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U.S. Marines assigned to Battery R, fifth Battalion, 11th marine Regiment beginning the High Mobility pho Rocket system from a Guided many Launch Rocket System. U.S. Maritime Corps photo by Pfc. William Chockey

Patty-Jane Geller

Missile defense is a vital component that the U.S. National security architecture that enables U.S. Armed forces efforts and also can safeguard national an essential infrastructure, from populace and industrial centers to politically and also historically vital sites. It have the right to strengthen U.S. Diplomatic and also deterrence efforts and carry out both time and options to senior decision-makers amid crises involving, for example, cruise missiles and also hypersonic weapons that paris on ballistic and also non-ballistic trajectories.

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The growing Missile Threat

Missiles remain a weapon of an option for countless U.S. Adversaries who watch them as cost-effective and symbols that power contrasted to other types of typical weapons.1 The variety of states the possess missiles will proceed to increase, as will the sophistication the these weapons as modern technologies end up being cheaper and much more widely available.

Despite U.S. Diplomatic efforts, phibìc Korea proceeds its aggressive search of a atom intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program—including a brand-new “monster” ICBM supposedly able to lug multiple warheads and also decoys—that will allow it come strike the united States. It also recently experiment ground-based and also sea-based ballistic missiles and appears to direct its missile developments toward overcoming U.S. Missile defenses.2

Iran proceeds to modernize and also proliferate its regional missile systems. Its current successful solid-fuel rocket launch demonstrates that Iran has the capability to build and successfully launch advanced missiles, which indicates that it has or is emerging the capability to development to the ICBM level of capability.3

China and Russia, in enhancement to their large ballistic missile inventories, room investing in new ground-launched, air-launched, and also sea-launched cruise missiles the uniquely challenge the United states in different domains and also are deploying brand-new hypersonic glide vehicles.4 China is rapidly structure up that is missile inventory, to incorporate hundreds of new silo-based ICBMs and also road-mobile ICBMs that apparently can lug 10 warheads, and also theater-range missiles that have the right to strike U.S. Assets through precision.5 Russia is developing entirely new capabilities, such together a nuclear-powered cruise missile, that room intended to prevent U.S. Sensors and missile defenses, and its conventionally equipped sea-launched and air-launched cruise missiles can strike strategic nodes in ~ the U.S. Homeland, also from Russian territory.6

The Strategic role of Missile Defense

Because they are designed to detect and also defeat incoming missile attacks, missile defense systems have the right to save lives and also protect civilian framework from damages or destruction. More important, missile defense plays a an important role in strategy deterrence.

The capability to deter an foe from attacking depends on convincing him the his strike will fail, that the expense of moving out a successful assault is prohibitively high, or the the aftermath of an strike will outweigh the perceived benefit of attacking. A U.S. Missile defense mechanism strengthens deterrence by offering a degree of security to the American people and also the financial base on which their wellness depends, as well as forward-deployed troops and also allies, making the harder for an adversary to threaten them with missiles. By raising the threshold because that missile attack, missile defense borders the option for a “cheap shot” versus the united States.

A missile defense system likewise gives a decision-maker a significant political advantage. By protecting an essential U.S. Assets, it mitigates an adversary’s capacity to intimidate the unified States into conceding crucial security, diplomatic, or economic interests.

Missile defense systems permit U.S. And allied typical operations. Adversaries desire to refuse the United states the capability to conduct attack operations during a regional conflict, which they can do by targeting U.S. And also allied forward-deployed personnel or military assets. In addition, lock might try to decouple the United says from defense that its allies by threatening to strike U.S. Forces and assets if the United states intervenes in a regional conflict. Missile defenses in place, by making it much easier for the U.S. Military to present reinforcements that have the right to move much more freely v a region, have the right to strengthen the credibility of U.S. Extended deterrence.

Finally, a missile defense system offers decision-makers more time to pick the many de-escalatory food of action. Without the capacity to defend against an attack, U.S. Authorities would certainly be limited to one unappealing collection of responses varying from preemptively attack an evil one to attack his missiles on launch pads or even acceding to an enemy’s requirements or actions. By assuring part level of protection from a missile attack, robust missile defense systems would influence the dynamics of decision-making by removed the must take instant action.

In various other words, missile defense creates extr options and provides more time to type through them and also their implications to arrive at the one that finest serves U.S. Defense interests. This can make lock profoundly stabilizing.

The U.S. Missile Defense System

The U.S. Missile defense system has actually three an important physical components:

Sensors,Interceptors, andCommand and also control infrastructure that offers data from sensors to interceptors.

Of these, interceptors receive lot of the public’s attention because of their visible and also kinetic nature. Contents of missile defense systems deserve to be classified based upon the step of flight during which intercept occurs, return some—for example, the command and also control infrastructure or radars—can support intercepts in miscellaneous phases that flight. Interceptors deserve to shoot down an adversarial ballistic missile in the boost, ascent, midcourse, or terminal phase of its flight. Together cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles proceed to proliferate, the Missile Defense company (MDA) and also the solutions must as such consider intercept in the boost, glide, or terminal phase of flight.

