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former IAEA Director-General

Missile Defense

Reasons to Doubt Laser Missile Defense

For years the disheveled YAL-1 Airborne Laser baked in the Air Force Boneyard in Tucson, Arizona. Stripped of its chemical laser and turbofan engines, its airframe became a skeletal albatross—a monument to the futility of laser-based missile defense. But in 2014, it was unceremoniously destroyed, and the Defense Department wiped the failure from its memory. The system was meant to fly above hostile territory to track and destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles in flight. But after 16 years and $5 billion , the program was canceled simply because it did not work. Four years later, however...

U.S. and Allied Ballistic Missile Defenses in the Asia-Pacific Region

May 2018

Contact: Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: May 2018

Contents

U.S. Asia-Pacific Regional Defenses

  • Aegis BMD Systems at Sea

Hawaii

  • Sea-Based X Band Radar (SBX)
  • Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) (potential)
  • Homeland Defense Radar- Hawaii (HDR-H) (planned)

Guam

  • Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)

South Korea

  • Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)
  • Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3)
  • Aegis ships
  • Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD)

Japan

  • Aegis BMD ships (U.S. operated)
  • Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) (U.S. operated)
  • AN/TPY-2 Radar
  • Aegis BMD ships (Japan operated)
  • Aegis Ashore
  • Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) (Japan operated)
  • Early Warning Radar

Australia

  • Early Warning Radar/Satellite Stations
  • Jindalee Operational Radar Network
  • Aegis BMD ships

US Asia-Pacific Regional Defenses:

Aegis BMD Systems at Sea

The Aegis system is deployed on 17 U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers in the region that conduct ballistic missile tracking, targeting, and engagement capability. These Aegis BMD ships can engage short-(SRBMs), medium- (MRBMs), and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in either the midcourse or terminal phase of flight. They can also contributed to the defense of the U.S. homeland by detecting and tracking of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and sending this data to Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) based in Alaska and California to engage.

Program Overview/Elements:

  • Aegis provides defenses against regional ballistic missile threats and can also contribute to homeland defense through continuous long-range surveillance and tracking of ICBMs.
  • All deployed Aegis BMD-capable ships are equipped with either SM-3 Block IA (first-generation) or Block IB (second-generation) missile interceptors for engaging missiles in the midcourse phase—that is, while it is in space.
  • In addition, Aegis ships can use SM-2 and SM-6 missiles to engage SRBM targets inside the atmosphere in the terminal phase using explosive warheads rather than the kinetic hit-to-kill vehicles used by the SM-3.
  • Aegis BMD ships carry the AN/SPY-1 radar, a phased-array S-band radar system, for detection and tracking of ballistic missiles.
  • The system has a record of 37 successful intercepts in 46 attempts against ballistic missile targets.

Status:

  • As of October 2017, there are 33 Aegis BMD-capable U.S. navy ships deployed around the world, with 17 of those assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Two additional Aegis ships are being repaired as of early 2018.
  • Of these 17 Pacific Fleet BMD ships: 8 are homeported in San Diego, CA; four in Pearl Harbor, HI; and five in Yokosuka, Japan.

Current Developments:

  • In its FY 2018 budget request, MDA projected having 51 Aegis BMD-capable ships and 500 SM-3 interceptors—including 26 Block IIA interceptors—deployed by FY 2022. MDA also projected a total deployment of 36 Aegis BMD-capable ships by the end of 2018.
  • Along with Japan, the Pentagon is developing the SM-3 Block IIA missile, a 21-inch diameter variant of the SM-3 with an extended range and higher velocity than the current SM-3 interceptors.
    • Set for deployment beginning in 2018 on U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis capable ships.
    • The first intercept test of the new SM-3 IIA interceptor occurred in February 2017 and was successful. However, the second and third intercept tests of the missile in June 2017 and January 2018 failed to destroy their targets.
  • The AN/SPY-6 radar is being developed as a replacement to the AN/SPY-1. Once complete, the AN/SPY-6 will be able to detect thirty times as many targets that are “half the size, at twice the distance” of the current AN/SPY-1.

Hawaii

Home to U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters, Hawaii is defended by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system designed to counter strategic threats. It also hosts the Sea-Based X-Band Radar and is slated to host a new long-range discrimination radar system by 2023.

Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX)

Program Overview/Key Elements:

  • A massive phased-array X-band radar housed inside a 120-foot diameter radome and supported on a self-propelled, floating platform which primarily acts as the principle midcourse sensor for the strategic BMD system.
  • Its radar has a 2,500-mile range and is meant to serve in an advanced position to track incoming missiles, discriminate between warheads and decoys or countermeasures, and relay this data to interceptor missiles. Many have cast doubt on SBX’s ability to fulfill this role, primarily because of its extraordinarily narrow 25-degree field of view, compared to 90-120 degrees in other air defense radars.
  • SBX could also support regional BMD systems to protect troops in forward-deployed positions.

Status:

  • SBX spends most of its time on “limited test support status” in port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It operates at sea in support of BMDS tests or when the security environment dictates that it may be needed.

Current Developments:

  • In a February 2018 press briefing on the agency’s FY 2019 budget request, MDA spokesman Gary Pennett announced that MDA had extended the SBX’s ability to stay at sea to “closer to 300 days.”

Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii (HDR-H)—(planned)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • A planned land-based, long-range discrimination radar that MDA plans to field in 2023. HDR-H would improve the ability of the GMD homeland defense system to protect Hawaii from ICBMs.

Status:

  • PACOM Commander Adm. Harry Harris told Congress in February 2018 that the HDR-H is in the final phase of the siting process.
  • MDA spokesman Gary Pennett said that same month that a second, similar radar will be deployed to an as-yet undetermined location in the Pacific (HDR-P) in 2024 to add to the sensor architecture.
  • For fiscal year 2019, the Missile Defense Agency requested $62 million for HDR-H, and an additional $34 million for HDR-P.

Guam

Guam is the closest U.S. territory to the Korean peninsula and Andersen Air Base and Naval Base Guam are among several possible targets for DPRK intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs). With 7,000 U.S. servicemen stationed in Guam and 163,000 U.S.-citizen residents living on the island, the U.S. military sought to enhance BMD coverage of the island already provided by Aegis BMD ships by deploying a THAAD battery.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • A THAAD battery consisting of 6 launchers with 8 interceptors per launcher was deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam in 2013 along with its associated AN/TPY-2 radar and fire control stations.
  • Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, reiterated in February 2018 testimony to Congress the Pentagon’s view that THAAD is needed on Guam to protect against North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
  • THAAD is designed to intercept ballistic missiles in their terminal phase as a ballistic missile is reentering the atmosphere on the way to its target, meaning it would have a chance to attempt an intercept at a later stage than an Aegis ship and thus provide an additional layer of BMD coverage.

South Korea

BMD coverage of South Korea is centered on engaging missiles in the terminal phase of flight. U.S. and ROK forces operate several U.S.-made BMD platforms on the peninsula to defend against short- and medium-range North Korean missiles, including a U.S.-operated THAAD battery and several U.S.- and ROK-operated Patriot batteries on land. South Korea is developing several indigenous short-range BMD systems, under its Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system scheduled to be deployed by the early 2020s. U.S. and South Korean Aegis BMD ships also patrol South Korean waters.

U.S.-operated systems:

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • The U.S. Army deployed a THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers with eight interceptors per launcher and associated radar and fire control equipment in April 2017 to defend against North Korean MRBMs and SRBMs.
  • THAAD’s position in Seongju is too far south to protect Seoul or U.S. forces stationed on the border and at Camp Humphreys. Designed to intercept missiles within a 124-mile range, the THAAD battery is positioned to potentially defend US troops landing and disembarking from the port of Busan in the southeast in the event that the United States deploys additional forces to the peninsula. It could also defend major urban areas in the southern part of the peninsula, amounting to coverage for roughly 10 million South Koreans.

Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • The United States is believed to operate 8 PAC-3 batteries in classified locations around South Korea, likely deployed around key U.S. military bases.
  • PAC-3 system can share tracking and targeting data as well as engage short-range ballistic missiles at a lower altitude than THAAD, allowing for layered but overlapping terminal-phase coverage.

Status:

  • In August 2017, the U.S. Army announced that it had completed upgrading its Patriot systems at Osan Air Base in Seoul to PAC-3.

ROK-operated systems:

Aegis ships

Overview/Key Elements:

  • South Korea operates 3 Sejong-Daewang (Sejong the Great, or KDX-III)-class destroyers that are equipped with a version of the Aegis system, Baseline 7, that is not BMD-capable. South Korea’s ships can communicate with and relay targeting data between U.S. Aegis BMD ships, but cannot currently track or engage ballistic missiles.
  • While the Aegis system deployed on ROK ships can link data with U.S. ships, it cannot directly link data to Japanese Aegis BMD ships because they do not share a common encryption system.
  • According to a 2009 U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement, South Korea already has SM-2 missiles in its inventory with terminal-phase BMD potential should it upgrade its Aegis systems from Baseline 7 to Baseline 9.

Current Developments:

  • The next generation of three KDX-III destroyers, set to enter into service in 2023, 2025, and 2027, will be built with the latest Aegis Baseline 9 software and will be fully capable of BMD detection and tracking. Many analysts have also speculated that these destroyers will be equipped with a version of the SM-3 missile interceptor to give them an engagement capability as well.
  • Several press reports, citing anonymous ROK defense officials, have hinted that South Korea is looking to upgrade its three operating KDX-III destroyers with a newer version of Aegis that would give them BMD capability in the near term.

Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • KAMD is a multi-platform, short-range air and missile defense concept that South Korea has been developing since 2006 to enhance its protection against DPRK SRBMs, cruise missiles, and light aircraft.
  • In April 2014, South Korea announced it was upgrading its 8 existing Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) batteries to PAC-3 by the end of 2018 and would buy PAC-3 missiles by 2020.
  • South Korea is developing the Cheongung Korean medium-range surface-to-air missile (KM-SAM), intended to intercept DPRK SRBMs and MRBMs at a relatively low altitude, similar to PAC-3.
  • The Korean long-range surface-to-air missile (KL-SAM), under development until 2020, will reportedly be similar to THAAD, operating in a high-altitude, terminal-phase intercept role against SRBMs and MRBMs.

Status:

  • ROK forces operate 8 PAC-2 and PAC-3 batteries around Seoul (exact locations classified), which compose the only layer of defense for the roughly 20 million South Koreans that are not covered by THAAD.
  • South Korea is reportedly in the final phase of developing the KM-SAM, which Seoul aims to deploy between 2018 and 2019.

Current Developments:

  • The ROK Defense Acquisition Program Administration approved a planned PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) system purchase on Feb. 7, 2018.
  • The PAC-3 MSE systems will provide an additional layer of terminal-phase defense to the PAC-3 systems, since the MSE system can reportedly engage medium- and short-range ballistic missiles at an altitude of 40 km, twice that of the PAC-3. PAC-3 MSE missiles feature new software that improves its targeting as well as a two-stage rocket booster that extends the range of interceptors to 19 miles.

Japan

Japan has heavily invested in an integrated BMD system and has focused on midcourse defense with the Aegis system. Japan operates four Aegis BMD ships with plans to build four more by the early 2020s. The cabinet in December 2017 approved a plan to build two Aegis Ashore sites by the early 2020s. U.S. Aegis ships and U.S. and Japanese Patriot batteries offer another layer of defense.

U.S.-operated systems:

Aegis BMD Ships

Overview/Key Elements:

  • The U.S. 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan and operates in East Asia, has six destroyers and one cruiser equipped with Aegis BMD systems that are assigned to BMD operations.
  • These Aegis ships are equipped with SM-3 Block IA and Block IB interceptors and SPY-1 radars. They can relay or receive data to and from other Aegis ships—including both Japanese and ROK Aegis ships—and are interoperable with Aegis and land-based systems such that their interceptors can be “launched on remote” using tracking data from off-board sensors.

Status:

  • There are only five U.S. Aegis BMD ships permanently stationed in Japan. Two additional ships are under repair and likely will return to service in summer 2018.
  • The Navy does not announce when, where, or which BMD ships patrol in the region, but reportedly half of the Japan-based BMD fleet is at sea at any given time.

Patriot Advanced Capability-3

Overview/Status:

  • U.S. forces operate PAC-3 systems in Japan at U.S. military bases, most of which are on the island of Okinawa.
  • The first U.S. PAC-3 systems were originally deployed in 2006. The deployments were located near Kadena Air Base (Kadena Town, Okinawa City, and Chatan Town), as well as near Kadena Ammunition Storage Area (Yomitan Village, Okinawa City, Kadena Town, Onna Village, and Uruma City).
  • Movements and deployments of U.S.-operated PAC-3 units in Japan are not publicly available.

AN/TPY-2 Radar

Overview/Key Elements:

  • The U.S. operates 2 AN/TPY-2 mobile radar systems—the same radar used in conjunction with THAAD—in Japan.
  • Since these TPY-2 radars are not paired with THAAD launchers, they are likely operated in the forward-based mode to detect missile launches in North Korea. The radars then relay data to Aegis BMD ships.
  • Mobile radars can be quickly moved in response to changing needs.

Status:

  • In December 2014, the U.S. military deployed the second AN/TPY-2 radar to a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base near Kyoto.
  • The other TPY-2 radar is deployed at Shariki JASDF base in northern Japan.

Japanese-operated systems:

Aegis BMD

Overview/Key Elements:

  • The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) deploys four Kongo-class destroyers equipped with Aegis BMD system and SM-3 Block IA interceptors.
  • Kongo-class destroyers can link data directly to U.S. (but not ROK) Aegis destroyers and coordinate missile tracking.
  • Under Japan’s constitution, it can only attempt to shoot down missiles or missile debris headed toward Japanese territory, meaning that while its Aegis ships could help track DPRK IRBMs headed toward Guam, for example, they could not launch interceptors to engage them.

Status:

  • Japan is modifying two Atago-class destroyers to operate the Aegis system in the near future.
  • As of August 2017, the first Atago-class cruiser and fifth BMD-capable ship was planned to be ready by March 2018.

Current Developments:

  • Japan announced in 2013 that it planned to acquire two more Aegis BMD destroyers, which would enter service in 2020 and 2021 and be equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 and SM-3 Block IIA interceptors, bringing its total fleet of BMD ships to eight.
  • Japan’s Aegis BMD ships are set to begin receiving the SM-3 Block IIA missile, which Japan co-developed with the United States, as soon as it is deployed on U.S. ships in 2018. The U.S. State Department cleared an advanced sale of four Block IIA missiles in January 2018. Japan expects that the extended range and higher velocity of the Block IIA will enhance the overlapping coverage of its BMD systems.

Aegis Ashore—(planned)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • In December 2017 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved a Defense Ministry plan to purchase two Aegis Ashore systems. Officials confirmed they hope the systems will be operational by 2023.
  • Armed with SM-3 Block IIA missiles, the two sites will reportedly be able to defend all of Japan against MRBMs and IRBMs and provide overlapping layers of defense with the Aegis BMD fleet. Japanese officials believe this will allow them to reduce the number of JMSDF BMD destroyers deployed.

Status:

  • Citing Japanese Defense Ministry sources, press reports in September 2017 said that Japan was evaluating sites for placing two Aegis Ashore systems on Japan’s western coast (one in the north, one in the south). Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures are seen as possible sites for the units.
  • The Aegis Ashore units are estimated to cost at least ¥100 billion ($920 million) each.

