DoD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Obering from the Pentagon
MODERATOR: Well, good morning. And thank you for joining us and for enduring a brief delay that we had in getting out here.
It's my privilege to welcome back to the briefing room General Obering, Trey Obering, who leads the Missile Defense Agency. And it's been some time since he's been in the briefing room giving you a program interview. And I think the last time he was here was for an intercept test that was conducted. But today he is back to talk to you about much of the success that has been achieved over the past several months and to also indicate some of the way forward in which the Missile Defense Agency is progressing with our missile defense capability.
So General, again, thank you for joining us and for bringing us up to speed. And let me turn it over to you.
GEN. OBERING: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Well, good morning, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here to be able to update you on this critically important program to our nation's security and the security of our allies and our deployed forces.
I'm going to go quickly through several charts. And I have a couple of videos to bring you up to speed on our flight-test programs from our short, medium, and long-range flight tests that we've conducted. And then hopefully that will spawn some questions that I'll be able to answer for the remainder of the period.
So, if I could have my first slide, please. If I kind of sit back and look at a strategic overview, we all know that the ballistic missile threat has continued to proliferate around the world. Access to these weapons has increased over the past many years and, in fact, two countries that we're very much concerned about -- specifically North Korea and Iran and the developments that they are continuing to make in their missile programs.
According to our own Defense Intelligence Agency, Iran is working on an extended range version of the Shahab-3 and a new 2,000-kilometer medium-range ballistic missile which they term the Ashura. In addition, in February of this year, Iran claimed that it had successfully launched an exploratory space vehicle, space rocket. The analysis that has been indicated shows that it has a resemblance to the Shahab-3 missile as well. And in November and in just this past week, Iran orchestrated launches of several short- and medium-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and the U.S. bases in the Middle East.
Now, recognizing this growing threat, we have embarked on a strategy where we initially wanted to protect the United States from North Korea, because that was the more advanced threat that we saw from the launches that they conducted in 1998 and again in 2006 with their longer-range missiles. And we have turned to field that capability; we have done so. And I'll show you what that configuration looks like today.
The next phase was to be able to operate in one region or one theater, which we've also done. We're not completely there, but we're beginning to continue to roll out capabilities against a shorter and medium-range threats using mobile assets like our sea-based Aegis and Patriot systems that are deployable.
And in addition, we wanted to turn our attention to expanding our coverage against Iran because we view them as the next -- the next concern that we had to worry with. And that meant that we needed to protect the United States and then to expand that protection for our deployed forces and our allies and friends in the European theater, and then eventually it would operate in more than one theater with our mobile assets.
That's a strategy that we've been embarked upon.
The European site initiative that I will talk about is able to provide coverage and protection to those nations that would be vulnerable to long-range Iranian missiles. And along that regard, we made great progress in the integration of our proposed architecture with the programs that NATO is embarked upon with their active layer theater missile defense program.
Of course we received the NATO endorsement in the Bucharest summit just this past April. We have also taken concrete steps to show how we integrate the U.S. system with a NATO system. And I'll just get into more detail about that. And of course we had our signed agreement with the Czech Republic last week on the radar site in that country.
Next slide, please.
Again, we have seen -- in turning to the Iranian threat more recently, we have seen this evolution from shorter-range missiles based on the old Russian scud technology to longer and longer range weapons. What you see here is that evolution. The dotted line is also representative of a qualitative improvement in the performance of those vehicles, going from the old scud-based technology to more modern technologies. And we know that they have stated this intent to achieve longer and longer ranges of weapons.
Now, if you go to the next slide, what is concerning is that this extending range is much farther beyond anything that they would need in a regional conflict with Israel, because a missile that is capable of even 1,300 or 1,500 kilometers could encompass the Israeli country as well as -- the country of Israel as well as the U.S. bases in the region.
So why this progression to longer and longer range delivery systems? That's what has us concerned, and that's why we also are moving out when we hear the intent of the Iranian president, for example, why we're concerned about providing protection, because we do not want to be in a situation where we're facing a long-range missile threat in which we don't have protection against it.
Now, we are building an integrated layered system. Now, what do I mean by that? It means that in every one of the phases of flight of an enemy missile -- there's a boosting phase, a power phase, a midcourse or coasting phase that for the majority -- the vast majority of these missiles occurs in space, and then there's a terminal phase where it's reentering the atmosphere or homing in on the target -- we are trying to develop and field defenses in each one of those phases, the boost, midcourse and terminal.
In the boost phase, we've had great success with the airborne laser. We have now demonstrated all of the technical steps needed to shoot down a boosting missile in flight with the airborne laser. We have generated the power that we needed on the ground in a 747 fuselage mock-up. And we've also flown the aircraft, and we've demonstrated the tracking laser performance and an atmospheric compensation laser performance. All that goes together to show that we can shoot down a boosting missile. And we're on track to do that next year in a flight test.
Kinetic energy interceptor is also a boost-phase defense, and it is based on the premise that we have a very high acceleration booster that's mobile, that we can move close to the threat country and be able to get the acceleration needed to shoot down a missile while it is still boosting.
That program is on track as well. We have demonstrated static flight -- static testing of the first and second stage of that interceptor. And we are on track to have a flight test showing that very high acceleration booster next year as well.
But both of those programs are still eight to 10 years away from having an operational capability.
