“Iran has direct intent to deliver and make operational an ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] capability and they are doing it not only through their missile launch activity but through their space launch activity.” – Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
In testimony on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves was questioned by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s (SAC) Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on MDA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request, Chaired by Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama.
Declaration of Iran’s intent for an ICBM capability that would threaten the United States of America, force functions addressing a more defended U.S. homeland, with additional basing of additional interceptors in the lower 48 and discrimination sensors facing East. Yes, the United States homeland ballistic missile defense capability and capacity is highly cable of defending all 50 states against a very limited ballistic missile strike today from either North Korea or Iran, but not both. Further, ballistic missile trajectories from North Korea and Iran are not just limited to coming over the North Pole, with the reality of trajectories coming over the South Pole that will need to also be defended against. But all states are not equally defended, as Hawaii and Florida against North Korea today, are less defended than the majority of the United States. With Iran as a future ICBM threat, the East Coast is less defended because of the long distances the GBIs must travel from Alaska, which results in less battlespace and fewer shoot-look-shoot opportunities against the threat missiles. This same rational can be stated about the Southern States being defended against ICBMs going over southern trajectories.
“Today, as a reminder, the current ballistic missile defense system does protect us, the homeland, from threats from North Korea and Iran, but as the Iranian threat along with the North Korean threat becomes more complex, as far as what they present to the ballistic missile defense system, our system needs to be upgraded to meet that challenge.” – Lt. Gen. Greaves
The U.S. needs to be ahead of this threat with multiple site basing of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system and a future under-layer system in the lower 48 with more Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) capacity numbers with the upcoming Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) deployed at the same time as the planned additional 20 GBIs in Alaska in 2023. The U.S. needs to get our full GMD capacity close to 100 interceptors with multiple bases in the lower 48 by 2023.
To make these interceptors and battlespace as effective and efficient as possible, the U.S. needs additional homeland discrimination sensor capability directed towards the East and South. This discrimination capability should be a space-based constellation, as full coverage can be done with a mixture of terrestrial-based sensors, but terrestrial systems will always have inherent gaps due to physics. A space-based sensor capability would provide a capability for multiple missions and help get ahead of other advancing threats like hypersonic missiles as well as ICBMs from all trajectories.
In respect to the upcoming underlayer, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor will be validated for the European Phased Adaptive Approach’s (EPAA) Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania. Additionally, the SM-3 Block IIA can provide an underlayer of defense for the GMD system for the 50 United States of America and American Territories. We have to go forward fast with the next SM-3 Block IIA test to provide the European layer of Defense as promised, bolster defense capabilities for Guam, Hawaii, and Japan from North Korea and we have to test this interceptor against an ICBM target rapidly, to validate its capabilities to be able to be ahead of these threats by 2020 at the minimum.
“It [SM-3 Block IIA] is an extremely capable interceptor, as part of the Aegis Weapon System, it is even more capable than the IB or the IA… The missile itself has flown successfully 4 out of 5 times. It has flown past the point where the incident occurred. We exonerated most of the boosters, booster and kill vehicle stages, and as far as the flight test, a number of very very significant achievements were accomplished during that flight test. We were able to demonstrate engage-on-remote using a separated sensor to collect data, engagement quality data back to the Aegis weapon system to control that missile. We were able to verify that we could launch safely from Aegis Ashore, which is a tremendous item that Romania, Poland, and potentially the Japanese if they follow through with their Aegis Ashore purchases, are concerned about, so that was very successful. The missile, the component that we are concerned about has flown successfully 9 out of 10 times, so as of now I am not concerned that is a true design issue and we are following through to identify the problem and correct it. And the next test will be before the end of this calendar year.” – Lt. Gen. Greaves
Also, importantly addressed during the SAC hearing was the role the F-35 could play in ballistic missile defense, which would be a phenomenal capability that MDA did not pay for but could still contribute greatly to its mission. The F-35 could use its Distributed Aperture System (DAS), a 360-degree sensor system, to detect, track, and provide fire control for missile defense assets or even for its own interceptors, with a modified Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The F-35 is and will be deployed in most of the Combatant Commands (Pacific, Europe, and Central) where the ballistic missile threats are located and would originate.
“We see that deployed capability as, if not a game changer, then a significant contributor to future ballistic missile defense capability. As I was talking with the Undersecretary for Policy, Secretary Rood, he suggested and I immediately agreed with him that just about any AOR [Area of Responsibility] that we would need to deploy to mitigate a conflict, platforms such as the F-35 will be present…. We’ve been working with the Air Force for at least the last few months and then we did a test with them a few years ago on an air platform to demonstrate that capability. The concept is that any sensor and any shooter connected with our command and control battle management system to mitigate some or part of the threat. So, those platforms are likely to be where the conflict is in significant numbers and the opportunity we have is to leverage, as an example that sensor capability, integrate it with other sensors in BMDS sensors and provide engagement quality information to the interceptors. So, it is a tremendous potential that we are going after.” – Lt. Gen. Greaves