MDA Lists Allegations Against Missile Defense Systems And Gives Response To Criticism

By | May 5, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

Following is a synopsis by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) of allegations, or "Statements," that critics have made against various ballistic missile defense programs, and the MDA response to each allegation. This document was presented by MDA to the House Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) Committee national security and foreign affairs subcommittee last week.


"Statement: The threat from ballistic missile attacks has gone down since 2001, not up.

Philip Coyle, Center for Defense Information, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: Today, there are 26 countries with ballistic missile capabilities, compared to 9 in 1972. Roughly 120 ballistic missile launches occurred in 2007 alone. The cost of one nuclear or weapon of mass destruction (WMD) attack could reach into tens of billions in damage to our country and our allies, not to mention the loss of thousands of lives.

Statement: There will be little justification for the BMDS if diplomacy succeeds and North Korea gives up its ballistic missile arsenal. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR)

Response: North Korea could be one of several potential adversaries with ballistic missile capabilities. New ballistic missile threats could emerge at any time. Missile defense accomplishes multiple goals: 1) Removes U.S. vulnerability to ballistic missile attacks. 2) Devalues ballistic missiles by creating doubt in the minds of potential adversaries about their capabilities. 3) Preserves U.S. freedom of action. 4) Reassures our allies.

Statement: North Korea and Iran will launch multiple ICBMs, not just one. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: Both Iran and North Korea have conducted exercises in which they have launched multiple ballistic missiles with varying ranges. Each ICBM launch, however, is unique due to its trajectory and would represent a separate missile defense engagement. The BMDS is capable of intercepting multiple ICBM warheads from North Korea or Iran if required.

Statement: The ballistic missile threat today is limited and changing relatively slowly.

There’s every reason to believe that it can be addressed through measured military preparedness and aggressive diplomacy. The most serious threat the U.S. and her allies face are the short-range missiles confronting us in various theaters of operation, not the long-range missiles that are the focus of the bulk of the anti-ballistic missile budget. (Joseph Cirincione, Ploughshares Foundation, March 5, HOGR Hearing)

Response: Russia, China and North Korea continue to sell missile technologies for revenue and diplomatic influence. China continues to assist Iran in creating self- sufficient ballistic missile capabilities, supplying dual-use items, missile guidance systems and solid-fuel missile technology to Iran.

North Korea: Development of the Taepo Dong 2, which has the potential to reach the continental United States with a nuclear payload, continues despite a failed July 2006 test launch. North Korea also continues work on an intermediate range ballistic missile.

Currently, North Korea has 600 to 800 deployable SRBMs and MRBMs.

Iran: Iran has the largest force of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, several hundred SRBMs and Shahab-3 MRBMs. Iran continues its efforts to develop and acquire ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and central Europe. It has reportedly acquired, from North Korea, a version of the IRBM that North Korea is developing. Iran has made several claims in the press in 2008 describing its continued efforts at developing an indigenous space program as well [as] longer range and more capable ballistic missiles. With continued foreign assistance, Iran could have an ICBM capable of reaching the US as early as 2015.

China: China currently has less than 50 ICBMs capable of targeting the United States; however the number of ICBM warheads capable of reaching the United States could more than double in the next 15 years, especially if MIRVs are employed. The CSS-10 Mod-X-2 (DF-31A) ICBM can strike the continental United States and is joining China’s operational inventory along with the less-capable DF-31. Other future ICBMs could include some with multiple, independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Beijing continues to develop new SRBMs, MRBMs, and IRBMs, and has fielded approximately 900 mobile SRBMs to brigades opposite Taiwan, increasing at a rate of over 100 missiles per year.


Statement: "We have never, in the history of the last 20 years, had a realistic test of any of these systems [BMDS], the kinds you describe, that it’s flown up against what we would actually expect even a primitive country to deploy, like North Korea or Iran." (Cirincione, March 5, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We have conducted multiple flight intercepts that have demonstrated the capability of the BMDS to intercept likely ballistic missiles from Iran or North Korea. Our latest test in September 2007 was a successful long-range flight intercept of a threat representative target. This test used operational infrastructure, operational fire control software, operational radars, and operational crews.

Statement: In early GMD tests, MDA flew the interceptor away from the sun and "over its shoulder" so that the sun was not shining into the "eyes" of the interceptor. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: These early flight tests supported our proof-of-concept program for GMD. Since the 2002 decision to field, we have conducted hardware-in-the-loop ground tests where the systems ability to overcome flying directly into the sun has been demonstrated.

Statement: MDA has only conducted 2 successful flight tests in the last five years. It will take MDA about 50 years to conduct the 20 necessary successful flight tests to meet the requirements for realistic operational testing. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: MDA testing plan is approved by DOT&E — it is event driven, not schedule driven. In order to analyze the data from each test and roll the results into the next test, we can only conduct two intercept tests per year. DOT&E/OTA support the use of ground tests and models and simulations to further validate BMDS performance.

