Regardless and inclusive of the bellicose threats from North Korea today on detonating a Hydrogen Bomb over the Pacific.
“Everyone should have the confidence today that we have the strongest defense possible to counter any of these ballistic missile threats.” – RADM Johnny Wolfe
“Over the past ten years, PACOM–enabled by the Department of Defense and specifically the Missile Defense Agency, and also by Congressional budgeting–has built an effective, active defense, and does remain postured to defend the U.S. homeland, allies, and U.S. forces in the field from the current North Korean threat.” – RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery
“I’ll tell you most importantly though, we have a credible current capability to defeat that threat in Korea right now. The U.S. has a short-range capability of sensor and shooter, and the South Korean’s have a very robust capability against that type of threat.” – COL Mark Holler
On Wednesday, MDAA held an education event for the Public – “Defending Against the North Korean Ballistic Missile Threat,” on the top floor of the Hart Senate Office Building overlooking the United States Capitol building in Washington D.C. Presenting and educating at our public event were recent operators/commanders from U.S. Forces in Korea and Pacific Combatant Command with the material developer of the United States ballistic missile defense systems- the Missile Defense Agency. The presenters were Colonel Mark Holler, the recent former Commander of the United States 35thAir Defense Artillery Brigade in South Korea, Rear Admiral (ret) Mark Montgomery, the former Director of Operations at U.S. Pacific Command, and Rear Admiral Johnny Wolfe, representing the Missile Defense Agency – the Program Executive for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense at the Missile Defense Agency.
The public presentation and free flowing open discussion showed the confidence in MDA’s testing, development, and paths forward as well as the confidence in the operational systems to defeat North Korea’s ballistic missile threat today, coming from credible sources.
Here are a few quotes and highlights of Q&A from the three presenters with the full transcripts of the event to be available on Monday September 25 (Link).
“Since December, the (Missile Defense) Agency has performed seven intercept tests in addition to ground tests to prove our capability.” – RADM Johnny Wolfe
“Hitting a ballistic missile, hitting a bullet with a bullet in space is incredibly difficult, but if you look seven times we’ve done it; we continue to show we got the capability and we continue to show both the American people [and] our allies, and as importantly we continue to show our adversary we know how to do this and when we need to use it, it will work.” – RADM Johnny Wolfe
Question on Where to Put Additional Funding for Missile Defense
Jason Suslavich from Senator Dan Sullivan’s Office: “The senate just authorized the second largest GBI capacity increase in history, given the levers of capability, capacity, and reliability, if you had a single dollar to spend extra for the MDA budget, which of those levers would you put it into and specifically what would you put it into in that lever and why?”
RADM Wolfe: “That’s a pretty solid question. You know, I will tell you, I would have to say it depends, but you know as we’ve talked about if you look at the architecture right and you look you’re absolutely right, 44 GBIs by the end of this year, incredibly important to get at just that. But again, I think if you look at the MDA priorities, it really is to understand, when I invest another dollar for reliability or for making sure we can get that capacity – capacity comes in a lot of a lot of flavors right you know being able to have a sensor network that and a discrimination network that helps me reduce the number of interceptors that I might need to launch against any particular threat – that in of itself becomes a capacity group, so that’s why building up the sensor architecture is incredibly important to be able to do that, but of course capacity, when we talk about regional is also important so we look at that and figure out where that right investment is based on where we’re at with all the programs.”
RADM (ret) Montgomery: “I’ll take it over and say that none of us in our job should answer that question without a lot of guidance from the hill and the executive branch of: is our national strategy to shoot down every ballistic missile to enter our country, potentially over our country? That would massively bias us towards the GBI investment if the answer was yes and everything. No first launch investments, right? The next question would be to what degree do you hold certain countries to be adversaries. The next question would be how much initial pain are you willing to accept from a conventional first strike by an adversary. So, you answer four or five questions like that and then you go to MDA and you have to describe the effect you want, but to do that you have to give them a strategic footprint that they’re going to operate in, so it’s a very hard question to you know. If you gave a dollar at the end of a budget cycle, that’s when that question is a great question because at that point you have five things in production, five programs in run, you know which three can absorb an extra dollar and which one has the most COCOM demands are going and that would probably be how I give my extra dollar normally. But if you want to sit back and say really how should we make missile defense investments, you have to set up a strategic framework in which you’re operating missile defense and there’s a broad difference between thinking the only ones you have to shoot down in our nuclear inventory are North Korea and future Iran or china and Russia.”
