Yesterday, we as a nation honored the loss of thousands of lives, the sacrifices and heroics, and the cost of Freedom over the 21 years since September 11, 2001. We as a nation reflect on the consequences of 9/11 at the highest-level, with the 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, in order to operationally deploy the best missile defense systems available for our U.S. Homeland and territories. In 2005, our Nation deployed an operational layered and integrated land-based air defense around the United States National Capital Region (NCR) and a ballistic missile defense system in Alaska to defend all 50 states. The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) was part of that first deployment in 2005 operated by the National Guard that remains today, fully operational, defending the United States NCR.
Last week, the United States Air Force Research Laboratory Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office conducted a joint experiment with a land-based cruise missile defense system that included existing U.S. sensors, fire control systems, and launchers with three types of surface-to-air missiles. Two of these missiles, the AIM-9x Sidewinder (AIM-9x), and the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AIM-120) are widely used on USAF, Navy and Marine fighter aircraft. The third missile, the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile – Extended Range (AMRAAM-ER) is specifically designed for surface-to-air mission from the NASAMS firing unit. This provides increased altitude and range capabilities which grows the defensive battlespace.
“[The U.S. Air Force’s] intent was to inform strategic investment decisions through the evaluation of low-cost, high technology readiness level capabilities that could provide near term air base air defense capability. This layered defense solution can provide immediate defensive capability at a fraction of the price of currently fielded systems.”
- SDPE experiment program manager for the U.S. Air Force, Jim Simonds (September 7, 2022)
This test was significant in that it utilized the NASAMS in a layered and integrated cruise missile defense; leveraging Army sensors and taking into account the varying capabilities and ranges of the three different types of interceptors fired from the single launcher. The NASAMS test effectively performed air defense in depth, at different ranges efficiently and without error. The experiment also validates the daily operational integration of NASAMS through the Joint Air Defense Operations Center (JADOC) in the defense of the National Capital Region mission. NASAMS is fully integrated in the Link-16 system.
This USAF collaboration on Land Based Cruise Missile Defense directly follows a recent announcement from the U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense that assigned the Department of the Air Force responsibility for the cruise missile defense acquisition for the defense of the United States Homeland. According to a spokesman for the deputy secretary, the decision was prompted by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) desires to alleviate administrative backlog and advance national defense capabilities of early warning and “interagency air-space integration” on cruise missile defense for the United States.
This USAF demonstration of land-based cruise missile defense capability is directly applicable to the defense of Guam, specifically at Anderson Air Force Base, which will be a hub for air base operations on the first and second island chains in any contingency. Equally important, are critical assets in the U.S. Homeland that require cruise missile defense such as USAF Bases in Hawaii, Alaska and California.
Today, NASAMS is fully operational in 10 countries with 3 more countries in the procurement process. Five of the NATO member states are fully operational with NASAMS including: Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, The United States, and Lithuania. Australia, who is still in the procurement process to obtain NASAMS is at the forefront of the Pacific in acquiring high-end air defense capabilities.
NASAMS is capable of Air Base defense against highly maneuverable, 360-degrees complex cruise missile threats and air threats, including fighter jets. This Air Force test clearly sets the precedent for a change of roles and missions of integrated missile defense to enable the United States Air Force to defend its land-based Air Bases and is a strong warning to the Army that they need to be more aggressive in developing similar capabilities to defend their vulnerable logistics and weapons stowage sites in Europe and the Pacific.