It is time for Naval Aviation to become more than interested bystanders and step up to the plate for the ballistic missile defense mission. For those who have been otherwise engaged or looking elsewhere, the cover and main article in the May 2009 issue of Proceedings is your wake-up call. Now, besides the ever-present threat posed by cruise missiles, we can add ballistic missiles to the list of concerns. And to the naysayers who point to the Aegis community and say it’s their job because they’re the archer, I say not so fast, for several reasons. Chief among these is the growing threat itself.

Since the end of the Cold War, ballistic missiles have become a growth industry, especially in the short- and medium-ranged categories (figure out to 1500km). Missiles in these categories don’t require the engineering, technology, and support structure of their larger IR/ICBM cousins and as such, lend themselves to a variety of domestic production programs using proliferated knowledge and technology, or, may be purchased wholesale from willing proliferators, such as the DPRK. These missiles lend themselves to mobile launchers which may be deployed far forward, reducing warning and engagement times, and employed in sufficient quantities as to greatly complicate planning and operations in a number of areas and conditions ranging from APOD/SPOD operations to choke point transits. The numbers may be troublesome enough on their own – add in WMD, especially where certain countries that are expanding their ballistic missile capabilities are also engaged in nuclear programs that are unsupervised by international agencies and the problem 3-5 years out grows more complicated. Factor in the addition of sophisticated technology by near-peer nations – MaRV’s based on the Pershing II missile with millimeter terminal guidance radar for example, that are deployed in significant numbers on mobile platforms well within denied territory, and planning at all levels – tactical, operational and even strategic grows more difficult as options are taken off the table. Difficult or impossible, that is, absent a robust and credible defense.

CNO has declared BMD to be a core competency for all Navy – not just Aegis BMD. To be successful in that mission area will require efforts and capabilities that cut across communities and the operational and electromagnetic spectrum, much like we have and are doing for cruise missile defense. We must be able to bring to bear the full capabilities of sea-based power, kinetic and non- as all the elements of that sea-based power can provide force multiplier roles from pre-launch to terminal intercept. Naval aviation is a major player in this effort and not just as an attempt to “get a piece of the action.”

While it is true that at present, the only active (read: hard kill) defensive capability is via the SM-3 family and SM-2 BlkIV, there are a number of near and longer term instances where naval aviation, and carrier aviation in particular, will play an increasingly important role. Emphasis in the last several years in the development of these missiles and Aegis BMD has focused on the mid-course/exo-atmospheric (SM-3) and terminal/endo-atmospheric (SM-2 BlkIV) intercept of short- and medium range ballistic missiles, along with the long-range search/track contribution of Aegis BMD as part of the BMDS designed to counter intermediate- and intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, with the recent shift in emphasis to the regional/theater fight and a renewed focus on ascent phase intercept (API), maritime forces will come to play a substantially increased role in all three areas of BMD – offensive action, passive and active defenses. How will this be possible? Through a combination of emerging/evolving platforms and capabilities teamed with core competencies already found across several NAVAIR communities. Let’s look first at the platforms.

The E-2D will provide critical capabilities for sea-based BMD.

A key requirement and necessary capability for API to be successful is persistent ISR with rapid cueing via fast, redundant network paths to the shooter(s), in this case Aegis BMD-equipped ships. CVW’s in the 3-5 year out view will see their capabilities grow in this area following planned upgrades and introduction of new platforms. Close at hand will be the wider deployment of AESA equipped F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growler. One potential vulnerability of mobile TBMs is their command and control networks, especially if there is intent to employ them in saturation raids in concert with anti-ship or land-attack cruise missiles. Identification of critical communications nodes and attack via non-kinetic means may result in disruption of attacks or even disablement of the missiles themselves. The capabilities inherent in AESA-equipped aircraft and the electronic attack capabilities in the Growler lend themselves to further investigation in this field. Netted and linked data between these platforms, passed via current E-2C’s and fused with other off-board sensors (e.g., Predators, EP-3, and other joint platforms) build a richer picture for the afloat and ashore command elements. At the far end of that 3-5 year period the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye should begin seeing fleet introduction and the addition of its networking capability and revolutionary mechanically- and electronically scanned radar, among many other new or improved capabilities will bring battle management in the missile defense realm to new levels. Tapped into CEC or one of the other links for cueing, an Aegis BMD ship should be able to fire on remote, significantly expanding the battle space for API. Farther out, the addition of BAMS, P-8 and EPX, a possible marinized-Predator/Reaper and UCAV-N grow the range of possibilities for persistent ISR and cued attack, non-kinetic and kinetic. Indeed, even today Predators and their IR tracking have been successfully used in BMD tests. The carrier version of the JSF, the F-35C, will bring additional capabilities to the fight with its integrated sensor/weapons suite. And don’t forget – Fire Scout is already out there with potential near shore/over the beach surveillance as well.

