On March 26/08, the USA’s GAO audit agency released report #GAO-09-466T:
“Defense Management: Key Challenges Should be Addressed When Considering Changes to Missile Defense Agency’s Roles and Missions.” Key excerpt:
“To date, MDA has spent about $56 billion and plans to spend about $50 billion more through 2013 to develop an integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System [including] defensive components such as sensors, radars, interceptors, and command and control… While MDA’s exemption from traditional DOD processes allowed it to quickly develop and field an initial ballistic missile defense capability, this approach has led to several challenges… (1) Incorporating Combatant Command Priorities… (2) Establishing Adequate Baselines to Measure Progress… (3) Planning for Long-Term Operations and Support…”
The US GAO has changed its name from “Government Accounting Office,” but the mentality remains. That does not make its reports wrong by any means, but it is worth taking into account as a consistent lens. See the report’s main page, full PDF version, and accessible text versions online.
On April 6/09, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates did something unusual: he convened a press conference to announce key budget recommendations in advance. That’s a substantial departure from normal procedure, in which the Office of the President’s submitted budget is the first official public notification of key funding decisions. Gates’ departure was done with full official approval, however, as the Pentagon and White House begin their efforts to convince Congress.
That’s likely to be a difficult task. Congress (the US House of Representatives and Senate) has full budgetary authority within the American system, subject only to the threat of Presidential veto. In the past, this has kept a number of programs alive despite the Pentagon’s best efforts to kill them. Sometimes, that stubbornness has improved America’s defense posture. Sometimes, it has done the opposite. For good or ill, that process has now begun. Again.
Gates’ announcement, made in the presence of Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, USMC, aims to make significant changes to America’s defense programs. Several would be ended or terminated. Others would be stretched out over a longer period. Still others will gain resources.
A lot has been written in recent years about the improvements in air-air missiles. Short-range air-air missiles (SRAAMs) have received particular attention due to their vastly improved wide-angle seekers, computer processor improvements driven by Moore’s Law, and the ability to pull several times more ‘gs’ than manned fighter aircraft when maneuvering. Some analysts now believe that close-in aerial combat may at last be threatening to fulfill missile engineers’ old claims of “see, fire, and kill” – a development that would make cheap aircraft with new missiles a very significant threat, if true. Medium range AAM (MRAAM) designs have also made significant strides in performance.
How big are these strides? Normally, hitting a missile in the atmosphere or in the lower echelons of space requires large mid-course interceptor rockets, or theater defense missiles like IAI/Boeing’s Arrow 2 or the USA’s THAAD, or the naval SM-3. But what if all the energy required to get off the ground and up to speed was already taken care of, line of sight was expanded considerably by being at altitude, and the defensive missile could be moved very close to the enemy launcher? If that was true, could you take an in-service medium range air-air missile (MRAAM), turn it into a 2-stage rocket with a complementary infrared seeker from an in-service SRAAM, and use it as a first line of defense to counter, say, a ballistic missile during its early launch phase?
Raytheon, and the US Missile Defense Agency, think the answer may be “yes.” Allied pilots in Desert Storm could sometimes see Iraqi SCUD missile launches – but in 1991, they were powerless to do anything about them. By 2006, technology had advanced enough that Raytheon and the US MDA introduced NCADE, the “Network Centric Airborne Defense Element.” Its potential may be even greater than its sponsors have considered…
The NCADE Proto-Program, and How It Works [updated]
As oil prices remain high, and natural gas has become a critical fuel for Europe, Russia’s strategy for geopolitical action and leverage has revolved around energy. After the disastrous collapse of communist Russia’s illusion economy, high energy prices are lifting the Russian economy – and with it, available funds for Putin to spend on military modernization.
Russia’s military has declined from 4 million men to 1.1 million, and the vast majority of its equipment consists of holdovers from the Soviet Union. During the 1990s, weapons procurement was almost completely halted; indeed, there were frequent reports of Russian soldiers in uniform, begging in the streets. Times have changed, and Russia’s military is set to change and modernize. The invasion of Georgia shows a Russia that is once again prepared to use military power beyond its borders. Budgets are rising, and will rise further.