Another way to share missile defense equipment is by the range of an just arrive missile (short-range, medium-range, intermediate-range, or intercontinental-range) the an interceptor is designed come shoot down. An interceptor’s flight time identify both the time available to command an intercept and the optimal interceptor placement to improve intercept probability. Through ICBMs, the unified States has “30 minutes or less”7 to detect the missile, track it, administer the details to the missile defense system, discover the optimal shooting solution, launch one interceptor, and also shoot down the just arrive missile, ideally with enough time come fire another interceptor if the first attempt fails. The time structure for intercepting short-range, medium-range, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles is shorter.



Finally, missile defense have the right to be framed by the beginning of interceptor launch. In ~ present, U.S. Interceptors are released from the ground or native the sea. In the past, the United claims explored feasible ways come launch interceptors native the air or indigenous space, yet efforts on that front have been restricted since the U.S. Withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile contract in 2002.8

The existing U.S. Missile defense mechanism is a result of investments made by successive U.S. Administrations. Chairman Ronald Reagan envisioned the program—the strategy Defense initiative (SDI)—as a layered ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, consisting of BMD interceptors in space, that would certainly render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.”9 these layers would have actually boost, ascent, midcourse, and terminal interceptors, consisting of directed-energy interceptors, providing the United says with an ext than one possibility to shoot under an just arrived missile.

The United claims stopped far brief of this goal, even though the SDI program produced tremendous technological advances and also benefits.10 instead of a considerable layered system, the U.S. Has no boost-phase ballistic missile defense systems and no defense versus the advanced ballistic missile threats from China or Russia. The volatility and also inconsistency that priority and funding because that missile defense through successive administrations and Congresses—Administrations and Congresses managed by both major political parties—have yielded a system that is numerically and technologically restricted and incapable of defending against more sophisticated or an ext numerous long-range missile attacks.

Beginning v the nationwide Missile Defense plot of 1999, it to be U.S. Plan to safeguard the homeland just from a “limited ballistic missile attack.”11 The national Defense Authorization plot (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 dropped words “limited” even as it continued to focus on ballistic missiles.12 then the 2020 NDAA made it a issue of policy to rely on nuclear deterrence come defend against “near-peer intercontinental threats” and also focus on boosting missile defense versus “rogue states.”13 In the future, as technological trends progression and modern technologies become cheaper and more widely available, North oriental or Iranian ballistic missiles may rival, in sophistication if no in numbers, those the Russia or China. Consequently, the U.S. Have to remain mindful of exactly how such threats room evolving and also alter that is missile defense posture accordingly.

In January 2019, the Trump management published the congressionally mandated Missile Defense evaluation (MDR), a explain of policy intended to overview the Administration’s missile defense programs. The 2019 MDR addresses the danger threat environment that has evolved due to the fact that the previous MDR in 2010 and advocates a considerable approach to all missile threats—no longer only ballistic—that integrates offensive capabilities, active defenses, and also passive defenses. The acknowledges the the United states is no longer vulnerable only to ballistic missiles and also recognizes the future missile defense systems must defend versus cruise and hypersonic missiles as well.14

For fiscal year (FY) 2022, the Biden administration requested $8.9 billion because that the MDA,15 a decrease native the FY 2021 budget request’s projection of $9.1 billion16 and a to decrease of $1.6 exchange rate from the FY 2021 enacted budget of $10.5 billion.17


Interceptors room one major component that the U.S. Missile defense system. Different types of interceptors the respond to various missile threats have been emphasized end the years, and the ingredient of today’s U.S. Missile defense mirrors these choices.

While the United says is working to boost its ability to strike under cruise missiles and also hypersonic glide vehicles, the primary mission that its completely operational missile defense solution today is to intercept ballistic missiles. In particular, missile defense interceptors are designed to intercept ballistic missiles in three different phases of flight.

The rise phase extend from the time a missile is launched from that is platform till its engines avoid thrusting.The midcourse phase is the longest and thus offers a distinctive opportunity come intercept an incoming danger and, depending on other circumstances choose the trajectory that the incoming threat and quality of U.S. Tracking data, a 2nd shot if the an initial intercept attempt fails.The terminal phase is less than one minute long, occurring as the missile plummets through the environment toward the target, and offers a very limited opportunity come intercept a ballistic missile threat.

Boost-Phase Interceptors. The unified States currently has no capability to shoot down missiles in their an increase phase. Technologically, boost-phase intercept is the most difficult option since of the very short time structure in which a missile is boosting, the missile’s extraordinary rate of acceleration throughout this brief window of time, and the require to have the interceptor close come the launch site.18 This phase, however, is likewise the most valuable time to strike. A boosting ballistic missile is in ~ its slowest speed contrasted to other phases; the is thus not yet able to maneuver evasively and also has no yet deployed decoys the complicate the targeting and also intercept problem.

In the past, the united States gone after several boost-phase programs, including the Airborne Laser, the Network Centric waiting Defense Element, the Kinetic power Interceptor, and also the Air launched Hit-to-Kill missile. Each of this programs was eventually cancelled since of technical, operational, or cost challenges. The present MDR discusses the choice of incorporating the F-35 originally as a sensor platform and later as an interceptor platform for boost-phase intercepts. However, this initiative has not progressed.

Midcourse-Phase Interceptors. Intercepting missiles in their midcourse phase offers more time because that intercept and also presents fewer technological challenges 보다 intercept in the rise phase presents, however it also allows the missile time to deploy decoys and also countermeasures that are designed to complicated interception through confusing sensors and radars. The United states deploys two solution that have the right to shoot down incoming missiles in the midcourse phase of flight:

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) device andThe Aegis defense system.

