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Multilayer missile defense: how the United States will defend against missiles

This post was published in Gazeta.ru. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – The US Missile Defense Agency plans to develop a layered architecture for the continental US missile defense against ICBM attacks. It must neutralize emerging threats and fill the gaps in the development of the next generation interceptor.

In February, the Missile Defense Agwncy (MDA), in its 2021 budget request, unveiled plans for a more tiered United States missile defense system, which will include regional missile defense systems already in place in the US Navy and Army. to strengthen the defense of the country from intercontinental ballistic missiles of a potential enemy.

The plan will include the creation of several layers of defense based on the Aegis Weapon System, especially the SM-3 Block IIA missiles used in this system, and the Aegis Ashore system, which is expected to be deployed soon in Hawaii.

The lowest level of defense will include anti-missile systems such as THAAD. The US ground forces have already received THAAD batteries in South Korea and Guam.

Such a multi-tiered approach would buy time while the Pentagon is trying to adopt a new missile defense system designed to replace the aging GBI interceptors, writes Defense News.

The Ground-Based Interceptor missile is part of the GMD complex and is designed to destroy ICBM warheads in near-Earth space using the so-called kinetic interception. GBI is a three-stage solid-propellant launch vehicle designed to launch a kinetic interceptor into near-earth space – the main damaging element of the system.

GMD – Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a US strategic missile defense system designed to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles and their warheads in outer space outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Earlier, the US military department abandoned plans to modernize them.

Because MDA’s budget request for a multi-tiered missile defense plan still lacks the necessary details, the US Congress is pressured the agency to develop a strategy and approaches for implementing such an architecture, and presented similar considerations in both the House of Representatives and the US Senate in in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2021 fiscal year.

Much depends on the success of the upcoming test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile, MDA chief Vice Admiral John Hill said on August 18 during a virtual Heritage Foundation event. In the recent past, several unsuccessful tests have been associated with this anti-missile.

“We are going to focus on the SM-3 Block IIA, and beyond the original performance characteristics of this missile. It was developed as a medium and intermediate range weapon. Now we set the task of combating intercontinental ballistic missiles. The analysis says we will succeed, but nothing will be real for any of us until we get empirical data on target hitting at the maximum range of this missile,” Hill said.

According to Hill, during the planned tests, firing will be carried out, including at various ranges, and will use the same type of target missile, simulating ICBMs, which was used in the last test of the GMD missile defense system.

Although the test is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, coordination and travel issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly impact the test preparation schedule and the tests themselves, Hill said.

When the pandemic broke out, the United States was ready to “go to the Pacific Ocean to carry out Flight Test Maritime-44. “The target rocket is at a training ground in the Pacific Ocean and is ready to launch,” Hill said.

After the FTM-44, the US Missile Defense Agency would like to conduct another test of an anti-missile missile against a sophisticated ballistic target (SBC) that mimics a multi-charge ICBM, as opposed to the “simple” one that is planned to be used in the upcoming test. According to Hill, the C-Sec will have “many decoys and a lot of anti-missile defenses.”

According to the official, the success of the upcoming test does not mean that the work of MDA is complete. Depending on the new threats, appropriate upgrades will also be required, it will be necessary to certify the combat system and, together with the US Navy, determine where the ships with the Aegis combat information and control system (CIUS) will be deployed.

The agency will also need to determine how quickly it can ramp up production of the SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Then “if we succeed with Aegis, we will go further with THAAD,” Hill added.

According to him, the second big problem after ensuring the operation of all structural elements of a multi-level missile defense system is to improve interaction between different layers of missile defense.

“Let’s just say the first stage is a naval ship off the coast as an addition to the GMD. These systems are available today, but so far nothing says about multi-layered defense,” Hill said.

“So if GMD, for example, decides that it is going to grant the missile defense ship the right to first launch and, in this regard, give it the target designation required in terms of accuracy, then we must have an appropriate communication network to practically do this. We must have an architecture with a combat control system, but in the context of multilevel defense and battle coordination,” the admiral added.

At the same time, ships with BIUS Aegis are already capable of coordinating interaction with each other. The work the Pentagon is doing to coordinate the THAAD missile defense system and the Patriot air and missile defense system is expanding to address this issue as well. But we still need to do this kind of engineering work.

“And while the multi-layered missile defense architecture to defend the United States is complex,“ you don’t have to tackle the whole problem all at once, Hudson Institute missile defense analyst Rebecca Heinrichs said at the Heritage Foundation event. But she warned that she foresees problems in creating such an architecture on the political front, and not on the technical side of the issue.

“Congress always wants to test things like this. Therefore, even if Congress demanded that the SM-3 Block IIA test be carried out, many different kinds of details emerge each time – where, when, and to what extent. The point is that this is a political challenge that requires a lot of controversy and talk,” added Rebecca Heinrichs.

As Gazeta.Ru previously wrote, the unsuccessful interception of the Raytheon SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile in January 2018 entered the top 10 military events of the year according to Defense News. Nevertheless, this anti-missile missile differs from previous products in higher tactical and technical characteristics. Due to the use of a new propulsion system, the SM-3 Block IIA should reach speeds of up to 4-4.5 km / s. The firing range of the anti-missile missile will be increased to 2500 km.

In addition to multilayer missile defense, the United States intends to create a multilayer missile attack warning system. As Gazeta.Ru reported, the US space development agency plans to deploy a large orbital constellation of LEO satellites in 2022 to detect and track maneuvering hypersonic cruise missiles (GZKR), which, according to the Pentagon’s forecasts, will be adopted by China and Russia in the near future. future.

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