In the midcourse, we have deployed our land-based ground midcourse defense, or GBI, interceptor that we call it. This is the interceptor in silos in Alaska and California. It's the only defense we have against long-range missiles. And of course we have our sea- based Aegis that is capable of shorter and medium-range coverage, and we demonstrated and deployed that as well.
In addition, as we move in the future, we're concerned that countries like Iran and North Korea even will have the ability to develop more and more complex countermeasures to go along with these missiles. And so we want to address that. One of key programs in doing that is what we call a Multiple Kill Vehicle, which allows a single interceptor to be able to destroy more than one, as we call it, "credible object" in an intercept.
And then in the terminal phase, in addition to the PAC-3 that has been fielded and operational, we have Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, or THAAD, system that will be coming on line in the next year or so with the first deliveries of the fire units there, and that operates just inside and outside the atmosphere.
And all of these intercept programs, along with the sea-based terminal, which is both a near-term capability that we've demonstrated -- and you'll see that in one of the video clips -- along with the plans for a far-term, much more robust capability that we plan to have a competition for, all of these programs are supported by the family of sensors that you see across the top of the slides; that include modifications to existing sensors, the deployment of mobile sensors and radars, like we've done in Japan, sea-based radars -- everything from the X-band radars that are on the Aegis ships that we tie into our system along with a very powerful X-band radar that's mounted on a semi-submersible, self-propelled platform that we use both operationally as well as in our test programs.
And then finally, we are planning this year to launch two space- tracking and surveillance system satellites that will demonstrate the ability, from space, to be able to provide the precise tracking that we need. Today all we do are early-warning -- it's alerting the system and saying this is where the missile will impact if it's not intercepted. That's all we can do from space. What we want to be able to demonstrate is the ability to do precise tracking that we can actually engage on that track.
Next slide. Now, the configuration today, we have -- first of all, we have placed a radar in Shariki, Japan, and that has been up and operational and tied into our system. We have Aegis long-range and surveillance ships that we deployed and been able to integrate those into our program.
In addition, we have modified the radar at Cobra Dane, and as well in Beale (Air Force Base) in California. And with the emplacement of up to 21 interceptors in Alaska and three in California, that gave us the protection that I talked about earlier in our first block, so to speak, against a potential North Korean threat. And of course we tie that together with the command and control suites that we deploy from Hawaii to Omaha, to Colorado Springs, to the national capital region and fire control in Alaska as well.
Now, in addition, we have completed work on the Fylingdales radar and tied that into the system. That provides initial protection from the Iranian potential threat as we move in the future, and of course the interceptors in Alaska and California can address that as well.
We plan to have a total of up to 30 interceptors by the end of the year for our long-range systems that you see between Alaska and California.
In addition, we have modified -- currently, there are 15 Aegis ships that are capable of launching the sea-based SM-3 interceptors, and we delivered 30 of those interceptors. We should have a total of 18 ships by the end of this year, with about 34 of those sea-based interceptors. And we also have, for our near-term sea-based terminal, otherwise the ability to provide terminal defense in a point defense kind of a fashion from the sea. We've been able to deliver 29 of those Standard Missile-2 Block IVs, and we should have 40 by the end of the year.
Now, one thing to remind you is that none of this existed just four years ago. So we were able to do this in that time frame because of the special authorities and the special flexibilities we were given, both by the department and by the Congress.
Go to the next slide, please. In our flight test record, the reason that we have confidence in what we have deployed, if you look at overall, since 2001, we have now conducted 35 of 43 successful hit- to-kill intercepts.
That includes the track record that you see here. Five of five of the successes are in the THAAD program. Thirteen of fifteen with Aegis, six of nine with the long-range ground-based midcourse, and that represents the hit-to-kill, along with eleven of fourteen Patriots.
In addition, with our Aegis sea-based terminal, that is a blast fragmentation. That's not a hit-to-kill capability. We have had two successes of two there.
What I'd like to do is to go through and also point out that in the failures that we had, the eight failures, they were not major design flaws or major functional flaws. The failures were, a component broke, or this particular component did not -- had a malfunction that we had to replace. We have not had any major showstoppers in our overall program.
Now, if you go ahead and click on this first one here, and we can maybe turn down the light a little bit, this is a THAAD test conducted in April 2007. In this case, we launched a very threat-representative target from a ship, off the coast of Hawaii, several hundred miles. And we engaged this with the THAAD interceptor that was launched from the island of Kauai there.
Again the ability to do sea-launched targets gives us some flexibility in our program. This is the interceptor launch. I think you'll see a couple of fly-up pictures here. And then there will be a closeup and a slow-motion of the interceptor leaving the canister.
One thing to note is that this is a single booster. So the kill vehicle expands to about this point here. We have a single booster with the kill vehicle associated. We do not use explosives. We do not use warheads. We actually just run the interceptor right into the warhead.
Now, what you're going to see next is the separation of the booster from the kill vehicle. So there's the separation. And there goes the kill vehicle. Next, you're going to see the shroud come off of the kill vehicle, exposing the sensor that begins to, based on the information it's getting from the radar, will pick up the target.
And then you'll see the attitude control system rockets making the adjustments, as the target comes in from the left, and we destroy it. This particular intercept was very high, just on the reaches of the atmosphere, just at the outer fringes of the atmosphere and in space.
