Transcript

Long Range Discrimination Radar Media Roundtable

Dec. 6, 2021
Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, Director, Missile Defense Agency; Army Lieutenant General A.C. Roper, Deputy Commander, U.S. Northern Command; Lieutenant General David Krumm, Commander, Alaskan Command, U.S. Northern Command; Mark Wright, Director, Missile Defense Agency Public Affairs

MARK WRIGHT:  Excellent.  I have the generals and the admiral with us now, so we're going to go ahead and get started.  Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for joining us today for our media roundtable concerning the initial fielding of the Long Range Discrimination Radar here at Clear Space Force Station, Alaska.

I'm Mark Wright with the MDA Public Affairs.  We have approximately 30 minutes for this roundtable.  This will be on the record and for attribution.

I'll call on each of you who've indicated you have a question.  Please limit yourselves to your -- your question and only one follow-up if you have that.  If you have additional questions after that, I'd ask you to stay quiet and let me come around to you again so we get as many folks.  We have quite a few folks on the phone today, so I want to try and get as many reporters an opportunity to -- to speak to these gentlemen as possible.

Please stay on the LRDR topic because we have a lot reporters on the line.  We want everyone to get a chance to get on that without wavering off too far off the subject for today.

We're pleased to have with us today Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, Director of the Missile Defense Agency; Lieutenant General A.C. Roper, Deputy Commander U.S. Northern Command and Vice Commander U.S. Element North American Aerospace Defense Command; and Lieutenant General David A. Krumm, Commander, Alaskan Command, United States Northern Command.  He's also commander of the 11th Air Force of Pacific Air Forces and commander North American Aerospace Defense Command Region of North American Aerospace Defense Command.

At this time, we'll go ahead and start with questions, get right started.  So let's start off with one of our Alaskan folks who braved the cold today to be with -- be with us here.  Chris, do you have a question for the assembled principals.

Q:  Yes.  Beyond the construction phase, can you talk about the economic boon for the interior after testing is done, will there be groups of more employees than there are now?

VICE ADMIRAL JON A. HILL:  Hi Chris.  This is Jon Hill addressing that question.  I think what you're asking is once we take a formal delivery, integrate into the command and control and into the Ground Based Midcourse System and what does that mean for the economy in the state of Alaska.  I -- I think there are a ton of options when it comes to the kind of capability that we're bringing forward, in terms of, like, the science and technology, engineering, mathematics, the STEM world, right?  The ability to leverage that site to get local people in Alaska excited about what this radar really brings to the table.  It's -- it's everything from electrical engineering to mechanical design to materials.  It's about the environment, when you look at the, kind of, environmental mitigations that we've put in place.

 I think it's a -- it's a great place for the state of Alaska to consider as a STEM location.  Now when it comes to actually manning and maintaining and operating LRDR radar, there are definitely opportunities when it comes to operation maintenance.  The details of that will come clear as we get past those initial phases you mentioned.  So today, I can't tell you, you know, how many folks will be on a contract for operating the radar or for the maintenance, but that's an area that will come after we -- we actually finish the integration of the radar and make it operational.  So I think there's opportunities there certainly for employment within the state of Alaska.

Q:  Thanks.

ADM. HILL:  Yes ma'am.  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  Let's go to the phone.  Jen Judson, Defense News.  Do you have a question?

Q:  I do.  Thank you gentlemen.  I wanted to ask a little bit about the schedule and cost increase impact that the pandemic on this.  I know that there was some schedule delays, as well as cost increases.  So I'm hoping you could give me an update on when the first operational flight test may take place, and when will the Air Force officially take ownership?  And then if you could talk a little bit about the cost increases, have you been able to calculate that and who will incur that cost?  Will that be the government or will that the industry side?

MR. WRIGHT:  Okay.  That was four, but they'll do their best.  Thanks Jen.