PAC-3

Overview/Key Elements:

  • As of 2015, Japan operates 24 PAC-3 units in 15 military bases, most of them positioned around Tokyo and key locations to act as a final layer of defense beyond Aegis ships.
  • Being relatively mobile, Japan can and has frequently moved PAC-3 units to shift BMD coverage based on changing threats.
  • Intended as a point-defense system with an engagement range of just 12 miles, PAC-3 interceptors could also break up missile debris falling over Japan.

Status:

  • As of 2013, PAC-3 systems were known to be deployed to: Aibano in Shiba Prefecture; Naha in Okinawa Prefecture; Hakusan in Tsu, Mie Prefecture; on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo; on the island of Okinawa
  • Japan announced in August 2017 that it was deploying four PAC-3 systems to Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane, and Ehime in southwestern Japan.

Current Developments:

  • According to press reports in 2016, Japan plans to upgrade its PAC-3 batteries with Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Early Warning Radar

Overview/Key Elements:

  • Japan operates a network of 28 ground-based air defense radar stations across the country, and of these 11 are BMD capable, stretching the length of Japan’s west coast and facing North Korea and China.
  • Includes seven older FPS-3 radars that have been upgraded to FPS-4 to be BMD capable and four more advanced FPS-5 radars.
  • FPS-5 and upgraded FPS-3 radar sites are linked to Japan’s Aegis BMD destroyers and PAC-3 batteries through the Japanese Aerospace Defense Ground Environment (JADGE).

Status:

  • FPS-5 radars are stationed at: Ominato, Sado, Shimo-koshiki island, and Yozadake (Okinawa)
  • FPS-3UG (FPS-4) radars are stationed at: Tobetsu, Kamo, Otakineyama, Wajima, Kyogamisaki, Kasatoriyama, and Sefuriyama

Australia

Australia has invested relatively little in its BMD architecture compared to other U.S. allies in the region given its low threat from missiles and has limited BMD detection and tracking capabilities and no engagement capability. But the communications and satellite terminal bases that Australia has hosted for decades as part of U.S. global signals intelligence-gathering efforts have been expanded to play key early warning and communications roles in the U.S. BMD system, and Australia is rolling out a class of Aegis destroyers that could become BMD-capable and will begin production on a class of Aegis BMD frigates in the next five years. Australia’s Aegis fleet will be integrated with U.S., Japanese, and ROK Aegis ships and may have some engagement capability against MRBMs and IRBMs.

U.S.-operated BMD systems:

Early Warning Radar/Satellite Stations

Overview/Key Elements:

  • Joint Defense Base Pine Gap, near Alice Springs in central Australia, is a ground control station for U.S. spy satellites that reportedly plays a role in the U.S. BMD command, control, and communications architecture. It monitors missile testing and tracks missile threats in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Reportedly, Pine Gap receiving systems can compute the trajectory of DPRK missile launches and send tracking data to other U.S. BMD systems.

Status:

  • Hosts six satellite terminals for the Relay Ground Station, which relays data from early warning satellites (the Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS) to U.S. and Australian command centers.
  • Another three radomes are speculated to be associated with MDA’s experimental Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) program.

Current Developments:

  • According to press reports beginning in 2013, the United States and Australia planned to relocate two U.S. advanced radar stations to North West Cape, Western Australia—ostensibly for monitoring satellites in space, according to Australian officials—that could potentially monitor Chinese and DPRK missile launches.

Australian-operated BMD systems:

Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN), an over-the-horizon radar system recently constructed in the Australian outback, has the capability to detect missile launches in Asia with its 3000 km range and could potentially be integrated into a multilateral BMD system in the near future as an early warning and tracking capability.

Aegis BMD Ships—(under-development)

Overview/Key Elements:

  • Australia is building an Aegis fleet that will field three Hobart-class destroyers equipped with Aegis Baseline 8 and SM-2 missiles, capable of countering cruise missiles but not BMD capable.
  • Australia’s Aegis ships will be networked with U.S., Japanese, and ROK Aegis ships, allowing them to share data. The Hobart-class destroyers will not be able to directly participate in BMD operations but could be upgraded.

Status:

  • HMAS Hobart, commissioned in September 2017, is the only operational Australian Aegis ship, but is not BMD-capable.

Current Developments:

  • As of October 2017, the second and third destroyers of the Hobart class will be delivered in June 2018 and January 2019.
  • Like the Hobart, the Brisbane and the Sydney also won’t have BMD capability until they are upgraded, although press reports have speculated that Australian Defence Department plans intend to upgrade the Hobart-class destroyers to Aegis Baseline 9 and equip them with SM-6 interceptors, making them capable of tracking ballistic missiles and giving them a limited terminal phase intercept capability against SRBMs and MRBMs.
  • Malcolm Turnbull announced in October 2017 that Australia’s nine new frigates of the Future Frigate project which will begin construction in 2020 will be fitted with the Aegis system and will be BMD capable.
  • Most analysts speculate that Australia’s Aegis fleet would be used to defend forward-deployed forces and track threats along with allied Aegis ships, but that Australia is not yet moving toward a homeland defense system.
Missile Defense

Subject Resources:

Posted: May 7, 2018

Improving U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Policy

Why a new approach is needed now.


May 2018
By George Lewis and Frank von Hippel

Since President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, the U.S. government has spent an average of $10 billion per year in today’s dollars on ballistic missile defense systems whose effectiveness is limited at best and whose deployment threatens the future of nuclear arms control with China and Russia.

Now, under pressure due to North Korean development of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Congress and the Trump administration are on the verge of throwing additional tens of billions of dollars into the same black hole. Indeed, the congressional appropriation for ballistic missile defense in fiscal year 2018 is the largest ever.

A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1B interceptor is launched from the USS Lake Erie during a test in the mid-Pacific on May 16, 2013. The SM-3 Block 1B intercepted the target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD weapon system, detected and tracked the target using the onboard SPY-1 radar, visible to the left of the base of the plume. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)U.S. policy needs an overhaul. The problems with current U.S. policy fall into two realms: the political reactions of China and Russia and the technical emphasis on missile interception above the atmosphere. This article explains the problems and proposes an alternative approach.

The current U.S. focus is on North Korea’s ballistic missiles. China and Russia, however, see U.S. ballistic missile defense systems as a potential threat to their nuclear deterrents. Their scientists understand that current U.S. systems can be countered with penetration aids, commonly known as countermeasures; but their policymakers worry that eventually these U.S. systems could become effective, especially if a U.S. first strike decimated their deterrent missiles. As a result, China is increasing the number of ballistic missile warheads that can reach the United States; Russia is unwilling to join the United States in further nuclear weapons reductions; and China and Russia are developing alternative warhead-delivery systems, such as hypersonic boost-glide weapons, that will further fuel a nuclear arms race.

The U.S. approach to ballistic missile defense emphasizes interception above the atmosphere, the longest portion of an ICBM warhead’s trajectory. Unfortunately, interception can be made particularly difficult here, posing high technical hurdles to success. Due to the absence of air resistance, lightweight countermeasures can be deployed that are indistinguishable from the warhead or can conceal its exact location from the defender’s detection systems.

Instead of continuing to apply the current flawed approach, an alternative policy consisting of more effective ballistic missile defenses against North Korea and diplomacy and arms control should be pursued. First, although countermeasures against above-the-atmosphere (exoatmospheric) defenses are within North Korea’s technical reach, the country is so small that interception of its ICBMs during the boost phase may be possible using fast interceptors based on or over international waters. Such an approach would not have the reach to threaten ICBMs currently based deep within China or Russia. Second, war with North Korea would be catastrophic for the people of North and South Korea, Japan, and quite possibly the United States. Although North Korea’s threats are appalling, there is little evidence that its leadership is suicidal. Diplomacy should be pursued to create a common understanding of the danger and avoid war in the near term, creating time for a long-term strategy for nuclear risk reduction in the region. Similarly, nuclear arms negotiations must begin with China and be revived with Russia. These negotiations almost certainly will have to include limitations on ballistic missile defenses.

