Last Wednesday, Iran test fired a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) and last Thursday, North Korea test fired two KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). Both nations intended to send a strategic and calculated message to their respective regions and the United States while unbeknownst competing with each other for attention and focus on the world stage for pre-positioning in their upcoming negotiations with the United States and its allies. To quell it, last Friday, Israel and the U.S. completed an intercept test campaign in Alaska, that resulted in three out of three successful intercepts, for the Arrow 3 missile defense interceptor that can negate the Shahab-3 MRBM and the KN-23 SRBM.
Iran tested the Shahab-3, which has been operational since 2003, from its southern coast and it traveled 1,100 km before landing east of Tehran. This Iranian show and tell show demonstrates to the U.S., its allies, and Israel a vast arsenal of layered threats of ranges from ballistic missiles, to cruise missiles, and to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which it has been using operationally. Unlike North Korea, who claims advanced capability on their linear and directional KN-23 SRBMs, Iran has far more advanced and technical engineering demonstrations in their systems engineering of an integrated missile and UAV arsenal to include SRBMs.
This behavior of non-peers highlights the challenges for missile defense in the Middle East, Europe, and the Pacific for point defenses of major air bases that are key for air power projection, air operational centers, and central logistical hubs which are being stressed because they must defend against a myriad of air breathing threats, that include 360 degree UAVs and cruise missiles, to ballistic missiles, and in the near future hypersonic missiles.
Today, the U.S. has the only platform, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ship, in the world with all the capabilities integrated on board an over 500 foot long vessel to defend against all of these threats. Aegis BMD ships are mobile and are placed in crisis situations around the world as needed as they are off the waters of Iran and North Korea. There is an upcoming Missile Defense Review (MDR) study due soon on the conversion of all 87 Aegis destroyer ships within ten years to be fully missile defense capable and a common baseline to enable launch and engage on remote and integration. These ships are constantly deployed to patrol the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea, East China Sea, and the Sea of Japan to provide defense against these Iranian and North Korea capabilities that can threaten U.S. allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Israel, Europe, and the Far East.
Israel has co-developed with the United States, who has invested over $5 billion on Israeli missile defense systems, the best multi-layered fixed point defense capability in the world to defend itself from threats in the Middle East. This layered system includes the Iron Dome for rockets and short-range missiles, David’s Sling for short-range missiles and long-range rockets, to Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 which defend against short- to medium-range ballistic missiles like the Shahab-3 MRBM.
The United States is working on a fixed site missile defense capability to be ready by 2023 in an integrated system with the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS)connecting the new Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) radar and the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) to leverage U.S. Army air defense assets and capabilities. U.S. future fixed site composite point missile defenses not only have to be fully integrated across services, leveraging the best shooter with the best sensors, they must be integrated across all the domains of ground, sea, air, space, and cyber. They too have to be offense and defense combined to provide the best defense and the best deterrent against an overmatch of capacity.
This has got our attention.