Click on the next one, our Aegis. This particular test was in, I believe, November, as I recall, of 2007. We had a separating target, meaning that this was similar to a Nodong or Shahab-3, where you have a separating warhead from the body of the missile.
Some of the fly-up; this is just some of the sensors that we use in our testing. We also integrated other components. We integrated a THAAD radar and another Aegis ship, so that we could determine how we correlate the tracks.
This was an operational crew. They had not fired an SM-3 before. They had no notice of the target launch. So it was a very realistic scenario. All they knew was, they were defending this are from any particular missiles launched from this area.
There's the interceptor firing. And one of the nice things about the SM-3 is, it has the ability in the third stage to do a pulse, to delay and pulse again. So that allows us to shape the trajectory for the different threats that we may end up facing.
Here's the second pulse of the third stage, after ejecting the nose cone. Here's the infrared. It shows the attitude control center firing and then the intercept.
And I think you also have an electro-optical image here. This is just before we hit the warhead. And we know that we're hitting within centimeters of where we're aiming on all of these tests. That's been the results so far. And we're very pleased with that.
If you go ahead to this next one, no, one up from there, if you would, the long-range. There we go.
This is a test we conducted on the 20th of September of last year. In this case, we're emulating a launch from North Korea into the United States, with an intercept from Alaska. We launched the target from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and the interceptor from California. So that gives us the geometry that we would face realistically, the altitudes, the speed. And we also used the operational crews on this, soldiers manning the console, operational fire control, hardware, software, and operational radar. Beale, California, did the tracking. And then we used the operational interceptor itself, the kill vehicle, as well -- so very realistic conditions, in terms of what we were facing in this flight test.
The next you'll see is the fly-out of the interceptor. This is just a camera mounted on the target itself. Next you'll see a slide of the interceptor from the California. This is the three-stage version. This is the largest and the -- the largest interceptor in our inventory, about 60 feet long. Here's the silo doors opening and the egress of the interceptor.
And next you'll see the staging of the first stage. And again, this is very high altitude in terms of the engagement, which is a good thing, because you want to keep any possible electromagnetic pulse effect, anything like that, as high as you can. And that's one of the reasons that this is very beneficial in our overall portfolio.
What you're going to see first is infrared of the intercept scene. So you'll see what it looked like to off-board sensors and with respect to the intercept. There's the target and there's the intercept.
And next you're going to see three boxes come up. And these are the sensors on board the kill vehicle. So this is what the kill vehicle is actually seeing. And you're going to see it tracking different objects in its field of view. And it's going through, and based on its own decision-making, it decides what is a warhead and what is just debris or a band or something like that, that's floating by. Here are the three pictures that you see. These little white boxes are different objects that the kill vehicle is tracking. It sorts through and says, "Okay, even though I'm tracking that, this is the warhead," and it focuses in, and you'll see the warhead come up in these two pictures, these two indicators right here.
And again, we know, based on the way that we instrument our warheads, that we precisely hit and where we hit on that warhead.
Go back, if you would.
And then one final one. This is one we just conducted a couple of weeks ago, on the 5th of June. This was a sea-based terminal, where we launched a ballistic missile from a C-17. This is the target. So this gives us the ability -- the launches of the SM -- I'm sorry. I'm sorry. This is -- I apologize. This is two launches of the SM -- the SM-2 Block IV against a sea-based target. And here you see the intercept. The first one hit the target, and the second one goes by and self-destructs because it wasn't needed. The first one destroyed the target.
The next one I'll show you is our air-launched mobile target.
If you'd go to the next slide, please. Okay. And if you go ahead and click on this one over here -- this is a THAAD test that we conducted a few weeks ago, on the 25th of June.
In this case, we launched again the interceptor -- you'll notice we launched it from daytime here in Hawaii -- against a(n) air- launched target. So we launched the target out the back of a C-17. Here you see the extraction shoot from the C-17, the target pallet pulled away.
This allows us the flexibility to fly almost anywhere. Obviously, we have to worry about the range safety constraints.
Here, the parachutes coming back release the stabilization chute. Then you'll see the target fall away from the chutes to the (pilot/pallet?) here and they ignite and then it begins this burn to allow us to do the intercept.
Incredible success here: This is about the fourth or fifth time that we've done this, being able to launch this out of the back of a C-17. And here's the daytime launch of the THAAD from the canister, and again, very, very successful. We know that we were able to destroy the warhead and we precisely hit on there where we were aiming.
And there's the end game and the infrared, as you see here. Okay, if you could go forward, please. Now, let's go to the next slide.
I want to talk about a long-range test that we had scheduled for this Friday. Originally, this test was supposed to be known as (FUG-4 ?); that's what's seen here on the left. What we had planned to do is do the same target launch from Kodiak Island and engagement from Vandenberg. We were going to have two sensors that were going to be involved: A mobile to deployable radar identical to the one we have in Japan, and we were going to also use the radar at Beale to tie them together and provide that information to an interceptor to intercept the target. In addition, off-line, we were going have an Aegis ship -- a Sea-Based X-Band Radar providing the same tracking information into a simulated interceptor to determine whether or not that would have been accurate as well.
Now, we ran into a problem on the interceptor that has to do with the test configuration, not the operational configuration. We have a device on the interceptor that pulls all of the telemetry, all of the data from the interceptor and tells us how well it's performing. We discovered that we had a problem on that card that pulls that information from the interceptor. It's only used in our test program; it's not used in the operational fleet. It turns out that that card was bad across all of the cards that have been produced. So it was going to be a delay for the program for us to be able to use the interceptor in a test program.
