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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Missile Defense

Congress Seeks Decision on Missile Defense Site


House Democrats and Republicans continue to press the Defense Department to designate a preferred location for a third long-range ballistic missile defense interceptor site.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan testifies to Congress in March. He has not announced where the Pentagon would like to build a third missile defense site in the United States. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on May 1 that a decision on a preferred site had been made and that he would share the result with Congress later that day. Shanahan has yet to announce a decision.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has similarly pressed the Pentagon to make a final designation.

The current system to protect the U.S. homeland against a limited long-range missile attack, known as the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, consists of interceptor sites in Alaska and California.

In the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required the Defense Department to conduct a study to evaluate at least three possible new long-range interceptor sites that could augment the GMD system, including at least two on the East Coast.

The Defense Department announced in 2016 that it had completed a draft environmental impact statement of three possible locations: Fort Drum in New York, Camp Garfield Joint Training Center in Ohio, and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

Fort Drum is located in Stefanik’s congressional district while Ryan represents Camp Garfield.

The fiscal year 2016 and 2018 defense authorization bills directed the Pentagon to designate a preferred location for a third site. Nevertheless, the Trump administration’s “2019 Missile Defense Review” report, published in January, said that no decision has been made to deploy a third GMD site and that the location for a potential site “will be informed by multiple pertinent factors at the time.” (See ACT, March 2019.)

The Missile Defense Agency has repeatedly stated that the estimated cost of $3–4 billion to build such a site would be better spent on improving the capabilities of the existing GMD system.—KINGSTON REIF

Congress Seeks Decision on Missile Defense Site

U.S. Conducts ‘Salvo Engagement’ GMD Test

May 2019
By Shervin Taheran

U.S. missile interceptors successfully destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 25 in the most realistic test so far of U.S. defenses against long-range missile attacks, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

A ground-based interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25. This and another interceptor successfully destroyed a long-range missile target, according to the Missile Defense Agency. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)After launching a “threat representative” ICBM target from the Kwajalein Atoll, the agency dispatched two ground-based interceptors (GBIs) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to destroy the target. It was the first time such a salvo engagement had been tried, and MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves called the test a “critical milestone.”

The two interceptors launched exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKVs) to identify and destroy the mock warhead. The first EKV attacked the target. The second assessed the resulting debris field, determined that the initial target was no longer present, and then struck “the next ‘most lethal object’ it could identify,” an MDA press release reported.

The test was “the most complex, comprehensive, and operationally challenging test ever executed,” Greaves said in April 3 congressional testimony. The test’s success in assessing the debris field meant that “any concept of operations which seek[s] to confuse our missile defense system by launching junk or debris would not be successful. That’s why it was a success,” he added.

Congress first required a salvo test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in 2001, passing legislation that said the “early stages of system development” should incorporate “events to demonstrate engagement of multiple targets, ‘shoot-look-shoot’, and other planned operational concepts.”

The March test was the 19th overall and the 11th reported as successful. The previous test was conducted May 30, 2017. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) The next test has not been announced.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has raised concerns that none of the previous GMD tests included “realistic decoys” or “other countermeasures that the system could be expected to face in a real attack,” according to a January 2019 report, which said that some of the tests included decoy balloons, which are easier for EKVs to distinguish from mock warheads or other objects because of their distinguishing characteristics. The May 2017 test included at least one decoy, but it is unclear whether the 2019 test used any decoys or other countermeasures designed to fool the kill vehicles.

The GMD system currently consists of 40 GBIs deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four more at Vandenberg. In its 2019 Missile Defense Review, the Trump administration proposed raising the total number to 64 by 2023 by adding new GBIs at Fort Greely armed with the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle, which the review calls “more effective, reliable, and affordable.” Developmental delays, however, could slow the fielding of the new version to fiscal year 2025, according to recent budget request documents. (See ACT, April 2019.)

The Missile Defense Agency declares success after first-of-its-kind missile defense test.

THAAD Sale to Saudi Arabia Moves Forward


The U.S. Defense Department announced March 4 that it recently awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $1 billion contract to begin work on a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense package for Saudi Arabia. The contract marks the start of a $15 billion deal for the kingdom to receive 44 THAAD batteries, including 360 missile interceptors.

The contract followed November 2018 letters of offer and acceptance between the United States and Saudi Arabia formalizing terms for the sale of the THAAD launchers, missiles, and related equipment. The $15 billion package is part of a larger $110 billion weapons deal that the United States negotiated with Saudi leaders in 2017.

The November letters were exchanged as the United States was under political pressure to reduce defense cooperation with Saudi Arabia following the October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a commentator for The Washington Post, and amid concerns about U.S. support for Saudi military actions in Yemen.

The initial sale was approved by the State Department and Congress in August 2017 and November 2017, respectively, when there was speculation that Riyadh was negotiating to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems. Russian-Saudi talks on an S-400 transfer remain underway this year, according to Alexander Mikheyev, chief executive officer of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

THAAD Sale to Saudi Arabia Moves Forward

U.S., Israel Conduct Joint THAAD Exercise

For the first time, the United States deployed a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense battery to Israel for a month-long readiness exercise. The early March exercise served as “a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security,” said a March 4 statement by the U.S. European Command.

The deployment to southern Israel in the Negev desert was unrelated to a specific event, but helped Israel to integrate the system into the nation’s defenses and “simulate different scenarios,” according to Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

Designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the THAAD system uses an X-band radar that Israel has deployed at its Nevatim airbase since 2008.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the THAAD system, noting in a March 4 statement that “together with our defense systems we are even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East.” The deployment occurs during a push to tighten U.S.-Israeli military cooperation following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of U.S. troop reductions in Syria and amid tensions with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israeli missile defense systems also include the Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, and Patriot and Arrow ballistic missile defense systems. Israel is testing an advanced version of David’s Sling, an air defense and tactical missile defense system.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

U.S., Israel Conduct Joint THAAD Exercise

Assessing the 2019 Missile Defense Review

March 2019

In January 2019, the Trump administration released the results of the last of its planned major strategic policy reviews, the Missile Defense Review, to examine U.S. “policies, strategies, and capabilities…to counter the expanding missile threats posed by rogue states and revisionist powers.” It is the first such review since the Obama administration conducted one in 2010. To assess how U.S. missile defense goals and programs are evolving, Arms Control Today invited two experts to comment on the review: Laura Grego, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Elaine Bunn, a consultant with extensive government experience in missile defense policy.