Current U.S. Systems

For the purposes of discussing interception, it is convenient to divide the flight of an attacking ballistic missile into three phases. Boost phase involves the first minutes during which the payload is being accelerated by its rocket booster. Midcourse, after the booster burns out and its payload coasts through space on a ballistic trajectory, is in the vacuum of space and is the primary focus of current U.S. efforts against longer-range ballistic missiles. Terminal phase involves the last tens of seconds during which a missile or warhead plunges back through the atmosphere toward its target. Currently deployed U.S. ballistic missile defense systems target only the midcourse and terminal phases, although there has been interest in boost-phase interception since the 1950s.

Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle is basically a flying infrared telescope pointed and steered by thrusters. (Photo: Raytheon)U.S. ballistic missile defense systems are comprised of sensors, interceptors, and command-and-control systems that link the two. The ballistic missile tracking system starts with data from early-warning satellites in high-altitude orbits that detect the infrared emissions from missile-booster plumes and provide data on their launch points and approximate trajectories. Thereafter, radars are used to track the warheads. The long-range interceptors that defend the United States are guided primarily by five large, long-range, early-warning radars located in California, Cape Cod, Greenland, the United Kingdom, and Alaska, plus the Cobra Dane radar in the Aleutian Islands, which was originally built in the 1970s to observe the flight tests of Soviet ballistic missiles.

All these radars have been upgraded to allow them to track ballistic missiles accurately enough to guide exoatmospheric interceptors. The wavelengths of their signals are too long, however, to measure the shapes of the objects that they are tracking in enough detail to discriminate between an actual attacking warhead and other similar-sized objects. In 2008 the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) deployed the sea-based X-band radar. Based in Honolulu, this radar system can sail to any desired location in the Pacific region. Although specifically built for target discrimination, it could be fooled by decoys or other midcourse countermeasures and has other serious deficiencies. Shorter-range interceptors are guided by their own shorter-range radars, although they can be cued by early-warning satellites and also potentially use data from other radars.

Currently, the United States has five deployed ballistic missile defense systems: the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Aegis BMD ships, Aegis Ashore, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and Patriot systems.1 The current focus for U.S. homeland defense is the GMD system, whose deployment was initiated by the G.W. Bush administration to defend all U.S. states against ICBMs. By the end of 2017, a total of 44 interceptors were deployed, 40 at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at the Vandenberg Air Force Base missile flight-test site in California.

Each interceptor carries a homing exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). Guided by the long-range radars, the booster propels the EKV into outer space toward its incoming target at a speed of about six kilometers (3.8 miles) per second. The EKV uses its infrared seeker and divert thrusters to maneuver itself into a direct, high-speed collision with its target.

Thus far, the GMD system has succeeded in killing its target warhead in only half of the 18 interception tests. Most of the failures have been due to quality control issues resulting from the rush to meet the politically motivated 2004 deadline for declaring the system operational. The problems with the EKV are so severe that the MDA has decided to replace the deployed EKVs with the Redesigned Kill Vehicle, starting in 2022.



The GMD system has cost about $40 billion to date, or $1 billion per deployed interceptor,2 but was assessed in June 2017 by the Department of Defense’s operational test and evaluation office to have only “demonstrated the capability to defend the U.S. Homeland from a small number of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threats with simple countermeasures.”3 This ambiguous statement does not mean the GMD system would be effective in actual use.

The Navy currently has about 85 Aegis destroyers and cruisers each equipped with four-faced SPY-1 phased-array radar systems and about 100 vertical launch tubes. In addition to ballistic missile defense interceptors, the launch tubes can carry anti-aircraft missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons. Thus far, more than 35 Aegis ships have been upgraded to be able to perform ballistic missile defense missions. The number is increasing at a rate of about four per year—two via upgrades of existing ships, two by new construction. By the mid-2030s, it is likely that the entire fleet will be capable of ballistic missile defense activities.

The Aegis missiles are variants of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3). These are exoatmospheric interceptors with infrared-homing kill vehicles similar to but much smaller than the GMD interceptors. SM-3 Block I interceptors have a burnout speed of about three kilometers per second with a maximum intercept range of a few hundred kilometers, which is too low to defend a large area such as the United States. By 2019, however, the Navy plans to begin deployment of a new higher-speed Block IIA interceptor being co-developed with Japan. With a burnout speed of about 4.5 kilometers per second, it could defend the entire United States from a small number of offshore and onshore locations, using the long-range GMD radars for determining approximate intercept points. Congress has recently mandated that the Block IIA missile be tested against an ICBM by the end of 2020 “if technologically feasible.”4

The Navy also has developed a land-based version known as Aegis Ashore. One such facility is operational in Romania, and a second is being built in Poland. Both projects were launched early in the Obama administration when there was concern that Iran, like North Korea, might acquire nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles. These Aegis Ashore bases have infuriated Russia, which claims that they could be used to forward-base cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Yet, the United States is not reconsidering their deployment, despite the constraints Iran has accepted on its nuclear program and its self-imposed 2,000-kilometer-range limit on its ballistic missiles.5

The United States operates an Aegis Ashore test facility in Hawaii that could be converted into an operational facility to defend against North Korean ICBMs. Japan, which operates six Aegis ships and plans two more, has recently announced its intention to build two Aegis Ashore facilities to guard against North Korean missiles. The United States has recently begun deploying Standard Missile-6 interceptors on Aegis ships, which can intercept shorter-range missiles in their terminal phase.

The THAAD and Patriot systems are terminal-phase ballistic missile defense systems designed to intercept attacking missiles in the atmosphere as they descend toward their targets. The THAAD system also can operate just above the atmosphere. Patriot missiles are intended for use against shorter-range missiles and aircraft. Although the areas that THAAD and Patriot batteries could protect would be much too small for them to be used to defend the entire United States, THAAD missiles could be used as a second layer of defense for metropolitan areas. It is deployed in South Korea and Guam.

Reliability Versus Operational Effectiveness

The GMD intercept test May 30, 2017, cost $244 million.6 It would be extremely costly to conduct enough intercept tests to cover the full range of possible battle conditions, including credible countermeasures. Therefore, intercept tests for midcourse systems essentially are highly scripted demonstrations to validate simulations. When they fail, it is usually because of a quality-control failure in the hardware. The GMD system has failed half of its 18 intercept tests. The Aegis system has done better, with an 82 percent success rate in SM-3 Block I intercept tests, but the Block IIA has failed in two of its three intercept tests.

Establishing that a given ballistic missile defense system can work reliably against targets under ideal conditions (e.g., during the day with the sun behind the kill vehicle illuminating a target unaccompanied by serious penetration aids) is only the first step toward establishing the operational effectiveness of the system. The fundamental question is how well these systems would work in actual combat conditions when unexpected circumstances and enemy countermeasures must be addressed.

The experience of the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 system highlights the difference between reliability on the test range and operational effectiveness in battle. Although it was reportedly successful in all 17 of its prewar intercept tests, it failed nearly completely during the 1991 Persian Gulf War in 44 engagements against Iraqi Scud missiles that had characteristics quite different from the targets against which it had been tested.7

Midcourse Countermeasures

The challenge of exoatmospheric countermeasures has been part of the public discussion of ballistic missile defense for 50 years. In the absence of air resistance, light and heavy objects travel on indistinguishable trajectories in outer space. Warheads can be concealed in clouds of radar-reflecting chaff or inside aluminized balloons, and decoys can be constructed of very lightweight materials. The temperatures and therefore the infrared signatures of objects also can be manipulated in outer space by varying their surface coatings or by adding small battery-powered or chemical heat sources inside.