I could have elected to go ahead and fire on Friday, but we had at least a 20 percent chance we would lose all data in the test. And even if we're successful, we don't want to do that, because these tests are expensive. We want to be able to take advantage of all the data that we can. So what we ended up doing is say, "Okay, what can we do in place of this?"
Well, instead of doing this parallel effort we were going to do originally, what we decided was that we were going to take all the sensors, the forward deployable radar, the Aegis, the SBX, the Beale, put them all in line and integrate that all together so we can get all that information in one single string, like we would operationally, and put that into a simulated interceptor.
So we should do that. We're going to do that -- fly this test this Friday. We're going to launch the target. It will have countermeasures on the target. We will be able then to do this integration in a track and determine whether we could have been successful in -- with respect to our intercept.
And in addition, we're going to do the same thing again in December, except we're going to have the interceptor, because by then, we'll have the card fixed. We can fire the interceptor back in the test again. So we will be back where we were originally. This was originally the construct that we were going to fly in December anyway, but we will have reduced the risk even further by doing this flight test on Friday. I wish we could have flown the interceptor this Friday, but I will not take the chance of losing that data on the flight test.
Next slide. We work very closely with the operational test community. This is some of the extracts from one of their recent reports, in terms of our Aegis program, meeting all the FTV criteria except for complex countermeasures, which we plan to do in the future as we go to the 1-B version of that missile -- but again, operational realism in all aspects of it, with those exceptions. And in the ground-based, the long-range, it's said that it met all the criteria except for complex countermeasures, similar to Aegis and an unannounced target launch.
Now, we have a disagreement with the operational test community, because when I spoke to the commander of the operational unit, they did not have any knowledge of the target launch. So that's just a disagreement we have with them. But everything else they met -- the threat-representative target, the warfighter participation and the end-to-end test for the system.
Now, very briefly, on our European site initiative, as I said earlier, we wanted to extend coverage to our European allies and friends and our considerable number of deployed forces in the region. That means that we needed to have interceptors located in Europe and we needed to have sensors to expand the coverage.
We proposed the Czech Republic for the radar and Poland for the interceptors because, very simply, technically they were the optimum locations. If you look at all of the potential trajectories -- and this particular graph only shows one launch point from Iran to the United States and to Europe, and in reality we looked at all the potential launch points from Iran to all potential target points in the United States and Europe. And Poland and the Czech Republic provided the best azimuth coverage for those trajectories as well as the range back from Iran.
We could be too close. And remember I said we don't have boost phase defenses yet, so we can't engage very close to Iran for the long-range threat, and if you get too far back, you begin to roll back coverage and expose countries that could be vulnerable. So that's why we chose Poland and the Czech Republic. It gave us the azimuth coverage and the range necessary. And again, I'll be able to answer questions on that if you like in the question-and-answer session.
This is the coverages provided with the U.S. system combined with that European initiative. This is the coverage without the European initiative and just with the radars in the United Kingdom in Fylingdales, for example, and the interceptors in Alaska and California. And as you see, the area that's not covered here, those nations would not be at risk for the long-range missile. They would be more at risk against medium and short-range missiles. And we have other assets that can cover that; Aegis, for example, Patriot, or a NATO-developed system that they have now been tasked to look at what would an architecture be that could be integrated with the U.S. proposal.
Now, speaking about integration, we had two great successes here this year. We took -- there is a NATO air command and control system that forms the backbone of the command and control for the NATO expected system. We have our own command and control system that I showed you that we deployed from Hawaii to Alaska -- or to Colorado Springs, et cetera.
What we did this January, and then again in June, is we were able to connect those two systems together. There's a prototype of the NATO system in The Hague, in the Netherlands. We connected that to our system in Colorado Springs, and we passed radar track data, we passed mission-planning data, we passed situational awareness data, that we call it both ways, from NATO to us and from us to NATO. So that was a key step in being able to show we can integrate these systems together. And there are plans for the warfighters themselves to use this in an exercise this September called Joint Project Optic Windmill.
Our U.S.-Russia discussions. We have been having discussions -- I personally have had discussions with the Russian leadership going back to 2004. There have been numerous meetings held at very high levels. In addition to the president and the secretaries, there's been eight senior policy and expert talks. Russia's primary concern was that we were exaggerating the Iranian threat and therefore these sites in Europe must be directed at them. That was their primary concern. And we've gone a long way to try to dissuade them of that notion. First of all, 10 interceptors in Poland could absolutely not match the hundreds of interceptors and thousands of warheads that the Russians have deployed.
The system is not designed for that. It is not capable of engaging those threats. They also talked about, well, it intrudes too much into our airspace with the radar. If you looked at the physics of this, and where the radar is located, in the Brdy Region in the Czech Republic, and the elevation, the minimum elevation of that (beam ?), by the time you look at the curvature of the Earth going over to Russian territory, the initial crossing into Russian territory, you're 256 kilometers in space. So we're not peering into their airspace with that radar.
And in addition, we talked about taking transparency measures with the Russians. Otherwise -- first of all, we've invited them to our missile defense sites. We've invited them to participate. I had two Russians with me in our last flight test, the long-range test that I showed you there in September. We've offered other transparency measures, situation awareness for them to understand what the status of the site is.
