Homeland Missile Defenses Remain Too Limited ~ Report

Pamela Hurt, Forecast International.

GMD FTG-05 takes off in 2008 prior to a successful intercept test. Source: Missile Defense Agency

At an April 7th launch of a new report entitled, “Missile Defense 2020: Next Steps for Defending the Homeland,”[i] lead author Thomas Karako, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, offered four types of development likely to protect the U.S. homeland most effectively in the near term.

“The United Sates currently relies almost exclusively on GMD (ground-based midcourse defense) for midcourse intercept of a limited set of long-range ballistic missile threats,”[ii] Karako, Director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS, points out.  The GMD system, which utilizes some components dating back to the Cold War, is land-based and fixed, and currently limited to two locations (Alaska and California).  It currently fields 40 missiles (hence Karako’s “limited” descriptor).  The system is not capable of early or late intercept, so there’s a limited window to respond to an incoming attack.

While pointing out that GMD may not prove to be the long-term answer to missile defense of the homeland, Mr. Karako cites four near-term improvements to GMD that will increase “reliability, capability, and capacity.”[iii]

With an accelerating threat in North Korea and a continuing, if less vocal, threat from Iran—as well as ambitious, expansionist leadership in Moscow and Beijing—the question of which systems might offer the most effective, efficient near-term increase in homeland missile defense demands consideration.

The CSIS “2020” report points to these possible efforts:

  1. Increase the number of interceptors (capacity), including the possibility of transportable GBIs (based perhaps on the east coast of the U.S.); a selectable-stage booster; a more energetic booster
  2. Improved capabilities, including boost-phase interceptors, directed energy weapons (possibly using UAVs)
  3. Improved sensors (reliability), including additional high-frequency radars, completing LRDR, and space- or UAV-based sensors for birth-to-death tracking
  4. “Left of Launch” counters. In medicine, this would be prevention, rather than treatment.  “Left of launch” efforts go to work before the missile is launched.  Besides preemptive kinetic strikes (destroying missiles before they are launched—in the bunkers or trucks), “left of launch” approaches could include jamming or other degradation of command and control, including defeating a missile on its mobile launcher, or even during its manufacture

As the Trump Administration develops its policies and defends its budget plans, CSIS’s report raises timely issues for consideration by government and military planners, industry, and others.

Note:  Founded in 1962, and based in Washington, D.C., CSIS is a leading bi-partisan think tank that focuses on U.S. foreign policy and defense issues.

To read the full paper, go to https://www.csis.org/analysis/missile-defense-2020

To view the panel discussion, go to https://www.c-span.org/video/?426634-3/panel-discussion-missile-defense

For a comprehensive survey and analysis of various missile markets, including 10- and 15-year production forecasts, as well as detailed, comprehensive reports on force structures of nations worldwide, please see Forecast International’s Missile Forecast. This service provides extensive coverage of the worldwide market for tactical and strategic missiles, both developmental and in production.

[i] Thomas Karako and Ian Williams, “Missile Defense 2020: Next Steps for Defending the Homeland,” A Report of the CSIS Missile Defense Project, Center for Strategic & International Studies, April 2017, p. 156.

[ii] Ibid., p. 26.

[iii] Ibid.