ADM. HILL:  I guess I -- I won't defer it over to General Roper but I'll go ahead and take it.  Hey Jen, thanks, good morning, thanks for the question.  Yes, I think if you go back and you look at that time from March 2020 when the Space Force Station had to come to all stop and we ended up, you know, just going into lay-up.  There's obviously costs associated with that.  I don't have a new update that I could give you that goes beyond what we estimated before, which was roughly about three months or so when it comes to time, and then we are -- we are considering, you know, some of the claims that were being made by industry.  We haven't fully resolved that, so I'm not going to be able any update beyond what we've discussed before in terms of that cost.  But in terms of a schedule and our ability to -- to recapture, I think we did a fantastic job.  The state of Alaska's been fantastic, industry's been fantastic.

If you look at the combined military construction work that we were doing in Clear with the local contractors and what we were doing in the missile fields up in Greely, it's pretty stunning on how we powered through some of what could have been longer delays.  And so we're on path right now, as we are in the beginning of F.Y. '22, calendar year '21, this initial delivery is an important step to declare that we're done with the major construction.  We are now fully into the test mode of this radar.  That testing is so critical, because it pushes you right into the integration, command and control, into ground-based mid-course defense.  That integration will be complete and then in '23, we'll be able to do operational acceptance from Northern Command.  So again, excited to be here with General Krumm and with General Roper because they do represent that triad of the state of Alaska, the Northern Command and Missile Defense Agency with us --us sitting here at the table today.  I don't know if I hit everything in those 16 questions Jen, how did we do?

Q:  Just to follow-up, when do you expect the first operational flight test to take place?  I know originally, I think it was supposed to be in Fiscal 2021 after some ground tests.  So where are you with that?

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Great question, and so the ground testing for -- for those who don't track that or live that every day that really is bringing in all the systems into a modeling and simulation framework running really robust scenarios against different threat times.  And we -- we run a -- the gambit on those, and so we're in the middle of that ground testing now and it's pretty complex when you think about the new capabilities that a Long Range Discrimination Radar brings into the overall ground-based missile defense system.  All the upgrades that we're doing with the GM system.  The upgrades are doing for the command and control, we, sort of, just start there.

That ground test campaign is going on now, and that will lead to a development test, following by an operational test.  And what we'll do, we'll -- we'll fly a representative, a threat model, across the face of -- of the LRDR so we can get that track from a development test that will happen, I think in '22.  Don't -- I -- I can't give you a firm date on it because I actually don't remember this morning because my brain's probably too cold, and then we'll follow up with the operational test of that.  But I -- I can follow up with you Jen.  I think those are published anyway in our IMTP.

Q:  Thank you so much.  I appreciate it.

ADM. HILL:  Yes ma'am.  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right.  Thanks Jen.  Let's go to Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg.  Please.

Q:  Hi, look a couple questions.  Can you be really clear on the hypersonic detection capability this radar's going to bring?  Because I fear there's going to be a lot of hype among reporters who will cover this clearly, that the U.S. is now going to have its first hypersonic radar capability.  And then I had a follow-up.

ADM. HILL:  Okay.  I'll be crystal clear.  The primary driving requirement for the Long Range Discrimination Radar is against the ballistic missile threat.  So that is what the radar filters are designed to go after.  Now to bring in, what I call a filter, which means you can then, you know, space your tracking and your timing to go to hypersonic.  That's a not big leap.  That will not require a hardware change.  That is a software upgrade but it is not the driving requirement for LRDR today.

Q:  All right.  And also will the radar be able to pick-up queues and tracks from Navy Aegis equipped vessels, SBIRS, the SBIR satellites and other sensors that track an ICBM or mid-range ICBM while in -- while in flight?

ADM. HILL:  Great -- great question, Tony.  So the way the queuing to a radar like LRDR would occur.  She doesn't have first track but we get a track, say, from a ship in the Sea of Japan or we have a track from a TPY2.  That all comes through command control battle management communications, C2BMC.  So the answer is a firm yes.  We can take queues from space assets.  We can take queues from seaborne assets, and from land-based assets if that answers the question.

Q:  When is the first -- when would full operational capability be, you -- you know, roughly just to give a sense of when it would actually be working?

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Roughly -- roughly is 2023.  I will tell you with the capability that we have today, we have partial capability that we can offer the warfighter as we come through 2022 with fuller integration and command control and with the GMD system.  There -- there is the ability to go to some initial capability if required or world events drive us to that.  Right now, the square answer is 2023.

Q:  Thank you.  Stay warm.