The question is whether Russia’s industry and political system can keep up…
AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars offer a number of improvements over previous-generation technologies. They are more sensitive. They have better operational “uptime” because moving parts are eliminated, and the failure of one module doesn’t take the entire radar off line or leave it useless. They are also far better at handling large numbers of targets. AESA radars can do many things at once by just dedicating groups of transmit/receive (T/R) modules to each task, instead of switching rapidly between targets to simulate multi-tasking. Among other abilities.
The challenge for AESA radars has been cost, specifically the cost of the thousands of individual T/R modules that make up an AESA array. In July 2008, Raytheon produced a release regarding a variant technology called AESLA, an Active Electronically Scanned Lens Array radar. Their approach was aimed at improving the cost of an AESA radar’s T/R modules, a move that could have industry-wide significance if successful.
To find out more, DID talked to Joe Smolko, Raytheon’s program manager for the AESLA effort.
Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Woburn, MA received a maximum $400 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract to support the design, development, and activation of a European-based mid-course radar for ballistic missile defense. Work will be performed at the contractor’s facility and in Europe, and is expected to be complete by February 2013. This is a sole source award by the US Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL is the contracting activity (HQ0147-08-D-0001).
This effort will be accomplished through task orders, each with distinct scope and pricing. Subject to final negotiations, the X-band radar will be located in the Czech Republic. It is related to the $80 million July 2007 award to Boeing for a missile defense complex.
April 15/08: Initial award and task order. The first task order will use FY 2008 research and development funds of $5.3 million, and will be limited to site surveys, studies, analysis, planning, design, and similar activities specifically permitted in section 226(d) of the FY08 National Defense Authorization Act. Additional activities necessary to this deployment will be conducted by or through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. See also Raytheon release.
In December 2003, Japan decided to upgrade their 4 existing Kongo Class AEGIS Destroyers and their SPY-1D radars to full AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense capability. Installations are scheduled for 2007 through 2010, and each installation will be followed by a flight test to demonstrate proper operation. They will fire the naval SM-3 Standard missile, which is under co-development as part of cooperation with the USA on missile defense. These ships will form the outer layer of Japan’s anti ballistic missile shield, with the land-based Patriot PAC-3 forming the point defense component.
It would appear that the first-of-class ship JS Kongo [DDG-173] is also the first Japanese ship to have the BMD upgrade installed. Cue the flight test, as JS Kongo becomes the first Japanese ship to destroy a ballistic missile. On Dec 17/07 at 12:05 pm Hawaii time, a medium-range ballistic missile target was fired from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. JS Kongo responded by tracking it and launching an SM-3 Block 1A missile at 12:08 pm. At 12:11pm, it destroyed the missile about 100 miles above the ocean, achieving a first for Japan and the 12th successful intercept overall for the SM-3 ABM program. The American cruiser and ABM test veteran Lake Erie [CG 70] monitored the test, tracking the incoming missile with its own AEGIS BMD and exchanging information with a land-based THAAD ABM unit on Kauai.
In light of a recent ballistic missile intercept by a Japanese destroyer, US Missile Defense Agency chief Lt. Gen. Henry (Trey) Obering is quoted by Aviation Week as saying it is time to incorporate more realism into the MDA’s testing process, now that basic intercepts have racked up a string of successes:
“What we have to do now is to turn our attention to make sure we can fully wring out the system in a variety of operational and realistic scenarios. And that is what we will be doing over the next couple of years.”
There are both technical and political dimensions to that course of action.
The political situation in Israel around missile defense has always been more cohesive and certain than other countries. Japan is another such case, thanks to an emerging consensus after North Korea’s unstable leadership fired a ballistic missile directly over Japan. In Israel’s case, they are confronted by a regime in Iran that has openly threatened to wipe out the Jewish state several times, while preaching the moral value of suicide-murder and building ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons of their own.