When Is a Missile Defense “Hit” a “Kill”? MDA Says It’s Classified. (February 14, 2014)

The full transcript of the House Armed Services Committee’s May 8, 2013 hearing on ballistic missile defenses was posted by the Government Printing Office this week.  The responses to written questions from the Committee members contain some interesting new (to me, at least) information:

(1) The distinction between a “hit” and a “kill” now seems to be classified, at least for the Ground-Based Midcourse System’s GBI hit-to-kill interceptors.  (For background on this point, including the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s assessment that he scored the successful FTG-02 intercept test as a ‘hit” but not a “kill”, see my post of October 18, 2012.)  From the transcript, here are questions to MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring:

Mr. COOPER. 16) In tests of the GBI, is a ‘‘hit’’ considered a ‘‘kill’’? Are there any successful intercept tests where a hit would have not equated to a kill of the target?  How do these assumptions impact the reliability of the GMD system?

 Admiral SYRING. [The information referred to is classified and retained in the committee files.]


(2) Some other things that are now apparently classified:

            (a) Whether or not Aegis SM-3 Block IA and IB interceptors deployed on U.S. territory could intercept missiles from Iran. (p. 81) (Comment: MDA has not never stated (as far as I know) that the Block I interceptors were effective against ICBMs, although one has been used to shoot down a satellite.)

            (b) Whether or not Aegis ships or Aegis Ashore are being considered for defense of the U.S. East Coast. (pp. 83 and 84) (Comment: MDA has previously said that all options were under consideration.)

            (c) How the number (fourteen) of additional GBI interceptors to be deployed by 2017 was determined. (p. 83)  (Comment: Probably the fact that there were fourteen additional silos available had something to do with the decision.)

(3) The MDA is developing a new, upgraded version of the CE-II GBI, to be called the CE-II Block I GBI.  (Its full name is apparently “Common Booster Avionics and Obsolescence Design (CBAU/CE-II Block I”).  It is currently scheduled for a first intercept test in FY 2016 and the fourteen additional GBIs announced in March 2013 will be of this type. (p. 87).   (Correction, February 17: changed this point to reflect that the 14 new Block I GBIs will not be the ones deployed by FY 2017 but instead the ones purchased beginning in 2016, and removed point about “fly before you buy”)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

(4) The 1999 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) statement that: “We assess that countries developing ballistic missiles,” including North Korea and Iran, “would also develop various responses to U.S. theater and national defenses … by the time they flight test their missiles,” is also MDA’s current assessment of the missile threat. This was confirmed by Madelyn Creedon, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, by MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, and by Michael Gilmore, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. (pp. 83-84, 85-86, 88)


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