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National Defense > Blog > Posts > European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?
European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?
By Sandra I. Erwin


A U.S. Navy Aegis ship that can detect and intercept ballistic missiles patrols the waters of the Mediterranean. A mobile radar deployed in Turkey is positioned to “see” a hostile missile before it reaches a European city. By 2014, four more Aegis ships will be permanently based in Rota, Spain. By 2015, Romania will host a U.S. land-based missile interceptor site. A similar “Aegis ashore” missile launch site is scheduled to be built in Poland by 2018.

Collectively, this ground- and sea-based arsenal will provide NATO countries protection from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles launched from the Middle East. The U.S. government estimated that there are more than 6,000 ballistic missiles that are outside the control of the United States, NATO, Russia and China.

The missile-defense effort, known as European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA, was launched by the Obama administration in September 2009. A layered missile shield will be deployed in three phases by 2018. A fourth phase was canceled earlier this year for political and budgetary reasons.

The price tag for the entire project has yet to be estimated by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency. Although NATO agreed to contribute 200 million euros over 10 years, the preponderance of the bill will be paid by the United States.  

European countries have offered facilities and basing rights, but little in the way of shooters and sensors, said John R. Deni, research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. Fiscal austerity in Europe is one reason, but also the fact that most NATO countries lack the technological know-how in missile defense, Deni said during a conference last month on Capitol Hill.

Only Germany and the Netherlands have offered Patriot missiles, he said. “The lack of allied shooters reflects the fact that those systems don't exist in our allies' inventories today,” Deni said. “This raises serious questions about the allies' wherewithal to make these investments.”

It is becoming apparent that the United States “will carry most if not all the burden for NATO missile defense,” he said.

From a political standpoint, Deni said, “EPAA is important in the U.S. commitment to European security” but the unbalanced share of the financial burden will be a “perennial irritant in transatlantic relations.”

A silver lining for the United States is that Europe’s missile shield will be built by U.S. firms. The priciest weapons of the EPAA plan — the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar designed to search, acquire, track and discriminate threats; and the Standard 3 interceptor missiles — are made by The Raytheon Co.

The Defense Department already has bought 11 AN/TPY-2 radars — at a cost of about $200 million each — and is expected to buy another system. Only one, based in Turkey, is part of the European shield. Of the existing inventory of AN/TPY-2 radars, six are used by the Army’s terminal high altitude air defense systems. The radar guides the THAAD missile to intercept a threat. Five AN/TPY-2s are deployed in “forward based mode” which means they are positioned to detect ballistic missiles in the boost, or ascent, phase of flight. The radar tracks and discriminates the threat, and passes the information to decision makers at the command site. One of five radars in forward based mode supports EPAA in Turkey. The others are based in Israel, Northern Japan, Qatar and a fifth one is headed to Southern Japan.

Deni said more radars might be needed. “There is evidence that another [TPY-2] could be required in European territory,” he said. The Army also might need another radar for training in the United States.

For EPAA, the United States also will have to invest in infrastructure, Deni said. The Turkish base where the U.S. Army operates the TPY-2 radar is in dire need of upgrades, he said. It is a site that the Turkish military abandoned 10 years before the U.S. Army made it livable, said Deni. Even so, the Army still has to transport supplies by truck on a dangerous mountainous route that has to be cleared of snow daily in the winter. “There are few signs the Turkish government will improve the electrical lines,” said Deni. “The Army has to truck up generator fuel to power the radar.”

U.S. officials said more money also will have to be spent on research and development to improve the capabilities of the TPY-2 radar to accurately identify missile threats. This has been a long-time challenge for U.S. missile defense sensors: whether they can “discriminate” between real warheads and decoys.

Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said more research and development efforts are needed to improve the radar’s ability to discriminate. “My top priorities in R&D are discrimination and development of the discrimination capability,” Syring told the House Armed Services Committee in May. “We are working very hard on the Aegis front to continue to upgrade that capability to meet the requirements of EPAA phases two and three,” he said.

Jim Bedingfield, director of missile defense and space programs at Raytheon, said the company is hoping for more funding to improve the TPY-2 radar, which has been in operation for about a decade.

“The government is examining options for increased ballistic missile defense sensor and discrimination capability,” Bedingfield said in an interview.

The Pentagon had once planned on deploying a “precision tracking space system” to defend the United States and allies from ballistic missiles, but the program was terminated because of budget cuts. “There is a clear need for more discrimination,” said Bedingfield. The better the discrimination, the fewer interceptor missiles have to be fired, he said.

The United States is unlikely to invest in new TPY-2 radars for Europe. The administration's decision to deploy a second radar in Japan indicates the focus is shifting to Asia.

“We met EPAA goals for phase one,” said Bedingfield. “The question is, ‘Is that enough discrimination?’”

The “cost per kill” of missile defense is a significant concern as the United States proceeds with the EPAA program. Each Standard 3 missile is estimated to run between $10 million to $15 million. “The cost exchange ratio is a problem,” said Jim Thomas, defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Until we have a breakthrough in [lower cost technology such as] directed energy and rail guns, offense is cheaper and tends to win.”

