Quick Highlights of Today’s Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Ballistic Missile Defense (March 22, 2018)

Quick highlights of the March 22 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ballistic missile defense based on the video of the hearing and MDA Director Lt. General Greaves’ prepared statement.

(1) Only four senators asked questions. Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Senator Fischer (R), Ranking Member Senator Donnelly (D), Senator Cotton (R) and Senator Sullivan (R).  So not a lot of questions.

(2) The Missile Defense Review (MDR, formerly BMDR) still has some issues to be worked through, according to John C. Rood, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.  He would not commit to it being done in April but said it would be in the next few months.

(3) The Aegis Ashore facility in Poland, originally scheduled to be operational by the end of 2018, will not be operational until at least 2020. According to General Greaves, the delay is due to “an unsatisfactory rate of construction progress.”

(4) MDA plans to test an Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor against an ICBM range target by the end of calendar year 2021, as required by the FY-2018 NDAA.

(5) MDA plans to reach 64 deployed GBI interceptors in 2023. Beyond the new silo field, MDA plans to build two additional silos and buy six additional GBIs so as to be able to maintain 64 operational GBIs at all times. In response to Senator Sullivan, General Greaves said that the 2023 date could not be moved up without risking the same sort of problems and delays encountered in the initial deployment of GBIs.

(6) Senator Cotton strongly pushed General Greaves on the possibility of deploying hit-to-kill boost-phase interceptors on unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs). General Greaves agreed that this approach could be effective against North Korea but not Russia or China but that MDA was only at a “technology development” phase for such an approach.

(7) There was some additional information on testing schedules for the GBI and Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptors that I will summarize in another post.

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