Missile Defense of ArabiaOctober 2, 2018
Yesterday, Iran launched to its west six ballistic missiles into Syria. The Iranian backed Houthis also claimed their second long distance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attack yesterday, which was unsuccessful on the Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To the north, across the Arabian Gulf, there are thousands of Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in Iran facing the Arabian Peninsula. Most relevant and concerning is Iran continues to launch its ballistic missiles on Riyadh from the southern Arabian Peninsula, with the Houthis in Yemen. These Iranian ballistic missiles that are being intercepted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are targeting Riyadh the capital of Saudi Arabia and also have the range to strike Abu Dhabi the capital of UAE and Doha the capital of Qatar. The GCC countries and the United States forces in the Arabian Peninsula are faced with a 360-degree ballistic missile threat, along with air breathing UAVs today from Iran.
The active defense solution of the 360 threat from Iran requires persistent overhead and ground-based sensors to be integrated and fused at a common Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) and shared amongst the partner nations to deconflict airspace and put forward fire control solutions for the best shooters available from across the nations and services. It’s a team effort of allocating resources and working together to best use the limited number of shooters for efficiency and increasing capacity, by not wasting unnecessary interceptor shots and being on the same air force power projection team to strike these launching sites and platforms.
The United States has focused on its linear directional Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) integration, driven by the North Korean threat coming south over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula and now must complement with a focus on Patriot and Short-Range Air and Missile Defense integration and most important the 360 degree capability of these fixed point defenses for Air Force bases, which Patriot systems are deployed globally to defend. The United States Army is developing the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment-2 (IFPIC-2) with the Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) and the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS), radar but that is at least five years away from operational deployment. The only active 360 U.S. Army air defense system is the National Advanced-Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) that is cued by a Sentinel 360 radars, which are defending the Washington, D.C. National Capital Region, operated by the 263rd National Guard. The Patriot system does have instant capability of turning its radars, remotely placing some of its launchers in non-linear directions, and paired with the recent upgrades of the Patriot system to match the performance of the Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor will have some capability to do 360-degree defense. Allocating Patriot Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) limited and expensive resources to negate exponentially cheaper air breathing threats is an inefficient way to negate the threat while assuming significant risk.
Due to the growing expanding threat from Iran, which will further accelerate as a response to U.S. pressure, there is an abundance of missile defense capability being acquired, operationalized, and actively deployed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular, to intercept ballistic missiles and air breathing targets. GCC countries such as Kuwait and Qatar, because of Iran’s actions, are actively becoming more missile defense capable with an abundance of systems in Qatar’s case that are soon to be operational. These wealthy GCC countries, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, are not fully integrated with each other or with the United States capability in the region, which would make this GCC team be the most efficient, the most effective, and the most capable that they could be against Iran who can strike today all of their capital cities. Creating trust to share each other’s sensor information with filters, to include the United States, for a shared common air picture against a common threat through the existing Link 16 is paramount and critical for the best defense of the region and deterring Iran’s strategy. Establishing national Air and Space Operations Centers (AOCs) and GCC CAOCs within these countries and exercising those capabilities together so they can best defend their national territory and give them more options and exponentially increase their capacity and capability.
Standing between and separating them is a significant rift between Qatar, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE that compounds the trust, the integration, and team challenges that exist for the GCC on whole and on the common defense of the GCC, to include the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability against the common threat of Iran. This will take U.S. leadership at the highest level to facilitate and bring together the GCC nations to work out their disputes and then work with each other. The opportunity is now as the United States withdraws some of its missile defense capacity out of this region and Iran seizes the opportunity by increasing its missile threat in intent and capability to the region; integrated air and missile defense in exercise, linkage, and IAMD capability can bring these three GCC countries together and be a foundational starting block to heal and move on from the rift. There are two IAMD major exercises that include GCC participation in the CENTCOM IAMD AOR; one in UAE at their IAMD Center in Abu Dhabi and the Air and Missile Defense Exercise (AMDX) that is run twice a year out of the Al Udeid Air Force Base at the CAOC in Qatar. These are the starting blocks that need persistent participation inclusive to all of the GCC that will develop the team to best provide the best missile defense for the region.
MDAA has been on the Arabian Peninsula this past week, with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and their partnership with the United States to facilitate and emphasize the GCC team actions for a collective integrated air and missile defense mission to keep the 51 million people of their region, their tribes, and their territories safe.
Trust is the single biggest factor to making teams great.
The GCC is one Team with many tribes that needs to be great.