Last Friday afternoon, October 11, the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Mark Esper, announced the follow on U.S. missile defense deployment to the September 26th Patriot Battery and Sentinel Radars deployment to Saudi Arabia, which now will be the most comprehensive missile defense layered land-based capability ever deployed rapidly by the United States. A first time integrated missile defense capability of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), two Patriot batteries, Sentinel radars along with other missile defense systems forward deployed together that will have integrated shoot down capabilities in the low end of space, upper atmosphere, middle, and lower atmosphere and all the way down to a 360 degree Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) and cruise missile defense for the defense of the Saudi Arabian base that U.S. aircraft and U.S. troops will be deployed to as announced by Secretary Esper. This critical and vital asset of a new and additional air power projection base in the Middle East adds depth and breadth to the existing U.S. operating air power projection bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that are both directly across the Arabian Sea and as close as 100 km from Iran. This deployment further enhances and bolsters up deterrence against Iran, adds critical stability to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and prevents an escalation by the Gulf Coalition Council (GCC) states to engage in a conflict with Iran. The acceptance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to bring additional U.S. forces into their nation, after previously requesting them to leave in 2003, is a tremendous statement to Iran and the GCC.
“In response to continued threats in the region, I’ve ordered the deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of two additional fighter squadrons and supporting personnel, along with additional Patriot and THAAD [terminal high-altitude area defense] air and missile defense batteries. Taken together with other deployments I’ve extended or authorized within the last month, this involves about 3,000 United States forces. In fact, in response to Iranian provocation since May, the U.S. has deployed in array of additional capabilities to the region, including airborne early warning aircraft squadrons, maritime patrol aircraft squadrons, Patriot air and missile defense batteries, B-52 bombers, a carrier strike group, amphibious transport dock, unmanned aircraft, and engineering and support personnel. This has involved the deployment of about 14,000 additional U.S. forces to the region. The U.S. military has on alert additional Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force units to quickly provide increased capability in the region, if necessary.” – Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, October 11, 2019.
Adaptation to bring all these specific land-based U.S. Army missile defense systems together, specifically THAAD and Patriot, to be integrated has been previously asked for by the U.S. Forces Korea Commander in a March 2018 Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) request, which is in still in process with the Missile Defense Agency using the current THAAD and Patriot systems and capabilities to best leverage for a more capable, more efficient, and larger defended area. MDA recently tested the THAAD-Patriot integration in the Pacific, on August 30, 2019, to validate and prove the capability for the JEON. The Army Future Forces Command, along with its Cross Functional Team (CFT) on missile defense, are leading with a future solution to connect the Army’s Air and Missile Defense systems in full integration and interoperability with the IAMD Battle Command System (IBCS). IBCS is projected to be deployed in 2022 with the Lower-Tier Air-and-Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) 360 degree radar and new Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) for cruise/UAV/drone defense. The United States only pure 360 degree cruise missile defense capability – is comprised of National Advanced Surface-to-Surface Missile System (NASAMS), Avengers, and Sentinel Radars – exists in Washington D.C. and is manned by the United States National Guard to defend the National Capital Region. The United States has also acquired two Iron Dome Battery’s from Israel for future mortar, rocket, and cruise missile defense, but these batteries still have development time before being put in deployment with U.S. systems. As a result of future systems not yet being proven and matured for combat, U.S. ingenuity and adaptation to create a 360 degree defense design with current Patriot units and Sentinel Radars is being deployed in the Middle East.
The Secretary of Defense’s mandate to put critical air defense and air power projection capabilities and troops in Saudi Arabia makes this integration of THAAD, Patriot, and Sentinel the leading edge of a layered 360 degree defense in the world. This rapid deployment of U.S. integrated missile defense systems will also serve as an existing combat capability in best using current systems to provide the best layered 360 defense design and leveraging the best sensors with the best shooters for the best efficiency to our hosting nation of Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries that have these same systems and are challenged to integrate them.
What is exciting to see is the extraordinary circumstances that are forcing integration of our nation’s missile defenses for the betterment of defending our forces and our allies forward.