But more importantly, we said, okay, let's grant you that -- you're concerned about this being aimed at you and not the Iranian threat. We will build the sites, activate them, test them, and then we will not bring them to an operational status unless the Iranian threat emerges. That was our proposal. We think that's eminently reasonable. That's the proposal that we laid on the table at the NATO-Russia Council, and we're still engaged in discussions with the Russians.
The last slide, please.
Oftentimes, we're painted in missile defense as being in conflict with arms control measures or nonproliferation measures, and I believe nothing could be farther than (sic) the truth. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons we've seen the proliferation of these missiles in the past is that there has historically been no defense against them. So they are of a lot of value to nations like Iran and North Korea. If we join together -- U.S., NATO, Russia -- and field effective missile defenses, I believe it will have an effect on the value of these weapons. It will devalue them in the eyes of some of these countries.
Now, I think it can also bolster deterrence by decreasing the effectiveness of a rogue strike -- a rogue missile -- a rogue state strike. Otherwise, if you're injecting an uncertainty into the mind of an attacker as to what will succeed and what will not, it does bolster the deterrence in terms of that.
It also, I believe, has an effect on not -- on influencing nations not to develop their own nuclear weapons. If they can rely on a missile defense capability, a missile defense layer, it adds to that assurance.
It also provides leaders with another option. You know, recently -- not too long ago in the presidential campaigns, there was this 3:00 phone call debate and who was going to answer the phone. I am more concerned, frankly, about what's on the other side of that phone call. And if that is -- if there is a missile inbound to our allied country, to our deployed forces in an allied country or to the United States, you want whoever answers that phone to have the option to be able to defend against that and to knock that down. And missile defense is the only option that allows that.
We also think that it can stabilize in a crisis, and we've seen this. When the North Koreans stacked their long-range missiles back in July of 2006 and they fired the shorter-range missiles as well, there were several voices in this country that called for a preemptive strike against those sites, a very destabilizing step. But the president relied on the -- on the missile defense system to be able to protect U.S. assets if that had emerged as a threat. So we can see where it can stabilize in a crisis.
And finally, as I've said, when you do have a missile that's in the air, the only thing -- the only protection that you're going to have for your citizens, your deployed forces or you allies is a missile defense capability that can negate and destroy that warhead.
Okay, I know I ran through an awful lot of material in a short time. I know that many of you are already familiar with the program, so I'll be glad to answer any questions that you may have.
Q QGeneral, I was wondering if you could talk about the -- give a status update of the MKV program, talk a little bit more about that. And also expound on just how important that capability is in this climate.
GEN. OBERING: The question was could I expound on the MKV program and how important it is. Well, first of all, as I said, what that does, it allows us -- we are addressing this idea of complex countermeasures in a number of ways, not just one way. Number one, we are deploying very powerful radars and a variety of radars, in terms of frequency and in terms of algorithms on those radars, to help us distinguish what is a warhead, what is a decoy, especially when we get more complex countermeasures. Okay?
The second piece of it is we want to be able to have pervasive coverage of centers so that we can understand what's happening. And that's what our Space Tracking and Surveillance System program is so much about, because it gives us that type of global tracking of those threats.
But we also know that no matter what, we're still going to need improved ability to destroy more than one credible object, as we say. So the Multiple Kill Vehicle Program is designed to give all of our interceptors -- our land -- the ground-based midcourse interceptor along with our sea-based interceptors the ability to destroy more than one credible object per interceptor. So the idea is that you have either a killer vehicle with multiple kill vehicles, smaller kill vehicles on it, or a combination of kill vehicles operating as one initially and then operating independently to be able to do that.
We have -- the program is in development now. We have two primary contractors that are engaged, Lockheed and Raytheon. We expect to have some early testing in the 2014, 2015 time frame, then to be able to have something that is of use in the 2016 time frame.
Q What evidence is there that Iran is developing either an intermediate- or a long-range missile?
GEN. OBERING: According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, if you look at the reports that they have been testifying to along with some of the intelligence reports that we can't go into here, there's good evidence that they are developing longer and longer-range missiles and that they are planning to have this capability over the near future.
Now, if you look at the assessment by the intel community, they say that about 2015, 2017, in that time frame they may even have a missile that could reach the United States, which is an ICBM-class missile.
In addition, what is also worrisome is when they announce a space launch program. Under a space launch program, you can demonstrate all the technologies you need for a long-range system. That means multi- staging of components, more than one booster, for example. You can look at burner controls -- that means the control of the rocket as you go through the staging events and making corrections in shaping trajectories, et cetera. And that all could be done under a space launch program. So we have to keep an eye on that capability.
Q But do they have an active intermediate-range or a long- range missile program?
GEN. OBERING: According to reports, the answer's yes.
Q Is it possible -- you mentioned that you only have 10 interceptors for our side and you have hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads on the Russian side. Could it be that the real reason, then, for their objection is just it's historically their turf; they don't like the idea that we're offering as part of a package deal arms to Poland that used to be part of the Soviet Union's sphere and they just don't want us in their neighborhood?
GEN. OBERING: I'm very glad you raised that.
I won't speculate on what the Russian motivation is. In fact, what I would ask you to do is to ask them, because frankly, I think it is -- it's incumbent upon them -- when they make increasingly aggressive statements, it's incumbent upon them to justify those, because, as you said, there is absolutely no justification in our eyes for some of their statements and some of their concern about these sites.
