Our Nation’s Hedge

June 07, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

Out of silo LF-24, nestled in a small berm alongside the Pacific Ocean at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California a two-staged Ground Base Interceptor (GBI) was launched.  This launch tested for the first time our nation’s hedge against Iran’s ballistic missiles and their capability to strike our soil over the next decade until the future SM-3 Block 2B missile is developed and deployed in 2020 or beyond.

The test at Vandenberg AFB validated the mature design of the two-stage GBI and tested the divert capability and other important data elements on the exoatmospheric kill vehicle placed on top of the missile.

This specific hedge of proceeding with the two-stage missile was a hard fought battle won by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates against critics opposing this missile; which was originally developed for placement in Poland that has been canceled by President Obama’s Administration. Secretary Gates need for the two-stage GBI was primarily for a hedge in case the threat from Iran comes quicker than expected and future defensive missiles on the drawing boards are not ready.

Additional defensive intercept shots are needed to mitigate high risk of vulnerability to the Eastern United States and Northern Europe from Iran as early as 2015 or sooner. The three-stage GBIs deployed in Alaska and California cannot protect Northern Europe and can only provide a one shot opportunity for the Eastern United States; the remaining areas of the country are protected by two or more shot opportunities. Missile Defense Agency Director Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly stated at a missile defense conference in London last month that no greater than 90 percent success can be achieved with a one shot opportunity and that two shot opportunities are needed to provide high confidence.

The two-stage GBI is exactly the same size, length and shape as the three-stage GBI but has eliminated the third stage motor inside the missile providing quicker time to locate and destroy an incoming ballistic missile; rather than waiting for the burnout time of the 3rd stage motor to achieve the same results. Both the three-stage and two-stage GBI carry the same exoatmospheric kill vehicle in their payload. Intercept testing of the three-stage GBI can be applied directly to the two-stage GBI. Plans have previously stated that a single successful intercept by the two-stage GBI will certify it for deployment. The next test is scheduled for 2012 and will be the first intercept test for the two-stage GBI.

Due to their lack of a third stage, the two-stage GBI must be deployed forward with U.S. forward-based radars deployed in the Middle East to provide the Eastern United States a second shot opportunity and a first shot opportunity in Northern Europe against an Iranian long or intermediate range ballistic missile.

Congratulations are in order for the Missile Defense Agency and all those that were instrumental in the success of this important test.

We applaud and recognize the vision of Secretary Gates on the two-stage GBI and look to him to ensure our nation has this viable hedge in place before the threat arrives.

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