While the platforms are coming on-line, what is more important is recognition within the various NAVAIR communities, especially VAW, VAQ and VQ of these inherent BMD capabilities, that BMD is a core mission across the Navy and that their particular communities have a natural affinity for BMD. Particular skill sets are required in the areas of C4I, Battle Management, ISR, net-centric operations and data fusion, all of which are an inherent part of those communities and representative of a natural and evolving growth. Joint and combined operational experience would certainly underscore these skill sets.

Thirty years ago the VAW community, was geared to the long-range AEW/AAW fight and gave little thought to the overland ABCCC mission, for example. Yet by the time of operations in the Gulf and over former Yugoslavia it was increasingly engaged and tasked so. Those skill sets evolved from the battle management skills developed over a half-century of AEW and refined in the digital age with the introduction of the E-2C/F-14 teamed with Aegis with the assistance of organizations like the Carrier AEW Weapons School and Naval Strike Warfare Center. Today it should be no less so and with organizations like the Navy Air and Missile Defense and Naval Strike and Air Warfare Commands serving as the laboratory cum schoolhouse for such evolutionary expansion, the time to start is now.

Because the threat certainly isn’t marking time…

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  • Also a future Naval Air asset: Navy is beginning to look into using airships for BAMS; and logistics. No other type of aircraft has persistance of airships; solar power/fuel cells will result in airships that can remain months on station similar to nuclear submarine. (suggested 10 YEARS aloft for ISIS airship)
    Modern materials and designs can create airships that are far beyond past “blimps” in capabilites; to include airspeeds to 175 kts and all weather ops.

    See: “PMA-262LTARFI”

    Navy is looking towards airships that can carry 500 tons. Do-able. (as example, 1930’s tech created 100 tons payload USS Macon and USS Akron) This ability to carry very large weights make airships ideal for carrying huge X-band radar; and Airborne Laser ABM.

  • B. Walthrop

    The main ideas behind this post seem solid and worthy of further discussion.


  • Andy (JADAA)

    The entire ISR communities, VAW, VQ and VAQ really need to be given some free reign to work together, both at NSWAC and informally, to develop and especially to test tactical employment and responses. Not that ASBM’s are new; we were briefed on nascent Soviet capabilities in this arena a long time ago. It looks like the PLA has taken the concept further; at least the UNCLAS information out there would so indicate.

    Time to unleash the JO’s! (Where more good, workable ideas seem to originate than anywhere else)


  • Andy, the unleashing has begun. Let’s see which way they run.

  • James

    Frankly BMD is the Navy looking for a mission for itself. I can’t picture having Navy ships sitting off the coasts of any of a number of countries that might launch such a threat and in turn becoming a sitting duck for even a country like NK and making themselves susceptible to massive ECM. Of course there’s the new Chinese DF-21 threat to our carriers. But then we now have the comments of RADM T.A. Brooks in the June 2009 USNI Comments and Discussion section regarding the “feared” DF-21 and its predecessor, the Soviet SSN-X-13. The Chinese would launch a DF-21 and risk starting WW III; right. They’ve actually developed a system that would make a HIGHLY maneuverable (unless of course our carriers are going to drop anchor and just wait for these things) ballistic vehicle that would have sufficient propellant and maneuverability, and targeting input, to crash into or come even so much as close to a carrier task force – clearly the Chinese are formidable.

    Reading the opinion page of the Washington Post recently, it appears the conservatives are already taking up the DF-21 as an operational threat – talk about circling the wagons to come up with something to be scared about so we can spend more money to defend against it. If the Chinese come up with an operational anti-ship ballistic missile that would be a huge accomplishment, beating out their Soviet predecessors who certainly were able to spend far more money and put far more resources towards making it happen. One does beg to wonder what the Chinese get from their going to war with the one country they’ve loaned so much money to.

    BMD in general in this country has a horrid history in terms of the waste of money and national resources that have gone into it, and the poor performance of the systems put in place. Yet we’re hyping this as a signficant part of the Navy’s future – bad seas ahead for the USN when it hitches its future to such a leaky platform.

  • Byron

    Just because you believe your potential enemies are incompetent, does not make them so. And a quick look at a map should tell you that the locations where a BMD ship might be stationed are places where they are stationed near or have op-areas at already, as well as around the carrier.

  • 1. “BMD is the Navy looking for a mission for itself”
    Just like, I suppose, sea control/power projection from carriers was in 1942? Nuclear deterrence via Polaris in 1962? The inherent flexibility, and mobility of sea-based BMD opens up new avenues of conventional deterrence and defense. As demonstrated in Operation BURNT FROST, the ability of a seaborne missile defense platform to position itself for the optimal shot ensured a substantially greater Pes than the ground-based interceptors or THAAD (the only other alternatives). Unlike boost-phase platforms like the formerly envisioned KEI and the ABL, Aegis BMD does *not* have to sit parked right off the coast of a hostile country to employ its SM-3 exo-atmospheric interceptor, or the interim terminal endo-atmospheric interceptor, SM-T. There is quite a body of work out there for the reading on the subject of sea-based BMD and some even absent political bias, which you seem to want to all to readily inject into the discussion.