Statement: MDA has only conducted five GMD tests in the last five years, 3 of which failed, a success rate of 40 percent. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: Since 2002, we have conducted 9 GMD flight intercepts of which:

-6 have been successful

-1 intercept missed because the EKV did not separate

-2 tests were no launches – intercept capability not tested

-We also had one no test due to a target failure

Statement: MDA has not included countermeasures or decoys in its tests over the last five years. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: As the BMDS matures, MDA pushes the limits of system performance in modeling and simulation and increasingly complex flight tests – crawl, walk, run approach to testing. After demonstrating the EKV and booster performance, we focused on intercepting a threat representative target, which did not include the use of countermeasures. The next long-range flight intercept (FTG-04) will include countermeasures.

Statement: MDA has not conducted an intercept test in bad weather, at night, or when the sun is shining in a disadvantageous position. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We have conducted and will continue to conduct day and night engagements.

There are no scheduled tests that include testing under adverse weather conditions because of data collection and range safety. We are increasing the complexity of each test within range safety parameters.

Statement: MDA has not tested against an enemy reentry vehicle that is spin-stabilized to minimize its radar-cross section. The agency also has not launched an interceptor from Kwajalein at a target from Kodiak to simulate a long-range flight intercept more closely resembling a real ICBM trajectory. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We pay close attention to potential adversary countermeasure development and improvements in the performance of adversary offensive weapons. We tested against spinstabilized reentry vehicles throughout early development and more recent tests. GMD plans to conduct a long-range flight intercept in FY09 (FTG-06).

Statement: MDA has not practiced its shoot-look-shoot CONOPs during its flight tests.

The agency also has not launched multiple interceptors at multiple targets. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We have conducted multiple engagements by Aegis BMD when the ship engaged two SRBMs. THAAD will engage multiple targets in FTT-12 (2009). GMD has no plans to conduct a flight test with multiple targets because of cost and because the targeting and launch of each interceptor is treated by the fire control as an independent engagement. We conduct multiple ground tests and use models and simulation to test the performance of the interceptor in salvo-like engagements.

Statement: The countermeasures and decoys used in the first five tests didn’t resemble the target reentry vehicle and the defender was provided advance information on how both the mock enemy target and the balloons would appear to the kill vehicle sensors. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The countermeasures used in early testing were designed to match to certain specific characteristics of the RV they accompanied – the characteristics are classified. Early testing was focused on proving the viability of hit-to-kill technology in midcourse. Today, the system does not have knowledge of the target that it will face.


Statement: Shooting down an enemy missile armed with decoys and countermeasures is like shooting hole-in-one when the hole is going at 17,000 mph and the green is covered with black circles the same size as the hole – in other words, the defender has no idea what to aim for. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We proved this was possible in five intercept tests from 1999 to 2002 using the prototype of the current interceptor kill vehicle. The interceptor currently deployed is more advanced than the earlier models, providing even more capability against the type of countermeasures we would expect from countries like North Korea or Iran. We plan to test against targets armed with countermeasures in our next GMD flight intercept (FTG-04).

Future capabilities like better algorithms, volume kill, birth-to-death tracking, and layered defenses will be key to defeating complex countermeasures.

Statement: The enemy can use reflective white paint that would cause the ABL laser to bounce off. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: ABL’s lethality analyses have been done on a variety of missile targets in varying configurations and paint schemes, including white paint. In the 1995 timeframe, full-scale tests were conducted at HELSTF using the MIRACL laser to validate these analyses; during these tests approximately half of the test targets were painted white. These tests were successful. The Agency is currently exploring the potential impacts of more advanced countermeasures as part of a classified activity.

Statement: The enemy can release infrared burning pellets that might confuse defensive infrared interceptors. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: A potential adversary may attempt to use counter-measures of this sort; however, such countermeasures are technically challenging and may be far too complex for most countries. The EKV has sensors other than infrared that can locate the enemy warhead.

Statement: The enemy can use radar absorbing materials on reentry vehicles to reduce their radar cross sections and make them more stealthy. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: Radar absorbing material would not prevent the EKV’s infrared sensor from finding the warhead. In addition, a potential adversary may attempt to use counter- measures of this sort but such work is very challenging and may be far too complex for most countries.


Statement: "This is close as we’ve ever come to an unconstrained budget, and I would say that we’re no further along in our ability to actually hit a real enemy missile now than we were 20 years ago. Some advances in sensors and guidance systems, but not significantly beyond where we were in the 1980s." (Cirincione, March 5, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We have made significant technical and scientific advances across the ballistic missile defense spectrum over the last twenty years. We have proven through robust testing that hit-to-kill technology works. MDA has developed the necessary sensors and discrimination technology that can discriminate and locate a threat-representative warhead.

We have fielded operationally-capable short- and long-range missile defenses. In the 1980s, we had not proven any of these developments were even possible. While our research and development activities conducted in that era continue to be of value today, we cannot overlook how much ballistic missile defense technology has advanced since then.

Statement: MDA hasn’t fixed the EKV anomaly that has persisted in the flight test program since 2001. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: We have developed software to mitigate this anomaly and flight tested it. The anomaly has never affected interceptor performance during seven successful intercepts. This software has proved very effective and has been uploaded onto our operational GBI fleet.

