A Response to the New York Times

Dear Members and Friends,

In response to the article on the front page of the New York Times criticizing the SM-3 and President Obama’s missile defense plan MDAA has submitted a statement. In the article, Theodore A. Postol and George N. Lewis found “only one or two successful intercepts for a success rate of 10 to 20 percent. Most of the approaching warheads, they say, would have been knocked off course but not destroyed. While that might work against a conventionally armed missile, it suggests that a nuclear warhead might still detonate.”

MDAA’s statement and reply to the New York Times is as follows;

The SM-3 Block 1A is certified by the Department of Defense to engage short-range missiles of the SCUD A & B, the No-Dong type missile and their separating targets (warheads); absent the presence of countermeasures. These requirements for the SM-3 Block 1A missiles are over 10 years old. Today and in the near future, Iran and North Korea have yet to deploy or demonstrate countermeasures or mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile. The SM-3 Block 1A is a capable missile with 17 intercepts; including a toxic falling satellite from space. Our combat commanders, Admiral Robert Willard and General David Petraeus, have confidence in the SM-3 capability to engage and destroy current ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran as SM-3s are deployed today on Aegis Ships in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Japan protecting our armed forces and allies.

President Obama’s missile defense plan calls for the phasing out of the SM-3 Block 1A missiles to start in 2015. This is also when the deployment of the next generation of the SM-3 Block 1B missiles will take place. The new generation SM-3 1B will have new requirements to meet the evolving missile threat and will have a proven tested capability against counter measures.

In 2018 the third generation of the SM-3 with its new requirements will begin to be deployed. The fourth generation of SM-3 missiles will be deployed in 2020 and will have greater requirements of any generation of SM-3 and will be cable of destroying an ICBM.

There is no question that more testing which involves separating warheads at greater speeds is required to continue to prove the confidence of the system. MDAA encourages and supports a minimum of three SM-3 tests a year to give the necessary confidence to meet the President’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA). It is disappointing that this year the Missile Defense Agency and Department of Defense does not have a single U.S. SM-3 test scheduled.

It should also be noted that the United States has ceased its testing of nuclear weapons; therefore testing any missile defense system against a true nuclear weapon will never be done.

The SM-3 missile performs as it is required and certified to do by the Department of Defense to defeat with confidence today’s ballistic missile threats and the SM-3 will evolve through President Obama’s PAA into a better system to defeat tomorrow’s missile threats.

Resource Library