Question on Missile Defense Agency System Testing
Dominic Kramer from Congressman Joe Courtney’s Office: “I wonder if either of you gentlemen could talk about the strategic implications of testing. Obviously, we’ve seen North Korea ramp up and conduct much more frequent tests because they don’t fear public failure, whereas I think the U.S. has to ask for money from Congress, and you say ‘We have some demonstrated capability,’ but maybe there are some strategic implications from unsuccessful tests. So how do you balance?”
RADM Wolfe: “Let me start off by saying that every test that we do is truly representative and realistic unless we’re trying to prove a specific development capability that’s not part of the overall system. So we do do some of those tests–you don’t always see them as part of flight tests, okay?– Because the way that we architect the system, is we do incremental improvements; we’ll do ground testing, okay? We do a lot of ground testing, we do a lot of integration testing before we do a flight test.”
“Flight tests are extremely expensive. So, I think it’s our responsibility to make sure if we develop the capability, we do that in the most cost-effective way, and the flight test is really at the end to prove the capability that we’ve developed through modeling simulation, through hardware in the loop test, so it is a systems engineering process to get to that point.”
RADM (ret) Montgomery: “I’ll answer the last two questions. First, under force protection, I’d say that Kim Jong-un’s testing program is probably the number one thing that will drive the population into the right place over time, because at some point you have to assess that what he’s doing is a threat to your day-to-day life.”
“On the second one what I’d add is, from a North Korean perspective, they don’t have an oversight mechanism in this right, so they’re not really worried, and this is their national–I mean, I don’t even think we could put an equivalent priority, not even–the moon program in the 1960s doesn’t even approach the fever, and the percentage of discretionary budget that’s applied by the North Koreans to this effort, to the point that it actually affects their actual readiness capability when they are so committed to this effort. So, if you’re that committed, you’re not going to go through an MDA three-month review process after each Nodong failure, otherwise we’d be about eighteen launches behind where we are now. So, I just think it’s a different focus. The oversight is provided by the person making the decisions and, as a result, they’re pressing forward.”
Dominic Kramer: “But for the U.S., are there strategic implications when we do a flight test and it shows that it maybe fails, and that would only increase their opportunity or confidence? Or weaken the confidence of our partners in the region?”
RADM (ret) Montgomery: “I think that’s on the partners. I think we do enough tests, and we’re open and transparent with them. I mean, the Japanese and the Koreans–routinely, our allies observe tests. And if they’re involved with the investment of it, they usually observe them and they’re very detailed, and as a result I think that transparency allows for a system– None of our systems have a PK [Probability of Kill] of 1.0. And we recognize that, and so those things that bite you—that make your probability of kill 0.9—show up in a test. And in fact, a robust testing program that solves problems is going to probably raise the probability of kill for all your weapons systems. So, I think we’re very comfortable with a transparent, open system. And we recognize that the North Koreans aren’t looking to convince anyone. From their point of view, a PK of 0.1 is okay, if it fires, whereas we don’t look at things that way.”
Question on Japan Aegis Ashore
Reporter for Japanese Daily: “My question is to Admiral Wolfe about Japan buying the Aegis Ashore system. Japan is buying that system with, I think, SM-3 Block II missiles. What kind of improvements or new capabilities do we see in that system?”
RADM Wolfe: “Ultimately the decision on where those systems go and what interceptors go in that system is up to Japan.” RADM Wolfe also stated, “Aegis Ashore and the SM-3 brings incredible capability to the country of Japan, and we will continue to support any requests that they get to make sure that, as the final decision is made, we can provide that capability.”
RADM (ret) Montgomery: “”If they go forward with Aegis Ashore, what it’s providing Japan is that integrated defense that’s critical. You need to have the most inexpensive as possible out-of-the-blue defense. You want to keep that cheap because you have to pay for it 365 days a year. A ground-based system gives you that.” RADM (ret) Montgomery also stated, “”This integrated defense is really the next logical step for Prime Minister Abe to provide a long-term integrated defense for his country against a growing North Korean threat.”
“We have to redefine the threat; it is not just ballistic missile defense, but broadly defensive fires, and that’s across three areas: the air-breathing threat (land and air-attack cruise missiles in a peer conflict), the hypersonic threat, and of course the ballistic missile threat.” – RADM (ret) Montgomery
“The challenge over the next five to ten years will be these three defensive fires–how do we get at all three of those? Because if we leave one alone, the adversary will concentrate on that. You can be sure of that. And because of the openness of our budgeting cycle, they’ll know what we left alone.” – RADM (ret) Montgomery
“We sincerely believe, the more missile defense capability in our world, the safer our world will be.”