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Sea-Based National Missile Defense

The Heritage Foundation report Defending America, A Plan to Meet the Urgent Missile Threat advocates a combined sea-based and space-based, global BMD architecture. The initial defense capability would be based upon the U.S. Navy's twenty-two AEGIS cruisers carrying NTW Block II interceptor missiles, supported by a constellation of low orbit Space-Based Infrared (SBIRS-Low) satellites for launch detection, target tracking and engagement control. The Heritage Report focuses on a sea-based, global anti-missile capability, which they believe could provide the earliest protection against emergent Rest of World (ROW) ballistic missiles. The capability alone does not meet all the requirements of the JROC-approved NMD Operational Requirements Document (ORD). The ORD requires an initial NMD system able to achieve a high confidence, highly effective defense of all 50 states, against a simple, stressful, strategic ballistic missile threat.

The strategic ballistic missile threats to the US have different characteristics than the ballistic missiles that threaten overseas theaters of operation. NMD threat missiles are faster; cooler due to payload separation and an extended exoatmospheric flight; and may incorporate sophisticated penetration aids. The NTW Block II interceptor features a LEAP kill vehicle. Although LEAP appears to have sufficient divert capability to support engagement of unsophisticated NMD threats, it would require improvement of the infrared sensor to acquire cooler, more advanced NMD threats. Engaging the most difficult threats would require kill vehicle capabilities similar to those found in the EKV now being developed for the land-based NMD system.

If suitable external sensors are employed, the NTW Block II interceptor would become capable of using early commit-quality tracks of ICBM and SLBM boosters and reentry vehicles. In this modified configuration, an NMD system based on the NTW Block II interceptor could protect the US against attacks from N. Korea and other "Rest of World" (ROW) threats. Depending on the attacking country and details of the attack scenario, modified ships may be needed in as few as 3 different locations at sea to provide this protection, or in as many as 13 locations to provide protection against all of these countries simultaneously.

The cost for the stand-alone sea-based architecture to protect all 50 states is estimated to be $16B to $19B (ROM) (includes estimated $700M for NTW Block II RDT&E). More than $8B (ROM) is associated with sensors and BM/C3. For the sea-based architecture case, lower military construction costs would be offset by higher interceptor development and procurement costs, since this case would require a new interceptor not now under development, and it would require many more interceptors than are needed for the land-based case. In addition, the sea-based case would require dedicated launch platforms. These may be as simple as platforms equipped with the vertical launch system and the appropriate communications system, or as complex as full-up AEGIS ships. The afore stated estimate includes the cost of 3 to 6 AEGIS-type ships as a rough estimate of the ship acquisition costs. The sea-based architecture case could also add $0.1B per year (ROM) to O&S.

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