All five of the original nuclear-weapon states have developed countermeasures for their long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.8 Many countermeasures are simple enough such that a 1999 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded that

[m]any countries, such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq probably would rely initially on readily available technology—including separating [re-entry vehicles (RVs)], spin-stabilized RVs, RV reorientation, radar absorbing material (RAM), booster fragmentation, low-power jammers, and simple (balloon) decoys—to develop penetration aids and countermeasures…. These countries could develop countermeasures based on these technologies by the time they flight test their missiles.9

A 2012 study by the National Academy of Sciences found, however, that the MDA had abandoned significant efforts to deal with countermeasures.

Based on the information presented to it by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the committee learned very little that would help resolve the discrimination issue in the presence of sophisticated countermeasures. In fact, the committee had to seek out people who had put together experiments…and who had understood and analyzed the data gathered. Their funding was terminated several years ago, ostensibly for budget reasons, and their expertise was lost. When the committee asked MDA to provide real signature data from all flight tests, MDA did not appear to know where to find them.10

Details about the testing of U.S. interceptors against countermeasures are highly classified, but there is no public indication of change in the fundamental fact that, because of their susceptibility to countermeasures, ballistic missile defense systems requiring exoatmospheric interception can promise little in the way of effective defense. Building and deploying them wastes billions of dollars that could be used more effectively on other activities, including potentially more effective types of ballistic missile defense.

One way to force the MDA to acknowledge the countermeasure problem would be to establish an independent testing team to equip target missiles with penetration aids considered within the reach of North Korea. Indeed, a congressionally mandated 2010 study of countermeasures by JASON, a high-level independent technical review panel, recommended such an approach. The MDA tried to suppress the report.11

Stimulating Offensive Buildups

In addition to high costs and doubtful effectiveness, exoatmospheric ballistic missile defense systems can have serious adverse effects on U.S. security. One is to undercut Russia’s willingness to reduce further the number of its nuclear warheads or consider taking its missiles off hair-trigger alert.

In the wake of the Cold War, Washington and Moscow agreed to deep cuts in their deployed strategic weapons. Even after the United States began deploying its GMD system in 2004, the two countries were able to reduce weapons levels further, to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). This last reduction was possible only because the U.S. GMD system initially had very limited objectives and was deployed slowly. The goal of 30 interceptors was achieved only in 2010, and the total number reached 44 only at the end of 2017.

Galvanized by the threat of North Korean nuclear-armed ICBMs, the United States is now embarking on a much larger and more rapid expansion of ballistic missile defense systems. Congress has recently approved funds to deploy an additional 20 GMD interceptors by 2023 and to plan for a further increase to at least 104 interceptors.12 Planned qualitative improvements to the GMD system include the deployment of multiple, small kill vehicles on GMD boosters and a new discrimination radar.13 More importantly, in terms of numbers of long-range interceptors, the number of SM-3 Block IIA interceptors with their theoretical capabilities to intercept strategic missiles could climb to between 300 and 400 or more by the 2030s, with deployments on 80 to 90 ships and at Aegis Ashore sites.

The congressional mandate that the SM-3 Block IIA interceptors be tested against an ICBM will almost certainly increase Russian and Chinese perceptions of threat to the deterrent value of their strategic ballistic missile forces. Congress has acknowledged this problem by requiring that the Pentagon assess whether testing the SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs would undermine the nuclear deterrence capabilities of nuclear-armed adversaries other than North Korea.14

When it signed New START in April 2010, Russia stipulated that a buildup of U.S. missile defenses could be grounds for Moscow to withdraw. At that time, Russia had nearly 50 times more strategic nuclear ballistic missile warheads than the United States had strategic-capable interceptors. Even without taking into account losses from a hypothetical U.S. first strike, that ratio will soon fall into the single digits. At best, therefore, the expansion of the GMD system and the large-scale deployment of SM-3 Block IIA interceptors on Aegis ships would lock the United States and Russia into the current New START levels for the indefinite future.

Personnel at the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, work at the test-control facility during an interceptor flight June 22, 2014. A long-range ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)The U.S. ballistic missile defense buildup may already be provoking China to augment its strategic offensive forces. China has been increasing the number of its ICBMs, begun deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and is developing ICBMs with multiple warheads, actions widely viewed as being at least in part a response to the U.S. ballistic missile defense program. China also may be moving away from its historical practice of deploying its missiles separately from their nuclear warheads to protect against accidental or unauthorized launch, and Russia and China are developing alternative delivery systems, including hypersonic boost-glide vehicles that cannot be intercepted by current or planned U.S. ballistic missile defense systems. Furthermore, they could respond to U.S. actions by accelerating their own missile defense programs, increasing the danger of a destabilizing, three-sided offense-defense competition.

Despite the availability of countermeasures to the systems that the United States is deploying today, the ultimate driver of Russian and Chinese offensive counters to the U.S. ballistic missile defense program is that it is completely open-ended. There is no indication of when or if the process of expanding and layering of defenses will end.

Boost-Phase Missile Defense

Boost-phase missile defense offers a technical fix to the problem of North Korean ICBMs and provides a potential avenue to address some Russian and Chinese concerns. Although ballistic missile defense advocates are reluctant

to admit how easily midcourse defenses could be defeated, some tacitly acknowledge the problem by promoting boost-phase defenses. Countermeasures are much less of a problem for boost-phase interception than for midcourse interception because, for instance, a decoy would have to have a full-size operational rocket booster.

The technical challenge is that the boost phase is only a few minutes long. Therefore, the defense must be deployed close to the attacking missile’s launch site, although obviously it cannot be stationed within the target country’s airspace. For surface- or air-based interceptors or drone-borne lasers, these constraints limit the feasibility of defenses against ICBMs to launches from small countries, such as North Korea. One benefit is that such boost-phase defenses would be much less threatening to land-based ICBMs deep in the interiors of large countries such as Russia or China and therefore would be less likely to trigger an offense-defense competition.

Currently, the MDA’s only boost-phase program is an effort to deploy electrically driven lasers on high-altitude drones.15 Such a system faces many technical challenges and, even if they are overcome, would not be operational until the mid-2020s.

Given the urgency of the North Korean threat, an approach that uses small, high-acceleration, high-speed interceptors on drones or ships could provide a boost-phase capability earlier. One notional system would deploy such interceptors on Predator drones based in South Korea. The drones would patrol roughly 100 kilometers off North Korea’s east and west coasts. A preliminary analysis indicates that two such interceptors could be carried on a Predator B drone.16

If developed as an expedited Defense Department program using existing technologies, such a boost-phase defense could potentially be operational within three years. Its advantages would include reducing political pressures to expand the GMD system, with its counterproductive effects on the future of nuclear arms control with China and Russia. Although North Korea might eventually be able to build faster-burning, solid-fueled boosters that would be more difficult for this boost-phase system to counter, it takes many years to master the technology of large solid-fueled boosters, buying time for diplomacy.

It is not as clear that such an alternative system would reduce the demand for SM-3 Block IIA interceptors. Although they could be used to defend U.S. territory, they are justified primarily as defenses against shorter-range missiles aimed at U.S. allies and carrier battle groups. Boost-phase defenses would be less effective against shorter-range missiles because they have shorter boost times.

Preventing deployments of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor from halting or even reversing progress in reducing nuclear weapons will thus likely require quantitative limits on its deployment. The current political environment would seem to rule out a formal treaty imposing such limits, but a recognition by the United States of the long-term consequences of unlimited SM-3 Block IIA deployments might lead it to some restraint in deployment. Although the SM-3 Block IIA has some significant advantages over the SM-3 Block IB, a mixed force comprised mostly of SM-3 Block IBs would also have advantages, in particular a significantly lower cost that could allow the acquisition of greater numbers of interceptors.