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense mechanism is the just operational system capable of shooting down a long-range ballistic missile headed because that the U.S. Homeland. It consists of 40 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) at ft Greeley, Alaska, and four in ~ Vandenberg Air force Base, California. A GBI is composed of a multi-staged rocket booster and also an Exoatmospheric Kill vehicle (EKV), which intercepts the incoming missile with hit-to-kill technology. In march 2019, the MDA performed a groundbreaking and successful “salvo” GMD test versus an ICBM target during which one GBI intercepted the target and also a second intercepted the best piece that debris from the explosive target.19

To increase the probability of an intercept, the joined States has to shoot lot of interceptors at each incoming ballistic missile. In ~ present, because its list of interceptors is limited, the united States deserve to shoot down only a grasp of ballistic missiles the have reasonably unsophisticated countermeasures.

In 2017, Congress authorized a White home request to rise the variety of GBIs indigenous 44 to 64 to store up v the progressing ballistic missile threat, an especially from phibìc Korea. Building of 20 brand-new silos has been underway, yet they stay empty.20 The MDA intended to create a Redesigned Kill auto (RKV) to optimal 20 additional GBIs to fill these silos, yet this regime was canceled in 2019 because of technological difficulties. The MDA instead initiated the following Generation Interceptor (NGI) regimen to construct an entirely brand-new interceptor that would include both capacity and ability to the GMD system. NGIs will start to fill the 20 north silos in 2028 and eventually will change at least some of the currently 44 GBIs, the an outcome of i beg your pardon will likely be a combined fleet that interceptors. Unlike the GBIs, the NGI will function multiple kill vehicles, permitting a solitary NGI to shoot in ~ multiple objects ejected from one just arrived missile.21

Contracts to develop the NGI to be awarded come Lockheed Martin and also a Northrop Grumman–Raytheon team in march 2021.22 The FY 2022 budget plan request includes $926 million for NGI to support these two contending designs v Preliminary style Review.23

The Aegis defense mechanism is a sea-based ingredient of the U.S. Missile defense system. It is design to resolve the risk of short-range, medium-range (1,000–3,000 kilometers), and also intermediate-range (3,000–5,500 kilometers) ballistic missiles. That utilizes different versions the the typical Missile-3 (SM-3) depending upon the threat and other considerations favor ship location and quality that tracking data. The Aegis system likewise has capacity against aerial threats and also cruise missiles.24

“Under the FY2021 budget plan submission,” according to the Congressional research study Service, “the number of BMD-capable navy Aegis pearl is projected to increase from 48 in ~ the end of FY2021 come 65 at the finish of FY2025.”25 The boost reflects an increase in need for this assets.

The Aegis Ashore device in Romania and also another gift deployed to Poland will certainly relieve few of the stress and anxiety on the fleet due to the fact that missile defense–capable cruisers and destroyers are multi-mission and also are supplied for various other purposes, such as wartime fleet operations and even anti-piracy operations. These Aegis Ashore web page will assist to protect U.S. Allies and forces in Europe from the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

Two Aegis Ashore batteries to be being built in Japan to assist protect U.S. Allies and forces in the Indo-Pacific from the north Korean and also Chinese threats, however the Japanese canceled the job in June 2020 because of costs and technical issues.26 Instead, Japan will construct two extr destroyers to deploy SM-3 interceptors.27

Moreover, the previous Commander that U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), Admiral Philip Davidson, has actually testified that “the most important action we can take to boost the share force’s lethality is to introduce a 360-degree, persistent, air and missile defense capability on Guam (Guam Defense mechanism (GDS)),” a capacity that just the Aegis Ashore system deserve to provide.28 The FY 2022 budget request has $78.3 million to support the continued assessment of solution to protect Guam and $40 million to start procuring materials for a missile defense system.29

In November 2020, the U.S. Navy and the MDA shot under an intercontinental-range ballistic missile utilizing the SM-3 interceptor course Block IIA against an ICBM target.30 The test, FTM-44, was the an initial step in a setup to use SM-3 Block IIAs as an “underlay” to the GMD mechanism to safeguard the homeland, v GBIs acquisition the very first shot in ~ an just arrived target and SM-3 interceptors acquisition a 2nd shot if the GBIs miss.31 Deploying such an underlay would require a principle of to work that includes optimal locations for the deployment that SM-3 interceptors top top Aegis ships or in ~ Aegis Ashore sites throughout the unified States.

The November 2020 test was against a straightforward ICBM target; the following step will certainly be come test versus a more complex and realistic ICBM target that might be armed with decoys or other missile-defense countermeasures. The FY 2022 budget request support the ongoing pursuit of a layered countryside defense (LHD) technique with funding for continued assessment the the SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs.32

Terminal-Phase Interceptors. The united States at this time deploys three terminal-phase missile defense systems:

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD);The Patriot missile defense system; andAegis BMD.

A THAAD battery is capable of shooting under short-range and also intermediate-range ballistic missiles inside and just exterior of the atmosphere.33 It consists of a launcher, interceptors, the army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and also Control model 2 (AN/TPY-2) radar, and also fire control.34 The mechanism is transportable and rapidly deployable.