Mixed Messages on Missile Defense
By Laura Grego

The arms control community has been waiting with great anticipation for the Trump administration’s 2019 Missile Defense Review to learn how the U.S. Department of Defense’s strategy would depart from previous Pentagon plans, whether new defenses would be proposed, and how the United States views the missile threats of its potential adversaries. With the new report in hand, many questions remain, but the review plants the seeds of a deeply problematic policy shift.

President Donald Trump unveiled the 2019 Missile Defense Review on January 17, saying, "Our goal is simple: to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace." (Photo: Martin Simon/Getty Images)Some of the administration’s preferences were apparent before the report was released in January. President Donald Trump's budget requests in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 directed the expansion of existing theater and strategic ballistic missile defense systems. The 2018 National Defense Strategy and 2017 National Security Strategy, outlined missile defense goals broadly consistent with those of the Obama administration in its 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review1, which focused on regional missile defense and development of a capability to defend the U.S. homeland against limited potential threats from North Korea and Iran.

The Obama administration sought ways to cooperate with Russia on missile defense and to engage Russia and China in discussions “to help them better understand the stabilizing benefits of missile defense.” The Obama administration investments largely reflected these objectives. It canceled its predecessor’s plan to put long-range interceptors in Europe and replaced it with a phased NATO system to defend against existing Iranian short- and medium-range threats and future longer-range missiles. The Obama administration also pursued negotiated limits on Iran’s capability to develop nuclear weapons, which culminated in 2015 with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy report, released in December 2017, identified the “revisionist” powers of Russia and China as the United States’ primary strategic challenge, but it took pains to point out that “missile defense is not intended to undermine strategic stability or disrupt longstanding strategic relationships with Russia or China.”

Programmatic Continuity

The review reflects continuing support for established programs. It supports earlier Trump administration budget increases to augment the capacity of existing systems. For example, the administration sought funds to expand the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in Alaska and California, which is designed to defend the U.S. homeland against a North Korean or Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack, from 44 to 64 interceptors and to build additional radars to enhance missile tracking and discrimination. The budget boost also supported increasing the number of ships comprising the sea-based Aegis regional missile defense system from 38 to 60 by 2023 and procuring more of that system’s most capable, Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptors and testing them against ICBM targets by 2020.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, shown here February 12, has suggested that U.S. missile defenses are now intended to defeat Russian missiles, a change from previous U.S. policies. (Photo: Vladimir Simicek/AFP/Getty Images)Surprisingly, the review delayed decisions on a number of issues. Although the report discusses different boost-phase ballistic missile defense ideas, including space-based interceptors and new interceptors for F-35 Lightning II aircraft, it does not begin programs of record for them. Rather, it orders the Pentagon to conduct six-month studies on them and continues research and development on the existing drone-based, directed-energy, boost-phase program.

Defense against cruise and hypersonic missiles are part of the review’s vision, regionally at first and eventually for the homeland. The report orders the Defense Department to flesh out plans for these defenses in the coming months.

No fewer than 11 studies or decisions are left as homework to be completed in the year after the report’s release. These include looking at a laundry list of possible new programs without clarifying which potential programs are most important, what criteria they must meet, or how they would fit into the overall missile defense posture.

Strategy and Policy

Although the review did not introduce major new systems or cancel any current systems, it should not be mistaken for a simple continuation of previous policy.

Until 2016, U.S. missile defense policy was guided by the carefully negotiated National Missile Defense Act of 19992, in which Congress called for deploying an effective system to defend against a limited missile attack on the United States. Limited attack was understood to be a few missiles from a country such as North Korea or a small accidental or unauthorized launch by China or Russia.

In 2016, however, Congress quietly and with little substantive debate rewrote the act3, eliminating the word “limited” and opening the door to defending against the larger and more sophisticated Russian and Chinese missile arsenals. How far would the Trump administration walk through this open door? The Magic 8 Ball says, “Reply hazy.”

Some of this is due to inconsistent messaging. When unveiling the document at the Pentagon in January, Trump described an expansive but certainly unachievable vision for missile defense: “to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace.”4

This is a stark departure from long-standing policy, not to mention unattainable technically or financially. The president has yet to amend this statement. In fact, his administration has amplified the message. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo has suggested that Russia would see itself as a target of U.S. missile defense: “What is Russia seeing from the Trump administration?… [A] missile defense review that makes sure that America will be capable of defending itself not only next year but 20 years from now. I assure you that none of these things sat well with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

This approach stands in sharp contrast to the statement of principle in the review: “Russia and China also are expanding and modernizing their strategic offensive missile systems, including the development of advanced technologies. The United States relies on nuclear deterrence to prevent potential Russian or Chinese nuclear attacks employing their large and technically sophisticated intercontinental missile systems.”

The president’s comments could indicate a lack of disciplined discourse, but a careful read of the report reveals a tension between this language and its actual approach. Although the Trump report argues that missile defense is “stabilizing,” as did the Obama administration, its contents counter this framing.

First, the significant buildup of strategic-capable ballistic missile defenses, including the GMD system and the Aegis ship- and shore-based missile defense interceptors5, will have strategic implications for Russia and China whether they are currently described as its targets or not.

The Aegis system’s most capable interceptor, the SM-3 Block IIA, is slated to be tested against an intercontinental-range missile target by 2020. The inventory of GMD and SM-3 Block IIA6 interceptors may eventually number in the hundreds. They will be supported by additional ground-based radars to track adversary missiles and to improve the system’s capability to discriminate warheads from decoys. The report also refers to plans for a space-based constellation of sensors to track missiles launched from anywhere “from birth to death.” Hundreds of strategic-capable interceptors, an expansive constellation of space-based sensors, and new suite of radars would be difficult for a near-peer adversary to overlook.

As these investments continue, Russia and China fear the United States may one day believe it has a credible first-strike capability; this is an incentive to improve and diversify their nuclear delivery systems. Indeed, the Chinese and Russian development of systems designed to overcome ballistic missile defenses, such as multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles and hypersonic and cruise missiles, are presented in the report as novel threats rather than steps taken to hedge against a U.S. missile defense system that has not been constrained since the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This action-reaction cycle is the very dynamic the 1972 ABM Treaty was designed to prevent. Indeed, without any intervening arms control, a cyclical, costly, and dangerous buildup of offense and defense seems all but guaranteed.

