Air to Air

December 4, 2007

Dear Members and Friends,

On December 4th, in the skies over New Mexico, a U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter launched two air-to-air (AIM-9X) missiles and successfully intercepted a boosting rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range marking the first time a missile defense intercept was made from an air based platform. The two-stage air-to-air missiles have a new liquid propellant in their second stage rocket motor to provide the velocity necessary to intercept missiles in their initial boosting stage. This type of missile defense launched from a fighter jet within 100 miles of a missile launch adds more robustness and redundancy to an already layered missile defense system. Not only can the AIM-9X terminate missiles in the boosting phase, it may also be effective in the descent and terminal phase of a ballistic missile. This missile defense system is called the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE), and can be used on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and current and future U.S. aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F/A -18, F-22, and F-35, as well as aircraft of other countries.
Today, our country has deployed a very limited layered missile defense system made up of land-based Patriot 3 systems that can destroy short-range missiles in their terminal phase, sea-based Aegis SM-3 missiles that can destroy short and medium range missiles in the mid-course phase and a more substantial land-based element that can destroy the faster longer-range missiles in the mid-course phase. None of these deployed systems have the capability to intercept and destroy a missile in the boost phase.

Currently our government is investing in the future development of several boost-phase systems of which the Airborne Laser (ABL) is the primary element. It will have the capability to stand off more than 500 miles and fire multiple shots from a chemical laser at the speed of light. Other future boost phase elements include the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) with a high-acceleration booster rocket system. All of these future boost-phase missile defense systems have mobility and high velocity as the key common trait.

It is of importance that our government continues to research, develop and test the boost-phase missile defense systems, for adding this layer can increase the effectiveness of the missile defense system as a whole and help take away today’s threat of ballistic missiles and the future threat of ballistic missiles that may have multiple maneuverable warheads and sophisticated decoys.

This marks the 30th missile defense intercept since the decision was made to deploy a U.S. missile defense system in 2002, and it is the 5th intercept in 66 days from four different launching platforms and systems.

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