If reduced numbers of SM-3 Block IIA interceptors were combined with other measures, such as limits on testing against long-range missiles, it might significantly reduce Russian and Chinese concerns and their responses to deployment. Interceptor speed and testing limits were discussed with Russia during the Clinton administration as a way to deal with Russia’s concerns about U.S. theater missile defenses, and it was agreed that interceptors having a burnout speed of less than three kilometers per second, that is, the speed of the SM-3 Block I interceptors, would be of little concern if they were not tested against targets with the speeds of strategic missiles.17

The confluence of Iran’s announcement on constraining its missile ranges and the congressional mandate to examine the implications of SM-3 Block IIA interceptor deployments on other countries’ deterrent capabilities may present an opportunity to reconsider its deployment. An imporant first step would be to reverse the congressional requirement to test the interceptor against an ICBM.

Outlook

The best alternative to continuing on the current trajectory of the U.S. ballistic missile defense program would be a combination of diplomacy and arms control. In the 16 years since President George W. Bush withdrew the country from the ABM Treaty, the United States has spent about $150 billion in today’s dollars on ballistic missile defenses.18 That expenditure has produced systems susceptible to countermeasures that are within the technological reach of North Korea. It has also revived the arms race with Russia and provoked a Chinese offensive buildup.

Perhaps it is time to try something else. The alternative approach that made it possible to end the Cold War nuclear buildup was arms control, starting with the ABM Treaty. Perhaps that would be a good place to start again. In fact, the United States has not moved far from the limits of the ABM Treaty and the 1997 theater missile defense demarcation agreement with Russia. The United States has fewer than 100 long-range interceptors and has not yet begun to deploy theater missile interceptors with burnout speeds greater than three kilometers per second. Perhaps it is not too late.

 

ENDNOTES

1. “FY16 Ballistic Missile Defense Systems,” n.d., p. 408, http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2016/pdf/bmds/2016bmds.pdf.

2. David Willman, “Pentagon Successfully
Tests Missile Defense System Amid Rising Concerns About North Korea,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2017.

3. “FY17 Ballistic Missile Defense Systems,” n.d., p. 279, http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2017/pdf/bmds/2017bmds.pdf.

4. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, H.R. Rep. No. 115-404, sec. 1680 (2017) (Conf. Rep.) (hereinafter 2018 defense authorization conference report).

5. Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Limits Range for Ballistic Missiles Produced Locally,” Associated Press, October 31, 2017.

6. Justin Doubleday, “Pentagon Delays First Salvo Test of GMD System,” Inside Defense SITREP, June 1, 2017.

7. George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol, “Patriot Performance in the Gulf War,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 8 (2000), pp. 315–356; Jeremiah D. Sullivan et al., “Technical Debate Over Patriot Performance in the Gulf War,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 8 (1999), pp. 41–98.

8. Andrew M. Sessler et al., “Countermeasures: A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned U.S. National Missile Defense System,” Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2000, pp. 35–37, 145–148, http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nwgs/cm_all.pdf.

9. U.S. National Intelligence Council, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015,” September 1999, https://fas.org/irp/threat/missile/nie99msl.htm.

10. National Research Council, “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives,” National Academies Press, September 2012, pp. 10, 21, 131.

11. JASON, “MDA Discrimination,” JSR-10-620, August 3, 2010, https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/mda-dis.pdf (unclassified summary). The report gives no indication that any solution to the discrimination problem has been found.

12 . 2018 defense authorization conference report, sec. 1686.

13. John Keller, “Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Refine MOKV Missile Defense to Kill Several Warheads With One Launch,” Military Aerospace Electronics, April 5, 2017, http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/2017/04/missile-defense-to-kill-several-warheads-at-once.html.

14. 2018 defense authorization conference report, pp. 1032–1033.

15. Mostlymissiledefense, “Chronology of MDA’s Plans for Laser Boost-Phase Defense,” August 26, 2016, https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2016/08/26/chronology-of-mdas-plans-for-laser-boost-phase-defense-august-26-2016/.

16. Richard L. Garwin and Theodore A. Postol, “Airborne Patrol to Destroy DPRK ICBMs in Powered Flight,” n.d., https://fas.org/rlg/airborne.pdf

17. Amy F. Woolf, “Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty Demarcation and Succession Agreements: Background and Issues,” CRS Report for Congress, 98-496 F, April 27, 2000.

18. U.S. Missile Defense Agency, “Historical Funding for MDA FY85-17,” n.d., https://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/FY17_histfunds.pdf.

 


George Lewis, a physicist, is a visiting scholar at the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell University. Frank von Hippel is a senior research physicist and professor emeritus of public and international affairs at Princeton University, where he co-founded the Program on Science and Global Security.

Posted: May 1, 2018

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

The planned opening of a key U.S.-built missile interceptor site in Poland by the end of this year is being delayed, a Pentagon official told Congress on March 22. In written testimony for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on missile defense policy, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said that “delays due to an unsatisfactory rate of construction progress at the Aegis Ashore site in Poland will push” the opening of the site from the end of this year to 2020.

The site is part of the third phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the U.S. contribution to NATO’s missile defense system, and is designed to protect Europe against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Iran. Construction on the site in Redzikowo, Poland, began in June 2016. Once completed, it will include a SPY-1 radar and use the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB missile and the more advanced SM-3 Block IIA missile. The site is expected to provide protection for all of Europe against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Russia has long opposed the planned construction of the Polish site and claims that NATO missile defense plans are aimed at undermining Moscow’s nuclear deterrent.

The first phase of the phased adaptive approach became operational in 2012, comprised of radar units in Turkey, Aegis missile defense destroyers home-ported in Spain, and a command-and-control center in Germany. The second phase, the Aegis Ashore site in Romania, came online in 2016. (See ACT, June 2016.)

Meanwhile, John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said at the same hearing that the Pentagon’s broad missile defense review will be completed in “the next couple of months,” but would not commit to a firm date. The review formally began a year ago. (See ACT, May 2017.) Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters in December that the review would be released alongside the Nuclear Posture Review report in February.—RYAN FEDASIUK AND KINGSTON REIF

Posted: April 1, 2018

The Perils of Space-Based Missile Defense Interception

Past U.S. efforts to develop and deploy a space-based missile defense have known many names, including "Strategic Defense Initiative,” “Brilliant Pebbles,” and “Global Protection Against Limited Strikes.” And all have suffered the same fate: cancellation due to insurmountable financial, technical, and strategic obstacles. But like a zombie that can’t be killed, the idea keeps coming back. Senator Ted Cruz wrote a letter Feb. 22 calling for a space-based capability to intercept ballistic missiles (SBI) in “boost phase,” when a missile is “traveling its slowest, emitting its clearest heat...

Nuclear Declaratory Policy and Negative Security Assurances

March 2018

Contact: Kelsey DavenportDirector for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 462-8270; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 462-8270 x104

Updated: March 2018

The world’s nuclear-armed states each have declared, to varying degrees of specificity, when and under what circumstances they reserve the option to use their nuclear weapons. Most nuclear-armed states have also declared under what circumstances they rule out the use of nuclear weapons. These “positive” and “negative” nuclear declaratory policies are designed to deter adversaries from military actions and to assure non-nuclear weapon states and allies they will not be subject to a direct nuclear attack on their territory and should be dissuaded from pursuing nuclear weapons themselves.

There is no universal agreement among nuclear weapon states on the first-use of intercontinental ballistic missiles.Today, most nuclear-armed states, including the United States, reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Only two nuclear-armed states (China and India) have declared no-first-use policies, by which they commit themselves to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack.

All five of the nuclear-weapon states recognized in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have issued a set of “negative” nuclear security assurances, which were recognized by the UN Security Council in Resolution 984 (1995). These pledges, however, are nonbinding and some nuclear-weapon states reserve the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states under certain circumstances. The following is a more detailed summary of each country’s policies.

United States

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report declared that there are four missions for the U.S. nuclear arsenal: deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attacks, assurance of allies and partners, achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails, and capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.