ADM. HILL:  Thank -- thank you.  I appreciate that.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right.  Thank you, Tony.  Let's go to Sandra, Sandra Erwin.  Please.

Q:  Hi.  Good afternoon.  I thank you for taking my question.  General Roper, is the -- the Long Range Radar, is this going to be part of the Space Surveillance Network and would that be under the current capability or would that -- would that be under the full operational capability?  Thank you.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL A.C. ROPER:  So when I give that a shot.  Just will -- just let me talk about NORTHCOM strategy, and our strategy hinges on all-domain awareness and so this radar will enhance our ability to achieve all -- all-domain awareness and information dominance.  Because we believe the future fight would be won or lost by our ability to achieve that persistent all-domain awareness information dominance which then leads to decision superiority.  Because our goal is to deter in competition, deescalate in crisis and if required deny and defeat attacks on our nation, and so in order to do that we need domain awareness from sub-sea all the way up to space.  And so -- and so this radar is -- is a great leap forward for us, so I don't know if that gets to the specific of your question but I would say this. The team at U.S. NORTHCOM is extremely excited about the -- the integration of the LDR, LRDR and to our missile defense system.

Q:  So -- so I guess the question was will be in the Space Surveillance Network like -- like the current network.  Will this be integrated into the network?

GEN. ROPER:  Well, I -- I really can't speak to that at this point, when we talk about future integration.  I would just simply say that it's a great tool for us and if we need to follow up on that we can do that.

Q:  Can you say -- can you say what type -- what type of space objects can be tracked?  Are they the LEO, GEO, space objects?

ADM. HILL:  Hey Sandra, it’s Jon -- Jon Hill MDA Director just to, kind of, add on to what General Roper was saying.  You know, the radar in itself, as I mentioned to answering Tony's question is the driving requirement is homeland defense against ballistic missiles.  Now as you know, all radars have the capability of tracking space objects and on this line, I'm not going to tell you what ranges other than to repeat the word Long Range Discrimination Radar with the Space Domain Awareness capability.  Does that -- does that help you?

Q:  Yes.  Thank you very much.

ADM. HILL:  Great, thank you.

GEN. ROPER:  I'll jump in there once more.  We just tag team this thing, even from my comments earlier.  This radar is able to monitor satellites orbiting Earth, detecting, tracking, identifying active and inactive satellites, state rocket bodies or debris.  So -- so, you name it, it can be tracked, and so we'll just stop right there and not get into the -- the technical specifics of the capability.

Q:  Thank you General.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right.  Thank you Sandra.  Let's go back to Alaska and ask if Alex, NBC, has any questions.

Q:  Thank you all so much for being here today.  So my question is about the reasons behind (inaudible) -- LRDR and the (inaudible) into that?

ADM. HILL:  That's a great question.  Thank you and -- and I'm going to ask General Krumm to kind give his thoughts as well.  When you -- when you look at what the primary mission of the radar is, going back to homeland defense, ballistic missiles, against rogue nations.  You know, clearly from the INDOPACOM region, there's a rouge nation there that is targeting the United States and has demonstrated ballistic missile capability time and again and very recently.  So the radar was strategically placed in Alaska, so with its wide field of view that we can capture threats coming from that region.  Let me ask General Krumm if he has any other statements on that.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAVID KRUMM:  I think what -- what we get here is -- is all about the old rule state and it's location, location, location.  And, you know, General Milley has said Alaska's the most strategic place in the world and there's a reason for that.  Admiral Hill is exactly right.  The location here in Alaska allows us to have a field of view that we think we need to do homeland defense and particularly against missile threat.  And it just so happens that Alaska's also home to some of the greatest people in the world, and that's supported and done this and we -- we are just real glad to be here.

MR. WRIGHT:  Thanks Alex.  Now let's go back to the phone and talk to Caitlin from Stars and Stripes.  I am not going to try and pronounce your last name.

Q:  Doornbos, it’s Dutch no worries, thanks for not calling me doorknobs.  I'm wondering if you can just talk a little bit more about that discrimination piece and the importance of being able to discriminate objects from just a long way away?