This review amplifies the issue with its very deliberate integration of offensive and defensive strategies. The report proposes bringing attack operations into the overall missile defense posture as a triad along with active defenses, such as interceptors, and passive defenses, such as hardening and dispersal of potential missile targets. These attack operations, essentially a kinetic version of “left of launch,” are a pre-emptive strategy of targeting potentially mobile missiles before an adversary’s first attack.

Although the report’s discussion of pre-emptive attack centers on rogue states, Russia and China will find it difficult to ignore the elevation of this strategy, particularly as the United States spends more on overhead sensors designed to provide constant coverage and long-range conventional prompt global-strike capabilities, including hypersonic missiles, that could hold strategic targets at risk. This begins to look more like a strategy supporting a disarming first strike rather than a deterrence strategy. Indeed, the first Russian statement on the review cited this exact concern.7

The renewed interest in space-based missile defense is likely to worsen these concerns. The report suggests that a space-based interceptor layer could “increase the overall likelihood of successfully intercepting offensive missiles [and] reduce the number of U.S. defensive interceptors required to do so.”

Space-based missile defense has not been a Pentagon favorite and has not appeared in a budget request for a decade. Expert advice has consistently warned that such a system would be exorbitantly expensive. A 2012 National Research Council study concluded that an “austere” space-based defense to defeat a few North Korean missiles would require more than 650 satellites and cost more than $300 billion.8

That expense is likely to be prohibitive, but is not the greatest challenge. Space-based missile defenses, whether interceptors or lasers, are vulnerable to being overwhelmed by salvo missile launch or disabled by anti-satellite weapons, rendering the system ineffective. Space-basing would allow U.S. interceptors to get close to a launching missile, but putting assets in space makes them particularly susceptible to attack. It is difficult to imagine such a system could be constructed in full without it being challenged politically by opponents to space weaponization and militarily by adversaries.

The review-mandated “examination” of space-based missile defense concepts may include on-orbit experiments. This would be extremely problematic because even a small number of interceptors in the guise of research and development would be destabilizing. Putting weapons in space would cross a line that has held firm for more than 60 years and make much more difficult any prospect for limits on space weapons and anti-satellite weapons necessary to underpin a secure and sustainable space environment into the future.

Implications for Future Arms Control

The report makes no more than a cursory reference to arms control and states clearly, as did the Obama administration’s report, that “[t]he United States will not accept any limitations on the development or deployment of missile defense capabilities.” Russia has made it very clear, however, that it is not prepared to negotiate further limits on offensive nuclear weapons without including defenses in the discussion. This creates some urgency for U.S.-Russian leaders to agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021. An extension would provide more time for what are likely to be difficult negotiations for a follow-on agreement. Without a treaty extension, there is a dangerous prospect of having no limits on strategic nuclear systems in the near future.

Whether Trump’s vision of an all-encompassing missile defense or the more moderate review carries the day will become more clear when the fiscal year 2020 budget request is submitted this month. The full impact of the review, however, will not be felt until the completion of the many commissioned studies later this year. The biggest changes may instead appear in the fiscal year 2021 budget submission.

Congress will certainly get its say and will be significantly more skeptical about missile defense than it has been in past years. The Senate’s main patrons of space-based missile defense, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are no longer on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. Furthermore, the new Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives has made clear it intends to increase missile defense oversight and to reject programs that could fuel an arms race.9



Musings of a Missile Defense Moderate
By Elaine Bunn

The 2019 Missile Defense Review describes U.S. planning for new and modified missile defense technologies to face increasingly complex missile threats from the nation’s adversaries. Some of these developments do not fit neatly into categories implicit in past missile defense discussions. In some respects, what the report describes and the way it was presented leave uncertainty and ambiguity.

A Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor is launched from the USS John Finn during an October 2018 test. The 2019 Missile Defense Review calls for testing the interceptor against an intercontinental ballistic missile target in 2020. (Photo: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)Over the past two decades, three intersecting questions have informed missile defense efforts. First, is the objective to defend the U.S. homeland or forces abroad and allies? Second, what types of missiles are U.S. defenses intended to defeat? Historically, the targets were ballistic missiles, but the new review includes cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. Third, which countries’ missiles are U.S. defenses designed to destroy? Earlier U.S. missile defense policies aimed to protect the U.S. homeland and areas abroad from North Korea and Iran, to provide regional but not homeland defense against Chinese threats; and to offer neither homeland nor, in practice, regional defense against Russian missiles.

The 2019 review suggests that the answers to these questions are evolving, redefining the missile defense discussion into five “To Be Determined” areas.

The Scope of Homeland Defense

The report says that homeland missile defense is intended to protect against rogue states such as North Korea and potentially Iran, not against Russia and China. “U.S. missile defense capabilities will be sized to provide continuing effective protection of the U.S. homeland against rogue states’ offensive missile threats. The United States relies on nuclear deterrence to address the large and more sophisticated Russian and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, as well as to deter attacks from any source.” This was also the approach of the two previous administrations regarding the long-range missile threats of Russia and China.

Separating Russian and Chinese threats from other state threats stems from the technical question of what missiles the United States is capable of defeating. Defending the U.S. homeland from a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a hypothetical Iranian one is within the realm of the doable. Defending against Russia or China, when they are determined to be able to strike the United States, is not
doable, at least not without some technological breakthrough.

The review’s recommendation to add 20 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) at Fort Greely, Alaska, simply continues the past policy of “staying ahead” of the North Korean ICBM threat and a potential Iranian one. Russia and China may complain about the increase in the number of GBIs; they have been reacting negatively for years to U.S. homeland and some regional missile defense deployments, even when the last U.S. administration repeatedly made clear that U.S. homeland defense capabilities were not designed against and would not undermine Russian or Chinese strategic deterrent capabilities.

At the January announcement of the report’s release, however, President Donald Trump said, “Our goal is simple: to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” Although such rhetoric may be merely aspirational, it would appear to envision defending the U.S. homeland not just from North Korean and Iranian threats, but also from Russian and Chinese missile attacks. The variance between the report and Trump’s words, combined with the U.S. exploration of new technologies, raises the question of whether the administration is creating intentional policy ambiguity. This lack of clarity could be viewed as an effort to undermine Russian confidence that it could ever succeed in a very limited, “escalate-to-de-escalate” strike against the U.S. homeland.

