Ballistic Missile Defense: More on X-Band Radar Locations (September 27, 2012)

The recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense indicates that in addition to deploying Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, the Missile Defense Agency would like to deploy a TPY-2 X-band radar at each site.  Specifically the report states (in its appendix on System Cost Methodology) that: “As part of the Phased Adaptive Approach for the European missile defense system, MDA has proposed that each interceptor site location include a forward-based (FBM) AN/TPY-2 X-band radar system.”[1]  If true, this statement has several interesting possible implications about the MDA’s radar plans.


A TPY-2 radar undergoing environment  testing. (Picture source: Missile Defense Agency)


Ballistic Missile Defense: Radar Range Calculations for the AN/TPY-2 X-Band and NAS Proposed GBX Radars (September 21, 2012)

By George Lewis and Theodore Postol

While the recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report, “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense,” doesn’t cite any specific numbers for radar ranges, their figure 5-8, shown below, shows ranges of about 1,500 km for the current AN/TPY-2 X-band radars and 3,000 km for their proposed stacked TPY-2 radars (which they refer to as GBXs).  However, we believe that these ranges are much too large, particularly for discrimination, which is what the proposed GBX radars are for.  To provide a basis for discussion, here we provide our own estimates for the ranges of these radars, with all our parameters and assumptions spelled out.

Figure 5-8 from NAS Report, showing ranges of TPY-2 radars in Turkey and Japan and of stacked TPY-2 (GBX) radars in Britain, Greenland, North Dakota and Cape Cod. This figure shows ranges of about 1,500 km for the TPY-2 radars and 3,000 km for the stacked TPY-2 radars.


Ballistic Missile Defense: Radars Proposed for Midcourse Discrimination by National Academy of Sciences Report Are Far too Small. (September 20, 2012)

George Lewis and Theodore Postol

The September 11, 2012 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense,” calls for deploying new “stacked” X-band radars alongside four existing early warning radars in order to provide a discrimination capability for the current U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense (NMD) system.  The report also calls for abandoning plans to mothball the Sea-Based X-band (SBX) radar and to replace the 30 currently deployed Ground-Based Interceptors with fifty new high acceleration interceptors, including some at a site in the northeastern United States.


Figure 1.  The drawings in the upper left of the figure show the relative physical sizes of the Clinton Administration’s proposed GBR x-band discrimination and the stacked x-band radar proposed by the NAS Report.  The lower rectangles compare the physical size and modules of the current TPY-2 X-band radar, the NAS’s proposed stacked X-band radar, Clinton’s proposed GBR.


Ballistic Missile Defense: NAS Report: Back to the Clinton Administration’s Approach to Ballistic Missile Defense (September 19, 2012)

Early press coverage of the National Academy of Sciences September 11, 2012 report Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense  in Comparison to Other Alternatives has emphasized that the Report calls for scrapping President Obama’s approach to missile defense and returning to the approach of the George W. Bush Administration.   Thus UPI headlines its story “Panel Urges Return to Bush Missile Defense” and the New York Times says “the panel suggested that President Obama shift course by expanding a system he inherited from President George W. Bush and by setting aside the final part of an antimissile strategy he unveiled in 2009.”[1]  In fact, the approach proposed by the NAS panel is a repudiation of the missile defense strategy of the George W.  Bush Administration, and is a return to the missile defense approach of the Clinton Administration.  In particular, it moves away from the Bush Administration’s goal of building a single integrated global missile defense system back to the traditional approach of using separate systems for national and theater defenses.


National Academy Of Sciences: Navy Aegis Radars in EPAA Are Just Communications Relays. (September 13, 2011)

Although it is not explicitly spelled out in their report (at least I didn’t see it), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Study on “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense” apparently concluded that the only role for the Navy’s Aegis ships in the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is to serve as launchers and communication relays for interceptors.

A U.S. Navy Communications Relay System (U.S. Navy Photograph)

In response to a question about the 2011 Defense Science Board (DSB) Report’s conclusion that the Aegis SPY-1 radar was inadequate to support the EPAA, here’s what David Montague, co-chair of the NAS panel had to say at a telephone press conference announcing the NAS Report’s release:[1]


“What the DSB said was the SPY-1 radar is not capable enough to do  — support missile intercepts in – in European deployment , which we agree with.

SPY -1 is not used for that purpose in the European deployment.  A — a – subject that has apparently has escaped some people’s read here.

The SPY-1 radar is used only for two things.

One is to communicate with the interceptor, because the X-band radar is used for, what we call and what the MDA calls, engage on remote.  That means all the tracking data and information that is used to launch an interceptor is – comes from the X-band radar.  All the SPY-1 in – in Aegis Ashore does is communicate back and forth with the interceptor.”