    2. Re. the DF-21. Well, I suppose there are two COAs you could pursue – Ignore/ridicule it (“carrier-based aircraft will never be able to sink a battleship”) or conduct analysis of the threat, take inventory of current capabilities and develop TTP’s, modified capabilities or new ones to address the threat. I’m no newcomer to the DF-21 issue and am very familiar with its alleged capabilities and limitations. I don’t think a mission kill of a CVN/CVW would necessarily start WW3 – frankly if the US refused to take military action when it’s aircraft have been shot down or ships captured or struck by ASCMs by a non-nuclear country, I don’t think the equivalent of damage of an Enterprise/Forrestal type flight deck conflagration caused by a DF-21 would be a straightline to WW3. Sea-based BMD offers one solution to that problem.

    BTW – BMD isn’t always kinetic

    3. One does beg to wonder what the Chinese get from their going to war with the one country they’ve loaned so much money to. IIRC, similar thoughts were bandied about before WWI in Europe where Britain and Germany were concerned and WWII in the Pacific between the US and Japan…to underscore comments above, the road to war is usually crystal clear only in hindsight. Ergo, being prepared across a broad-range of categories and skills is generally speaking, a wise and propitious COA.

    4. BMD in general in this country has a horrid history in terms of the waste of money and national resources that have gone into it, and the poor performance of the systems put in place. Gross and inaccurate generalization. How about citing particulars. The Aegis BMD program is noteworthy and has been identified as such by both sides of the aisle for performance and success. To be sure there remains room for improvement across all programs and not all programs have enjoyed the same success as the Aegis BMD program – but the alternative, no missile defense, is not only irresponsible, it is arrogantly stupid in the face of a growing threat.
    Yes – growing threat.
    Since the end of the Cold War, 22 new countries have come to possess, either through indigenous programs, purchased systems or proliferated technology, a range of ballistic missiles from short- to intercontinental. The majority of those are of the SR- and MRBM variety – ranging up to 3,000km. This same family of missiles, the SRBM and MRBMs, have also been widely employed in regional conflicts, on an upward-tending slope, for the past thirty years. Sure – absent some very asymmetric delivery system (e.g., ‘SCUD-in-a-tub’) the US homeland is generally secure from those threats. But not our overseas forces, friends, allies and partners. And it is there, in that arena, that sea-based BMD, now-today, not 5, 10 or 15 years hence, can and must contribute. The BM threat is not going away – proliferation continues apace despite efforts like the MTCR and PSI to thwart it. Proliferation also continues for WMD. Regional arms races are underway. Active defenses are but one solution – but they are a necessary and vital one. BMD is both a home and away game – it is most certainly not a pick-up game because of the complex technology and training required.
    Let me leave you with a thought. Alas, it doesn’t come from the opinion pages of the Post, known for their deep knowledge and understanding of missile defense, but ponder it anyway:
    “When all else fails – when negotiations have broken down, when there is a missile in the air – you have to have the ability to destroy it, because the only other ability that you would have would be to apologize to those that have died.”

  • James

    For SJS:

    Point 1: If Aegis is to have a high probability hit it indeed should be sitting of the coast, otherwise it has to happen to be in the right place at the right time, assuming it would be able to take out the missile in question. There’s nothing to show, at least to the general public, that any BMD system is able to take out a missile that uses even the most rudimentary of evasive measures to thwart the BMD system. Taking out a satellite is hardly evidence of a robust BMD system, and there’s nothing to indicate from what I’ve read that Aegis or any other BMD system has successfully engaged anything that would pose more than a simple ballistic profile. Bottom line, Navy BMD is impractical and more atuned to giving the Navy something to do.

    Point 2: The point wasn’t whether a mission kill of a carrier would start WW III, though that possibility exists, but how do you differentiate between an anti-ship BM and a nuclear one? If tensions are high enough to prompt throwing missiles at carriers, who can tell what’s in the air and what its intention is with launch on warning?

    BTW: If you know of a working, with the emphasis on working, non-kinetic BMD system please enlighten me. Sticking lasers on 747’s doesn’t cut it, and that was the Air Force’s take on trying to get a cut of the BMD pie. To my knowledge there’s nothing that’s non-kinetic that comes close to being viable and no where near operational.

    Point 3: I have no idea how much in hock anyone was to anyone in WW I or II, but you seem to think that history is a series of repititions of past events and I’d like to think that life in general is a bit more complicated than that and that, indeed, we’ve evolved a bit from where we were at some 50 or 90 years ago.