Homeland Defense Against Nonballistic Targets

It is unclear whether the report proposes defending the U.S. homeland by intercepting Russian and Chinese cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles or just seeks to improve early warning of such attacks. In some sections, the report focuses on early warning; in others, it appears to be talking only about regional defense against Russian and Chinese cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. In still other sections, the report states that enhancing U.S. ability to track hypersonic glide vehicles and advanced cruise missiles will make defeating them possible.

Addressing cruise missiles specifically, the report mentions plans to improve defenses for the United States and Canada. The report also calls for a six-month study on which organization should have the responsibility for acquiring U.S. capabilities to defend the homeland against cruise missiles.

The recommended policy and program directions are unclear and possibly self-contradictory. The report reaffirms the U.S. policy of not designing or sizing homeland defense to deal with the sophisticated and numerous Russian and Chinese ballistic missile threats. Then why try to defend the U.S. homeland against just their cruise missile or hypersonic glide vehicle threats with missile defenses? Improving early-warning systems, on the other hand, would increase warning time to disperse national command authorities and avoid the perception that a decapitating strike could work.

Testing Interceptors Against ICBMs

In the area of regional missile defense, this year’s review produced continuity and change from previous ones. In continuity, the report maintains the long-standing U.S. emphasis on cooperation and interoperability with allies and partners on regional missile defenses. In addition, the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the U.S. contribution to NATO missile defense against threats from the Middle East, is unchanged. Plans continue for Aegis Ashore deployments in Poland, though by 2020 instead of 2018 due to construction delays, including at least some of the more advanced Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptors.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review recommends deploying 20 additional ground-based interceptors, such as this one shown in a May 2017 test. (Photo: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)As for change, the report discusses plans to test this interceptor against an ICBM by 2020 to assess its potential to provide an additional layer for homeland defense against rogue states’ long-range missiles. Russia will likely complain that such testing will enable NATO sites with SM-3 Block IIA interceptors to intercept Russian ICBMs.

The locations of the Polish base and another in Romania will, however, prevent their interceptors from destroying Russian long-range missiles. By the time the interceptors are alerted to a launch, they would need to chase the faster-accelerating Russian targets from behind and could not catch up. As a “catcher’s mitt” near the U.S. homeland, SM-3 Block IIA interceptors may be able to defend a small area against relatively simple ICBMs, not Russian ones. Nevertheless, testing these interceptors against an ICBM may well increase U.S.-Russian and NATO-Russian tensions. Likewise, China may complain about such tests because Japan is co-producing and plans to deploy its own SM-3 Block IIA interceptors.

How this interceptor will fare in tests against an ICBM, where it may be deployed for homeland defense if tests are successful, and what the implications will be for relations with Russia, China, and allies are all open issues.

Countering Russia’s Anti-Access and Area Denial Missiles

Although EPAA plans remain unchanged, the 2019 report is more explicit about regional missile defense against all potential adversaries, including Russia. The 2010 report was clear about using regional defenses to counter rogue states’ and Chinese short- and intermediate-range missiles. This year’s report makes clear that Russia is now included in such defenses.

There were multiple reasons the last administration did not design and plan defenses against Russia’s regional missiles. Under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russia was not supposed to have land-based, intermediate-range missiles; and there was scant concern over sea- or air-launched regional missiles or the short-range, land-based missiles allowed by the treaty.

Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea changed the way the United States and NATO viewed Russia. The strategic concern now is that Russia could use its regional ballistic and cruise missiles to prevent or complicate U.S reinforcement of its allies in Europe. The vulnerability of ports and airfields and the need to defend them came up late in the Obama administration as planners worried about potential scenarios in the Baltic countries.

NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense policy and doctrine seem to allow for such regional missile defense capabilities, but the United States and its allies have lacked any significant capability in this area since the Cold War. An increased focus on missile defense against Russian anti-access and area-denial threats will necessitate further conversations with European allies about what capabilities are needed, how much the United States will do, and how much allies will be expected to contribute. Current relations with allies, some of which are anxious about Trump’s commitment to alliances, will likely make these conversations more difficult. In any event, there will continue to be competing demands on U.S. and allied budgets. It is not clear how far or how fast increased regional missile defense capabilities will materialize.

New and Repurposed Technology

The 2019 report places renewed emphasis on new technology, funded at low levels in the last administration, as well as repurposing existing technology and solving the long-standing problems of boost-phase intercept, directed energy for defenses, and space-based interceptors.

Enthusiasm about boost-phase intercept is understandable because it is conceptually very attractive to be able to shoot down missiles near their launch point. In the past, either technological hurdles, such as getting lasers to propagate through the atmosphere, or operational drawbacks, such as flying continuous air patrols near ballistic missile targets, have undermined boost-phase defense efforts. A new study may find new solutions, such as interceptors on F-35 aircraft or directed-energy breakthroughs, or again burst the conceptual bubble.

Several of the most interesting decisions about cutting-edge capabilities have been put into studies due six months after the report’s release. These include a study on developing and fielding a space-based intercept layer capable of boost-phase defense and a study identifying the resources, testing, and personnel requirements necessary for defense against hypersonic threats. That means the implications of the review for space-based intercept and for defense against hypersonic missiles are not yet known and will not be clear until at least June. Until then, celebration on the part of supporters or chagrin on the part of opponents is premature.

If successful, programs for boost-phase intercept, directed-energy, and space-based interceptors could be relevant for homeland and regional defenses against multiple types of missiles from a variety of countries, thus blurring the previous missile defense distinctions.

Evolving Thinking

How these “To Be Determined” issues play out will be affected by the answers to two additional questions: What will Congress do this year and in coming years about missile defense? Will the U.S. Department of Defense get the money needed to do all the things in the report?

Funding aside, the 2019 report recognizes growing complexity in the distinctions that previously defined missile defense policy, plans, and programs: homeland versus regional defenses, ballistic missiles only or cruise or hypersonic missiles too, and the identification of which countries’ missiles were to be included in homeland defense and which in regional defense programs. Given those complexities, the thinking about missile defense policy and programs, as well as discussions with allies on cooperation and with adversaries on potential arms control and transparency, will need to evolve.



