America faces near-peer challenges from Russia and China, which possess modernized complex offensive capability in ballistic missiles, anti-satellite technology, hypersonic glide vehicles, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Within the next four years, North Korea and Iran will have solid-fueled mobile missiles, multiple re-entry vehicles and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that will challenge in quantity and capability currently deployed U.S. missile defense systems.
While China’s modernized ballistic and cruise missile arsenal puts Okinawa, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Guam at risk, Russia successfully demonstrated its modernized UAS, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and cruise missile capacity in combat in Ukraine and Syria.
Russia’s success highlights the vulnerability of U.S. Army’s Combat Brigade Teams, which lack adequate maneuverable air defense capabilities in the European theater. China’s sophisticated weapon systems exploit our vulnerabilities and restrict U.S. and allied freedom of movement in the Asia-Pacific region. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile testing and proliferation has to be accounted for by having capability to defeat these systems.
The United States requires a new policy and a new vision to develop, acquire and deploy new technologies; modernize current systems; and increase current capability to defeat these threats in air and space and during the boost, midcourse and terminal phases of their flights. We must develop and deploy a seamless continuum of layered “right-of launch” defensive capabilities and “left-of-launch” offensive capabilities. Missile defense “hit to kill,” directed energy, and electronic attack capabilities should be integrated, also using electronic and cyber means to effectively disrupt the opponent’s C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance).
The base for this architecture consists of a global persistent distributed air- and space-based missile defense system that is fused together and merges U.S. regional and homeland defenses to enable the best interceptor to engage from the best sensor. For this, an architecture based on a global network of discriminating sensors from commercial satellites, U.S. Air Force satellite constellations, air- and terrestrial-based sensors should be established to gather mass persistent awareness and discrimination for targeting for all interceptor systems.
Greater efficiency and effectiveness can be proved by a multi-mission interceptor system that can support multiple layers using different defensive intercept technologies on a single platform that is transportable and mobile. New intercept technologies that reduce the cost of intercept need to be highly funded, developed and deployed, with emphasis on electronic attack for mass soft kill, and directed energy, especially on UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) for boost phase and hypervelocity powder guns for point defense.
Maximizing current missile and air defense capability in both quantity and modernization is needed to introduce “distributed lethality” on 200 ships, increasing our homeland defense to 100 GBIs (Ground-Based Interceptors) with a combination of transportable launchers and multiple object kill capabilities on each kill vehicle; operationalizing the full air and missile defense capabilities of all U.S. Aegis Ashore sites and Aegis BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships capable of defense against ICBMs in the terminal phase; development of 10 THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) systems with multiple operational deployments in EUCOM (European Command), PACOM (Pacific Command), and CENTCOM (Central Command); and an available Global Response Force and two additional Patriot battalions.
U.S. allies should be encouraged and incentivized to invest and integrate their homeland defense systems with U.S. air and missile defense platforms, allowing for interoperability between U.S. and allied defense systems and creation of a comprehensive joint air and missile defense architecture.
An investment of $10 billion to $12 billion a year over the next five years — close to 2 percent of our defense budget in this domain — can bring forth a clear and effective defense of the United States and its allies from near-peer adversaries and rogue nations.
Peace through strength and defensive technology, breakthrough capability and capacity brings forward more options to resolve, deter and win the battle environment for the president of the United States of America and U.S. allies.
• Riki Ellison is founder and chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a nonprofit organization launched in 2002 to promote evolution, development and deployment of missile defense. Since its founding, the MDAA has grown to more than 14,000 members worldwide and is viewed as the top lay expert voice on missile defense.