ADM. HILL:  Hey Caitlin.  Jon Hill, and I'm going to ask General Roper to give you his operational, you know, combat and command view on the importance of discrimination.  So the way to think of that is when -- when you have a ballistic missile launch, once it’s in space, it’s going to drop boosters.  It's going to drop stages, right?  So those right away are picked up by any radar that may be tracking the incoming ballistic missile, and then normally what you will see is the release of different decoys and countermeasures.  And those can range from, you know, balloons to conical shapes, basically done to confuse the -- the overall sensor architecture.  So what you want to have is a very powerful radar that has the right wavelengths and frequencies, so that it can scrub through all of that scene and to pick out the lethal object.  If we can pick out the lethal object, then we're going to be shooting at that lethal object and not at boosters or V bands or solid fuel chuck and those sorts of things.  So that's the technical geek stuff behind the term discrimination.  It's -- it's picking out the lethal object or lethal objects, with an s, and then I'll ask General Roper to follow up with what that means to him from an operational perspective.

GEN. ROPER:  Oh absolutely, and I think Jon, you just provided a great intro, because the No. 1, no fail mission of U.S. Northern Command is to defend the homeland, period.  Defend this homeland, period.  And so, this radar is really an extra set of keen eyes that will paint the picture of any threat that's coming our way. So it's a considerable leap forward and our ability to detect -- to detect, track and defeat those threats that -- that come at our homeland.  And so, a great tool, really gives us eyes forward in a way that we don't have now, and so I would say for us it's -- it's a great leap forward.  I'll -- I'll stop there. Are there any -- any follow ups on that?

Q:  I -- I think that's great.  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right Caitlin.  Thank you.  So let's go to Mike Stone from Reuters.  Mike, please.

Q:  Thank you.  A couple questions.  You're all okay with a -- this is a level set for everyone, $1.5 billion total price tag.  That number's agreeable for everyone?  That's sort of a level set for everybody in the call, and then as for the hypersonic trapping -- tracking that's a future configuration.  Do we know when that configuration will happen with that software update and will it be an MDA asset or a NORTHCOM asset at this time -- at that time?  Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Hey Mike, Jon Hill.  Thanks -- thanks for the question.  Yes.  That -- that total cost you can always pick apart cost assessments but that's -- that's a reasonable figure for, you know, designing, developing and deploying the capability.  When it comes to the hypersonic capability, as I mentioned when I was answering Tony's question is, it's not a – it’s not going to drive hardware changes in any of our sensors.  We have incorporated hypersonic tracking in some of our land based radars already and we are working, you know, to do the same with our seaborne assets, because then, you know, really all it is and just to kind of explain it, when you have a hypersonic track, its going from point A to point B at a different speed.  Typically when radars are tracking slower moving targets, they will take that fast moving piece, they'll view it as clutter and throw it on the ground and not bother processing it.

So it's -- it's a difference in just processing the data that you do have, dealing with those speeds, and so it’s not a big change and it doesn't drive hardware.  Where it's at inside the -- the overall baseline software for LRDR, it is in the future.  I think it’s in the second increment.  So first the increment today focused on the Ballistic Missile Defense Mission and then the first part of Space Domain Awareness and it will pick up hypersonic defense if NORTHCOM drives us and says that that's a requirement for the radar.  So we're still working our way through that.  Does that help?

Q:  So it's a -- if NORTHCOM -- of the combatant command decides that they want to do hypersonic tracking, then you'll roll that into the second increment?

ADM. HILL:  Absolutely, yes.  If you want (inaudible) requirement that we can point back to.  Thank you Mike.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right Mike, thanks.  Let's go to Richard Abbott, Defense Daily.  Please, Rich.

Q:  Thank you very much.  So I was wondering given the various delays with COVID, have you learned anything useful from the process you might have learned otherwise about potentially constructing or procuring future LRDR or other S band type technology?