ENDNOTES (Mixed Messages on Missile Defense by Laura Grego)

1. U.S. Department of Defense, “Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report,” February 2010.

2. National Missile Defense Act of 1999, Pub. L. No. 106-38, 113 Stat. 205 (1999).

3. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. No. 114-328, 130 Stat. 2000 (2016).

4. “Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence Announcing the Missile Defense Review,” The White House, January 17, 2019, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-announcing-missile-defense-review/.

5. George Lewis, “Ballistic Missile Defense and Deep Nuclear Cuts,” n.d.,  https://pacs.einaudi.cornell.edu/sites/pacs/files/Lewis.BMD-DeepCuts.final-for%20posting.pdf.

6. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Ballistic Missile Defense System Testing Delays Affect Delivery of Capabilities,” GAO-16-339R, April 28, 2016, p. 45, https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676855.pdf.

7. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Comment by the Information and Press Department on the new US Missile Defence Review,” January 18, 2019, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3479839.

8. Committee on an Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives, “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense,” National Research Council, 2012.

9. U.S. House Armed Services Committee, “Smith Statement on Trump Missile Defense Review,” January 17, 2019, https://armedservices.house.gov/press-releases?ID=367F71B5-D629-4E76-86B8-7E768935964C.

Laura Grego is a senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is a physicist by training and focuses her research and advocacy on missile defense and space security issues.

Elaine Bunn is a consultant whose previous 40-year U.S. government career spanned six presidential administrations. Her first missile defense job was in 1986, and her last was serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy in the Obama administration.





Arms Control Today invited two experts to comment on the review, the first since 2010.

Trump Seeks Missile Defense Buildup

March 2019
By Kingston Reif

Citing a “markedly more dangerous” threat environment, the Trump administration released its long-awaited 2019 Missile Defense Review on Jan. 17, envisioning a significant expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses.

The destroyer USS Fitzgerald test fires a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor in 2012. The 2019 Missile Defense Review calls for testing the most advanced SM-3 against an intercontinental ballistic missile in 2020.  (Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)The ultimate impact of the review remains to be seen, given the divergence between U.S. President Donald Trump’s description of U.S. missile defense objectives and those described in the report. Uncertainty was also generated by the report’s call for several follow-up studies and by misgivings from some members of Congress.

In addition, rival powers Russia and China have expressed concern about the review and could take steps to counter new U.S. missile defenses.

In remarks at the report’s rollout, Trump stated that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” This goes further than the text of the report, which limits the purpose of U.S. homeland defenses to their traditional role of defending against limited missile attacks from North Korea and Iran, not Russia and China.

Previous administrations have not depended on missile defenses to defend the continental United States against Russian and Chinese missile attacks due to insurmountable technical, financial, and geopolitical obstacles.

The review endorses other elements of continuity with long-standing U.S. missile defense policy, such as affirming the need for a layered missile defense architecture to attempt to intercept missiles during any phase of their flight, providing the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) with special acquisition authorities, and rejecting any negotiated limits on U.S. missile defenses.

The review breaks new ground by proposing to augment defenses against regional ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missile threats no matter the source, place greater emphasis on the importance of space, and study new technologies to intercept missiles during their boost phase when they are traveling at their slowest.

The review also seeks to integrate offensive attack operations more closely with missile defenses and to supplement the defense of the U.S. homeland with the Aegis Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor. The MDA plans to test this interceptor, which was originally designed to counter regional missile threats, against an intercontinental ballistic missile target in 2020.

“For the first time, the document puts Russia and China in the same sentence as missile defenses,” said Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Consequences of Expanding Scope

Among all these goals, however, it was the review’s expansion of the scope of missile defenses to confront Russia and China more assertively that has drawn the most attention from missile defense experts, with some observers expressing concern about the weighty implications.

James Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration, noted in a Feb. 13 email that he found the review to be reasonable. He nevertheless said the objective “to bring the SM-3 IIA missile into the national defense architecture…means that China and Russia must expect the United States by 2025–2030 to have many hundreds of available interceptors for national missile defense.”

“We should expect the Chinese nuclear arsenal to grow substantially and Russia to resist reductions below the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty—and to prepare seriously to break out,” he warned.

In keeping with past criticisms of U.S. missile defense strategy, Russia and China reacted harshly to the report.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on Jan. 18 that the report “confirms Washington’s invariable policy of increasing the destabilizing potential of global missile defense that is expected to be reinforced by new technological and financial resources.” On the same day, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposes” the review’s findings.

Other Concerns

Even before the report’s release, the U.S. Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration approved record levels of MDA appropriations to expand existing regional and missile defense systems and advance the development of new technologies. (See ACT, November 2018.)

The review reaffirms pre-existing Trump administration plans to arm unmanned aerial vehicles with lasers to zap long-range missiles during their boost phase, expand the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system from 44 to 64 interceptors by 2023, and field a space-sensor layer to provide birth-to-death tracking of ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles.

Several of the recommendations in the review could be difficult to fulfill effectively. For example, the $67 billion GMD system in Alaska and California, designed to defend the U.S. homeland against a North Korean or Iranian threat, has an intercept success rate of just over 50 percent in controlled testing.

“Improving the accuracy and reliability of the 44 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) that we have makes sense,” wrote Madelyn Creedon, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a Jan. 22 blog post. “[B]ut additional spending should be focused on the real threat,…intermediate- and short-range conventional cruise and ballistic missiles, and not on more GBIs.”

A 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “boost-phase missile defense—whether kinetic or directed energy, and whether based on land, sea, air, or in space—is not practical or feasible.”

The review is largely silent on the budget implications of expanding U.S. missile defenses. Undersecretary of Defense John Rood told reporters on Jan. 17 that “missile defense…occupied a substantial portion of the Defense Department’s budget in the past and it will going forward.”

Despite taking nearly two years to complete, the review directed 11 follow-on studies on several subjects, including controversial issues such as space-based interceptors for boost- phase defense.

The review proposes a six-month feasibility study “of the concepts and technology for space-based defenses.”
It adds that the study “may include on-orbit experiments and demonstrations.”

