New missile systems from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have become bigger threats in recent years against the United States, our deployed forces, friends and allies, according to the Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
On Tuesday, Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill spoke about this issue at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Washington, D.C.
In the past, the MDA put their focus on the ballistic missile threat. However, adversaries against the U.S. have designed very fast and maneuverable advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons creating “a very tough environment for defense,” Hill said.
The Missile Defense Review is addressing these new threats and laying out the path for developing new and defensive measures.
A key piece of our nation’s defense is deterrence. “You can’t shoot what you don’t see,” Hill said. The sight needed is provided by the sensors and radars that are aboard ships, on the ground and in space.
The ultimate in senses are space-based, as they can provide global coverage. The space tracking and surveillance systems collect data, intelligence and real-world missile testing. That capability still has a long way to go in reaching its full potential.
The sensors can start the kill chain by sending out a warning. The radars track the missile and fire control launches the defensive projectile.
This projectile can come from two systems operated by the Army, either the Patriot system or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Or it can come from two systems operated by the Navy, either the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA or the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.
In addition there are ground-based interceptors that are operated by the Army. They are deployed in Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The command and control and battle management system, being fully protected with cybersecurity measures, is what ties these systems together with the operators.
Many missile defense components remain in the research, science and technology and demonstration phase Hill explained. As an example, work is being done on the next-generation interceptor and long-range discrimination radar, as well as the space-based sensors.
“Where we live today is we don’t have everything we want deployed in space, nor do we have the terrestrial or mobile sea-based sensors where we want, where we need them at the right time,” said the missile agency director.
As upgrades become available, current systems such as Aegis and command and control receive are being updated. New, cutting edge systems are also being introduced.
The MDA is working with the Army integrating the THAAD and Patriot systems so operators can communicate with both systems and shoot either one, depending on the specific scenario they are dealing with.
Our allies and partners are developing their own missile defense systems or they are buying them from the United States through the foreign military sales system. When these systems are used by friends and partners it has the capability of furthering global security.
The Defense Department continues its work to better integrate the systems so they are more effective.
Although the Coronavirus has presented challenges, the MDA’s ability to perform its mission hasn’t been impacted. The most significant issue has been a delay in the delivery of needed systems since assembly lines require people to work in confined and enclosed places.
“If you ask me where we took risk during the global pandemic, we never took any risk in supporting the warfighter. We continue to deliver capability, we continue to support major movements around the globe,” said Hill.