    Point 4: Inasmuch as my references are still boxed up I can’t pull them out for you, but billions and billions of dollars have been spent since the 50’s and not a single workable BMD system has come out of any of this, not a one. Workable means that it could actually do the job it was intended to, was adequately tested to show that this was possible, and I’m not counting throwing missiles into the air tipped with nukes to wreak havoc on incoming BMs. I challenge you to come up with anything out of that money, aside from Aegis and I’ll address that again in a bit, that shows we got anything to show for that money. This started in the 50’s – we’ve poured money into this for nearly 60 years, and you don’t see this as a horrid waste?

    As for Aegis, again, neither it nor any other BMD program has shown that they can handle anything akin to an incoming BM using even rudimentary evasive techniques against the BMD system. As far as I’m concerned, and as near as I can tell, Aegis is more hype when it comes to taking out honest-to-god BM threats than anything else.

    As for the BM threat, there’s a perfectly good deterrent to that that’s also well paid for: The US nuclear triad. If any nation on this Earth wants to take on the US with a nuclear tipped missile it’ll cease to exist, and I’m sorry, no one has shown that national suicide is a viable policy for any nation that realistically faces it.

    BMD has been a sink hole of money for far too long, and its operational payoffs have hardly come close to justifying the money spent. In simple situations with basic BM threats BMD might work, but then Patriot hardly showed its worth when it was put to the real world threat.

    Much ado is made about threats that demand solutions that are intended to neutralize those threats, but then the odds of any operational system in place actually being able to neutralize anything, other than in Star Wars movies, is hardly likely to give anyone a warm and fuzzy feeling. We have something that works, and it was a perfectly viable deterrent for the Soviet Union and the money has already been spent.

  • 1. Unless one intends to intercept the missile in the ascent phase of flight (not boost – ascent) you will more likely be positioned further downrange towards the defended area so you aren’t in a tailchase – that’s the geometry required in BMD. BTW – I dd not say that BURNT FROST provided evidence of a robust BMD, rather that it epitomized the inherent flexibility of a sea-based vice land-based system. The set of deployed systems that employ “evasive maneuvers” in the SR-MRBM range is small – and not likely found on the vast majority of which are SCUD-derivative. Frankly I am more concerned about volley launches in that regieme. Move up range (IR/ICBM) and you start approaching the level of engineering and technical knowledge (and payload) to employ penetration aids – to include MaRVs. The number of BM-capable countries that can pull off that capability can be counted on one hand.

    2. So what is your point? If it is a nuke, by definition in tossing it at a CSG it is anti-ship and as a nuke, now we are talking about a whole different range of conflict. If it is a conventional ASBM that employs, say, submunitions it is likely with an intent to remove the carrier or other large vessel from the scene for some period of time, allowing one to effect whatever your intended purpose is without provoking an escalation to a higher order of combat, such as might result from the sinking of a large capital ship with the potential loss of thousands of lives.
    3. Non-kinetic & BMD. First off, BMD is comprised of three phases that may be effected serially or in parallel – offensive action, passive defense and active defense. Non-kinetic BMD can be as simple as dispersal of the fleet (passive defense) or electronic attack via cyber-strikes against a surveillance network that provides targeting to a mobile ASBM system (offensive action). Ergo, not all solutions need to end in a flash of light and cloud of debris.
    4. Pardon my shallow historical summary. Of course historical record is much more complex and there is little if any commonality between events. History is just a pretty record to mark where we’ve been and provides little of relevance to our modern, sophisticated lives and problems.
    5. IVO of my comments in #4, I shall nonetheless summarize and acknowledge that yes, there has been waste, dead ends, false hopes, failed systems deployed. Of course BMD is unique in this instance. You won’t find similar circumstances anywhere else where capabilities were being explored at the far edge of scientific, technological and engineering know-how, right? BTW – how many aviators did we kill in deploying the Century-series of fighters? And how many ended up actually going into combat in the original roles envisioned? Does that make the knowledge gained from those any less in its application to the follow on F-4/F-14/F-15? And BTW, there was an incredible amount of The challenges inherent in missile defense are substantial, especially if one intends to pursue a conventional defense. Which brings me to my final point – defense.
    6. Defense: No where have I stated that BMD could or should be deployed vs Russian threat. If youtake a moment to read the objectives for the GMD or Regional/theater systems of record, you won’t find advocacy there either as a defense against the Russian missile force. Argument otherwise belies an abject misunderstanding of the rationale, purpose and stated objectives of all programs, not to mention the complexity and numbers of the Russian threat set. On the nuclear front, you might want to take a look at deterrence theory and limited/minimal deterrence to see that the model that evolved in a bi-polar nuclear world where the major players developed and operated by the “rules of the game” will have increasingly less application in a multi-polar world made up of nuclear, proto-nuclear and nuclear-seeking states that operate from differing rule sets. An overwhelming abundance of offensive nuclear strike capability has done nothing, to prevent war at lower levels – but then I would merely point to the historical record when at one point certain elements within the Executive branch and in the 5-sided wind tunnel thought that all we would need were nuclear weapons and there’s be no more war. BTW, I would point out that the same charge you leveled at BMD could be applied to the early years of the deterrent, especially IR/ICBM development.