ADM. HILL:  Jon -- Jon Hill again.  Yes, lessons learned from COVID.  You know, one -- one thing is, so this one was unpredictable, I think, for a lot of folks just because we hadn't seen something of this nature for 100 years.  We knew that once the nation declared, you know, that we were going to have to take mitigating steps and when the Space Force Station made that call to close it. We were ready to put the radar into lay-up, and when you are in the middle of a construction, really thinking about, we were, kind of, newly into construction.  It -- it all comes down to the materials being onsite to put something in lay-up, and so we were always ready because when you work in the state of Alaska you have to be ready for major changes in weather in the state, right?  And so that -- that's actually what drove us, so to me the lessons learned, if we go do something like this someplace else to where the actual environment's not driving you to have those steps ready to jump to.  You need to have those ready to roll.  One of the things that I mentioned, the missile field earlier that we did, rather than relying on over the ground transport.  We took advantage of waterways to bring material onsite.  Not only did that keep the crews safe, but it allowed us to move very quickly without having any slowdowns there.

So the missile field schedule was -- was maintained very well during the timeframe, because we leveraged waterways as opposed to going over the ground.  And I think, maybe the last thing I'll keep you is -- is -- that I'll address here, is just the transport of material.  You know, part of the big one on LRDR was that we are actually moving radar material from the east coast to bring in onsite to start the installation.  So we had to stop and turn that around and the only way to -- to plan for that in the future is just make sure there's enough margin in your scheduling, in your budgets to handle those sorts of issues if the -- if the pandemic comes back around.  So I don't know if I'm hitting on what you're -- what you're asking Richard but those are some lessons for me.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right, thanks.  Let's go to Justin Katz from Breaking Defense, please.

Q:  Hi. Thank you.  Admiral Hill, sir, during your -- the speech at the ceremony, you very briefly mentioned that Lockheed Martin did some -- some successful tracking last week.  I was just -- I was hoping you could give us a little bit more detail on what that testing entailed?  And just to make sure I understand it, was Lockheed's test last week,that was with the LRDR on the ground in Alaska or was that with some sort of prototype or other asset that Lockheed has separately? Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Yes. Yes.  Thanks Justin.  I -- I will admit, I think in my excitement today I may have, kind of, blended those all together.  So let me go back to the east coast up in Moorestown where the primary development is done.  There is a smaller scaled version on the order of 200 or so if these subarray suites, which is, you know, think of that as a mini-radar.  It's about the size of a shoebox, right?  So you have about 200 of those and so you can test there against sounding rockets that we launch out of Wallops Island.  So I think I made a reference to that, and then when you're here onsite and you're now up in the subarray suite numbers of a couple thousand, right?  So now -- now you've scaled the radar.  So when people say that we're scaling a radar, that's an example of it, right?  So you have a smaller set that you use for development out in Morrestown and then you come to Clear, Alaska, you install these array panels, and then you synchronize them altogether and then you want to start tracking something.

So the satellite tracks were from Clear, Alaska from the -- from one of the secondary array as we call it, and that's -- that's really just a great way to take advantage of targets of opportunity.  When you have fast moving satellites in space, which means you're talking extended ranges and moving at incredible speeds and building tracks on those.  That's why the team moved forward to -- to do that, and that was done about two weeks ahead of the -- the normal schedule was to do those satellite tracks.  I was pretty excited to see that data, and its stunning if you go look at it.  Firm tracks and, you know, repeatable and we're going to build on that as we come through the test process.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  I think so, just to clarify.  So the -- the test that Lockheed did last week was -- was that in Moorestown or was that done in Clear?

ADM. HILL:  In Clear, Alaska on this radar.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Yes sir.  Thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right Justin.  Thanks.  Let's go to Abraham -- let's go to Abraham from Air Force Magazine, please.

Q:  Thanks so much for taking my question.  This is for Admiral Hill.  Following up on Tony's question again, you talked a bit about, sir, about the ability to track the hypersonic missile in flight, in the future.  But can you touch on the defensive measures interceptors that have the capability to intercept a hypersonic weapon in the glide or cruise phase?  Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Great.  Thank you.  So, its -- we're going to have to probably start having a much richer conversation about the hypersonic threat as we go forward.  You know, the reason I say that is if you look at the -- the ballistic threat and, you know, I always talk about throwing a football, right?  It's -- it's a fairly predictable trajectory.  If you want to confuse a sensor in the weapons architecture, you can depress those trajectories or you can loft those trajectories, and we've seen, you know, that reported on in the press.  You know, because the rouge nations do it all the time.  It turns out when you depress a trajectory, you have now created a hypersonic threat, right?  So LRDR designed against the rogue nation ballistic missile capability can bite off some part of that hypersonic threat, particularly those depressed trajectories because it is looking for the ballistic tracks.  And so at those hypersonic speeds, their filters will be designed to take that on.  Now I -- I think you were asking the question about, you know, defensive missiles coming from that.  So when you look at defending hypersonics, our focus has been on the regional fight.