THAAD batteries have been deployed come such countries as Japan, south Korea, Israel, and also the joined Arab Emirates. The United says temporarily deployed a THAAD battery to Romania in assistance of NATO ballistic missile defense in the summer of 2019 together Romania’s Aegis Ashore system was gift updated35 and signed a transaction in 2020 to deliver THAAD to Saudi Arabia.36 In FY 2022:

proceed to evaluate a new Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor prototype to assistance Contiguous United says Defense as component of the LHD effort. This initiative will an outcome in a collection of technology demonstrations permitting for expansion of engagement choices and coverage areas for the THAAD weapon system finishing in a flight test in FY 2023.37

Patriot is one air-defense and short-range ballistic missile defense system. A battery is comprised of a launcher, interceptors, AN/MPQ-53/65 radar, an engagement regulate station, and diesel-powered generator units. The Patriot household of missile defense interceptors has actually been upgraded over time, native the initial Patriot progressed Capability-1 (PAC-1) deployed in Europe in 1988 come the PAC-3 construction deployed around the people today. The many recent Patriot upgrade, the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, expands the lethal battlespace v an progressed solid rocket motor.38 The mechanism is transportable, and also the unified States right now deploys it in several theaters about the world.39

Assessment. Interceptor strength is difficult to evaluate because, if deploying an ext interceptors to increase capacity or defend more targets would always be better, deploying more short-range to medium-range interceptors to unprotected locations or boosting interceptor capacity advertisement infinitum is just not feasible. Congress listed funding in FY 2021 to procure extr PAC-3, SM-3, and THAAD interceptors, and the FY 2022 spending plan continues this initiative for PAC-3 and SM-3 interceptors. However, the FY 2022 spending plan sharply reduces support for THAAD interceptor procurement.40

To boost the protected battlespace, the MDA is likewise pursuing the Patriot Launch-on-Remote (THAAD) capability, i beg your pardon integrates the PAC-3 and THAAD equipment by permitting a PAC-3 launch using a THAAD AN/TPY-2 radar. Launch-on-Remote is an essential capability the can aid to increase the safeguarded area by spreading out missiles.41 The MDA carried out two flight tests for this capability in 2020, and also both failed.42 However, the test failures do not necessarily suggest lack of progress; the MDA deserve to now usage the check data to proceed with advance of this capability. The military plans to ar this capacity “across every Patriot battalions beginning in budget Year 2023.”43

In addition, Congress noted funding for an eighth battery that showed up on the Army’s unfunded top priorities list. Ripe THAAD batteries have long to be required, yet sufficient funds have not been available to support much more than seven.44

One means to improve interceptor capability would it is in to completely fund one Aegis Ashore device on Guam utilizing SM-3 interceptors in FY 2022. Such a device for Guam has appeared on the INDOPACOM unfunded top priorities list because that the past three years, but efforts to develop the system have actually yet come begin. This year’s budget plan includes funding to examine a missile defense style on Guam and also begin procuring materials that would certainly be usual to any type of missile defense system. However, the budget does not commit to any details system that will certainly be constructed on Guam. Congress might move this vital capability forward by providing the additional $231.7 million requested for the Guam Defense mechanism on INDOPACOM’s FY 2022 unfunded top priorities list.45

In terms of capacity and capacity to safeguard the homeland, the command of U.S. North Command (NORTHCOM), basic Glen VanHerck, recently declared that that is “comfortable with my ability to protect the homeland, consisting of Hawaii, versus a limited state actor such as DPRK, which the system is draft for, for the foreseeable future” but that we require “to maintain the timeline that no later on than 2028 because that NGI, come ensure the we keep capacity and ability to defend against a ballistic missile threat.”46 amongst General VanHerck’s certain concerns room the enhancing capacity of North oriental ballistic missiles to strike the U.S. Homeland and also North Korea’s capability to deploy decoys.47

The current NGI contract award complies with a delay in schedule of much more than a year. Fortunately, both rivals have been challenged to accomplish or exceed the schedule of 2028 for an operational capability.48 This program likewise seems to reap bipartisan assistance in Congress.

In enhancement to increasing the NGI program, Congress provided additional funds in both FY 2020 and FY 2021 for a GMD organization life expansion program (SLEP). The GMD system was largely developed in the early on 2000s, and many parts—like the GBI kill vehicles and boosters—are subject to destruction from aging. Regardless of how quickly NGI have the right to be delivered, GBIs will likely remain a part of the fleet that interceptors past this decade.

Moreover, that is crucial to distinguish between GBIs, which space the interceptors themselves, and GMD, which is the whole homeland defense mechanism that incorporates other components like silos, fire control, and also even training approaches for personnel. The MDA has started to change aging boosters on the GBIs, because that instance, but as MDA manager Admiral Jon Hill has actually stated, “It’s not just about the GBIs however it’s also around the weapon system and its support.”49 because the NGI will be integrated into the GMD system for the long term, upgrading the entire GMD system to last beyond the fielding that NGI will continue to be critical.