The document reiterated that the United States does not maintain a nuclear “no first-use policy” on the grounds that U.S. response options must remain flexible to deter nuclear and non-nuclear attacks. “Non-nuclear capabilities,” according to the report, “can complement but not replace U.S. nuclear capabilities” for the purpose of deterrence. In the event that deterrence were to fail, the report also declared that Washington could use nuclear weapons to end a conflict on the “best achievable terms for the United States.”

The NPR dictates that the use of nuclear weapons will only be considered under “extreme circumstances” to defend the “vital interests” of the United States and its allies. It defines “extreme circumstances,” which the 2010 NPR did not, to include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” against “U.S., allied or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

The United States issued assurances not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon-state NPT members in 1978, 1995 and 2010 except in the case of “an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear- weapon State.” In 1997 the United States issued a classified presidential decision directive (PDD) reaffirming these pledges.

The 2018 NPR repeated existing U.S. negative security assurances by stating that Washington “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” However, the report qualified that the United States reserves the right to amend its negative assurance if warranted by “the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies.” At the February 2 press briefing following the report’s release, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood clarified that this may include cyber capabilities.

For a more details, see U.S. Negative Security Assurances at a Glance.

China
China issued negative security assurances at the United Nations in 1978 and 1995 and is the only NPT nuclear-weapon state that has declared a no-first-use policy, which it reiterated in February 2018.

At the 2018 Munich Security Conference, Fu Ying, chairperson of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress, said that “China is also committed to the principle of non-first-use of nuclear weapons, and no-use of nuclear weapons against any nuclear state [sic] at any circumstances and no-use of nuclear weapons against nuclear-free zones.”

In its April 1995 letter to UN members outlining its negative security assurances, China declared that it “undertakes not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.” China consistently reiterates this policy in its defense white papers. The most recent, edited in 2016, stated that “China will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or in nuclear-weapon-free zones, and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country.”

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, China also called for the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument to prohibit first-use of nuclear weapons and use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear-weapon free zones.

France
France maintains a policy of calculated ambiguity regarding first-use of nuclear weapons. A 2013 French government defense white paper states that “the use of nuclear weapons would only be conceivable in extreme circumstances of legitimate self-defence” and that “[b]eing strictly defensive, nuclear deterrence protects France from any state-led aggression against its vital interests, of whatever origin and in whatever form.”

France issued negative security assurances at the UN in 1987 and 1995. In its 1995 statement to the UN, France pledged not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT “except in the case of invasion or any other attack on France, its territory, its armed forces or other troops, or against its allies or a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a State in alliance or association with a nuclear-weapon State.”

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, France called for nuclear possessor states to “work resolutely to advance disarmament in all its aspects; in which the doctrines of nuclear powers will restrict the role of nuclear weapons solely to extreme circumstances of self-defence where their vital interests are under threat.”

Russia
According to the December 2014 Russian Military Doctrine Paper published by the Ministry of Defense, Russia reserves the option to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack involving any weapon of mass destruction, and in response to conventional attacks “when the very existence of the state is under threat.” This phrase suggests a willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in the event of an impending conventional military defeat.

In 1993, Russia moved away from Leonid Brezhnev’s 1982 no-first-use pledge when the Russian Defense Ministry under Boris Yeltsin adopted a new doctrine on nuclear weapons. The new policy ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT but said nothing about use against states possessing nuclear weapons. Since the 1993 shift, many Western analysts have come to believe that Russia pursues an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy—the notion that, in the event of a large-scale conventional conflict, the Kremlin would use or threaten to use low-yield nuclear weapons to coerce an adversary to cease attacks or withdraw. However, other analysts maintain that this is not the case. 

Russia issued unilateral negative security assurances not to attack non-nuclear-weapon states in 1978 and 1995, but stated in 1995 that those pledges would not apply “in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the Russian Federation, its territory, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.”

United Kingdom
In the 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review document, the United Kingdom said it will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with the treaty’s obligations. The United Kingdom appears to leave open the option to use nuclear weapons in response to WMD threats, such as chemical or biological attacks, if such threats emerge. Currently London acknowledged that there is “no direct threat” posed by WMDs to the United Kingdom in the 2015 document, but the government reserves the right to “review this assurance if the future threat, development or proliferation of these weapons make it necessary.”

The United Kingdom issued a unilateral negative nuclear security assurance in 1978 and again in 1995. In the 1995 pledge the United Kingdom said it will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT. This assurance does not apply, however, to any state acting “in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon state” that attacks the United Kingdom, its territories or allies, or any state in breach of its commitments under the NPT.

India
India has a no-first-use doctrine. As the government stated in a draft nuclear doctrine in August 1999, “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.” Although India has adopted a no-first-use policy, some Indian strategists have called the pledge’s validity into question. The credibility of this pledge was weakened in 2009 when Indian Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor suggested that the government should review the pledge in light of the growing threat of Pakistan. In 2010, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon stated that India's nuclear doctrine was “no first use against non-nuclear weapons states.” MIT professor Vipin Narang has also observed that “the force requirements India needs in order to credibly threaten assured retaliation against China may allow it to pursue more aggressive strategies—such as escalation dominance or a ‘splendid first strike’—against Pakistan.”

During debate at the Conference on Disarmament in 2014, India’s representative reiterated the government’s no-first-use policy and the policy on nonuse against non-nuclear-weapon states and said that India was “prepared to convert these undertakings into multilateral legal arrangements.”

Israel
Given that Israel has not acknowledged possession of nuclear weapons, it has not made any statements regarding its willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. Israel generally abstains from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution that would establish international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would not be used against them, including recently in resolution 72/25 in 2017.

Pakistan
Pakistan has only issued negative nuclear security guarantees to those states that are not armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s position regarding when and whether it would use nuclear weapons in a conflict with another nuclear-armed state, namely India, is far more ambiguous. Pakistani officials have indicated that the circumstances surrounding its no-first-use policy must remain deliberately imprecise, as demarcating clear redlines could allow provocations by the Indian military just below any established threshold for use.

In a 2015 statement, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is one-dimensional, that is it for "stopping Indian aggression before it happens" “not for starting a war.” He also said in 2015 that Pakistan is capable of answering aggression from India due to Islamabad’s development of short-range tactical nuclear weapons. In July 2016, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif suggested Islamabad would use nuclear weapons for defensive purposes in armed conflict with India.

North Korea
Following its fourth nuclear test in January 2016, Pyongyang declared a policy of no-first-use under the condition that hostile forces do not encroach on its sovereignty. The Jan. 6, 2016 government statement said that North Korea, as a “responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons…as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty.”  North Korea has re-affirmed this stance at the May 2016 Worker's Party Congress in Pyongyang and in the 2018 New Year's Address. North Korea, however, routinely threatens to use nuclear weapons against perceived threats, including against the United States and South Korea, a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: March 16, 2018

Aegis Missile Interceptor Fails Test

Aegis Missile Interceptor Fails Test


The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA, the latest in the line of U.S. interceptor missiles designed for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, failed to hit its target in its third intercept test on Jan. 31 after being launched from the Aegis Ashore test site in Hawaii. At a Feb. 1 press briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White confirmed that the test “did not meet our objectives.” A Missile Defense Agency (MDA) statement later that day, however, said that “much was still learned that demonstrated an increase in the effective range” of the overall ballistic missile defense system.

At a Feb. 12 press briefing, Gary Pennett, MDA director of operations, said officials had isolated the failure to the missile itself rather than any sensor or control system in the “engage on remote” apparatus. This was the second failure in three intercept tests of the missile, which is currently being developed jointly by Raytheon Co. and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The system is set to begin deployment this year on U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, as well as at an Aegis Ashore site in Poland as part of the third phase of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach. (See ACT, June 2016.) This latest failure raises questions about whether the current deployment schedule can be met.