The missile defense interceptors, as I said, they don't carry explosives. They don't carry warheads. If we try to turn them into offensive missiles, that would be imminently evident to even the casual observer. It's not something that we have any intent to do or reason to do, frankly. So I think it's time that world turns and asks the Russians to justify their position on why are they are acting, in our case, in such an unjustified way.
Q Recently the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement. The translation I saw said that they would be compelled to use military technical methods to defeat -- in retaliation if the Czech parliament and the U.S. ratify this treaty. Have you gotten any clarification from them on what that means? Have you asked them what they meant?
GEN. OBERING: We are continuing discussions with them, and we will continue discussions with them, but we -- I don't understand what that means, either.
Q Also, we've heard that Lithuania could be a possible backup for the interceptors if Poland decides not to. Can you talk about the other possible backups?
GEN. OBERING: What I can say is this. First of all, Poland still remains the -- our number-one partner with respect to the interceptor sites. We have completed negotiations with the Poles, by the way, on the missile defense text and the agreement. That is now in national staffing between the two countries. There are other issues involved, as you said, as the gentleman said earlier, about the modernization of forces and going into those discussions.
But for whatever reason, if that is not successful, there are other options. They are not as optimum as Poland in terms of the placement of the interceptors, but from a geography perspective, there are other options that are not significantly degradable in terms of that coverage. But those are not options that we're pursuing at this point.
Q So you're not pursuing backup options right now?
GEN. OBERING: We are in no -- we have no formal active negotiations with any backup country at this point in terms of -- but all I'm telling you is, technically, there are other countries that could suffice here.
Q Yes, General. You mentioned briefly the successes of the ABL program. Previously, you discussed how the affordability might kill the program due to the operational costs. Has there been any cost efficiencies to that respect in recent years that might help move along the program?
GEN. OBERING: Good question. First of all, we're -- as I've said, we're going to fly the vehicle next year, several times, and we're going to -- we aim to shoot down a boosting missile in the -- underpowered flight.
Then we're going to go into a transition period in which we're going to evaluate -- we'll continue to fly and evaluate the test program and evaluate the lessons learned.
In parallel today, we already have efforts looking at how can we make components more producible, more cost-effective and more efficient. All of that data and knowledge will go into that decision as to what does the next (tail ?) number look like, what efficiencies can we make, what other opportunities are there with industry to be able to achieve some of those efficiencies. All that goes into that goes into that kind of decision.
Q You also mentioned, for other programs, partnering with other nations. Has there been any discussions to partner with other nations for the ABL program, maybe when it's proven its capability?
GEN. OBERING: Yes, there have. There have been some. And there -- I don't want to go into details there, but there are.
However, we actually have 18 nations around the globe that we have some type of relationship with in missile defense, either very intense co-development, like we do with Japan for the next version of the sea-based-3 -- the SM-3 sea-based interceptor, all the way to joint activity in research and development, to procurement activities that they have under way.
So we have a very rich variety of interaction globally.
So it's not the U.S. only that's looking at these missiles as threats to the future is my point. A lot of countries are concerned about what they see about countries using ballistic missiles as their supplement air forces, so to speak. And so we're seeing a growing number of nations that are very, very interested in collaborating with us and gaining some type of missile defense capability themselves.
Q Back on Iran, you know, all these assessments last week about these tests -- and some people called it a medium-range missile that they were testing. Some -- Secretary Gates called them longer- range -- these several longer-range.
Can you give us your assessment on just a breakdown of what was tested last week? Are they considered longer-range? Medium-range? How far was the furthest one? Is that something that the Missile Defense Agency had seen before? Have they seen these kinds of tests? Just some of the basic --
GEN. OBERING: Well, first of all, the intel community is the one that provides that information. What I can say is that the Iranians themselves are describing their launches as a -- the one as a 2,000- kilometer range missile launch. They also made that claim last year, in November, a 2,000-kilometer missile launch.
I believe, based on what I have seen, that they have the ability to do that and to continue to advance in the future, based on what I have seen so far from that -- those reports and from the intelligence reports.
I won't go into detail as to what was fired when. That's something I think the intel community should answer, because we don't do that. We don't -- we're not involved in that. But the implications for us is what we're concerned about.
Q And how does the Missile Defense Agency classify something that's a 2,000-kilometer range? Is that considered --
GEN. OBERING: It would be considered a medium-range missile. Right.
And then here's a little bit of the ambiguity there. Typically, you'll say how far can a missile fly to class it. But it also is dependent on what the payload weight is. So one missile that could fly at a medium range with a certain payload weight, with a smaller payload could fly at an intermediate range. So that's why there's distinction sometimes between what is -- and confusion -- as to what is a medium- or an intermediate-range missile.
But we typically classify anything that is of 2,500 kilometers, 3,000 kilometers and you go -- that's beginning to get into the longer-range category.
Q You had mentioned negotiations with Poland being complete and now it's in staffing. Can you just kind of walk us through what the process is now and your thoughts on, you know, the prospect for --
GEN. OBERING: Well, I'm still optimistic. I mean, we reached -- we have come -- concluded negotiations on the agreement itself. And when we say it goes into staffing, it means that the two negotiating teams have completed their negotiations, and then they put that into staffing within their own governments, so all the departments get to take a look at the agreement and the wording. Many of the issues that come up out of there, we have to raise those and then resolve them between the two teams. And that's about where we are right now.
