On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee held a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for Missile Defense and Missile Defeat Programs. Witnesses for the hearing were the Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, General Lori Robinson, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Lieutenant General James Dickenson, Commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.
Below is selection of key quotes from the hearing on space, defense against hypersonic threats, and directed energy.
Undersecretary Rood – “I’ll speak briefly and reiterate our concern of the capabilities and contested nature of space domain just as a general matter. In the area of missile defense of course, the offensive missiles that would be fired at the U.S. would transit space and reenter. We have had in our architecture for some time space-based capabilities that can detect the launch of those missiles. We have had efforts over the years to have a space-based test bed and other activities to evaluate competing capabilities. Certainly, General Greaves and the Missile Defense Agency can articulate that further. I have put forward concepts for space-based tracking capabilities. The Department is funded for demonstration this year. We are looking for additional capabilities in that regard, both in the space-based tracking area and we are evaluating the capabilities that could potentially be fielded in space for the kill mechanism. Whether that be directed energy or other means. Those are things we are simply evaluating at this stage.”
Lt. Gen. Greaves – “Congressman, it begins with the threat. Today’s ballistic missile threat is fairly predictable. If I throw a baseball in that direction it will go in that direction. Our concern is what we’ve seen by Russia, China, and other nations do in the area of hypersonics, where it is lower flying and maneuverable. The need, as they deploy complex countermeasures, things that are aimed at our missile defense capabilities. The need to track and maintain custody and track that threat from beginning to end, and that draws you up into space. We don’t have enough radars to populate the globe to maintain that same level of custody. So, from a space senor layer, absolutely essential, first thing we need to do is advance that capability. And then, decide what the next step is, if its deploying an interceptor in space. How to do it, whether or not directed energy. Spending the additional resources on the technology in order to determine if that capability is real or not. So, it is really important that we pursue the space-based capability.”
Undersecretary Rood – “And so you have that as a backdrop with this contested and congested space domain and then in the missile defense areas, certain capabilities as highlighted in our various statements that countries like North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China are pursuing that cause us substantial concern. So, we are looking at capabilities that could be employed in space, both as sensor capabilities and others, it is one of the subjects that we are continuing to evaluate potential alternatives in that regard, no final decision is made yet on those capabilities that would be pursued but it’s definitely an area of active study in the department.”
Lt. Gen. Greaves – ““Mr. Chairman, I would add that moving our sensing layer to space to work in coordination with the ground layer is absolutely essential to keep pace with the threat that we know is coming. I’ll point out one such example is the hypersonic threat and as my Deputy is fond of saying, if you can’t see it you can’t shoot it. So, the first thing that we need to do is ensure that we can maintain birth to death tracking of threats that are flying lower, that can maneuver, that are not as predictable as the ballistic missile threat. So, it is essential that we deploy and operate a space sensing layer to begin with…. As far as space-based interceptors, there are challenges that need to be worked through as far as the policy area, whether or not to base it, the technology has got to be developed, but I believe that we should be doing some work in that area to essentially lay the groundwork for if the nation decides to deploy space-based interceptors, we haven’t lost time. Time is the key, the threat is time, as a nation, we can do anything given enough time to develop and deploy the capability. So that is my input sir.”
Lt. Gen. Greaves – “Yes, sir. Short answer is power level. As you heard, General Dickinson discussed his requirements to go from five kilowatts to fifty to a hundred. The missile defense requirement begins at 500 kilowatts to a megawatt, and we can discuss more of that in closed session. But, power level as well as delivery capability for the boost phase interceptor mission you may recall the Airborne Laser program, chemical laser essentially operated within the atmosphere. We’re looking at a deployment capability that’s much higher at 60,000 feet plus and all the beam steering and beam quality requirements that go along with that. So, bottom line is power level.”
Lt. Gen. Greaves – “Yes, sir. Basically, it’s the amount we’ve got allocated to do what we call laser scaling, we’ve been able to demonstrate thirty kilowatts in the lab. We need to continue the work to upgrade that power level demonstration capability to one hundred kilowatts in a set point fashion to get to the 500 [kilowatt] and one megawatt level. So, the technology work is absolutely essential so that we can demonstrate the capability on the ground and in the air if it’s part of the plan before we leap off into a full system that has promises which we haven’t delivered, the high technology readiness level of capabilities that we need to develop and deploy the system.”
Hypersonic Glide Threat
Lt. Gen. Greaves – “Let’s see. Again, I’ll start with the threat and the threat I see is the hypersonic threat as the greatest threat. We are executing the planning and I expect to see a significant increase in the amount of time and resources that we will spend in that area. It is the top priority I believe, within the agency, is to enhance our sensor architecture and to include moving that sensor architecture to space, constitute to what we have on the ground.”
Lt. Gen. Greaves – “Yes, sir, you are correct. We are coming to closure on the AOA, the announcement of alternatives. I should be able to get a quick look within the next 30 days and before the end of the year that should be completed. What we are determining is that the architecture that we need to defend against that hypersonic threat will be air, ground, and space based, the most important one initially is to deploy that sensing layer that I mentioned before but also we need to look at the system’s engineering force to roll out and develop the architecture that is required as well as a potential new interceptor that we may need to mitigate that threat. So it is a complete architectural look at what will be needed and the threat, and enemy is time again, so we look to Dr. Griffin and Ms. Lord’s leadership within the department to strongly advocate for what will roll out of the AOA and ensure the activity is resourced and funded in next year’s budget and we can continue onto deploy the capabilities to meet the threat and I will turn it over to Secretary Rood or General Robinson to see if they have anything to add.”
Undersecretary Rood – “I think General Greaves largely covered it except to say that I concur with you fully about the growth of the threat. I think we are very concerned about the rate of progression that we’ve seen not only in China but elsewhere, like Russia. And so it is an area that we are looking very seriously at in the Department and the announcement of alternatives being led by General Greaves and Dr. Griffin.”