Actually, I’m pretty sure the authors of the DSB report understood the concept of engage on remote when they made the following statements:

“The current Aegis shipboard radar is inadequate to support the objective needs of the EPAA mission.” (p. 26)

“Radars of much more substantial operating range than the current radar on the Aegis ships will be necessary for the full realization of a robust regional defense.” (p. 8)

These comments suggest that the DSB sees the inadequate range of the Aegis radars as a problem to be addressed, rather than simply ignored. (In particular, the coverage maps in the DSB report assume a next-generation naval radar, the characteristics of which were not specified in the report.)

[1] “The National Research Council Holds a Teleconference on Missile Defense Report, CQ Transcriptions, September 11, 2012.

NAS Report: One Out of Four Isn’t Bad (September 12, 2012)

While there will be certainly be much more said on this site about the recent National Academy of Sciences Report on “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense,” here I just want to briefly comment on a somewhat remarkable  figure provided by the NAS via (the National Research Council ) to the New York Times.  The figure, shown below, appears on the Times website here


While I understand the point this figure is trying to make, about the advantage of having multiple intercept opportunities, it nonetheless shows only one of four intercept attempts against an incoming missile succeeding.  The remarkable thing is that, based on the evidence to date, a one-out-of–four success rate is exactly right.  Here are the results of the last eight intercept tests of the U.S. national Missile Defense System, in which the incoming warhead was killed only twice:





Wideband Imaging Radars Summary Table (September 10, 2012)

The table below summarizes the main characteristics (where these are known or can be estimated) of the wide-band imaging radars in the Space Surveillance Network.  See the posts on the individual systems for details.  (Click on the Table for a more legible version)

Space Surveillance Sensors: The Haystack HUSIR Upgrade (September 9, 2012)

The X-band Haystack Long Range Imaging Radar (LRIR) is currently undergoing an upgrade that will add a W-Band (92-100 GHZ) imaging capability for satellites in low earth orbits.  The upgraded system will be known as the Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR).  The W-band capability will provide a bandwidth of 8 GHz, eight times greater than the previous X-band capability, and is expected to be operational in 2013.  The previous X-band capability, which provided an imaging resolution of about 25 cm out to geosynchronous orbit, will be retained and is expected to be back in operation in 2012. 


Installation of the new Haystack antenna (photograph from Lincoln Laboratory 2011 Annual Report, p. 27).


Ballistic Missile Defense: The CE-II Interceptors – Beyond High Concurrency (September 4, 2012)

After putting up my previous post (August 31, 2012) about how the interceptors of the Ground-based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system were deployed before completing a successful intercept test, I came across two figures in a Government Accountability Office  report that dramatically (I think) illustrate the root cause of the current problems with the interceptors.  


The figure above is from (page 16) the April 12, 2012 GAO report “Missile Defense: Opportunity Exists to Strengthen Acquisition by Reducing Concurrency.”  As the GAO has been doing for a number of years, this report criticizes the Missile Defense Agency for having a high degree of concurrency in some of its programs.  The GAO defines concurrency as “overlap between technology development and product development or between product development and production of a system.” According to the GAO, a high degree of concurrency, as illustrated in the upper half of the above figure “often results in performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays and test problems.”  On the other hand, the GAO states that “successful programs” follow a “systematic and disciplined knowledge-based approach” as shown in the lower half of the figure.

In its Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) program, however, the MDA has managed to go far far beyond the above figure’s illustration of high concurrency.  The figure below, from the same GAO report (page 17), shows the program schedule for the GBI’s CE-II kill vehicle. (As a reminder, the CE-II is the second version of the kill vehicle used on the GBI interceptor missile.  The CE-II was needed because in the rush to achieve a GMD operational capability before the end of 2004, the original CE-I version of the kill vehicle was built with obsolescent parts.)


As this chart shows, technology development, product development, and production for the CE-II kill vehicle all started simultaneously.  In fact, although not shown on this chart, deployment of GBIs equipped with the CE-II kill vehicle began in 2008, years before the development of its technology was completed, and about 14 years before the currently planned end of its developmental test program.  Predictably, there have been problems.  The CE-II kill vehicle has a design flaw which was not discovered until its second flight test, more than two years after its deployment began (its first test failed for a different reason, before the design flaw could be revealed).   As a result, in early 2011, its production was suspended until it can successfully complete an intercept test (which will be in 2013 at the earliest), after which the ten currently deployed CE-II GBI interceptors will have to be repaired at a cost currently estimated to be about $18 million each.