Q Any details on the final agreement, then?
GEN. OBERING: Not yet.
Q Sir, you mentioned an offer to the Russians whereby you would set up a system but not make it operational until the Iranian threat materializes. So what is the breaking point there? Would that be long-range ICBMs? What is that threat? When does that materialize, and when do you see that happening?
GEN. OBERING: That's a great question. In fact, that's one of the points we discussed with the Russians.
And ironically one of the triggers, that we called it, early on was the flight of a 2000-kilometer missile. That would be a trigger for us, because what you have to concern yourself with is, if you wait until they demonstrate an ability to fly a certain distance, 2,000- 3,000-4,000 kilometers, which would encompass almost all of Europe, it's too late to start building missile defenses at that point against it.
And that was the point we were making with the Russians, is let's jointly monitor and look at what the Iranians are doing and then, but you have to grant us that we can't wait until we actually see one of those long-range tests to begin to build the missile defenses.
So when you see something like a 2,000-kilometer missile flight, that has to get your attention because that means that they're beginning to gain that capability; or longer-range flights. Also looking at developments with respect to the performance of those missiles, and what they actually -- what kind of profiles they fly, that type of thing, that's what we're looking at.
Q And how serious is this space launch program they've announced? Is this just an announcement? Is there anything behind that?
GEN. OBERING: I think that's probably a question better asked of the intel community. But I will say, I do believe that they are expressing every intent to have a space launch program. Of course, what we're concerned about is, what could be developed under that umbrella is directly applicable to an intercontinental ballistic missile range program.
Q General, just to clarify, you're saying that either in February or last week, Iran fired a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.
GEN. OBERING: That's what they said they did. That's what they are stating that they did.
Q But is that what U.S. intelligence says?
GEN. OBERING: You'd have to ask the U.S. intelligence. And I won't go into details about what they did see or didn't see.
Q One of the nagging criticisms of your program is the pace of the flight test program. What's your flight test plan for the European site, so that you can prove that it is operationally effective and suitable, not just a scarecrow and a silo?
GEN. OBERING: Sure, okay. Well, first of all, let's talk about the differences between what we're proposing for Europe and what we have actually flown and will fly, okay?
We fly, as I showed you in the video, a three-stage version of the ground-based midcourse interceptor. What we are planning to do is take that same identical interceptor, remove the third stage only.
We take the payload assist module and we do some modifications to that, so that it essentially sits down on top of the second stage, with an adaptor there and the booster module. We do some modifications there. It's not extensive at all.
We have to make some changes to the shroud for certain venting, with respect to the payload, and that's it. We change the software. That's all we're doing. This is not a major missile development. This is not a new development.
The test community agrees that there is a very low risk, with respect to the modifications that we're making to this vehicle. And we've done this before. We've done it with our Minuteman target launch vehicle, that we used previously, reducing from three-stage to two stages for rain safety purposes in our flight test.
Now, the profiles that we fly; we intend to fly those in our test program in the Pacific. We have plans right now to fly. Because the changes that we're making to that three-stage are to the boosters and not to the payload, to the kill vehicle, et cetera, we're going to fly that in what we call a booster verification test 2009. And that's planned.
Then we will fly an intercept test with that configuration in 2010. And we will do that again most likely in 2010 so that we will have three tests before we ever end up placing the first interceptor in the ground in Europe.
So I think there's been much ado about nothing here with respect to this testing.
Q Well, wait. Much ado about nothing. You were going to do an intercepting this Friday that you have to delay till December. It'll be the first test in like 15 months, because of quality problems with the telemetry.
GEN. OBERING: With the telemetry, right.
Q So here's my question.
GEN. OBERING: What I'm trying to say, Tony, is I think there's been too much made of the distinction between the second stage and the third stage, is what I mean.
Q From a testing standpoint --
GEN. OBERING: And oh, by the way, we're going to continue to fly the third stage as well.
GEN. OBERING: With an identical kill vehicle, as well.
Q What steps are you going take against Boeing and L3 Communications and the subcontractors who made the flawed telemetry ship that's delaying this test that the whole world is watching?
GEN. OBERING: You know us, Tony, and you know that we take steps with respect to our (working ?) program when it comes to that. And we have not come to that conclusion yet, because we are looking to see what we do with FTX-03 and the period leading up to FUG (sp) 5. So there will be steps taken to address the delays in the test program and the causes of those delays.
Q This was (a company ?) though, right? It was (a company ?) cause by the telemetry, (flaws ?) in the telemetry -- (inaudible).
GEN. OBERING: It was a bad technique for soldering that caused the problem on the (card ?). That was across the board, and that was produced by -- (inaudible) -- company.
GEN. OBERING: Yes, ma'am?
Q Sir, STRATCOM has asked you for some more THAAD and SM-3 interceptors. How are you going to pay for that -- (inaudible). Last month, you said you were looking at where you might make cuts in order to pay for that -- (off mike)?
GEN. OBERING: We're still going through that. But they did ask for more THAAD and more Aegis interceptors. And by the way, what that indicates is that we do work closely with the warfighters. We work closely with STRATCOM. They work closely with the other combatant commanders to gather together their desired capabilities that we can fulfill. And so we are taking that into the POM deliberations and we're working that up through the building, through the department here, in terms of, okay, we prioritize this, and then where can we take additional risk is what it boils down to, to be able to satisfy that.