The Block IIA is a larger and faster version of previous SM-3 missiles. It boasts an improved range and was designed to engage medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase of flight.—MACLYN SENEAR

Posted: March 1, 2018

Turkey Signs Missile Deal With Russia

Turkey Signs Missile Deal With Russia

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for Moscow to supply Ankara with advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, according to a Dec. 29 Turkish government statement. The deal is controversial because Turkey is a NATO member and normally would buy weapons from allied-country suppliers that could be integrated with NATO’s defense architecture.

A Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system is displayed on August 22, 2017 during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army 2017 near Moscow. NATO-member Turkey announced it is buying the Russian system, which is incompatible with NATO’s defense architecture.  (Photo: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)The deal reportedly is valued at $2.5 billion and has been in the works for more than a year, Reuters reported. On Dec. 27, Sergey Chemezov, head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec, told the Kommersant that Russia would supply Turkey with four S-400 batteries. In a statement, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries said that an initial delivery is planned for the first quarter of 2020. The Turkish government said the deal covers two S-400 batteries, with one being optional, and added the systems would be used and managed “independently” by Turkish personnel, rather than Russian advisers, according to Reuters. Turkish newspapers cited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying Turkey would get a Russian loan in rubles to help finance the purchase. Russia’s English-language RT news service headlined the deal as a “Blow to NATO?”

The Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported in December that Moscow is close to a deal for Saudi Arabia, another U.S. ally, to buy the S-400 system. A sale to India is also close to completion, according to Russian officials cited by Tass.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: January 10, 2018

Hill Wants Development of Banned Missile

Congress completes the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act.

December 2017
By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers voted in November to require the Defense Department to establish a program to begin development of a new missile system that if tested would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis briefs the press at the NATO headquarters in Brussels November 9, after discussing with allies issues including Russia's alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  (Photo credit: Jette Carr/ U.S. Air Force)The bill authorizes $58 million for a conventional, road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range prohibited by the treaty, as well as other offensive and defensive capabilities to counter Russia’s alleged deployment of a GLCM in violation of the treaty. The measure also expresses the sense of Congress that the United States is entitled to suspend its implementation of the treaty so long as Russia remains in material breach. Furthermore, it requires a report outlining possible sanctions against individuals in Russia deemed complicit in the violation.

The policy provisions are part of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and come amid reports that the Pentagon has already begun preliminary research on the new missile.

The final compromise version of the bill, passed Nov. 14 by the House and Nov. 16 by the Senate, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Pentagon programs and activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. In the past year, the Pentagon has alleged that Russia is fielding a noncompliant system. Moscow has denied both charges.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty does not prohibit activities related to research and development of this category of weapons.

The original House and Senate versions of the authorization bill called for R&D programs on a new GLCM. (See ACT, October 2017.) The House bill required development of a conventionally armed missile, whereas the Senate bill would authorize a nuclear-capable version.

Russian Colonel Aleksey Gridnev, Russian Federation team chief, receives a welcome gift May 15 from U.S. Air Force Colonel John Klein, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The visit is part of the Open Skies Treaty missions.  (Photo credit: Louis Briscese/U.S. Air Force)In statements during the summer, the Trump administration objected to the GLCM language, stating that it “unhelpfully ties the administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 16, citing U.S. officials, that the Pentagon started research on the missile given the likelihood that it would soon be required by law.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed NATO defense ministers on the administration’s plans at a Nov. 9 meeting in Brussels. Mattis told reporters afterward that Washington is focused on trying to bring Russia back into compliance and does not intend to abandon the pact.

A U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that the idea behind beginning the GLCM research is “to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price” for violation of this treaty. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF [Treaty] world…if that is the world the Russians want,” the official added.

If the United States ever decides to deploy the new missiles, development would likely take years and cost several billion dollars.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 16 that the Trump administration has called for another meeting of the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution forum. The commission last met a year ago without progress. (See ACT, December 2016.)

The authorization bill would provide $626 billion for national defense programs and $66 billion for the overseas contingency operations account, which is nominally used to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Syria but also funds other defense programs. This spending level exceeds the spending cap for fiscal year 2018, imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, by roughly $77 billion and the administration’s budget request by $23 billion. The bill does not include an additional $8 billion for defense activities requested by the administration.

The government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution that covers most programs at the fiscal year 2017 appropriated level through early December. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have yet to agree on top-line spending levels for the current fiscal year.

Neither the House nor Senate appropriations committee-approved versions of the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill include funding for a new GLCM.

Missile Defense Buildup Urged

The final authorization bill supports the Trump administration’s early moves to significantly expand U.S. ballistic missile defenses to counter North Korea’s advancing missile capabilities.

The bill authorizes $10.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $2.6 billion above the administration’s initial request. In total, the bill adds $4.4 billion above the request for missile defense and related programs.

The legislation provides all of the extra $4 billion for missile defense programs requested by the administration in a Nov. 6 amendment to its fiscal year 2018 budget request (see page 40). The supplemental request follows congressional approval in October for the transfer of $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Army operations and maintenance funds to missile defense programs. (See ACT, November 2017.)

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, designed to protect the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran, would receive $1.3 billion in the bill, an increase of $498 million above the requested level of $828 million. This includes $88 million to begin increasing the number of ground-based, long-range missile defense interceptors by up to 20 beyond the currently deployed 44.

In addition, the bill requires the Pentagon to develop a plan to increase the number of interceptors to 104 and authorizes additional money for missile defense sensors, upgrades to the Navy’s Aegis missile defense program, and classified programs to augment U.S. cyber capabilities for missile defense. It also supports the rapid acquisition of a boost-phase missile defense capability and a space-based interceptor layer.

The administration is currently conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach toward missile defense. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review is slated for completion by the end of the year.

CTBTO Funds Curtailed

The authorization bill limits funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and declares that UN Security Council Resolution 2310, passed in September 2016, does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The explanatory statement accompanying the bill states that “it is wholly inappropriate for U.S. funds to support activities of the [CTBTO] that include advocating for ratification of the treaty or otherwise preparing for the treaty’s possible entry into force.”

The CTBTO is the intergovernmental organization that promotes the CTBT, which has yet to enter into force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System to deter and detect nuclear test explosions. Resolution 2310 urges eight countries, whose ratification is needed for the treaty to enter into force, to ratify the CTBT “without further delay” and calls on all states to refrain from conducting nuclear tests, emphasizing that current testing moratoria contribute to “international peace and stability.” (See ACT, October 2016.)

The legislation also imposes conditions on funding to upgrade U.S. digital imaging systems pursuant to implementation of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, permits each of the agreement’s 34 states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

The United States has yet to transition to the use of the more advanced digital sensors in its treaty flights over Russia, but is requesting funding to do so in the near future.

The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions.

Posted: December 1, 2017

Boost Sought for Missile Defense

Boost Sought for Missile Defense

The Trump administration laid the groundwork to aggressively expand U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities when it submitted an amendment to its fiscal year 2018 defense budget request. The supplemental request, sent to Congress on Nov. 6, asked for an additional $4 billion for ballistic missile defense programs, citing the need to “counter the threat from North Korea.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hands over the gavel to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) at the start of an Armed Services conference committee meeting on the National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill October 25. (Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)In a press release later that day, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairmen of the armed services committees, welcomed the request, noting their committees “in fact…have already authorized many of these missile defense programs in our respective defense bills.”

The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress’s defense policy bill, authorizes increased procurement of interceptors for currently deployed missile defense systems to address near-term threats while endorsing development of proposed boost-phase and space-based intercept capabilities that could require even more substantial spending in the future.

The supplemental request follows congressional approval in October for the transfer of $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Army operations and maintenance funds to missile defense programs as the administration and Congress make expanding missile defenses a priority. (See ACT, October 2017.) The House overwhelmingly passed the compromise authorization bill on Nov. 14, and the Senate followed on Nov. 16, sending the bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.—MACLYN SENEAR

Posted: December 1, 2017

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