In FY 2020, come compensate because that the hold-up in including 20 additional interceptors to the fleet, the Trump management proposed that an underlay using SM-3 Block IIA and THAAD interceptors it is in developed. General VanHerck agreed come the worth of an underlay, stating that “an underlayer would offer us additional capacity and capability” to address threats come the homeland, yet he additionally specified the an underlay should emphasis on an ext than simply ballistic missiles, to encompass other threats like cruise missiles or unmanned aerial vehicles.50

Despite the MDA’s original plan to ar an underlay conveniently as U.S. Forces await NGI, the room of Defense (DOD) has actually yet to specify a principle of operations for employing the SM-3 Block IIA and THAAD because that homeland defense, as asked for by Congress. The FY 2022 budget request says that landscape underlay solution “could begin fielding as early on as 2025” but does not attend to where in the United states those systems might be deployed or how plenty of would it is in required.51 The utility of experimenting the usage of SM-3 and also THAAD interceptors because that ICBMs can additionally extend beyond an underlay for the continental unified States, as they can additionally work for other missions or safeguarded assets favor Hawaii, Alaska, and also Guam. Therefore, making use of SM-3 and THAAD interceptors to defend against ICBMs is a worthwhile effort, yet the DOD will at some point need a more specific deployment plan.

The cruise missile hazard to the homeland, for which the United says does not have a devoted missile defense system, is additionally advancing. That Russia have the right to strike crucial strategic nodes in the U.S. Homeland native its very own territory is of specific concern. To address the cruise missile threat, general VanHerck has actually emphasized boosting domain awareness, since early to know of a threat enables for options like left-of-launch to work or diplomat to avoid having actually to shoot under cruise missiles in the U.S. Homeland.52 Ensuring that the NORTHCOM Commander has actually the capabilities required to resolve this progressing threat will therefore be important.

The Army’s Indirect Fire Protection ability (IFPC) Increment 2 program has been moving an extremely slowly but has seen current improvement. The IFPC 2 would defend versus short-range rockets, artillery, and also mortars, and cruise missiles, versus which the unified States, as noted, lacks a sufficient protective capability.53 as a system, IFPC would fill the gap in between short-range tactical air defense and also ballistic missile defense choose PAC-3 and also THAAD.

In an answer to a congressional requirement to field an interim cruise missile defense ability in an answer to the increasing cruise missile threat, the army purchased two Iron Dome batteries made by the Israeli agency Rafael.54 regardless of prior concerns around integrating stole Dome as part of an enduring IFPC solution, the army is prepare the steel Dome solution for work deployment and integration right into its future missile defense command and also control system.55 In April 2021, the army issued the solicitation because that its own enduring IFPC 2 system, to reach combat ability by 2023.56

Overall, the joined States has actually multiple capable interceptors, but there is much room for improvement. The most essential step because that the close to future will be on-time or early shipment of the NGI come ensure defense of the homeland from north Korea.


The sensor ingredient of the U.S. Missile defense system is distributed across the land, sea, and space domains and provides the joined States and also its allies v the earliest possible warning of a start of foe missiles in enhancement to missile tracking and discrimination. This sensors can detect a missile launch, acquire and also track a missile in flight, and even divide the kind of projectile, that speed, and also the target versus which the missile has been directed. They relay this info to the command and control station that operate interceptor systems favor Aegis (primarily a sea-based system) or THAAD (a land-based system).

Land-Based. on land, the major sensor installations space the upgraded early warning radars (UEWRs), i m sorry are focused along the north Atlantic and Pacific corridors that present the most direct flight route for a missile aimed at the joined States. They encompass the phased selection early warning radars based in California, the unified Kingdom, and Greenland the scan objects approximately 3,000 miles away.57 Two added sites—one in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the other in Clear, Alaska—are gift modernized for usage in the layered ballistic missile defense system, however their certifications have been delayed.58 these sensors emphasis on hazards that have the right to be recognize in the missile’s an increase or launch phase once the release of exhaust gases creates a warmth trail the is “relatively easy for sensors to detect and also track.”59 A shorter-range (2,000-mile) radar called the Cobra Dane is based in Shemya, Alaska.60

The joined States likewise deploys mobile land-based sensors, called AN/TYP-2s. This sensors can be forward deployed for early threat detection or maintained in terminal mode to provide tracking and also fire manage support because that the THAAD interceptors.61 that the unified States’ 12 AN/TPY-2 systems, five are front deployed through U.S. Allies.62

In cooperation with the Republic the Korea, the United claims deploys a THAAD missile system accompanied by an AN/TPY-2 top top the korean Peninsula. Despite China’s long-standing opposition to a U.S. Radar deployed so close to its homeland, the THAAD device is an important to against the North oriental threat.63

To fill a void in missile discrimination capacity for tracking North korean missiles end the Pacific, the MDA is occurring the Long selection Discrimination Radar (LRDR) in north Alaska to improve coverage in the northern Pacific. There had been to plan to construct the countryside Defense Radar-Hawaii (HDR-H) as well to to fill a tracking and discrimination space over Hawaii. In the FY 2021 spending plan request, the Trump management omitted funding for HDR-H since of budget plan constraints, but Congress listed the full funding needed to proceed with the radar. The FY 2022 budget plan does not include capital for HDR-H, for this reason this radar’s future again lies v Congress.

Sea-Based. There are two species of sea-based sensors. The an initial is the Sea-Based X-band (SBX) radar, which is an installed on an oil-drilling platform and also can be relocated to various parts of the world as dangers evolve.64 SBX is employed mostly in the Pacific. The second radar is the SPY-1 radar system, which is placed on every U.S. Marine vessels equipped through the Aegis Combat System and also therefore is may be to provide data that can be used for ballistic missile missions. Of this ships, 40 space BMD-capable ship that bring missile defense interceptors.65

Space-Based. Finally, U.S. Missile defense sensors run in space. From the can be fried high ground, space-based sensors deserve to detect and also track missile launches from practically any ar from rise to terminal phase, compared to ground-based radars the are minimal in your tracking range.66 The MDA, the U.S. Space Force, and also the room Development firm (SDA) all control elements of the an are missile defense sensor system.

