“Interceptor”, a Netflix original film set to be released on June 3rd, is based off the Sea-Based X-Band Radar that is a critical component operating in the Pacific today defending the United States from North Korean Long Range Ballistic Missiles. The film displays some very close variants of the technology and equipment behind integrated air and missile defense but is fictitious in its storyline and how the SBX is truly operated. Hollywood gravitates to the populace and has brought forward the importance of missile defense and its elevated discourse today, amid Russian use of missiles in Ukraine, Chinese overmatch in missiles to further their expansion in the Pacific, and increased reliance and testing on ballistic missiles by other nefarious actors such as North Korea and Iran.
Listed below are the variants of the systems displayed in the movie and explanations of their capabilities:
Sea-based X-Band Radar (SBX-1) (featured at time 0:08) is part of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and is designed to detect and establish precise tracking information on ballistic missiles, discriminate missile warheads from decoys and debris, provide data for updating ground-based interceptors in flight, and assess the results of intercept attempts. Currently, the SBX-1 is homeported in Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to track the ballistic missile threats from North Korea to Hawaii and the U.S. homeland. As a sea mobile platform in the Pacific, the United States uses the SBX constantly for testing telemetry and data for its own missile defense development.
The Sea-based RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, or SeaRAM® (referred to as RAM within the US Navy; featured in the trailer at 0:14) is intended as used as a point-defense weapon against anti-ship missiles. It defends ships against supersonic and subsonic threats including cruise missiles, drones, and helicopters. It is a small, lightweight, infrared homing surface-to-air missile in use by the German, Japanese, Greek, Turkish, South Korean, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Mexican and US Navies.
The Avenger air defense system, which in the trailer appears to have elements mixed in with SeaRAM (0:14), is a fully automated, short-range system using the stinger missile and is the Army’s premier shoot-on-the-move air defense weapon. Introduced in 1988 and is being used prolifically today by Ukraine as the US has provided 1,400 stingers to defend against Russian Air Attack, it is typically mounted on an armored HMMWV and is a lightweight, surface-to-air missile firing unit. Its 360-degree gyro-stabilized turret holds two pods which together can fire eight Stinger missiles. Today, the US Avenger systems are deployed to the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System (NCR-IADS) mission, Korea and Europe, where they are being modernized into the MSHORAD.
While the display of these actual systems in the movie is important for awareness, the proper portrayal of the systems in a truthful manner is far more effective. The trailer incorrectly shows the SBX-1 with the SeaRAM and Avenger defense systems positioned on its deck. The SBX-1 does not possess missile interceptors or air defense systems, and only serves to discriminate and track ballistic missiles. Furthermore, the Avenger system is designed to operate on land, not at sea, as shown in the trailer. The SeaRAM is only operational on US Naval ships such as the Littoral Combat Ships and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, not fixed sites such as the SBX-1.
It is worth noting to see Netflix for public entertainment pick up on the growing importance of missile defense in the Pacific to the public with this new original film Interceptor. The Indo-Pacific is where we must be and continue to grow as we are doing with Missile Defense systems. Our adversaries in the Pacific, most notably China – which is a “much more massive threat to our country” than Russia, threatens the U.S. and our allies with overmatch of missiles in capacity and capabilities.
Defending against these threats isn’t “Hollywood” movie magic. We have capable systems that can do so today, and even better systems on the drawing board for the future. We must have the will to field these systems in quantity. It is long past time to get after it. Our opponents aren’t waiting and America must defend our forward forces and our homeland. Movies are great, winning is simply better!
Lights… Camera… now it’s time for Action!