On Halloween night, far off in the Western Pacific at Wake Island, the United States proved out a ballistic missile defense shield in the defense of a region the size of a lot of countries from multiple missiles of different ranges. This very complex live-firing exercise produced the most realistic warfighting environment ever created by the Missile Defense Agency to test the U.S. regional area defensive systems whose components are deployed around the world in the concept of “layered defense,” which is the stated policy of the United States. Five different actively deployed U.S. regional integrated air and missile defense systems were used and fused in this notable achievement.
What is clearly evident from the success of the test is the tremendous value of the THAAD land-based system and Baseline 9 U.S. Aegis BMD ships coupled through C2BMC. These two systems together provide extremely high reliability and U.S. Combat Commander confidence for regional defenses of Europe, the GCC, Korea, Japan and Israel. The two systems performed together under combat duress with the real operational dynamics of a missed intercept, leveraging three other U.S. missile defense sensor systems to successfully intercept incoming ballistic missiles of different ranges attacking a large region the systems were defending.
The five systems used in the live-firing demonstration were the following; U.S. Army THAAD land based system of sensor and interceptor, U.S. Navy Aegis BMD Baseline 9 Ship, U.S. Air Force SBIRS/DSP Space Satellites, U.S. Air Force C2BMC Command and Control, and two U.S. Army AN/TPY-2 radars, one with the THAAD system and the other in a forward based mode.
The live-fire event showed the reality of chaos for the war fighter and tested system reliability, decision-making and execution of multiple systems across joint services to defend a region in the “fog of war.” The event displayed a complex attack by firing a short-range ballistic missile first, which was successfully intercepted by the THAAD. Compounding the defense in the aftermath of the first intercept’s debris filled environment with an additional launch of a medium-range ballistic missile to the region as well as a target representing a cruise missile attack at the same time on the Aegis BMD Ship. The Baseline 9-equipped Aegis BMD ship, USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) successfully tracked the second missile and launched an SM-3 Block IB interceptor against the threat while tracking and intercepting a cruise missile threat to the ship itself with a SM-2 Block IIIA interceptor. The SM-3 Block IB interceptor launched from the ship failed to intercept. The THAAD Battery on Wake Island continued with its track and C2BMC feeds of the incoming medium-range ballistic missile provided the targeting information to the THAAD interceptor. The THAAD interceptor launched and successfully intercepted the incoming medium-range ballistic missile.
The THAAD system went 2-for-2 intercepting both a short-range and medium-range ballistic missile adding to its 13-for-13 overall recent testing record. The THAAD operates today in Guam for their protection in conjunction with U.S. Aegis BMD ships. The THAAD has several batteries in Fort Bliss, Texas for deployment if needed into Europe, the GCC countries, Korea, Japan and Israel for their protection and defense. It is of note that there are 33 U.S. Aegis BMD capable ships that either are already deployed or could be if mobilized off the coasts of all those regions. There still remains a short fall in the combatant command demands for both THAAD Batteries and Aegis Baseline 9 BMD Ships in their area or responsibility.
This historic, successful live-fire demonstration of regional layered missile defense validates to U.S. Combatant Commanders and the President of the United States the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) Phase 2 and a U.S. mobilized layered defense of Israel and U.S. forward operating bases deployed in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Japan, and Korea.
In making these regions safer than they are today, initiative is needed now in increasing the quantity of both Aegis BMD Baseline 9 ships and THAAD batteries along with C2BMC and their respective interceptors. This should not just be a U.S. initiative to bear the burden and cost for the safety of these regions. It needs to be an Allied joint partnership capacity build-up of these systems specific to their respective regions.
Due adulation, honor and appreciation goes to those from the Missile Defense Agency that engineered and supported the most complex regional live-fire missile defense event.
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