So any carrier battle group that gets underway today will have a ship loaded out with a -- a missile that's called sea-based terminal capability and they're -- they're going to have that -- that destroyer operating to protect the carrier against the end game of a hypersonic that will, you know, just typically go ballistic into a glide and come back into the atmosphere maneuver.  So sea-based terminal's designed to go after that maneuvering threat in the atmosphere.  We have a program that we are working towards now within the department.  We just released that three contracts industry that take us further back into that trajectory for a layered defense against hypersonic, and that would be in the glide phase.  So we refer to that as the glide phase interceptor.  So if you can defeat in the ballistic phase of a -- of a hypersonic or when it’s launched by an aircraft or launched by a cruise missile, that's, sort of, step one, right?  Then if you can kill it in the glide phase, that's great because really all you got left is terminal capability, but that capability is deployed today or with the Navy.  And we are assessing our ability to land-base that capability in the future, but did that answer Abraham?

Q:  Yes. Yes.  That's -- that's very helpful.  Let me, sir, if I may follow-up, is what is the current interceptor capability for that mid-range, not terminal, not launch but that middle when it's moving at different altitudes?

ADM. HILL:  Oh, are you talking about in the glide phase?

Q:  Yes.

ADM. HILL:  We -- we do not have that capability to deploy today.

Q:  Thank you sir.

ADM. HILL:  Yes.

MR. WRIGHT:  Thank you Abraham.  Let's go to Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, please.

Q:  Hi.  This is a pretty Alaska and NORTHCOM specific question.  So General Krumm, mostly just wondering if you can describe how some of the range and capabilities and the upgrades for this LRDR compares to the long range radar systems that are already run by NORAD NORTHCOM?  And whether or not this kind of LRDR is going to render a lot of those early warning systems that are already in Canada, Pacific Alaska, is obsolete in the years to come?  Thank you.

GEN. KRUMM:  Hey Zachariah.  This is General Krumm.  Thanks for the question.  So, we -- we look at the radar systems that we have in and around Alaska. The long range radar stations that we have up at Utqiagvik, Kaktovik and what not. Those are designed to search and find and track airborne based targets.  The LRDR is specifically designed the -- the requirements is for ballistic missiles, so looking up into space. So LRDR is a complement to the NORTHCOM defense of the homeland, when it comes to intercepting, tracking and helping engage ballistic missiles.  And it will be a part of that architecture that -- that we have, but the way that we do track these airborne targets is a little bit different, just like Admiral Hill was talking about.  The way the radar looks is even different.  Obviously if you're an airborne target you flying just a little bit lower than you are than if you’re in space, and so our radars are optimized for that.  So this will be a complement to how we do homeland defense, but it will not replace the -- the radars that we had to secure the air space in and around North America.

MR. WRIGHT:  Zachariah did you get -- is that good for you?

Q:  That's great.  I guess my -- the only other kind of quick follow-up was just will data be piped through either Eielson or JBER to like the (Rayak?) station the way the LRR data is before its passed on to Cheyenne Mountain or does this clear LRDR go straight to Cheyenne?

GEN. KRUMM:  So, I'll -- I'll probably have to defer to Admiral Hill for specifics but what I'll tell you is we -- we designed this radar to integrate into the system and the ability for us to take the data allow us to put that data wherever we need it to be.  It can be done here, obviously down in Beale, or Cheyenne. So the architecture, the way that we're going to be moving the data gives us a lot of flexibility where we process it and where we insert it into the system.

ADM. HILL:  Thanks.  I -- I think, Jon Hill, I think that was probably the best explanation.  You know, going into the geek world of missile defense, command and control battle management system is our integrating element across all of our sensors, and how we bring the data from space, land-based and sea-based sensors, and use that data to get it to our engaging units.

