Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness (May 20, 2013) (Updated July 10)

Claims by U.S. government officials about the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system. This iteration adds seven additional claims (some old, some new).  In order to facilitate future updates, they are now in chronological rather than reverse chronological order.

(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.


East Coast Interceptor Site: Some Observation’s from this Week’s Congressional Hearings (May 11, 2013)

A possible east coast site for interceptors for the current U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system was the subject of multiple questions at Thursday’s (May 9, 2013) hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Administration and military officials emphasized that the east coast of the United States was already protected by the current GMD system.  They also said that if a decision to deploy such an east coast interceptor site was made, it would take five to seven years to build and would also involve the deployment of a new X-band radar in the eastern United States.

 Senator Mark Udall began by asking Lt. General Richard Formica (Commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, of the U.S. Strategic Command):  “Secretary of Defense Hagel, Admiral Winnefeld and General Jacoby have all said recently that the current ground- based midcourse defense system defends all of the U.S., including the East Coast, against missile threats from both North Korea and Iran. In your capacity as commander within Strategic Command, you represent the warfighter perspective on our missile defense capabilities and requirements. Do you have confidence in 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?”

 General Formica replied: “Yes, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you for the question. 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. “

 Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, added (referring to the additional fourteen interceptors in Alaska that the Administration announced in March): “The East Coast is well-protected as the result of — well, it was protected before the additional — and this additional fourteen provides additional protection both for anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran should that threat develop.”

 In response to a question from Senator Deb Fischer, General Formica stated (referring to the required Environmental Impact Statement) that “depending on the assumptions and how fast the EIS goes, five to seven years” would be needed to deploy an east coast interceptor site, with eighteen to twenty four months of this time needed for the Environmental Impact Statement.   He also estimated that about 500 military and civilian personnel would be required to operate the site.

(A day earlier, in a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Representative Doug Lamborn urged Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring to recommend that President Obama waive the requirement for an environmental impact statement in order to speed up the possible deployment of the east coast site.  Admiral Syring seemed to be unaware that this was possible (and I don’t know if it is either)).

 General Formica also indicated that such a deployment would involve a new X-band radar in the eastern United States:

Senator Fischer:  “OK.  And would such a site benefit from the deployment of an X-band radar on the East Coast?”

General Formica:  “Yes, ma’am.  Back to my point on sensoring and assessment and discrimination capability, an X-band radar, frankly, anywhere east would greatly benefit the threat that I and we in the agency see coming.  And certainly that would be part of it.”


Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System Versions (May 7, 2013)

This post briefly describes the various versions of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Weapon System.  See the post of May 2 for a description of the different versions of the Aegis BMD interceptor missiles.

Aegis BMD 3.0E: The first deployed Aegis BMD capability was the Aegis Long-Range Surveillance and Tracking (LRS&T) capability using the Aegis BMD 3.0E software.  Thus upgrade allowed forward-based Aegis ships to track long-range ballistic missiles and relay this information back for possible use by the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system.   Several Aegis BMD 3.0E destroyers were forward-deployed in the Pacific as part of the initial GMD Limited Operations Capability in September 2004.


Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Interceptors (SM-3, SM-2 Block IV, and SM-6) (May 2, 2012)

The SM-3 is the U.S Navy’s current exo-atmospheric (above-the-atmosphere) ballistic missile defense interceptor.  It is based on the airframe of the SM-2 Block IV extended-range air defense interceptor, including its two solid-fuel rocket stages.  However the SM-3 replaces this missile’s explosive warhead and radar seeker with an additional solid-fuel  third-stage motor and an infrared-homing, hit-to-kill kill vehicle.

SM-3 Block 0 was an initial version built only for testing.  It was similar to the subsequent Block I version but had specific features added for testing, such as pressure gauges in fuel tanks and rocket motors and an “independent flight termination system.”[1]  The Block 0 was used in the first five intercept tests (FM-2 through FM-6).