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American Forces Press Service

Agency Director Offers U.S. Missile Defense Outline

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2010 – “To have effective missile defense, you need more than one layer,” the director of the Defense Missile Agency said this week.

During the Atlantic Council missile defense conference here Oct. 12, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly described the “phased, adaptive approach” policy for missile defense in Europe that President Barack Obama approved in 2009.

O’Reilly said the three layers of the approach will counter short-range, medium- and intermediate-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

O’Reilly then outlined the four phases of the U.S. missile defense policy for Europe.

Phase one, to be implemented between now through 2012, he said, calls for current, proven missile systems and sensors to be deployed at sea to protect Europe and deployed U.S. servicemembers and their families.

During phase two, extending from 2012 through 2015, improved sea- and land-based systems now in development and testing will increase protection from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, O’Reilly said.

Phase three, running from 2015 through 2018, will establish protection at sea and ashore from intermediate-range missiles, he said.

Phase four, extending from 2018 through 2020, will provide early-interception capability against medium- and intermediate-range missiles, he said, with a secondary capability to protect against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The phased, adaptive approach is primarily designed to increase protection against medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles traveling above the earth’s atmosphere, from ranges of 1,000 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or about 600 to 3,400 miles, O’Reilly said.

Phase-four capability, he said, will allow militaries to double the area they can protect, engage more than 50 missiles at once, and track hundreds of missiles at once.

By phase four, O’Reilly said, intercepting enemy missiles won’t be a one-shot, one-kill requirement.

“We want to intercept those missiles as soon as possible after they’ve been launched,” he said. “You need a higher-speed interceptor and you also need a mobile launch system that can be in the right place at the right time.”

That capability will be in place by 2012, O’Reilly said.

“It will give you the capability to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles [and] intermediate-range ballistic missiles very early in their flight,” he said. “If you miss with that early attempt, you have another opportunity to hit with the upper tier. If you miss with that, you have another opportunity to hit with the lower tier … the more shot opportunities, the higher probability of intercept.”

The primary components of the approach are systems already in place or in testing, O’Reilly said, as well as the planned future versions of those systems.

U.S. systems central to the phased, adaptive approach include sensors, software, and launcher and missile components, O’Reilly said. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, an existing sea-based system, is slated for upgrade and expansion through phase four.

Aegis BMD incorporates computers, radar, and missiles to detect, track and destroy short- to intermediate-range missiles, he explained. Aegis BMD is currently aboard 21 U.S. Navy ships. Its future capabilities include longer range, improved early-intercept capability, increased number of ships and missiles, and an ashore capability.

The Army/Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance system, O’Reilly said, is a transportable X-band, high resolution, phased-array radar designed specifically for ballistic missile defense. It is capable of tracking all classes of ballistic missiles and identifying small objects at long distances.

The radar system, he added, provides surveillance, tracking, discrimination and fire control support for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon system. The system will be augmented in phases three and four by sensor systems now being developed, capable of tracking and intercepting enemy ballistic missiles in boost phase at or near engine burnout.

The THAAD weapon system integrates launchers, interceptors, radar, fire control and communications units, and system-specific support equipment, O’Reilly said.

Flight testing of the THAAD system began in late 2005, he said. To date, the system has a 100 percent mission success rate in flight testing, he noted, with 10 successful tests and six–for-six intercepts. The system will be fielded through phase four.

The Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications program globally links, integrates and synchronizes individual missile defense elements, systems and operations, O’Reilly explained. It creates a layered missile defense capability, he said, that enables response to threats of all ranges in all phases of flight. The program is currently in use and will be updated and enhanced through phase four.

O’Reilly said NATO is developing its own system, known as ALTBMD: The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program. The program, he said, will upgrade, test and integrate NATO’s command and control systems and underlying communication network to enable effective information exchanges between various NATO and national missile defense systems. It also will provide complete coverage against tactical ballistic missiles with ranges up to 3,000 kilometers, or 1,864 miles.

At NATO’s discretion, O’Reilly said, U.S. missile defense systems will integrate with NATO and allied nations’ systems to strengthen their overall defense capability.

“Our NATO allies can determine how they want to contribute to [cruise missile and short-range ballistic missile] defense,” he said. “We have the upper layer. They can effectively deploy the lower layer for an effective defense.”

Missile defense will be a major topic of discussion at the NATO summit set for Nov. 19 and 20 in Lisbon, Portugal. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has declared missile defense a critical capability that the alliance must acquire.

At his monthly press briefing in Brussels Oct. 11, Rasmussen presented the agenda for the foreign and defense ministers’ meeting held there yesterday. The meeting was a preliminary session for the November summit.

“NATO should develop the capability to defend Europe from the threat of missile attack,” Rasmussen said. “More than 30 countries in the world have, or are acquiring, ballistic missiles, some of which can already reach Europe.”

Given the catastrophic effects a missile strike in Europe could have, Rasmussen said, NATO can’t afford not to have missile defense.

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