Q:  Got it.  Thanks both.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right.  Thank you Zachariah.  We are at 30 minutes.  I will ask -- we have a couple more reporters with questions.  I would ask the -- the assembled generals and admiral for a few more minutes of their time if they could, and we'll have to get them on their way.  Thank you gentlemen.  So we'll finish up. Let's keep going with Mr. Tim Ellis, Alaska.  It thought we were going to see you this morning, but I'm sorry you couldn't make it but please ask -- jump in with a question.

Q:  Thanks Mark.  No actually I was about 150 miles away and I thought about getting up and getting over their early and I just had too much other stuff to do here.  So -- so, I -- I had a couple of questions but let me just hold off on those and ask if I could to clarify -- for some clarification of something you folks were talking about a few minutes ago.  I think it was in relation to a question about pandemic and delays and such.  Did I hear one of you folks say that you made use of waterways to what, to help bring supplies?  Did I hear that correctly and if so, what waterways?  Was that the Yukon River?  Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Yes, Tim.  Thanks, Jon Hill. I'm the one that gets excited about out leveraging of waterways to keep the missile fields in Greely on track.  The -- the -- one of the major suppliers for the -- the silos is actually, you know, down the West Coast and so we are bringing that up via waterways as an alternative to trucking and delivering up to Alaska.  So that -- that's just one -- one of the wins from the pandemic was to leverage waterways, which really just means coming up the coast specific to the missile fields.

Q:  Okay. Good.  Good grief.  I wouldn't -- I -- I -- I had the image of missiles coming up the Yukon River and -- and that would have made a hell of a story.  But okay, just sea routes.  So I -- I do have another question but hey if we're short on time I'll hold off on that.  But if you have an opportunity, I -- I do have another question I'd like to check with you folks on but let me leave it to you folks first.  You have other reporters you need to get to first?

MR. WRIGHT:  Yes, we do Tim but I only got actually one more after you, so go ahead.  Go ahead and ask your question.  Let's get that answered if we can.

Q:  Okay.  Well, thanks guys.  Just real quickly, I know this is a -- a -- a subject that was talked about earlier, but I just wanted to, kind of, get a sense of something that the operation's officer, Major Kim, and I talked about last summer, concerning other objects that the LRDR will be able to detect.  Including space junk and I'm just, kind of, wondering is that a secondary or -- or just a -- a -- a -- it's not part of the mission.  They're not missiles obviously I guess.  They're junk floating in space, but is that at all something the LRDR assists other Air Force and Space Force functions in monitoring that kind of stuff up there?  Does it detect that kind of space -- space debris and hand off that information to other agencies?  Or does it just not -- is that just something that's incidental and, you know, it distracting from its main mission at -- of monitoring missiles?

ADM. HILL:  Tim, Jon Hill, I'll take the first stab at the question.  I think you're asking do we -- do we have the capability and maybe even driving requirements tied to Space Domain Awareness.  The Long Range Discrimination Radar, because it is geared toward ballistic missile defense is pointed in space, and so it has the -- the natural capability to track and report on space objects and yes it's actually in the program of record to track and report those space objects.

MR. WRIGHT:  Tim are you good?

Q:  I guess so.  Maybe we can talk more about it later, but that answers the question yes.  Thanks very much guys.

ADM. HILL:  Okay.  Great thanks.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right Tim, thank you.  Let's go to Jason Sherman from Inside Defense, please, Jason.

Q:  Great.  I have a couple of questions. Admiral, could you please provide an update on the block two capability for LRDR?  I think you eluded to that earlier.  Have you, kind of, definitized that with Lockheed Martin and can you say what -- hypersonic is going to be a potential future capability. What -- what is the -- what's the scope of that going to be and is MDA looking beyond block two at this point to a third or even a fourth upgrade?  I have a question for General Roper after that.

