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Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten briefs the media on July 29, 2020. (Source: DoD)

“Our homeland missile defense, with respect to Korea, is strong… with respect to North Korea. The interceptors we have, mostly in Alaska, but also in Vandenberg, are very effective against that threat. They’re not effective against other threats, and we have to make sure we continue to advance, to take care of advancing threats in North Korea, potential threats in Iran, and threats that may come from other places as well.” General John E. Hyten, August 19, 2020.

North Korea is reported to have possession of up to 60 nuclear warheads, and could have 80 to 100 nuclear weapons in a decade from now. As North Korea expands its arsenal in its quest to become a permanent Nuclear Power, it has also worked to produce and develop increasingly capable long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and missile platforms with the added complexity of decoys, and countermeasures. This explicit demonstration of North Korean resolve to grow as Nuclear Power and to contend on the World stage will likely be demonstrated again this Fall around our election cycle.

Despite our nation’s confidence in the readiness and reliability of current capabilities to negate and deter nuclear ballistic missile attacks from North Korea, we cannot and will not remain stagnant on the current capacity and capabilities of Ground-Based Missile Defense System, for if we do North Korea will outmatch our Missile Defenses over the next 5 years. We must always remain ahead of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and capacity, and we must always be improving our offensive and defensive capabilities to maintain our deterrence posture. On the Defensive side, in order to defeat complex North Korean ICBMs in flight, the best approach, with current technology, is through the Next-Generation Interceptor (NGI) that will have multiple kill vehicles and sensors thereby reducing shot doctrine, and exponentially increasing reliability and maintain efficiency in cost per intercept or multiple intercepts. When considering future technologies, Boost phase, Directed Energy and Space Based Interceptors are promising but still many years out in policy, doctrine, and development.

For the National Security of the United States, we as a nation must establish and maintain this deterrent capability and we have to nurture this capability and bring it forward to maturity, through testing, development, and deployment. The NGI, to be fully developed and deployed, must enjoy a bipartisan commitment to sustain and overcome numerous budget cycles, different Congresses, changes in Administration. The NGI will undoubtedly prove its worth and demonstrate that the efforts to develop and deploy it allowed the U.S. to stay ahead of the advancing threats and significantly reduce the long term “cost of intercept”. Moving the NGI to be deployed as soon as possible is in the best interest of the nation, as the current 44 GBIs made up of three generations of interceptors will be overmatched by North Korea, as well as by the other advancing missile threats General Hyten mentioned above.  

The options to best defend the United States Homeland during this gap of development and production of the NGI are limited especially within the constraints of a COVID-19 reduced Defense Budget. If resources were amply available and not taken away from the NGI program, or other MDA programs, an interim GBI solution to fill 20 existing new silos in Fort Greely, Alaska within the next five years would be ideal. Additionally if resources are available, the Underlayer proposed by DOD, MDA, and INDO-PACOM would provide the least risk and quickest to be deployed would be ideal. The Aegis SM3 Block IIA which will be proven against an ICBM threat by the end of the year, and the THAAD which has been previously deployed to defend Hawaii from North Korean ICBMs, and will soon have an extended range variant, can be deployed easily and quickly if required to defend the United States Homeland. There are currently 8 Aegis BMD 5.1 baseline 9 ships in the U.S Navy that could be deployed off the U.S. coast if required to provide defense of the United States. There are 5 THAAD batteries based in Texas, that could also be dispersed if required to defend specific defended areas.

In a world of unlimited resources, the optimal U.S. Homeland defense today would require three more land-based radars similar to the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) in Alaska defending from the North, deployed to the West in Hawaii, to the East on the East Coast and to the South on the Gulf Coast as well as up to a dozen more Aegis Lite Sites, a field of 100 NGIs in Fort Greely, and dozens of overhead persistent sensors. In the long term planning of best defense against ICBM Threats, the United States, with the NGI deployed, would look to add layers and depth of defense in basing Aegis America and THAAD permanently throughout the United States, manned by the National Guard or a Joint Force of Army/Navy. This could include Aegis Lite with ballistic missile interceptors engaging on remote sensors and launching off of remote sensors on U.S. Homeland could also have the option to implement its built-in Cruise Missile Defense, and/or Strike capabilities that are deployed on Aegis Ships as will most likely be the case with Guam and potentially Alaska. Undoubtedly, we must have a hypersonic defense capability resourced, developed, and deployed that would be integrated into the U.S homeland missile defense.

We require near term options given the advancing threat like SM-3 and THAAD underlayer and an interim GBI while we pursue NGI which is scheduled for deployment in 10 years. But we don’t live in a world of unlimited resources. In a reality of resource constraints, it is absolutely critical that NGI is deployed as soon as possible. Our adversaries are not slowing down the development of their capabilities, to preserve our way of life we have to accelerate our defensive capabilities.

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.