Ballistic Missile Defense: How Did Iron Dome Perform in the Recent Attacks? How Does this Compare to Previous Uses? (November 29, 2012)

About an hour and half after the cease fire at 9:00 pm on November 21 2012, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released an announcement with some details on the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and on the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system in countering them.[1]  Here are figures from that announcement, which start with the beginning of the attacks on November 14 and goes up to the time of the cease fire:


November 8, 2012: The Mystery of the Cost of the NAS Report’s Proposed GMD-E National Missile Defense System, Part II: What Do the NAS GMD-E System Costs Include?

As discussed in Part I (November 4, 2012) of this post, Figure 4-1 of the National Academy of Sciences Report summarizes its conclusions about the cost of the various ballistic missile defense alternatives the Report considers. In particular, Figure 4-1 purports to show that NAS Report’s proposed new GMD-E national missile defense (NMD) system could be developed, procured and operated for 20 years for billions of dollars less than simply completing and operating the current Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) NMD system. Part I of this post showed that the NAS overestimates the cost for the current GMD system by about $2.5 billion because it double counts operation and sustainment (O&S) costs. Even corrected for this error, however, the NAS Report’s Figure 4-1 would still show that its proposed GMD-E system is less expensive than simply completing the current GMD system.

This post (Part II) focuses on showing two things:

(1) That the costs shown in NAS Report’s Figure 4-1 are only for the east coast site of its proposed GMD-E system, not the complete system;


(2) When the costs of the full GMD-E system and the time required to build it are taken into account, deploying and operating the NAS Report’s proposed GMD-E system will actually cost much more than simply completing and operating the current GMD system.


Ballistic Missile Defense: 2 X-Band Radars, Early Warning Radar to Qatar. (November 7, 2012)

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency has announced on Monday the possible sale of two complete Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries, including two TPY-2 X-band missile defense radars, to Qatar for a total of $6.5 billion.  The two THAAD batteries would include eight launchers and 150 interceptor missiles. 

The announcement also stated that the sale would include “1 Early Warning Radar (EWR)” although no further details about this radar were provided.

Given the sale announced at the beginning of 2012 of two THAAD batteries to the UAE (including two TPY-2 radars), and recently announced plans to deploy a U.S. TPY-2 radar to Qatar, this brings the total planned number of TPY-2 radars for this small part of the Middle East to five.




November 4, 2012: The Mystery of the Cost of the NAS Report’s Proposed GMD-E National Missile Defense System, Part I: Double Counting Sustainment Costs

Perhaps the most significant recommendation in the recent National Academy of Sciences’ Report on ballistic missile defense is its Major Recommendation Five.[1]  In part, this recommendation calls for replacing the currently deployed Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) of the Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system with new short-burn time interceptors, which it refers to as GMD-E interceptors (the “E” stands for “evolved”). Initially 30 of these GMD-E interceptors would be deployed in silos at a new site in the North East United States.  Subsequently 30 additional new GMD-E interceptors would replace the existing 30 GBIs (26 in Alaska and 4 in California) on the West Coast. In order to carry out testing and sustainment for this deployed force of 60 GMD-E interceptors, a total of 100 new interceptors would be procured.[2] This new “CONUS-Based Evolved GMD” system, as the NAS Report refers to it, would also involve the deployment of 5 new X-Band radars (referred to as GBX radars) alongside existing early warning radars. Here we simply refer to the “CONUS-Based Evolved GMD” system as the GMD-E system.

The NAS Report summarizes the cost for a range of alternatives in Figure 4-1 on page 4-2 (This figure also appears in the Report Summary as Figure S-2). This figure is reproduced below as Figure 1.

[Note: In this post I use the NAS cost figures, which are based on numbers for FY 2010.  I do not attempt to account for things which have happened since then.  For example, since 2010 test failures have led to both an increase in the total buy of GBI interceptors from 52 to 57 and increased testing costs. Thus future GMD costs will be higher than in the budgets shown here. However, such costs increases are likely more than offset by the fact that two or three years of spending that the NAS Report counts as future costs are now “sunk” costs.]


Figure 1.  Figure 4-1 from NAS study.

As the caption states, Figure 4-1 shows the 20 year lifecycle costs (LCCs) for various missile defense alternatives considered in the NAS report. The 20 year LCCs start in FY 2010 and are given in FY 2010 dollars.  The first section of the figure shows the NAS costs for five boost-phase systems, the middle section shows midcourse defense systems, including both the GMD and the proposed GMD-E systems, and the last section shows costs for two terminal defenses, Patriot PAC-3 and THAAD.

The first two columns of the middle, midcourse section compare the cost of completing and operating for 20 years the current GMD system to the cost of developing, procuring and operating their proposed new GMD-E system, also for 20 years. 

Surprisingly, the NAS Report’s Figure 4-1 purports to show that this new GMD-E system can be developed, procured and operated for 20 years at a lower cost than completing the current GMD system and operating it for 20 years. 

Why is this surprising?  Because the GMD system is nearly complete. Only the last 12 GBI interceptors remain to be bought.  Yet according to the NAS Report, the development and procurement costs associated with deploying these last 12 interceptor are billions of dollars greater than the cost of developing and deploying a much larger number of their proposed new, more capable GMD-E interceptors. How is this possible?

In this and the next several posts, I will attempt to assess and explain this NAS Report finding. It is a complicated subject, and so I will break it up into several posts. In this first part, I focus on only two things:

(1) Showing how the NAS Panel obtained their projected cost figures for the GMD system, as shown in their Figure 4-1;


 (2) Showing that they double count Operations and Sustainment (O&S) costs for the GMD system, leading to an error of about two and a half billion dollars.