    hen the odds of any operational system in place actually being able to neutralize anything, other than in Star Wars movies, is hardly likely to give anyone a warm and fuzzy feeling. Well, show me where we have launched an operational ICBM from a silo in South Dakota to validate launch assurance from said location. You can’t, yet you place faith in their ability to launch, likely under attack, and fly to their targets on the other side of the globe in a hostile, nuclear environment. The only way to validate that operational capability is via testing from test silos at Vandenberg AFB. Right now – against SCUD targets and other SR-/MRBM targets with separating warheads, which represent by far the majority threat to our forward deployed forces, allies, friends and partners, the SM-3 has racked up a pretty darn good record. Been there and seen many tests myself from planning to execution. Evidently the Japanese and South Koreans feel the same as do the Dutch and it appears, the Spanish and Australians as all are either already procuring or have displayed strong interest in acquiring the requisite technology for their forces.

    And so I’m curious – what is it about a conventional defensive system that can afford the opportunity to protect our forces and by extension, F/A/P, that doesn’t require deployment on foreign soil, that can be surged to a theater of conflict, that can operate over the horizon and up into the exoatmosphere to defeat ballistic missiles that is so wrong? How is it somehow more right to rely on massive nuclear retaliation against a regional power that sought to use a nuclear or other WMD weapon against those same forces and friends with all the attendant fallout and consequence management when it could have been intercepted and destroyed in flight? Or are you of the pre-emptive school of thought – like that has worked so well? How can you justify *not* pursuing that capability when it is within your powers to do so?
    – SJS
    P.S. BTW – your Patriot reference is outdated. The PAC-3 version, developed after the first Gulf War and the lessons learned from those engagements, did have a 100% intercept rate against SCUDs launched at US forces during OIF. And the intercepts destroyed the warheads, not just the spent fuel-tank like in GW-I. From the Patriot System Report Summary prepared by the Defense Science Board following OIF operations in 2003:
    “All nine enemy tactical ballistic missiles that
    threatened areas designated for Patriot defense were engaged. Eight of these engagements were observed by enough other sensors to conservatively declare them
    successes; the ninth engagement is judged to be a probable success. None of the attacking tactical ballistic missiles caused any damage or loss of life to the coalition forces.
    ” You can find the report here.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    “History is just a pretty record to mark where we’ve been and provides little of relevance to our modern, sophisticated lives and problems.”


    Spoken like a college sophomore.

    The only thing that doesn’t change is human nature. Given a similar set of circumstances, human beings en masse, act in similar ways.

    A simple and personal example. My life savings are fine, thank you. Many folks’ are not. Many folks never heard of Holland’s Tulip Bubble some hundreds of years ago. I did, as well as number of other bubbles, and acted accordingly.

    Silly ideas recycle, as well as good ones. Their track record informs one which is what. The words quoted above are a hardy perennial among silly ideas.

    Don’t take my word for it. Read history as widely and deeply as you can, you will come to see.

    Even new technical developments have effects similar to past new technical developments. You just need to look for patterns. The trend is more important than the datum, and the long term cyclic trend more important than the short term. Of course you have to get the data right.

    Details. The devil always hides in the details.

  • Grampa Bluewater:
    Sarcasm — what I wrote was a sarcastic response to what the previous poster had implied about the lack of relevance of the historical record. Anyone who has followed me over the years knows the value I place in historical analyses – just scroll up and check the series on Midway, especially the lessons learned to validate that point.
    w/r, SJS

  • James

    It’s hard for me to appreciate that Patriot 3 took out all SCUDS – that’s something it should have been able to do back during GW-I. We’re talking a simple, VERY simple BM, and we couldn’t take that down. So some ten years later we seemed to have gotten that right, after 60 years of trying – Congratulations Raytheon.

    I’m not saying that nuclear defense is more moral than BMD, just that it’s there, it’s already paid for, and given the liklihood of BMD not working 100% against any incoming threat most likely to be used anyway in the event of an actual attack, which of course would be suicidal. If we want to talk morality, which really isn’t part of this discussion, then we can divert to the morality of the waste of national treasure over the course of 60 years that could have been used for far more constructive purposes.