Of the equipment that contribute to the missile defense mission, the earliest is the Defense Support routine (DSP), a constellation the satellites that usage infrared sensors come identify warmth from booster and also missile plumes. The DSP satellite device has slowly been replaced by the Space-Based Infrared Radar mechanism (SBIRS) to boost the shipment of missile defense and also battlefield intelligence.67 because that instance, SBIRS deserve to scan a broad swath of territory while all at once tracking a certain target, making it a useful way for observing tactical, or short-range, ballistic missiles.68

The Air force and space Force have launched five SBIRS satellites out of a planned total of six.69 The Air force originally planned come launch eight SBIRS satellites, yet due come congressional funding delays, it decided to end production that SBIRS early and also move on to development of its replacement, the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) satellite, in 2017.70 The seventh and eighth SBIRS satellites will certainly be switched to Next-Gen OPIR satellites, the first of which is come be delivered “no later than FY 2025.”71 The Next-Gen OPIR satellites are designed come be much more survivable versus cyber and also electronic attacks.

The MDA additionally operates the room Tracking and also Surveillance System-Demonstrators (STSS-D) satellite system. 2 STSS-D satellites were launched into orbit in 2009 to monitor ballistic missiles that exit and reenter the earth atmosphere throughout the midcourse phase.72 STSS-D satellites provide operational surveillance and tracking capabilities and have the benefit of a change waveband infrared mechanism to maximize their detection capabilities. Data derived by STSS-D have actually been provided in ballistic missile defense tests and also are now offering risk palliation to support a future room tracker. After an ext than a decade of serving danger reduction efforts, the MDA recently announced the plans come deorbit the STSS-D satellites within “the next couple years.”73

In addition, the United states is developing a mechanism of satellites qualified of providing an international detection, tracking, and discrimination of any kind of missile launch. Dating earlier as much as chairman Reagan’s strategic Defense Initiative, successive administrations have referred to as for a proliferated class of sensing satellites in an are to monitor the flight of any type of missile—not simply ballistic—from bear to death.

A layer of space-based sensors have the right to be an especially useful in tracking hypersonic vehicles, which fly at reduced altitudes than ballistic missiles and also can maneuver during their trajectories. Comparatively, the DSP and also SBIRS solution were designed because that ballistic missiles and can lose track the missiles paris at lower altitudes. Because many new threats room not flying on ballistic trajectories, the Trump administration paid close fist to arising this room sensor layer together endorsed by the MDR.

As a result, the SDA, in conjunction v the MDA, is occurring a room Tracking layer of satellites proliferated in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) as part of the SDA’s nationwide Defense room Architecture. Follow to the SDA:

Once completely operational, the SDA Tracking Layer will consist that a boiling thriving heterogeneous constellation of large Field of view (WFOV) room vehicles (SVs) that carry out persistent global coverage and custody ability combined through the Missile Defense company (MDA) Hypersonic and also Ballistic Tracking space Sensor (HBTSS) Medium field of check out (MFOV) SVs that administer precision worldwide access capability.74

Once deployed, the Tracking layer will have the ability to detect, track, and also discriminate among any types of missile launches transparent the whole of the missiles’ flights. The SDA is additionally exploring the ability of space sensors to administer fire manage information straight to weapon platforms choose the NGI (as opposed to the data’s going with a ground station).

Last year, Congress detailed $130 million—about $30 million above the President’s budget plan request—for the HBTSS and also affirmed the the MDA, no the SDA, would construct the system.75 It additionally fulfilled the President’s request for $48 million for the SDA.76 This year’s budget request consists of $256 million for the HBTSS to permit an on-orbit demonstration for two builders in FY 2023.77

Assessment. senior defense leader have proclaimed repeatedly the the most important way to breakthrough sensor capability is come deploy sensor satellites to room in stimulate to track missiles from the high ground transparent their entire flight. Follow to Admiral Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategy Command (STRATCOM):

Future space-based sensors might be able to carry out birth-to-death detection, tracking, and also discrimination of hypersonic glide vehicle, cruise missile, and also ballistic missile threats globally. These abilities cannot be completely achieved through the present or future terrestrial-based radar style due come the border of geography and also characteristics the future missile threats.78

Fortunately, the U.S. Government has advanced in the space-based sensor effort in spite of a sluggish start. In FY 2019, FY 2020, and also FY 2021, the regime was plagued through insufficient capital requests and bureaucratic infighting end whether the SDA or MDA would construct the HBTSS.79 These concerns seem to have actually been resolved as clear duties for the SDA and also MDA have actually been defined. The space-based sensor effort must continue to be totally funded, particularly in view of commanders’ urgent need for improved missile tracking and the technological challenges connected with emerging a sensor that deserve to perform in LEO.80

Development of land-based sensors to to fill the missile discrimination ability gap end the Pacific has developed slowly. Advance of the LRDR has actually been delay by at least a year.81 The HDR-H task resumed in FY 2021, yet local opposition to its development threatens to develop delays.82 since the DOD initially proposed the HDR-H to fill the an essential discrimination gap identified over Hawaii, the absence of resources for HDR-H again in the FY 2022 budget also demonstrates a disconnect v DOD priorities. Additionally, the Pentagon initially planned to build a radar elsewhere in the Pacific (HDR-Pacific), but the FY 2021 budget request excluded this program, and also Congress walk not restore its funding. If NGI is the systems to a strong homeland missile defense, the NORTHCOM command must have actually the sensor coverage vital to execute the mission.