Bedingfield said Raytheon is seeking to lower the price of its missile defense hardware, but in complex systems such as TPY-2, there are “unique industrial base issues” that make it difficult to reduce costs. After the company delivers MDA’s 12th radar, unless new orders come in, Raytheon expects to shut down the TPY-2 line, said Bedingfield.

The “cost per kill” issue does worry missile manufacturers because it could lead to reduced orders. “It's talked about a lot,” said Wes Kremer, Raytheon vice president of air and missile defense systems. “The cost per kill, when you do the economics, it becomes a question.” Cheaper technologies such as directed energy and rail guns should be pursued, he said. But until those technologies are ready, kinetic solutions are the only ones available.

For phase two of EPAA, Raytheon will provide the more advanced SM-3 1B version. When deployed in Romania and Poland, the missile will be operating from a land base for the first time. Twenty-four interceptors would go to each site.

Raytheon anticipates that, barring more budget cuts, it will be producing 431 SM-3 1A and 1B missiles between 2014 and 2018. Those would be available for phase three of EPAA. Raytheon already has delivered 100 1As, and 37 are on order for the United States. Japan has bought 36.

A new missile, the SM-3 2A. is being co-developed with Japan and could be ready for EPAA phase three, said Kremer. Japan is providing larger rocket motors that would increase the missile’s speed and range. It would also have a larger kill vehicle. Its future is still unclear, however, pending future tests.

Raytheon would have been charged with the development of the SM-3 2B interceptor, which originally was planned for EPAA phase four. That missile would have been capable of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles. The program was terminated after the Pentagon objected to the missile’s 21-inch diameter, which would not have been compatible with the Navy's 27-inch vertical launch system. The administration supported nixing phase four, too, in order to assuage Russia’s objections to a European missile shield that potentially would have been able to neutralize Russia’s strategic weapons.

Foreign policy experts predict Russia will continue to throw roadblocks at EPAA and that the termination of EPAA’s phase four might not have been enough to placate that country’s hardliners.

“Moscow’s concern is about U.S. detachments in Poland and Romania,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador and scholar at the Brookings Institution. “Russia has asked for guarantees that American defenses wouldn't be directed at their strategic forces,” he said.

Pifer also raised the question of whether the U.S. pledge to European defense is justified considering the projected threats. “I'm not sure there's a lot of concern in Europe,” he said. “I don't believe there are many officials who lie awake at night worrying about Iranian missiles.”

Because they assume the United States will handle the heavy lifting, said Pifer, “There does not appear to be a surge of European interest in developing new missile defense capabilities.” A more pressing priority is to ensure that the U.S. military has a presence in Eastern Europe, he said. “Romania and Poland want a U.S. presence, not because they worry about Iran but for the assurance that having American military detachments provides,” he said. “It is a signal of American commitment to their security.”

For political reasons, analysts speculate, the United States will stick to its promise to build the European shield despite its potentially soaring costs.

“After the administration canceled phase four, they are more determined than ever to [complete] phase one, two and three because of the political commitment they made to NATO. They probably feel a little defensive having canceled phase four,” said Tom Z. Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association.

“There may be cost increases and schedule delays but I would expect the administration will follow through as funding and technology allows,” said Collina. Will Russia take the concerns it had on phase four and shift them to phase three? That is possible, said Collina. “We might see that over the next year in the run-up to the U.S.-Russia summit in September.”

The cost of EPAA could become another bone of contention in future budget debates, he said. “The missiles and radar are costly. Ships are expensive but they're multi-mission ships so they are never really factored in.” One problem with EPAA is that there is only one X-band radar in Turkey. “The radars on the Aegis ships are not powerful enough,” said Collina. “If you want the interceptors to protect areas that are broader than the ship itself you need sensors that are not on the ship. That's why they have the X-band radar in Turkey. But if they want to cover a larger area from long-range missiles, they'll need more than that.”

Photo Credit: Raytheon


Re: European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?

There is no mention of MEADS in this article.  How does MEADS, already in the testing stages, factor into BMD, or does it?
Peter at 7/5/2013 8:24 PM

Re: European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?

I'm from a European country.

All I can say is that we don't need this Shield, and we (european taxpayers) neither want to pay for it.

We don't need NATO too, only USA need it.

Please go home. As you see, I'm polite, I said "please".
Stephane at 7/5/2013 9:00 PM

Re: European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?

1. Iran has no missile that can hit Europe, and is not building any.
2. Iran has not built nor tested a nuclear warhead that can fit into missile warhead.
3. Iran has nothing to gain by firing missiles at Europe, except massive retaliation.
4. Europe is welcome to buy and operate American missile systems, but don't want them.
5. The USA is going broke.
And if this is not enough:
6. The SM-3 missile planned for the system hasn't even half the range to reach any futuristic missile fired from Iran or Russia.
Details are here:
Carlton Meyer at 7/6/2013 10:18 AM

Re: European Missile Shield: Can U.S. Taxpayers Afford It?

Building a missile defense is just smart. Why even spend a nickel on defense if you aren't going to defend yourself from missiles? But the US approach is just crazy expensive. A cheaper approach needs to be found.
Joe Robinson at 7/15/2013 8:47 AM

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