With the Chinese deployment of the CJ-10 air-launched maneuverable cruise missiles, with standoff ranges of over 500 miles, holding all U.S. air bases in the Pacific at risk, it is inconceivable that the United States would not be deploying cruise missile defense capability today across the Pacific and at least on the critical strategic air bases that the United States uses to deter and stabilize the region. What’s equally concerning, is the same lack of a cruise missile defense capability deployment in Europe for U.S. air bases, where Russia has missile systems deployed in Kaliningrad in the Baltics – specifically their land-based SSC-8 cruise missile, with a range between 300 to 3,400 miles that violates the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and their air-launched KH-101 cruise missile with a range of 3,000 miles. Adding to this is the 3M-14 Kalibr, a sea-launched maneuverable cruise missile with a range of nearly 1,500 miles, currently deployed on Russian ships near the Baltics and Syria. The reality is that both China and Russia have a clear and an unimpeded strategic advantage and in windfall of leading and shaping in the beginning of conflict with the United States, thus reducing U.S. deterrence to prevent conflict and increasing Chinese and Russian power to project and influence.
The United States has two current cruise missile defense capabilities capable of defeating these new and evolving cruise missile threats. The U.S. Navy’s Aegis ships – with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), and a limited number of ships with baseline processors that can carry the SM-6 interceptors – the most evolved layered capability that the United States has deployed. The second capability is the cruise missile defense system deployed today around the National Capital Region, manned by the 263rd National Guard that uses the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) interceptors connected to the Sentinel 360 degree radars. The CNO has stated that he does not want his limited number of ships tethered to defend land assets, as their value is in the maneuverable maritime force with multiple missions they provide. It is relevant to note that the two Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania in Europe do not have the SM-6 capability, nor SM-2 or Advanced Sea Sparrow installed, as those systems are dedicated to the ballistic missile defense of Europe only. Both, the Aegis BMD Ships and NASAMS, would require overhead persistent sensors to see over the horizon, thousands of miles away to detect air- and sea-launched cruise missiles to best enable the defeat of the sophisticated and multi-dimensional near peer cruise missile capabilities. Adding further complexity is the capability the near peers have with their missiles to go three dimensions and 360 degrees with trajectories of ballistic, surface skimming, and maneuverable to simultaneously strike with mass numbers as the New York Times alluded. Chinese and Russian hypersonic glide vehicles will soon be added to this extremely lethal regional standoff projection capability mix.
The late Senator John McCain led the Senate Arms Service Committee to address this significant gap of cruise missile defense capability in authorizing funding to address this issue in his last National Defense Authorization Act the 2019 (NDAA) for immediate rapid deployment and for a future land based system.
Language in the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 works towards finding a solution for this gap.
“If the Secretary of Defense certifies that there is a need for the Army to deploy an interim missile defense capability under subsection (a), the Secretary of the Army shall deploy the capability as follows: (A) Two batteries of the capability shall be deployed by not later than September 30, 2020. (B) Two additional batteries of the capability shall be deployed by not later than September 30, 2023.”
“(c) IN GENERAL.—If the Secretary of the Army will deploy an interim missile defense capability pursuant to subsection (b), then, by not later than March 1, 2019, the Secretary, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, shall provide to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives a briefing that includes—(1) recommendations identifying any interim missile defense capabilities to be deployed and a proposed rapid acquisition schedule for such capabilities; (2) a plan to rapidly resource any identified shortfalls for any such capability selected for deployment; and (3) a schedule and timeline for the fielding and deployment of any such capability.”
Adding to the NDAA, the Missile Defense Agency recently announced the continuation of its MQ-9 program for developing, integrating, and flight testing an advanced sensor capability on the MQ-9 to provide detect, track, and discriminate information on missile threats to U.S. missile interceptors. This capability can provide unmanned, persistent, and over the horizon sensors for the tracking and detection of advanced cruise missile capabilities that Russia and China have deployed. In the near future, multiple spaced based sensor discrimination constellations of civilian and military satellites for global persistence to detect, track and provide firing solutions on missiles including complex cruise, hypersonic glide and ballistic missiles.
A future Army composite, multi-missile cruise missile defense capability called the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc 2-I) with a Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) that may look to integrate Iron Dome has been mired in challenges of the Army’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems (CMDS) Project Office, part of the Program Executive Office of Missiles and Space, and has been pushed back to a deployment date of 2022 at best. As a result of this and some critical Army programs that are not rapidly being developed, tested and deployed , the Chief of the Army and the Secretary of the Army have put forth the Futures Command and the Cross Functional Teams to reduce the challenges the PEO faces and increase the speed of deployments of new technologies and systems. It is a long six years and maybe more from now to have a future cruise missile capability in place that was first expected to be deployed in 2019 and with the average DOD development program that takes 16.5 years to be fielded.
There is no other rational choice but to rapidly deploy the current capabilities we have today, with the manpower we have today unless we accept the tremendous risk of Chinese and Russian dominance with bullying of access and area denial to the United States and our allies in the Pacific and in Europe. Similar to the exceeding gap of air defense for the Army’s Maneuverable Combat Brigade Teams and Force projection where they brought back the Avenger Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) battery with the National Guard into Europe this year, while waiting for the new Mobile-SHORAD (MSHORAD) to be deployed in 2020, the same must be done with the NASAMS and the National Guard battery until IFPC Inc 2-I can be deployed. For the Pacific, a NASAMS battalion of cruise missile defense capability and capacity need to have its four batteries spread and operationally deployed to Guam and Japan at the minimum. For Europe, and the prospects of putting forward an upper tier capability of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to supplement and extend existing capability in Europe today, a NASAMS cruise missile defense battalion 360 capability would also be needed. It is of note that NASAMS are deployed today in Europe by NATO countries of Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Lithuania to defend their critical assets.
And without a doubt, bringing more operational U.S. Aegis BMD ships into the oceans around the world with greater capacity of interceptors from SM-6 to SM3 Block IIA and applicable baselines to launch them is rapid deployment reality that can be brought forward.
In the end to keep peace and security with our near peers, it is all about the United States contributing to increase deterrence by having some defensive capability against their emerging offensive missiles thereby changing their calculus of success. It is not about having an interceptor for every near peer missile.
United States deployed operational cruise missile defense will make the world a safer place.