Statement: The Pentagon has not developed operational metrics/criteria for fielding the BMDS (e.g., Clinton criteria: threat materialization, status of technology, affordability, and implications on overall strategic environment). (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: In 2002, the President directed DoD to begin fielding ballistic missile defenses based on the following: 1) The threat is real and urgent. 2) The technology would soon be ready for fielding. 3) BMD would have a positive effect on international environment. This direction was consistent with the National Missile Defense Act of 1999.

Statement: Under Secretary AT/L Aldridge was mistaken when he said in 2003 that the projected BMDS would be 90 percent effective. The system still can’t provide that level of effectiveness even today. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The effectiveness of the BMDS depends upon a variety of factors including the launch point, the trajectory, range, and complexity of the enemy ballistic missile – actual numbers are classified. The warfighter has confidence that the BMDS will work against simple long-range threats. Effectiveness will increase as capabilities are added or upgraded.

Statement: The only way the SBX can track a baseball over San Francisco while located in the Chesapeake Bay is if the baseball is not moving and was standing still. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: This statement is not accurate. Not only can we tell whether or not the baseball is stationary, we can also tell whether or not the baseball is spinning in flight.

Statement: The majority of BMDS assets are vulnerable to direct military attack including acts of terrorism. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The current CI threat perspective is that there are no known terrorist threats specifically targeting the BMDS. While BMDS assets are subject to direct military attack, the BMDS assets have been designated Security System Level "A" assets. This designation is assigned to assets that affect the U.S Strategic Capability and are afforded the highest security protection. The security architecture coupled with the Rules of Engagement by security forces enable us to provide adequate protection to all BMDS assets.

Statement: The primary purpose of the European Site is to defend U.S. radars in Greenland and the UK, not to defend Europe. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The European Site provides a 24/7 days a week defensive coverage for the European Site and augments existing U.S. defensive coverage against ballistic missile threats from the Middle East. In fact, the protection of Europe is why we are planning to use a 2-stage GBI – it has less burn time and can intercept earlier.

Statement: The EMR and the European Interceptor Site will be key targets. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The European Site will be able to provide protection against long-range threats to much of Europe and will supplement protection for the United States. The United States will provide additional defenses as needed to defend these sites, if warranted by a known threat.

Statement: The GBIs in Europe can be converted to offensive missiles – after all, they are based on a proven launch vehicle, the Pegasus. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The GBI only carries a kinetic warhead, not high explosives or any other type of offensive warhead. The GBI has never been integrated with an offensive weapons package.

The United States already maintains a very effective strategic deterrent force without regard to these ten defensive interceptors.

Statement: We don’t have much to show for the $120B that we have spent on missile defense so far (more money than what was spent on the Manhattan and Apollo projects). (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The current program has provided an initial defensive capability where none existed before in near record time. We can’t forget that the BMD program has been modified significantly several times since 1983 – many programs were started and never completed.

The BMDS has been used twice in less than 2 years in real-world situations to improve stability (July 2006) and safety (Feb 2008).

Statement: It is cheaper for the enemy to increase its offenses than it is for the defender to increase its defenses. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The consequences of even one nuclear, chemical or biological weapon attack makes our investment in ballistic missile defense worthwhile. Our missile defense system also reassures our allies and discourages proliferation.

Statement: STSS and SBIRS-High are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. (Coyle, April 16, HOGR Hearing)

Response: SBIRS-high is an Air Force Space Command managed program, not a MDA program. STSS is over budget by about $320M. However, we expect to launch our first two demonstration satellites later this year. An STSS operational constellation could provide much needed … global birth-to-death tracking capability.

Statement: "I believe that the ballistic missile defense program is the longest-running scam in the history of the Department of Defense….And if you leave this decision to the Joint Chiefs, they won’t spend anything near what this administration is requesting." (Cirincione, March 5, HOGR Hearing)

Response: The Missile Defense Agency was established in 2001 with the mission of protecting the U.S. homeland, deployed forces, and friends and allies from ballistic missiles of all ranges and in all phases of flight. Prior to MDA’s establishment, several independent but related missile defense programs existed within the Services. Individually these theater and national ballistic missile defense systems could not accomplish MDA’s mission.

Multiple, independent ballistic missile programs would have resulted in highly cost inefficient duplication, a lack of synergy, and prevented us from meeting the Secretary of Defense’s program direction.

To accomplish this mission, we needed an integrated system that could engage multiple threats in several regions across the globe. A militarily effective system also had to be layered, capable of engaging ballistic missiles in all phases of flight. Moreover, to reduce costs and increase capability, we needed to leverage the overlapping functions of the various missile defense programs, maximize performance, and use resources more efficiently. MDA has accomplished these goals and has developed and fielded ballistic missile defense capable of providing a limited defensive capability against ballistic missile threats.

The FY02 Defense Authorization required the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to annually review cost, schedule and performance goals, as well as the program plan for the Department’s missile defense programs. JROC concurred with MDA’s goals and plans for the development and procurement of the currently programmed BMDS. In addition, the BMDS remains at the top of the Integrated Priority List of the various combatant commanders."

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