With respect come Next-Gen OPIR, conference fulfilled the FY 2021 budget request, which must keep the routine on schedule, and also this year’s spending plan request continues to money the program.83 The army is additionally progressing easily on advancement of the Lower-Tier Air and also Missile Defense device radars the will provide 360-degree hazard coverage because that PAC-3 and also other regional missile defense batteries; the current Patriot radar have the right to scan just one-third the the sky at a time.84

Fortunately, the space-sensor project is now on track compared to vault years. It is essential that land-based radar coverage relocate forward in order to stabilize the future sensor architecture.

Command and also Control

Command and control the the U.S. Ballistic missile defense mechanism requires bringing with each other data indigenous U.S. Sensors and also radars and also relaying those data to interceptor operators so the they can damage incoming missile threats against the U.S. And its allies. The work hub the missile defense command and control is the Joint useful Component Command for incorporated Missile Defense (JFCC IMD), a component of STRATCOM housed in ~ Schriever Air pressure Base, Colorado. JFCC IMD brings together Army, Navy, maritime Corps, Space, and Air pressure personnel and is co-located with the MDA’s Missile Defense Integration and also Operation facility (MDIOC). This concentration of leadership from across the assorted agencies help to streamline decision-making for those who command and also operate the U.S. Missile defense system.85

Command and control the the GMD system to safeguard the homeland makes use of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Fire control (GFC) system, which consists of a suite the hardware, software, and also personnel located in ft Greeley, Alaska, and also Vandenberg Air force Base, California.86 The system entails collecting data on missile activity from sensors and radars to educate the start of GBIs.

Once a missile is launched, data indigenous the U.S. Global network that sensors and radars travel through secure satellite communications and ground-based redundant interactions lines come the Command Launch devices (CLE) software application that can task GBIs come fire at the just arrived missile. Then, as soon as the NORTHCOM Commander—who i do not care the sustained commander during GMD execution—in consultation through the president has figured out the many effective response to a missile threat, the CLE fire solution option is relayed to the proper GBIs in the field.87 once the selected missiles have been fired, they maintain contact with In-Flight Interceptor communications System (IFICS) Data Terminals (IDTs) to receive updated flight information that helps to guide them to their target.88

To prepare for and execute GMD operations, the NORTHCOM command can also utilize situational awareness data native the Command and Control, battle Management and also Communication (C2BMC) system. Through its software and also network systems, C2BMC help to process and incorporate sensor details to provide a an ext complete snapshot of the battlespace.89 The GMD Fire control system acts as the primary decision aid for GMD execution, and the C2BMC mechanism provides integrated battlefield awareness info before and during GMD operations.90 It likewise provides information to other missile defense systems choose THAAD and also Patriot. Dozens that C2BMC workstations are distributed throughout the world at U.S. Armed forces bases.

C2BMC has actually undergone multiple technical upgrades, referred to as “spirals,” because 2004 to bring more missile defense facets into the network. In 2019, the MDA completed an upgrade that will help to increase Aegis missile defense coverage by allowing Aegis Weapons systems to connect on remote.

Regional missile defense systems favor THAAD, PAC-3, and also Aegis are equipped through their very own individual fire manage systems come command and control the beginning of your interceptors. The C2BMC system can also provide tracking info to individual missile defense battery from other local sensors. Aegis BMD systems have actually onboard command and also control administer by the Aegis Combat System, and also they can provide their sensor data come the GMD mechanism through C2BMC.91

C2BMC associate sensors and shooters about the human being to a an international network, yet there is no similar system to attach sensors and shooters in a solitary region. The military is developing the incorporated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) fight Command device (IBCS) to carry out this capability. Once fielded, IBCS would affix all sensors and shooters in a region to a single fire regulate network.92 prefer IFPC, IBCS would also link defenses versus smaller risks with ballistic missile defense.

Assessment. A strong an international command and control mechanism is an essential to missile defense due to the fact that linking info from sensors can increase domain awareness and also decision time, thereby boosting the probability the intercept. Follow to general VanHerck, “Decision an are starts v that domain awareness.” With much more information about the threat, decision-makers can move “further left” to engage a target sooner.93 for instance, the was recently reported that the MDA noted U.S. Indo-Pacific Command with a hypersonic missile defense capability, mainly as a result of C2BMC enhancements that permit sensors to check out the hazard sooner.94 Future spirals that room planned will proceed to increase the integration the ballistic missile defense elements throughout the world.

The MDA planned come complete another upgrade to combine the LRDR right into C2BMC in FY 2021, but this upgrade has actually been delayed, mostly by the COVID-19 pandemic.95 Domain awareness can also permit decision-makers to use other tools to deescalate conflict prior to missiles space launched. This option is especially important in taking care of cruise missile dangers to the homeland, for which the U.S. Go not have actually a an extensive interceptor capability.

The United claims will require a an ext advanced command and control capacity as worldwide missile threats transition to incorporate cruise and also hypersonic missiles in addition to ballistic missiles. The DOD is currently emerging a Joint all Domain C2 (JADC2) mechanism to integrate non-compatible sensors across all domain names into a single network so the it have the right to respond come the facility threat an ext efficiently. Missile defense command and also control will strengthen as the services begin to field JADC2 capabilities.

