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US Tanker refueler with F35s (Photo by Staff Sgt. Cameron Lewis, US Air National Guard)

Earlier this week, Kim Jong Un hyped North Korean capabilities in a display of yesteryear tactics with a hastily test-launched Hwasong-18 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile mere days after another alarming launch of a short-range ballistic missile into the volatile Sea of Japan. These blatant provocations are undeniably a power projection directed toward the United States in response to the recent triumphant ground based interceptor test which showcased the prowess of increased battle space, reduced shot doctrine of the Ground Based Interceptor’s Capability Enhancement 2, and the incoming NGI (Next Generation Interceptor) —an expressly tailored system specifically designed to thwart the escalating North Korean ICBM threat. 

It is a global issue, it is not a regional issue. North Korea is colluding with China, Russia, and Iran to systematically threaten US and Allied defense capabilities and global power. Specifically, North Korea is investing in mass and producing quantities of ICBMs to overmatch US Missile Defense capacity of its GBI and NGI interceptors. The North Korean ballistic missile threat combined with the technologically advanced systems of China, Russia, and Iran place the US and its Pacific Allies at high risk for reliable integrated missile defense and deterrence. North Korea is using its Missiles to become a regional hegemon over South Korea and Japan. North Korean ICBMs are to keep the United States out of a conflict that may happen in that region. If this happens U.S. extended deterrence of nuclear power for Korea and Japan will be compromised. The only credible off set is US and Allied missile defense. The United States and its Allies have the right solution-sets and we must act now with urgency to re-prioritize our funding and production of viable solutions to these combined threats.

The danger posed by North Korea is rapidly intensifying as they push the boundaries of their ballistic missile capabilities and by accelerating ICBM production aim to overmatch the United States limited missile defense interceptors in numbers and cost. Their strategic intent reaches far beyond regional threats, with demonstrated targeting capabilities encompassing the continental United States. In response to this urgent crisis, the U.S. is actively fortifying its ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities to include its sensors LRDR (Long Range Discrimination Radar), centering efforts on the development of the NGI which would have a minimal shot doctrine and advanced multiple MIRVED intercept capability with the first being out in 2027 at close to 100 million an interceptor. Rightfully a lot of effort is going into non kinetic solutions and left of launch to negate.  Yet, a perilous gap looms large in our defense strategy to negate an overmatch of North Korean ICBMs —a critical deficiency in investment in the BMD spectrum where these missiles are at their most vulnerable- the Boost Phase of North Korean ICBMs lasting only a couple of minutes of a hot, large target slowly accelerating into space that is easy to track and target. 

The capacity and cost-effective solution to this looming problem today is in the realm of boost phase missile defense. In time of “Present Danger” deploying first line fighters such as F-35s with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) is technically feasible on combat patrol above the North Korean Peninsula. High altitude persistent unmanned platforms with long range cheap kinetic interceptors must become a pivotal strategy of neutralizing ICBM threats in their nascent stages. These agile and advanced air platforms can safely hold at standoff ranges and provide boost phase missile defense with unprecedented effectiveness and cost efficiency, to disrupt North Korea’s dangerous cost and capacity overmatch in ICBM production-to-GBI/NGI interceptor ratio. To note the F-35 Lightning II Fighter has already proved the capability of missile defense missions by downing an incoming cruise missile of much lower heat and profile than an ICBM in Boost Phase from Yemen in Israeli air space. Another credible alternative, we have a proven ability of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) carrying AMRAAM in combat patrol. To defeat the Ballistic Missile threat and the Hypersonic Glide Threat requires a high altitude persistent platform with a longer range air-to-air cheaper interceptor, this should be the easiest and cheapest solution to act on for kinetic effects. 

To get there, the North Korean situation demands an immediate and drastic shift in focus. Intercepting threats during their boost phase of flight, when they are most vulnerable, must be catapulted to the forefront of our priorities as it is the most cost effective way forward. This has been explored as early as 1995 with a F-15 and we have done this with chemical lasers with the ABL in 2008 on a 747. The technology today is far superior than it was twenty plus years ago. This necessitates urgent and substantial research and development efforts to ensure that the U.S. not only keeps pace, but surges ahead in global cost-effective defense capabilities. Victory in this struggle mandates a strategic balance from dependence on time-intensive, energy-demanding, and perilous mid-course and terminal-phase intercepts. This is a long range development which has been in the works for a long period of time, but has not been fruitful. Instead we should be emphasizing rapid, fuller deployment of current and tested systems for immediate impact. 

Our nation and our Pacific Allies must seize the initiative with existing cutting-edge technologies to retain our global power and influence. We must work harder and smarter with urgency to resource, produce and field both proven capabilities and disruptive technologies to neutralize these threats with unparalleled effectiveness and decisiveness. 

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.