Q Where have you seen potentially taking that additional --
GEN. OBERING: We haven't concluded that yet, and I don't want to be premature there.
MODERATOR: We have time for a couple more and then we've got to close this.
GEN. OBERING: Yes, ma'am?
MODERATOR: Sir, you were talking about ABL and reevaluating all the components. Is there a possibility of taking components from other companies, that Boeing would have to split the contract among other subs, oder that perhaps you'll take the ABL capability and put it on a different aircraft.
GEN. OBERING: No, we're very satisfied with the 747 in terms of the airframe, and there's been so much work done there in that. And frankly, if you look at the requirements, just the major movements, so to speak, it's going to require 747 aircraft to be able to do that.
What we're looking at it, how can we get efficiencies in the producability of the installations? Can we simplify the design based on the testing that we have? Can we take additional risk in some areas because we had margin that we -- more margin than we thought we needed, that type of thing. So that's what we're looking at right now. Also, bringing in maybe some other experts to take a look at manufacturability and producability and what would that -- what are some of the areas for investment.
Q Yes, sir. Last week, before the House Armed Services Committee, an expert, William Graham, who heads the Commission on Electromagnetic Pulse, said Iran clearly seems to be developing an EMP capability, where what that would involve is putting up a missile, not a very advanced one, you get it up to a certain height over an area and you detonate a small nuclear warhead, even one that would be half the size of a Nagasaki-type bomb.
And he said they're doing this with conventional weapons, conventional explosives, sending a missile up to a high altitude and detonating it. He said it would make no sense for any other purpose other than developing an EMP capability.
If Iran could develop an EMP capability, missile and nuclear device and sends it over to Europe, what would that do to Europe if there were an EMP over Europe?
GEN. OBERING: I'm not an EMP expert, but I can say this. It certainly would not be good. But it depends on the altitude in which that happens. Now, we believe that that is one of the reasons why the European system would be so important, because what we would do is intercept -- for them to be able to even reach an altitude to be able to have a significant EMP effect, they would have to fly a profile that we could intercept. And when we would intercept it, we would intercept far enough forward and high enough that we would have negligible EMP effects on the ground. That is the same thing we would do for the United States, by the way, is we would intercept far enough forward and high enough that we minimize the EMP effects on the ground. That's one of the advantages of having a missile defense capability.
Q General, you mentioned about the growing concern about more complex countermeasures. Does Iran have an active program for developing these kind of complex countermeasures, or are they just not concerned about --
GEN. OBERING: I can't comment on that, but there are some things I will say. First of all, we have every indication to believe that there have been hundreds of missiles that have been fielded without countermeasures. In addition, we do know -- and we have to plan for eventualities, okay? And therefore, we want to make sure that as the missiles are produced and have proliferated, we assume that the countermeasures are going to be likewise. And many of our own critics have said that that's a likely scenario. So we want to be prepared for that in the future and be able to handle -- we can handle countermeasures today with our long-range system. We can handle those.
We're going to demonstrate that in the flight test in December. We're going to have countermeasures. We're going to have countermeasures on the target this Friday. We're going to have countermeasures on the target in December. And that's part of our plan. We will have countermeasures. By the way, when we say we've intercepted six of nine times successfully, four of those were against countermeasures -- and don' forget that -- in our flight test program previously. So we're not (afraid ?) that we're going -- we're going to add those back in our systematic approach to how we're developing the system. But what we're worried about is even more complex countermeasures for the future, and that's why we need the MKV, the STSS and these other programs.
Q General, the Friday test is just a (walk ?), but you're going to launch a test missile, a bad-guy test missile, and then you're going to simulate whether you could have intercepted it or not.
GEN. OBERING: Yes. There's two real challenges you have. One is taking the data, all of the sensor data -- so you have an S-band Aegis ship, you have an X-band forward-deployed radar, you have an X- band platform there, the sea-based X-band, you have a UHF radar at Beale, all of those different frequency, all of those different radars are going to see that target complex. We will generate the scene from that and inject into our fire control system. And the fire control system, using exactly the same software and hardware, will go through the logic that says, could we have engaged that with a GBI, and then go through a simulated GBI launch in our modeling and simulation.
So we will learn a lot from this test on that very, very valuable data. The only thing we'll be missing, of course, is the interceptor itself. And that is extremely critical, obviously, but frankly, we're building great confidence in that because of our flight test that we conducted in FTG-02, FTG-03 alpha, the previous flight test that we did, and that's why we'll be confident for the one in December.
Q Critics are going to say this thing is just rigged so you're not going to fail at all. I mean, it's a computer simulation. I mean, how are you going to safeguard against, you know, that kind of criticism so that it's an intellectually honest --
GEN. OBERING: Well, it will be intellectually honest because what we're doing is we're flying exactly the profile that we need to be able to, working with the operational test community, to be able to gain that data for how we do that sensor correlation and tracking and being able to inject that information into the system.
So again we're not saying -- don't get me wrong. We're not saying that this is the type of test we want to conduct in lieu of the interceptor.
But the other option would be to delay the entire test till December and not collect this data. And we didn't think that that was a very good thing to do, especially since this particular -- this flight would be very valuable in getting the information from the integration of all these sensors into the system.
Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
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