    As for everyone signing up for BMD, that’s hardly an endorsement of its viability or utility. It’s simplly politicians throwing something to the people in the hopes that they’ll feel protected against some sort of threat, and the countries in question don’t have a triad nuclear deterrent to rely on, with the concommittant threat of nuclear annhilation of any nation which may attack, so something’s better than nothing and a hell of a lot easier to make happen compared to putting together a nuclear deterrent. I’ve made the analogy before but bottom line BMD is little better than sticking national guard soldiers in airports, or most of airport homeland security – it’s intended to make people feel more safe, but it has very little practical utility and it’s very, very easy to get around it if you’re half as clever as those who put together the original defense.

    One of the biggest problems with BMD centers on the lack of adequate testing and a realistic addressal of it’s ability to engage a robust target. By the very nature of how this system has been foisted on the public it’s deficient.



  • Fundamental difference between Patriot in GW-1 and OIF is that PAC-2, which had a blast frag warhead, went for the largest target, wich happened to be the expended fuel tank. Wasn’t designed from the start for BMD, PAC-3 was and incorporates a hit-to-kill warhead to avoid thefuzing problems (delays etc.) endemic to b-f warheads in MD.
    So – we don’t deploy BMD because there’s no certainty it won’t work 100% ? What else should we not deploy because it won’t work 100% ? You work/test/plan to ensure that if you have any leakers, you have a back-up plan. That’s why it’s called a *layered* defense (aka defense in depth). Same practices as you find on the air/cruise missile defense side. Heaven knows as much as I liked Phoenix, I was still glad we had backups all the way down to Phalanx when planing fleet defense vs Soviet cruise missile raids.

    Define adequate. Define robust. If the threat is a SCUD derivative, which most of the threat out there is, it’s not a “robust” target (presuming you mean multiple penaids, maneuvering, etc.). A little research on SCUDs/NO DONGS/etc. will bear a rich(er) harvest of understanding the threat and the requirements levied on the system. The test results are available in public fora (start at if you like).
    – SJS

  • Byron

    ” If we want to talk morality, which really isn’t part of this discussion, then we can divert to the morality of the waste of national treasure over the course of 60 years that could have been used for far more constructive purposes.”

    I think this statement is the heart of the objection.

  • James

    Yes, and Patriot also had a nasty habit of taking out friendly fighter aircraft – amazing defect given how much time and effort should have been reflected in a system that was built on over 40 years of experience.

    No, we don’t deploy BMD not because it’s not 100% effective, but rather because there’s a perfectly adequate recourse to the ridiculous expense and self-deception inherent to any BMD system.

    As far as “robust”, in this case it means anything that would deploy decoys and be maneuverable – it really doesn’t take a whole heck of a lot.

    You’re absolutely right, anyone that would likely put a warhead on a missile that would concern us is most likely only going to have a pretty standard Mod 0 ballistic platform, which of course begs the answer to why would they do so when we can more than adequately track it and likely take it out with any system we alraedy have in place, regardless of how poorly tested it is. No, if they’re going to get us they’ll stick it in a plane or planes, ship(s), or trucks coming in from Mexico or Canada. All the money spent on high falutin’ BMD systems should be invested in protecting our ports and borders against a far more realistic deployment scenario of an enemy warhead. Of course that’s not sexy enough for the Navy, nor does it sell as well before appropriations committees and congress, so … we’ll wait until someone in fact does come into the country with a weapon via those routes and then ask ourselves why we spent all those years and so much money on systems to shoot down missiles.

    Also, if China is going to be so missile adept as to deploy an anti-ship BM, like wow there, then I’m sure their inventory of strategic BMs would be just as sexy and deadly, and no BMD system we have now or projected into the future if fit to go against anything that the Chinese could use. What’s the point of BMD? Really, there is none, as we concluded back in the 70’s, and yet here we are again.

  • 1. Read this study and try and understand how a missile system works – it was erroneous doctrine and poor discipline on the part of the Patriot crew that was the direct cause of those losses. And Army blew it by letting them off. Missile only goes where it’s told.

    2. You still haven’t answered the questions – define adequate testing, define robust targets. All I’m hearing here are confused arguments, gross misunderstanding of the threat, US policy and deterrence theory and the same parroted talking points that the hardened anti-missile defense crowd uses. How about this – why not check something other than the usual suspects for information on missile defense. Here, I’ll even get you started – this will take you to the Congressional Research Service’s latest report to Congress on the Aegis BMD program (link downloads a PDF of the 3 April 09 report). I think we can all agree that CRS is generally neutral and focuses on the facts pertinent to the discussion, right?
    w/r, SJS

  • James

    First, your link for “The usual suspects” doesn’t work. That you would presume my sources of information is a bit off-putting – I have to represent a specific train of thinking or ideology for you? It’s not possible that someone with reasonable intelligence and rational thought processes might come to the conclusion that BMD is a charade? I can only presume that you’re thinking like this to justify an indignation with someone who disagrees with you. I don’t presume where you’re coming from, or where you get your information from, I’d ask that you confer me the same

    Thanks for the thesis on Patriot, but it’s not really necessary to read this, is it? The fact is that Patriot should have had adequate automatic cutouts to obviate any screw up on the part of the crews operating the thing. I mean really, given the reaction time of the system how could such cutouts not have been in place? A basic cutout in this situation would be: Target is flying at less than X miles an hour; target is not presenting a BM flight profile – lock out engagement. So here’s a BMD system designed with 40 years of experience behind it and we can’t prevent it
    from hitting what it shouldn’t – if that ain’t scary I don’t know what is, and that it represents a culmination of billions of dollars of national investment takes scary to quantum levels.

