inside Defense SITREP, September 10, 2015.

[4] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Ballistic Missile Defense System Testing Delays Affect Delivery of Capabilities,” GAO-16-339R, April 18, 2016, p. 45 (slide 32).  Available at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676855.pdf.

Details of Radar Calculations (April 30, 2018)

A reader who was having difficulty reproducing the results of some radar calculations in two posts from 2012 asked if I could put up a post showing how the calculations were carried out in more detail. So I do this below:

RadarRecalculation1

Some of the above numbers come in slightly lower than in the original post, for example 860 km rather than 870 km.  Perhaps rounding off differences?

RadarRecalculation2

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.