The review argues that a space-based interceptor layer “may increase the overall likelihood of successfully intercepting offensive missiles, reduce the number of U.S. defensive interceptors required to do so, and potentially destroy offensive missiles over the attacker’s territory rather than the targeted state.”

Critics argue that space-based interceptors are an unaffordable, ineffective, and a destabilizing form of defense. (See ACT, September 2018.)

“The biggest potential impact of this [review] comes from its opening the door to space-based systems,” Miller said. “If the administration proposes and Congress supports space-based interceptors…strategic stability will be shot in the head.”

The release of the report has drawn mixed reviews from lawmakers. Republicans have generally expressed support for the review’s recommendations. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said in a Jan. 17 statement that “[m]issile threats are clearly growing, and America’s missile defenses play a key role in deterring and defeating attacks on the U.S. and our forces stationed around the world.”

Democrats have been more critical of the review. “While it is essential that we continue investing in proven missile defense efforts,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a Jan. 17 statement, “I am concerned that this missile defense review could lead to greater investment in areas that do not follow these principles, such as a space-based interceptor layer that has been studied repeatedly and found to be technologically challenging and prohibitively expensive.”


The 2019 Missile Defense Review envisions a significant expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses.

U.S. Approves Missile Defense Sale to Japan

The Trump administration gave its final approval Jan. 29 for a $2.2 billion sale of missile defense systems to Japan. Congress received notification of the deal, including two Aegis Ashore missile interceptor batteries, from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, triggering a 30-day opportunity for Congress to object, which happens rarely. The sale notification was delayed by the 35-day U.S. government partial shutdown, which slowed the Foreign Military Sales approval process, including a necessary green light from the U.S. State Department.

The sale reflects expanding U.S. support for Japan’s multilayered missile defenses, which already include multiple U.S.-provided Aegis systems on Kongo-class destroyers. Japan’s cabinet approved missile defense expansion plans in December 2017. (See ACT, September 2018.)

The Aegis Ashore systems are slated to feature the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile interceptor, which is currently completing testing. (See ACT, December 2018.) The interceptor uses hit-to-kill technology to defeat short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The scope of intended targets may increase because the Trump administration's 2019 Missile Defense Review calls for testing the interceptor against an intercontinental ballistic missile-class target in 2020.

The defense sale includes supporting equipment, software, U.S. construction and logistical services, and six vertical launchers.—SASHA PARTAN

U.S. Approves Missile Defense Sale to Japan

Trump’s Dangerous Missile Defense Buildup



Volume 11, Issue 2, January 17, 2019

The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

Of particular concern was President Donald Trump’s statement during his remarks at the Pentagon that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” This would be a costly, unachievable, and destabilizing departure from longstanding policy and contradicts the text of the review, which limits U.S. homeland missiles defense to their traditional role of defending against limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. In addition, the review proposes “to further thicken defensive capabilities for the U.S. homeland” with the new Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, hundreds of which could eventually be deployed on land and at sea across the globe.

As Congress scrutinizes the Missile Defense Review, members would do well to recognize that rushing to fund an open-ended and unconstrained missile defense buildup is misguided and would diminish U.S. security.

Congress in 2016 mandated the Pentagon to conduct a broad review of missile defense policy and strategy. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis initiated the review in the spring of 2017 and it was originally slated to be published alongside the Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018. The reasons for the delay in the completion of the review are unclear.

The review expands the purpose of missile defense to defend against cruise and hypersonic missiles, proposes more aggressive defense against Russian and Chinese regional missile threats, alludes to the future development of airborne interceptors for "boost-phase" missile defense (i.e. when missiles are traveling at their slowest right after launch), and proposes to augment the defense of the U.S. homeland with additional ground- and sea-based Aegis SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors.

Even before the release of the review, Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration approved record appropriations for the Missile Defense Agency to expand existing regional and missile defense systems and advance the development of new technologies.

The review reaffirms preexisting Trump administration plans to:

  • try to destroy enemy missiles before launch (known as “left of launch”),
  • arm unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with lasers to zap long-range missiles during their boost phase,
  • test the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-class target by 2020,
  • expand the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system in Alaska and California from 44 to 64 interceptors by 2023, and
  • develop multiple kill vehicles for the GMD system.

Costly and Technically Risky

United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the 1950s in an effort to field effective ballistic missile defenses and has but a limited capability against a small number of relatively unsophisticated missile threats to show for it. More realism is needed about the costs and limitations of defense capabilities and the long-standing obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended. For example, the $67 billion GMD system designed to defend the U.S. homeland against a North Korean or Iranian threat has an intercept test record of just over 50% and none of the tests have included realistic decoys and countermeasures that the system would likely face in a real attack.

Several of the new technologies proposed in the review face significant technical hurdles. A 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “boost-phase missile defense—whether kinetic or directed energy, and whether based on land, sea, air, or in space—is not practical or feasible.” Additionally, broad area defense against emerging hypersonic missiles will pose an even greater challenge than defending against ballistic missile threats, which generally fly on a more predictable trajectory.

The review discusses how the administration will proceed with several controversial proposals, including space-based interceptors and building a third GMD site in the eastern part of the United States.

On space-based interceptors, the review proposes a near-term feasibility study “of the concepts and technology for space-based defenses.” It adds that the study “may include on-orbit experiments and demonstrations.” During the George W. Bush administration, Congress rejected proposals to fund a space test bed that would put prototype interceptors in space. Further study of putting interceptors in space should end with the same conclusion previous studies have: space-based interceptors are unaffordable, unworkable, and massively destabilizing.

The review states that no decision has yet been made on whether to deploy a third GMD site and that the location for a potential site “will be informed by multiple pertinent factors at the time.” The Missile Defense Agency has repeatedly stated that the estimated $3-$4 billion cost to build such a site would be better spent on improving the capabilities of the existing GMD system.

That this Pentagon is punting, at least for now, on a decision on fielding space-based interceptors and an additional GMD site goes to show how expensive and rightly controversial they are.

Adverse Impact on Russian and Chinese Threat Perceptions

Although the Pentagon’s wish list stops short of green-lighting some of the most controversial missile defense concepts, the new plan could significantly exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat U.S. missile defenses pose to their nuclear retaliatory capabilities.