    Adequate testing: OPTEVAL criteria for weapons testing is just fine for me.

    Now let me clarify: When I talk about BMD I’m talking about a national missile defense (NMD) system. You, you’re focused on Aegis, and Aegis would never be a primary NMD for the following reasons:

    1. It can be sunk.
    2. It can be blinded.
    3. It has to be in position to engage the target and that means either sitting off the coast of the U.S. or otherwise
    fortuitously being in the right geographic position for the trajectory of the BM.
    4. And last, but surely not least, it’s susceptible to the weather, the bane of all good mariners.

    So Aegis is not, nor will it ever be the “be all” BMD for national defense, which is where most of the money for BMD has been urinated away. Aegis and SM-3 is an evolutionary development. The Aegis system is powerful, and if all you need to do is put the SM system on steroids then with a wave of the wand you have a BMD. Great, that doesn’t necessarily make it a very good BMD, but SM-3 can do the job of SM-2 so it’s not a waste and it even makes a measure of sense.

    So let me get to the adequate testing thing: The current NMD program was put into place skirting the whole OPTEVAL process. Let me be very clear: DoD made operational an NMD system that wasn’t tested in accordance with its own rules. Why? Well, surely it wasn’t because of an immediate threat of any reasonable nature. It was put in place for political reasons, which brings me back to my earlier posts where I’ve made clear that these systems aren’t intended to take out targets, no, they’re intended to give people a false sense of security. Heck, not that it’s needed. Reading Francis Fitzgerald’s “Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War” (2000) she cites polls taken that show that people believe that NMD is a fact of life already – too much Star Wars and video gaming, most likely.

    As for the feasability of these systems, I refer you to the American Physical Society, they have loads of stuff to peruse and I’m reasonably sure that they’re as unbiased as the CRS. If you make a reasonably rudimentary search about our present NMD system I’m sure you’ll have no trouble coming up with the shortfalls in testing.



  • 1. Gross generalities, outdated information and off-topic advocacy hardly constitute reasoned debate.

    2. The most recent study/report I find at APS’ website is dated 2004 and their statement opposing a deployment decision is dated 2000.
    It’s 2009. I’ll continue with CRS since they draw from a wide variety of sources (and list same for V&V by the reader) as well as keeping pretty current. They also don’t pull punches either.

    3. So, let me bring you up to date. Test record since 2000 (inclusive of GBM since you insist on dragging that into the discussion even though the original post was about Aegis BMD):
    Overall Test Record:
    • Across all programs, 38 of 48 “Hit-to-Kill” intercept attempts have been successful since 2001
    • 14 of 16 “Hit-to-Kill” intercepts have been successful since 2007
    Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense: 17 of 21 intercept attempts, 4 failures since tests began in 2002 (7 of 9 in tests involving the operationally configured interceptor)
    • Includes two Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) blast fragmentation, non hit-to-kill intercepts using a proximity-fuzed explosive to destroy target
    • Causes of Failures:
    -FM-5 – Interceptor divert control malfunctioned
    -FTM-11 – Fire-control malfunctioned because of operator error
    -Pacific Blitz exercise – One target was intercepted, another was missed; all interceptors were version Block I missiles that had exceeded their service life
    -JFTM-2 –Interceptor flew normally until final seconds; cause not yet determined
    Ground-based Midcourse Defense: 8 of 13 intercept attempts, 1 “no-test” since tests began in 1999 (3 of 3 tests involving the operationally configured interceptor)
    • Causes of Failures:
    -IFT-4 (18 Jan 00) –Kill vehicle’s infrared sensor cooling malfunctioned–the only malfunction thus far in final “endgame” period before intercept
    -IFT-5 (8 Jul 00) –Kill vehicle and booster did not separate
    -IFT-10 (11 Dec 02) –Kill vehicle and booster did not separate
    -IFT-13c (15 Dec 04) –Interceptor failed to launch due to problematic software configuration
    -IFT-14 (14 Feb 05) –Interceptor failed to launch after a silo support arm did not retract, triggering an automatic abort
    • FTG-03 (26 May 07) was a “no test” because the target malfunctioned after launch; interceptor was not launched)
    Terminal High Altitude Area Defense: 6 of 6 intercept attempts, 2 “no-tests” (all tests involve the operationally configured interceptor)
    • Current test program began in 2006
    • No-tests: FTT-04 and FTT-10 had targets malfunction after launch