North American Aerospace Defense Command is additionally pursuing a program referred to as Pathfinder the “ingests data from multiple sources, infuses the data and also uses machine learning and also intelligence capability to procedure and re-superstructure in real time.”96 Sensor information have the right to tend come exist in stovepipes, and also if the is not integrated, the an outcome can be fail to detect a threat.97 Pathfinder’s usage of man-made intelligence can help to ensure the the command receives a full data picture.

IBCS will also provide an important improvement in regional missile defenses. The device will attach all missile defense sensors and interceptors come one fire regulate center, together opposed to today’s much more stovepiped method in which every unit operates that co-located sensor and launcher independently. By allow air and also missile defenses to role as a joint kill internet rather 보다 as a linear kill chain, IBCS will have the ability to determine the finest shooter come take under an incoming missile, in turn increasing the defended battlespace.

IBCS was initially scheduled to reach initial operating ability in FY 2019, yet it was delayed come FY 2022 due to the fact that of technical issues.98 The program remains top top this brand-new schedule today and also successfully involved two targets throughout a minimal user test conducted last year.99 breakthroughs underway in missile defense command and control will become increasingly necessary to permit defense against the farming missile threat.


By successive options of post–Cold War managements and Congresses, the United claims does not have actually in place a comprehensive collection of missile defense solution that would be qualified of defending the homeland and also allies from robust ballistic missile threats. U.S. Initiatives have concentrated on a restricted architecture that protects the homeland and on deploying and advancing regional missile defense systems.

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Although the united States has in ar multiple species of qualified interceptors, a substantial sensor network, and a command and control system, many elements of the missile defense mechanism need to be enhanced to defend versus today’s threat more efficiently. At the exact same time, the breakthrough of missile threats, both qualitative and quantitative, is outpacing the rate of missile defense research, development, and deployment to resolve those threats. Senior leaders continue to stress and anxiety the importance of U.S. Missile defense, yet if the country is to establish the strategic benefits the missile defense provides, Congress have to make certain that the resources of vital programs prefer NGI, an are sensors, and JADC2 is commensurate through that importance.


VanHerck, statement before Senate armed Services Committee, p. 4.The platform carrying air-launched ballistic missile interceptors has to be close come the beginning area, aloft, properly oriented, and also generally in ~ the selection of enemies’ anti-access/area-denial systems since of payload limits on airborne communication themselves. These needs make airborne intercepts specifically challenging.U.S. Room of Defense, Office that the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief financial Officer, United states Department that Defense budget Year 2022 budget Request: Defense spending plan Overview, pp. 2-14 and 2-15.The FY 2022 request includes $251.5 million for the procurement that 18 THAAD interceptors. U.S. Room of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget plan Estimates Overview, p. 12. The FY 2021 request contained $495.4 million in resources for the procurement that 41 THAAD interceptors. U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, budget Year (FY) 2021 budget Estimates Overview, p. 11.Explanatory Statement, “Division C—Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2021,” in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Committee print of the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Residence of Representatives, top top H.R. 133/Public regulation 116-260 , book 1 that 2, divisions A–F, p. 597.Ibid., pp. 38 and also 40.U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief financial Officer, United says Department the Defense fiscal Year 2022 budget plan Request: Defense budget Overview, p. 2-15.VanHerck testimony in video, “Full Committee Hearing: ‘National security Challenges and also U.S. Military task in North and South America.’”Appendix IV, “Program Overview: Sensors,” in U.S. Government Accountability Office, Missile Defense: budget Year 2020 Delivery and also Testing Progressed, but yearly Goals Unmet, p. 29.Explanatory Statement, “Division C—Department that Defense Appropriations Act, 2021,” in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Committee publish of the Committee ~ above Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, ~ above H.R. 133/Public legislation 116-260 , book 1 that 2, divisions A–F, p. 396.Ibid., p. 467.To finding hypersonic missiles maneuvering in the upper environment close to LEO (a goal of HBTSS), room sensors may need to check out them in ~ a little of an angle fairly than by looking right down. This next view makes hypersonic missiles appear dimmer, requiring an ext sensitive sensors.Army techniques Publication No. 3-27.3, “Ground-based Midcourse Defense Operations,” pp. 3-2 and also 5-3.Stenographic transcript of listening “To get Testimony top top United claims Southern Command and also United States northern Command in review of the Defense Authorization inquiry for fiscal Year 2022 and the Future years Defense Program,” p. 41.Appendix II, “Program Overview: “Command, Control, battle Management, and also Communications (C2BMC),” in U.S. Government Accountability Office, Missile Defense: fiscal Year 2020 Delivery and Testing Progressed, but annual Goals Unmet, p. 25.VanHerck testimony in video, “Full Committee Hearing: ‘National protection Challenges and also U.S. Military task in North and also South America.’”In 2015, because that example, separation, personal, instance sensors failed to detect a gyrocopter the landed in the National funding Region, but when NORAD went ago and used the Pathfinder to analysis the information, it discovered the gyrocopter. Watch stenographic transcript of hear “To obtain Testimony top top United claims Southern Command and also United States north Command in evaluation of the Defense Authorization request for budget Year 2022 and also the Future year Defense Program,” p. 42.