Defense of U.S. is Top Priority for Missile Defense, DOD Leader Says

April 3, 2019 | BY David Vergun ,
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Potential adversaries are developing sophisticated ballistic and cruise missile systems, with increased speed, range, accuracy and lethality, a senior Pentagon official said today.

Additionally, Russia and China are developing the hypersonic glide vehicle, which maneuvers outside of traditional trajectories and is harder to track and take out, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John C. Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee at a hearing on missile defense policies and programs today.

He was joined by Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command; Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency; and Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command.

Defending the Homeland

Defense of the United States is the first priority, Rood said, outlining steps taken in that direction as reflected in the fiscal year 2020 military budget request and the 2019 Missile Defense Review. They include:

— Adding 20 ground-based interceptors in Alaska, bringing the total to 64.

— Continued development of a redesigned kill vehicle for reliability.

— Continuing to build a new missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska.

— The need to field new discrimination radars in Alaska and Hawaii and extend operations for the sea-based X-band radar.

— The need for a wide-area surveillance system to defend against cruise missile threats.

Defending Deployed Forces

Rood also outlined regional missile threats to U.S. and allied forces with an aim to improve air and missile defense systems abroad. Among the defenses planned by the U.S. are:

— Enhancing the Aegis ballistic missile defense system by procuring Standard Missile-3 block IB and Block IIA missiles and integrating the SPY-6 radar.

— Procurement of additional Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense interceptors, Patriot interceptors and the Army Indirect Fire Protection Capability command and control system.

Preparing for Emerging Threats

Besides improving legacy missile defense systems, Rood said, the United States will pursue breakthrough technologies to defend against emerging threats. Among the funding requests are:

— Additional space-based sensors.

— Integrating space-based kill assessment into the ballistic missile defense system.

— Operating and sustaining the space tracking and surveillance system.

— Developing defenses against hypersonic missiles, including near-term sensor and command and control upgrades.

— Testing an SM-3 Black IIA capability against an ICBM-class target to develop the capability to add a layer to the defense system.

— Developing a kinetic boost phase intercept using a tactical air platform.

— Initiating a neutral particle beam technology demonstration program and continued high-energy laser development.

— Launching a study of space-based interceptors.

Importance of Allies and Partners

Lastly, Rood said, it’s important that allies and partners invest in their own air and missile defense capabilities that are interoperable with those of the United States.

Toward that end, the U.S. is working with NATO, Spain, Turkey, Romania, Poland, Gulf partners in the Middle East, Israel, Japan and other nations to develop a range of defenses, he said.