    3. Bombers get shot down, subs can be sunk, missiles destroyed in silos and malfunction in flight, ITW/AA radars can be jammed or destroyed – guess we shouldn’t deploy a nuclear deterrent either;

    4. I’m well acquainted with the hard-minded oppostion’s claims about testing – just as I am well acquainted with the current test programs for all systems and understand the complexities and challenges if simultaneously fielding and developing a system (or systems if you will). Not saying it is perfect – far from it. One of the challenges is that target missiles have to be built to conditions that replicate the threat, something I’m sure you would agree should be part of the test program, correct? Tell me – how familiar are you with the INF Treaty? Familiar enough to know that it directly impacts our ability to build target missiles in the extended MRBM-IRBM range? That in order to build target missiles for the GBM system that they have to be cobbled together from other systems, some of which are long-since decommissioned since new missiles cannot be manufactured? It’s not quite like finding an F-4 and converting it into a drone. Look at the list above again at the number of test failures caused by target failures. The (non)BMD advocates usually don’t break those out of the numbers they cite. Should there be decoys and penaids added to the targets? Sure – at a reasonable point in the program since the threat will evolve to include those – but the (non)BMD advocates argue that “realistic” tests should have been conducted from the start, violating every precept of testing we use with other systems.

    Finally – how about another read of the original article above, this time without your anti-NMD glasses on. Show me where I said Aegis BMD was the “be all” BMD for national defense”. While you are at it – why not do a little research and reading on layered defense too? And the threat? And the process and policy decisions by both parties and the previous two Presidents that brought us to this point? Plenty to be found out there that is more current than just that one site/organization you reference – unclassified to boot. Here – if you don’t mind downloading and reading a PDF, is the 2006 report from NASIC on the ballistic and cruise missile threat: 2006 NASIC Report . There really is no excuse in this age for being unaware of material on this topic with the wealth of material, of all stripes, out there for the research. It just requires time, research and analysis.

    I don’t mind discussion or debate – I welcome it. I don’t mind honest disagreement. Eleven posts in and only then do you finally admit that you are talking about NMD – that’s being upfront about your position, isn’t it?

    What chaps me is when someone enters the room and parrots talking points, having obviously not read/listened to the conversation preceding and does so with little apparent understanding of the subject at hand – your own statements belie fundamental misunderstanding of capabilities and employment.

    So with that, I’m finished with this thread that you have attempted to hijack. Flail away at your own pleasure if you like, but I think the rest of the audience has passed their own judgment on the validity and viability of your arguments and as for myself – I have other items to spend my time on.

  • Byron

    SJS, I figured it out about 3 days ago. I guess you’re more hard-headed than myself 🙂

  • James


    Gee, sorry for the hijacking of the blog, I hadn’t realized that this was my intention, especially when I was talking about how the threat to the country would come in via it’s ports and borders, I mean, really, what did you think I was talking about?

    Unfortunately BMD systems are conflated with NMD, and in fact many advocates of tactical BMD would like to make the case that their programs would indeed suffice for a national program if for no other reason than continuing a funding streat.

    As for the CRS, that only addresses Aegis. As for Aegis being the be-all of BMD program I’m not sure that I accused you of that, I think the point I made was that Aegis couldn’t be such for the reasons I laid out and as such shouldn’t be considered for that role, but then you apparently agree with me there so …

    Your listing of tests is great, but of course to the main point I was getting at, that NMD hasn’t been tested in accordance with DoD’s own testing procedures, that’s not addressed, I merely get something about problems with targets and, of all things,
    the INF treaty. If I’m not mistaken there was an anti-missile defense treaty, too, and that didn’t seem to be getting in anyone’s way.

    As for the following: “Bombers get shot down, subs can be sunk, missiles destroyed in silos and malfunction in flight, ITW/AA radars can be jammed or destroyed – guess we shouldn’t deploy a nuclear deterrent either” – that’s silly, and I would expect a bit more from someone who takes himself as seriously as you do. No, none of that could all happen to the triad this country relies on, which is why nuclear deterrence is so wonderful if you’re going actually use it.

    Thank you for the NASIC report.

    And I’ll leave it at that, my ignorance of the subject matter apparently doesn’t make for a discussion here or at least with you, and God forbid anyone more ignorant about this subject than me – which would make for a hell of a lot people.

    All the best,


  • Grampa Bluewater


    I humbly beg your pardon. Old coots get their dander up a mite too fast sometime.

    Apply my muttering to the guy you were picking the bone with by your now better understood (by me anyway)remarks.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Nice juicy arguments later on in the thread, very helpful to us superannuated old codgers in understanding the issues and non issues. Thanks.