The review comports with longstanding U.S. policy in stating that homeland missile defense capabilities will be sized to defend against “rogue states’ offensive missile threats” and not “more sophisticated Russian and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.” But in his remarks on the review, Trump went beyond the text of the review and stated that “We will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers...regardless of missile type or geographic origin.” Moscow and Beijing may understandably wonder whether Trump’s statements or the text of the review reflect U.S. policy.

Furthermore, the administration’s plan to test the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor against an ICBM target by 2020, and to build hundreds of the interceptors by the 2030s, threatens to cross the line between expanding missile defense capabilities to counter regional and “rogue” state threats to the homeland, and the development of capabilities that can counter Russian and Chinese long-range missiles.

Such concerns could potentially be mitigated if Washington agreed to limit the number, location, and capabilities of this systems, but the Missile Defense Review asserts that the United States will forswear any limits on U.S. defenses.

Russia fears that advancing U.S. defenses and offensive conventional strike capabilities could soon allow Washington to threaten Moscow's secure second-strike capability. Moscow has also conditioned further reductions to its nuclear arsenal below the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on limits on U.S. missile defenses.

In a speech last year touting several new Russian nuclear delivery systems such as an intercontinental undersea torpedo and hypersonic glide vehicles, President Vladimir Putin described the rationale for the new weapons largely in terms of concern about U.S. missile defense systems.

China may already be augmenting its smaller nuclear strike capabilities in response to current U.S. missile defenses and an expansion of these defenses could prompt Beijing to make additional qualitative and quantitative improvements to its arsenal. Such improvements would make it even more difficult to achieve further reductions to the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The Missile Defense Review comes at a time when the bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control architecture is under siege. The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is on the verge of collapse and the future of New START is uncertain.

Both sides are citing the other’s missile defense deployments and plans as rationales to outfit their strategic nuclear arsenals with more capable weapons. Neither Moscow nor Washington is taking into account the concerns the other has about their offensive and defensive developments sufficiently seriously to avoid increased risks of instability.

Bottom Line

Rather than rush to spend billions on a potentially dangerous expansion of U.S. missile defenses, a more disciplined approach would focus on improving the shortcomings that continue to plague current systems, such as GMD, and improve capabilities to detect and track missiles. Moreover, the United States should pursue wide-ranging dialogues with Russia and China on strategic stability, including the impact of missile defense, and not pursue particularly destabilizing steps, such as pursuing space-based interceptors and testing the SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs.—KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy


The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach at a Glance

January 2019

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

Updated: January 2019

On September 17, 2009, President Obama announced that the U.S. would pursue a “Phased Adaptive Approach” to missile defense in Europe. The new approach is centered on the Aegis missile defense system and is being deployed in three main phases from 2011 to perhaps 2020. A fourth phase to have been fielded after 2022 was cancelled in March 2013. [For more on this development, please see, "Pentagon Shifts Gears on Missile Defense"]

The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is 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. The approach consists of sea- and land-based configurations of the Aegis missile defense system, the centerpiece of which is the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor. A new, more capable version of the SM-3 is being developed, and the system will be increasingly integrated with an evolving network of land and space-based sensors. According to the Obama administration, the plan uses technology that is both “proven” and “cost-effective,” and will be able to adapt as threats evolve.

The EPAA broke with the plans pursued by the Bush administration. The Bush plans had called for deployment of a ground-based missile defense system in Europe, similar to the system deployed in California and Alaska. This included bilateral agreements to station ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.

As part of the EPAA, Turkey is hosting a radar at Kürecik, Romania is hosting an Aegis Ashore site at Deveselu Air Base , Germany is hosting a command center at Ramstein Air Base, and Poland will host another Aegis Ashore site at the Redzikowo military base.

Phase 1, consisting of the radar in Turkey, command center in Germany, and deployed ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable Aegis ship by the U.S. Navy, has been operational since 2012. In May 2016, NATO declared operational the Romania Aegis Ashore site as part of EPAA Phase 2. At NATO’s July 2016 Warsaw summit, NATO declared the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the NATO ballistic missile defense system and is progressing towards full operational capability. Phase 3 will see the deployment of the Poland Aegis Ashore system perhaps by FY2020 instead of the original 2018 target. The Missile Defense Agency says the completion of the Poland site has been delayed by at least a year due to contractor performance issues. 

The following chart provides an overview of the different EPAA phases. It contains information on the planned scheduling of the phases, the deployment platforms, missile upgrades and the sensors which will be integrated into the system. More has been disclosed about the earlier phases; some of the specifics of the later phases are still to be determined.


Phase 1, Deployed

Missile Platforms and Numbers

      • In March 2011, the USS Monterey was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea. This represented "the first sustained deployment of a ballistic missile defense-capable ship" in support of the European PAA.
      • In fiscal year (FY) 2012, 113 SM-3 Block IA and 16 SM-3 Block IB interceptors were delivered and 29 Aegis-equipped BMD ships deployed.
      • The SM-3 IA successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target in its most recent test on October 20, 2015.

        SM-3 Variant and Numbers

        • SM-3 Block IA interceptors have a velocity of 3 km/second and are designed to engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the mid-course phase.
        • Block IA has a single-color seeker, a 21 inch-diameter booster, and is 13.5 inches in diameter along the rest of the interceptor.
        • Block IA costs between $9 and 10 million per unit.
        • Some SM-2 Block IVs (the SM-3 predecessor) will also be retained for use against missiles in the terminal phase.

        Sensors and Combat System

        • Initially, the system will use sea-based sensors mounted on the Aegis ships, as well as a forward-based mobile X-band radar on land. The first EPAA radar was deployed in Turkey in late 2011.
        • The mobile X-band radar is the AN/TPY-2 manufactured by Raytheon. The U.S. is planning to deploy a total of 18 AN/TPY-2 radars. So far, seven have been produced, and two are currently deployed in Israel and Japan.
        • In May 2018, the GAO reported a total of seven AN/TPY-2 radars are deployed to support regional defense. Four radars are deployed to Pacific Command (two for use in forward-based mode and two for use in terminal mode), two are deployed to European Command and one is deployed to Central Command.
        • The sensors and interceptors will be brought together under the Aegis combat system. This is a system capable of tracking 100 simultaneous targets. Phase 1 will primarily use Aegis version 3.6.1 software.
        • According to the Defense Science Board (2011), the current Aegis shipboard radar is inadequate to support the EPAA mission, and the future Navy ship-based Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) is needed.
        • U.S. and European BMD systems are integrated for battle management at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.