ADM. HILL:  Yes Jason thanks.  Unfortunately, you caught me off guard in terms of the details of the -- the incremental upgrades going to LRDR.  I will tell you there is a long-range roadmap right now that we're focused in on that first increment, which is to operationalize the radar and complete integration and get operational acceptance.  That second phase which is what I think you're referring to will be focused in on increasing the -- the threat set going into the radar and fully exploring Space Domain Awareness and fully exploring hit and, you know, just -- just the closure of the fire control loop.  But in terms of like when hypersonic defense would be bringing -- brought into as a core mission, I -- its not in program of record today and again, hypersonics are globally maneuvering and so just it's a reason why it’s not in the -- in a threat set but its -- it wouldn't be hard to do.  And again, I'd have to go back to NORTHCOM to see if that's their driving requirement or not and I just don't recall right now Jason just where we're at.

Q:  Right, and just briefly what are the -- what are the two milestones between now and a technical declaration that it’s operational?

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Great.  Thank you.  So, I -- I used to always think of the -- the calendar year '21 as that -- that initial government acceptance.  That term, kind of, stinks because it doesn't really tell you what we're doing when we accept it.  So we -- we said, we're going to do initial delivery and what does that mean?  Here in calendar year '21, that is major construction is complete and we are now fully in the testing phase of the radar. So we're -- we're basically going operational and, you know, we're not serial as we do this.  Think of, you know, calendar year '22 as the year of integration into the ground-base missile defense. So '21 focused in on completing construction, '22 focused in on integration, command and control battle management and a ground-based mission force defense system and then '23 is a year of formal operational acceptance.  Does that answer the question?

Q:  Yes.  It does.  Thanks.  And General Roper, you described this as a no-fail mission.  MDA, when they originally, the department originally conceived of LRDR was -- it was going to be part of one of three things that were going to be delivered to -- to NORTHCOM to improve, you know, to modernize the GMD system against -- against the North Korean threat in the 2020s.  But at this point, MDA's only delivering you one of those three things.  The other two capabilities are gone.  RKV has been terminated and the Pacific radar is effectively on the shelf for right now as -- as -- as MDA begins looking at space-based capabilities.  How's it -- how's it -- what do you say to folks that say that basically, you're getting short-shrift here with only one of the three things that were promised to deal with the North Korean threat in the 2020s?

GEN. ROPER:  So, for let me sure I was clear in my comment.  That's a great question.  A comment was defending the homeland is the number one, no fail mission of U.S. Northern Command, but that's not tied to a specific platform.  Because defending the homeland includes all of it, but I will say this that the Long Range Discrimination Radar capability helps us do that, by providing an unparalleled ability to search, track and discriminate multiple objects simultaneously as we discussed earlier. But that was what we were referring to, just -- just not those other programs that you mentioned.

Q:  Any concerns -- any concerns that two of the three things you needed this decade aren't being delivered?

GEN. ROPER:  Well, we're always concerned, but -- but the bottom line is General VanHerck is -- is -- is confident in his ability to defend the homeland from a BMD perspective, and -- and the LRDR only -- only helps us to enhance that.  Because it's such a -- a -- a great tool which helps us get after that All-Domain Awareness that I mentioned earlier.  But the other thing about it is the fact that it has increased operational flexibility as was mentioned based on the ability to upgrade it and refine the system in response to the evolving threat, but it's a win, win.  And we will continue to gain the capability that we need to defend the homeland, but we feel we're in a good spot right now and we're continuing to improve.

Q:  Thank you General.  Thanks Admiral Hill.  Thanks Mark.

ADM. HILL:  Good, thank you.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right Jason. Thank you.  And I got a note at the last minute that Doug Cameron from Wall Street Journal has joined in.  Doug did you have a question or are you just happy to be here?

STAFF:  Hey Mark, I think Doug has since logged off.

MR. WRIGHT:  All right.  Well, thank you very much.  We are at 39 minutes out of our 30 minute session.  So I want to say thank you very much to General Roper, Admiral Hill and General Krumm for their graciousness in allowing a little bit more time.  We have to let them go to the next appointment, I have to end it here. A reminder to everyone on the line that there are videos available at MDA's -- Missile Defense Agency's YouTube Channel, as well as DVIDS for download if you want those on showing operational use -- future operational use of the LRDR as well as the military construction.  That's available to assist in any of your stories and that's all I have for today.

I want to thank Lieutenant General Roper, Admiral Hill and General Krumm for their time and thank all the reporters on for your patience and getting on and going through this with us.  Thank you very much and I hope to talk to you again soon.

Out here.