First Aegis Ashore Intercept Test Aborted. Does this Raise Issues for Planned 2015 Deployment Date for the Romanian Aegis Ashore Site? (June 27, 2015)

On Friday (June 26) it was reported that MDA had aborted an intercept test of the Aegis Ashore system following a failure of the target missile.  Although not stated by MDA, the aborted test was apparently the one designated FTO-02 Event 1 (FTO-02 E1). According to the March 2015 prepared statement by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, FTO-02 E1 was to “…provide critical data needed for my assessment of Aegis Ashore’s capability to defend Europe as part of the President’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).


FTO-02 E1 Mission Patch. Available at, but it’s sold out.

Background on Aegis Ashore Testing

Under President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach, Aegis Ashore sites were to become operational in Romania in 2015 and in Poland In 2018. The initial plan (2010) was that these two European deployments would be supported by a series of seven Aegis Ashore flight tests, including five intercept tests, conducted at the Aegis Ashore Test facility in Kauai Hawaii. According to that plan, shown schematically in the GAO figure below, all of these tests would have been completed by the end of 2015, paving the way for the activation of the Romanian Aegis Ashore site that same year.


Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness (June 16, 2015)

This is an updated list (previous version was January 16, 2014) of claims by U.S. government officials about the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system. It adds four additional claims (#29, #30, #31, and #32).

(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.


Saudi Arabia Shoots Down a Scud? June 6, 2015.

Saudi Arabia is claiming that it used two Patriot missiles to shoot down a Scud ballistic missile launched from Yemen early in the morning of June 6. The Patriot battery was likely located at the King Khalid Air Force Base, which is about 100 km from the nearest point in Yemen. It seems likely that either the Airbase or the nearby city of Khamis Mushait was target of the attack. If this report is correct (and this seems like a very big if), I believe this would make Saudi Arabia only the second or third country to claim to have shot down a ballistic missile with a range as long as a Scud (a baseline Scud has a range of about 300 km) in an actual attack, and possibly the only one to actually successfully do so.


Can the GMD System Defend Against a Chinese Attack? Three Answers (sort of). June 5, 2015.

The most interesting information to come out of a Congressional Hearing sometimes is contained in the responses to written questions submitted by members of the Congressional Committee.  Usually you have to wait until the full hearing is printed up by the Government Printing Office to see these questions and answers but frequently the answers are worth waiting for.  Here’s one example from the March 25, 2014 House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Ballistic Missile Defense, in which Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Representative Mike Rogers asks three witnesses whether or not the U.S. national missile defense system could defend the United States against a (accidental or unauthorized) Chinese ballistic missile attack.  To summarize their responses: (1) It’s classified; (2) It’s complicated (and classified); and (3) No, it’s not technically financially feasible to defeat a full-scale Chinese attack, but the defense would be employed to defend against a limited attack from China (or from anywhere else).

The three witnesses were Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Strategic Command, and Elaine M. Bunn, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.

Representative Rogers asked Admiral Syring and General Mann, “The National Missile Defense Policy Act of 1999 requires that we deploy national missile defenses capable of defending the United States from ‘‘accidental or unauthorized’’ ballistic missile attack, among other attacks. Can you please tell me, are we protected from an accidental or unauthorized ballistic missile attack from a Chinese ballistic missile submarine, which, as you know, the Chinese are now deploying? If not, when will we?” (Another way to view these questions is: “When will be able to defend ourselves against the most survivable portion of China’s nuclear deterrent?)

Admiral Syring’s response is printed as: “The information referred to is classified and is retained in the committee files.”

General Mann’s response is somewhat more expansive, but still ultimately relies on classification: “It is difficult to provide a specific assessment. The Ballistic Missile Defense System is not designed to counter peer or near-peer ballistic missile threats. The level of residual capability to defend against such an incident would be influenced by the degree of indications and warnings, the location of the launch and target impact area, and the accessibility of sensors and interceptors. Upon request, further details could be provided via a classified session or paper.”

Representative Rogers asked Secretary Bunn a somewhat different question: “From a policy perspective, can you please help me understand why we deploy missile defenses to protect our aircraft carriers from Chinese ballistic missiles but we do not deploy missile defenses to protect our cities from Chinese nuclear missiles?”

Her response: “We have the capability to protect our aircraft carriers from ballistic missiles in order to ensure freedom of action and the ability to project power around the globe to protect U.S. interests. The DOD is committed to ensuring defense of the U.S. homeland against limited long-range missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. With regard to China and Russia, our homeland missile defenses are not designed to counter their advanced long-range missile capabilities because defending against the quantity and quality of their ICBMs would be technologically impractical and cost prohibitive. We remain confident that Chinese and Russian ballistic missile attacks on the U.S. homeland are deterred by other means. Despite not being capable of coping with large-scale Chinese or Russian missile attacks, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system would be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches from any source.”