        Phase 2, Operational as of May 2, 2016

        Missile Platforms and Numbers

            • Phase 2 includes interceptors on land in the first "Aegis-Ashore" deployment in Romania. Interceptors have also been mounted on an increasing number of Aegis BMD ships in support of global missions.
            • According to the FY2019 budget submission, by FY2019, the U.S. Navy plans to have 41 Aegis BMD ships, and 57 by FY2023.
            • The first "Aegis-Ashore" site in Romania is equipped with one land-based Aegis SPY-1 radar and 24 SM-3 missiles.
            • Phase 2 achieved a Technical Capability Declaration in 2015, meaning that the site transitioned from the construction to integration phase. In May 2016, NATO declared the Romania Aegis Ashore site operational. NATO declared the IOC of the system in July 2016. 

              SM-3 Variant and Numbers

              • Phase 2 included the SM-3 Block IB variant, also with a velocity of 3 km/sec. This interceptor differs from the Block IA in its "seeker" technology, consisting of a two color seeker, or "kill warhead," and improved optics.
              • The SM-3 Block IB missiles are placed in the MK-41 launcher.
              • According to the FY2017 budget submission, the inventory of SM-3 Block IB interceptors stood at 92 in 2016, with 128 planned for FY17. By FY21, the MDA is planning an inventory of 271 Block IB interceptors.
              • The Block IB is estimated to cost between $12 and 15 million per interceptor.

              Sensors and Combat Systems

              • In Phase 2, sensors were integrated with updated versions of the Aegis combat system. BMD ships carry versions 3.6.1, 4.0.1, and 5.0. 


              Phase 3, Planned Deployment Date: ~2020

              Missile Platforms and Numbers

                • Phase 3 will see the introduction of the second “Aegis-Ashore” site in Poland with another SPY-1 radar and 24 SM-3 missiles. This will supplement the deployments at sea and in Romania and will extend coverage over a greater percentage of Europe.

                SM-3 Variant and Numbers

                • Phase 3 will include the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. This new variant will be faster than Block I (4.5 km/sec vs. 3 km/sec.), with a 21 inch diameter for the whole length of the missile allowing for more fuel and hence a more powerful motor. This will give the system an “enhanced” capability to address intermediate-range ballistic missiles and potentially a “limited” capability to address intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
                  • 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. There were two more tests before the end of 2018 on Oct. 26 and Dec.11, both successful, with the December test particularly notable for being the first successful intercept of an IRBM target and using the ability to "engage on remote" using a forward-based sensor. 
                  • Four Block IIAs are planned for delivery in FY2018, with an additional 27 planned for FY2021.

                Sensors and Combat Systems

                  • In Phase 3, the United States will deploy both the Airborne Infrared (ABIR) sensor platform, a system designed to track significantly larger numbers of incoming missiles, with the goal of being able to track “hundreds” of missiles simultaneously. 
                  • Aegis BMD ships are scheduled to be equipped with version 5.1 of the combat system software in this time-frame.
                  • Phase 3 of the EPAA is scheduled to include an “engage on remote” capability for Aegis interceptors to conduct operations based entirely on off-board radar information, thereby expanding the range of the Aegis systems. In this capability, the interceptor can be both launched and guided to intercept by sensors remote from the launching ship.


                    Phase 4, Cancelled March 2013

                    Missile Platforms and Numbers

                      • The platforms supporting the SM-3 interceptors under Phase 4 would have remained the same as those deployed under Phase 3 – sea-based platforms and the “Aegis-Ashore” deployments in Romania and Poland.

                      SM-3 Variant and Numbers

                      • The SM-3 Block IIB; planned numbers unknown. Was planned to have an improved seeker and a higher performance booster, with a velocity of 5-5.5 km/sec. Was expected to marginally improve the Block IIA’s “limited” capability to counter ICBMs.
                      • According to the Defense Science Board (2011), the SM-3 IIB's planned mission to intercept targets prior to the deployment of multiple warheads or penetration aids – known as "early intercept" – requires "Herculean effort and is not realistically achievable, even under the most optimistic set of deployment, sensor capability, and missile technology assumptions.”
                      • The Block IIB was in the conceptual stage.


                      Missile Defense

                      Subject Resources:

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

                      January 2019

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

                      Updated: January 2019


                      U.S. Asia-Pacific Regional Defenses

                      • Aegis BMD Systems at Sea
                      • Program Overview/Elements
                      • Status
                      • Current Developments


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


                      • 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)


                      • 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


                      • 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.
                      • As of December 2018, the system has a record of 40 successful intercepts in 49 attempts against ballistic missile targets.


                      • As of 2016, 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 2019 budget request, MDA projected having 57 Aegis BMD-capable ships and 560 SM-3 interceptors—including 48 Block IIA interceptors—deployed by FY 2023. MDA also projected a total deployment of 41 Aegis BMD-capable ships by the end of 2019.
                      • 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 third and fourth tests in October and December of 2018 were successful, and notably the December 2018 test was the first time the interceptor intercepted an IRBM-class target and "engage on remote" using a forward-based sensor. 
                      • The AN/SPY-6 radar (also known as AMDR) 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.


                      Home to U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters, Hawaii is defended by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) 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.


                      • 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.


                      • 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 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 South Korean 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 South Korean-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.


                      • 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.

                      South Korean-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 South Korean 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 South Korean 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.


                      • South Korean 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 South Korean 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 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 South Korean 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.


                      • 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


                      • 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.


                      • 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 South Korean) 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.


                      • Japan is modifying two Atago-class destroyers to operate the Aegis system in the near future.
                      • The first Atago-class cruiser was launched on July 30, 2018, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said in a statement. The second is expected to be commissioned in March 2021.

                      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. 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.


                      • 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.


                      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.


                      • 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).


                      • 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 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 South Korean 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.


                      • 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 South Korean 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.


                      • HMAS Hobart, commissioned in September 2017, and HMAS Brisbane, commissioned in October 2018, are operational Australian Aegis ships, but are not BMD-capable. The final Hobart class ship, NUSHIP Sydney is expected to be delivered to the Royal Australian Navy in March 2020.

                      Current Developments:

                      • 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

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