Missile defense program officials estimate that a system of land, sea and space
based radar and interceptors, covering all 50 states, could be up and running
by 2015. But there are challenges. President Bush has directed the Missile Defense
Agency to field an initial capability by September 2004. Testing will be ongoing
even after initial deployment. It is yet unclear how much this multi-layered
defense will cost.
Army Maj. Gen. John Holly, who heads the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program
office in Huntsville, Ala., said the country initially would have a system that
is only 70 percent complete.
“We won’t field a perfect system, but [it] will grow incrementally,”
he said at the sixth annual Space and Missile Defense Conference. “[There]
will be technological breakthroughs and setbacks.”
Over the next three months, the Army will finish installation of interceptor
silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Orbital Science Corp. and Lockheed Martin
will conduct flight tests with their missiles, said Holly.
This is the system that the president ordered to be in place by the end of
“At the end of ’04, [we’ll have a] limited but credible capability,”
Holly said. By the end of 2005, Fort Greely will have 10 additional interceptors.
The forested area around the 62-year-old Fort Greely, located near Kodiak,
Alaska, has been converted into a 500-acre missile field. The Missile Defense
Agency began construction of its Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) system there
in June 2002. The site will eventually have 16 silos, two power plants and two
GFC/C (GMD Fire Control and Communications) nodes.
While eyes focus on the implementation of ground-based interceptors in Alaska
and California, testing will continue on a number of other platforms, including
the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the Airborne Laser (ABL), Aegis,
the Mobile High Energy Laser (MTHEL), the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) and
the X-band sea-based radar.
The ABL, a high energy laser on a modified 747 cargo plane designed to track
and destroy ballistic missiles during boost phase, will make its first attempt
at shooting down a missile in 2005, said Lt. Col. Rodney Covick, deputy system
In December, the Navy will conduct flight mission six (FM-6) of its Aegis missile
defense system. The ballistic missile defense system currently is being tested
on the USS Lake Erie (CG 70). Its objective is to defend against short to intermediate
range ballistic missiles.
The system has had two successful tests and one failure of the Standard Missile
3 interceptor, said Lt. Cmdr. Tate Westbrook, a program offical with the Aegis
BMD office. In the failure, the missile lost track of the target.
Although cost overruns almost led to the cancellation of the program back in
2001, Westbrook said it is back on track now.
Three cruisers armed with the ballistic missile defense capability are scheduled
to be deployed in December 2004. All three will be based out of Pearl Harbor,
Westbrook added. The Navy has yet to select which cruisers will get the system.
In 2005, the sea-based X-band radar is scheduled for deployment in Adak, Alaska.
The X-band radar is a phased-array fire control sensor, a key component of
Ground-based Missile Defense. It will be installed atop a renovated oil platform.
The radar will provide higher quality information to better define threats and
locate targets, said Holly.
The X-band radar will be stationed on top of a mobile platform, giving the
system the ability to maneuver for better tracking.
The first intercept attempt of the THAAD system will take place in late 2004
or 2005, said Reba Seals, deputy program manager. THAAD will then be moved,
in July 2004, from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to the Pacific Missile
Range for block 6 and 8 flight tests.
Past failures hampered THAAD’s test schedule. That means a lot is riding
on upcoming tests, Seals said.
“We must have [a] successful test flight and intercept (in 2005) to continue,”
she said. THAAD is scheduled for deployment in 2011.
One technology already in use is the Patriot Advanced Capability 3. It was
deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where Patriot batteries were responsible
for intercepting nine missiles.
However, no debris from any of the nine shoot-downs has been located yet, said
Army Col. Tommie Newberry, program manager for the Patriot.
A report on PAC 3’s performance in OIF will be released soon, he added.
The Army has ordered 22 PAC 3 missiles, to restock its current inventory, on
top of the 1,259 it plans to buy over the next seven years, said Newberry.
The Patriot batteries will be brought back to the United States for refurbishing,
said Maj. Gen. Larry Dobson, commander of the Army Aviation and Missile Command.
Newberry declined to comment on the incidents of friendly fire that included
the downing of a British plane.
“We are in the process of accessing the lessons learned,” he said.
“Everyone wants to point a finger at PAC-3. The things we need to do
are from a joint perspective,” he said.
Another issue affecting Patriot is the Defense Department’s decision
to combine the PAC-3 missile with the Medium Extended Air Defense System. The
MEADS is a joint venture with Germany and Italy.
Maj. Gen. John Urias, program executive officer for Army space and missile
defense, said that bringing industries from different countries together is
a challenge. “[Italy and Germany] may not agree with the combined set
A report on the MEADS effort is due to the Defense Acquisition Board in October.