Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Missile Defense

Missile Defense Budget Holds Steady

Eric Auner

The recently unveiled budget for the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) focuses on restoring confidence in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system while keeping other aspects of the Obama administration’s ballistic missile defense plans moving forward. The administration’s missile defense budget request for fiscal year 2015 came in at $8.5 billion, including $7.5 billion for the MDA, representing a stable funding level compared to previous years despite cuts in other parts of the defense budget.

Congress appropriated $7.6 billion for the MDA for fiscal year 2014.

In the March 4 press conference announcing the budget, MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring said that the MDA will invest approximately $100 million to “initiate the redesign” of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) kill vehicle, the part of the interceptor designed to seek out and destroy an incoming missile with a kinetic impact. A separate line item of around $26 million is devoted to “common kill vehicle technology,” which will be used to “breed the technologies and improvements” for the GBI kill vehicle and potentially other interceptors such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), Syring said.

The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test since 2008, and the two currently deployed versions of the GBI kill vehicle, the CE-I and CE-II, have failed to intercept targets in the three tests since then. Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said in recent remarks that the GBI system suffered from “bad engineering” due to an accelerated deployment schedule.

According to Syring, the MDA will resume intercept flight tests of the GMD system later this year.

The administration has a special interest in improving the performance of the GMD system after its decision in March of last year to cancel the SM-3 IIB interceptor, which was intended to supplement the GMD system as a means of defending U.S. territory from long-range missiles, and to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska in response to concerns about the threat posed by North Korean missiles.

Syring confirmed that the MDA still plans to deploy the additional GBI missiles by 2017.

In a March 12 e-mail to Arms Control Today, George Lewis, a physicist who is a senior research associate at Cornell University’s Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, characterized the system’s current reliability as “quite low” and said that the test programs for other missile defense programs, such as Navy’s sea-based Aegis air and missile defense system, show “clearly” that the reliability of the GBI missiles “can be significantly improved.”

Lewis said, however, that the debate over the GMD system is not just about the ability of the interceptors to function as intended. “The fundamental technical dispute between GMD supporters and critics is whether or not it is even possible to build a system that can deal with possible countermeasures,” such as inflatable decoys that may be difficult to distinguish from nuclear warheads in the vacuum of space, he said. Even with a better kill vehicle and improved capabilities to discriminate between real missiles and countermeasures, “this will almost certainly remain in dispute,” he said.

Some lawmakers continue to call for the construction of an additional GMD site on the U.S. East Coast. The MDA is currently conducting an environmental impact study and evaluating a number of locations, but has not decided to move ahead with construction of the site.

The MDA is also continuing to invest in the Obama administration’s regional ballistic missile defense systems, especially the European Phased Adaptive Approach. In his March 4 remarks, Syring said the United States still plans to deploy land-based Aegis Ashore sites, which are currently under construction and which the U.S. Navy will operate, in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018. The budget request includes more than $700 million for Aegis-related procurement, including additional copies of existing SM-3 interceptor designs IA and IB. It also would provide $263 million specifically for development of the SM-3 IIA version.

The fiscal year 2015 budget request includes approximately $96.8 million for cooperative programs with Israel. Last year, the administration requested about the same amount, and Congress appropriated $283.8 million. Much of the spending so far has enabled Israel to buy additional batteries and interceptors for its Iron Dome anti-rocket system, which is not a ballistic missile defense system but is nevertheless funded through the MDA budget. The request designates $175 million for Israel’s procurement for the Iron Dome program, down from $220 million appropriated for fiscal year 2014. The United States is cooperatively developing and producing other systems with Israel, including the Arrow-2, Arrow-3, and David’s Sling interceptors and associated sensors and other assets.

Although the recent budget request generally represents a continuation of established policies, some in Congress have suggested that the administration should return to the George W. Bush administration’s missile defense plans in eastern Europe in reaction to Russian actions in Crimea. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a recent statement that President Barack Obama’s ballistic missile defense policies had “collapsed” and that the administration should “engage in a full re-assessment of our missile defense posture in Europe with the purpose of restoring or expanding the installations cancelled in 2009.”

The Missile Defense Agency’s budget focuses on restoring confidence in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system while keeping other aspects of U.S. missile defense plans moving forward.

The "Cold Peace:" Arms Control After Crimea



Volume 5, Issue 5, March 20, 2014

As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.

American politicians and pundits have presented an array of policy response options, including intensified NATO military activities in Russia's "near abroad" and retreat from cooperative endeavors in U.S.-Russian arms control. At such times, there is a critical need for prudence, rationality, and historical perspective, and for avoiding actions that are counterproductive to the interests of the United States and our European allies.

Russia's actions certainly require a strong response, including international condemnation and measured sanctions against key Russian figures. The fragile new government in Kiev also needs assistance to put the country's economy on a more stable footing and to help counter any Russian efforts to intimidate Ukraine or seize additional territory.

However, U.S. policymakers should recognize that despite the severe differences with President Putin over Ukraine, it is clearly in the national interests of the United States to

  • scrupulously implement existing arms control treaty verification measures, which provide vital information and help to ensure compliance with treaty limits regarding Russian and U.S. military capabilities;
  • reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility and continue to seek further reductions in the still oversized nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States;
  • refrain from using strategic weapons to make political gestures;
  • redouble efforts to maintain dialogue between U.S. and Russian nongovernmental experts and organizations.

A Cold Peace, Not a New Cold War
It is also important to avoid facile comparisons with the four-decade-long, post-World War II confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. As Cold War veteran Jack Matlock, the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow during the Gorbachev era, recently observed, "The tensions between Russia and the West are [now] based more on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and posturing for domestic audiences than on any real clash of ideologies or national interests."

By the end of the second term of President George W. Bush, Russia's relationship with the United States and Western Europe was already troubled; Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 had cast a particular chill over a range of diplomatic undertakings. Although the Obama administration's "reset" in 2009 facilitated negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a new "Cold Peace" had settled over bilateral relations.

Today, Russia's behavior often appears to be driven by President Putin's interest in maintaining a strong grip on power inside Russia and to prevent more of the states of the former Soviet Union from integrating into the European economic and political sphere.

In contrast, the Cold War was a global struggle involving the near constant threat of a direct military confrontation and frequent proxy wars. Throughout much of the Cold War, more than 250,000 Soviet troops were positioned along the border of West Germany to seize isolated West Berlin and drive toward the English Channel. That border divided not only a nation, but two powerful military alliances, each possessing vast nuclear arsenals maintained on high alert and targeted against each other. At the time, many American politicians depicted a growing Soviet superiority--not only in conventional forces in Europe, but in continent-spanning strategic missiles and ballistic missile defense systems, which allegedly enabled Moscow to pose the threat of a disarming, first-strike attack on the United States.

The Cold War also demonstrated dramatically the extent of nuclear dangers in the ideologically driven confrontation between Moscow and Washington. Indeed, the world came far closer to a nuclear exchange in 1962 (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and in 1983 (following the Soviet shootdown of the Korea Airlines passenger plane and during NATO's "Able Archer" military exercises) than was publicly known at the time.

The striking dissimilarity between the present and that earlier era is captured by comparing the Cold War Soviet Threat Assessments of the U.S. intelligence community with its 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment, whose 27-page public summary did not even mention Russia's nuclear arsenal.

At the same time, there are two elements of conspicuous continuity between the past and present.

First, Washington and Moscow still possess huge nuclear arsenals, far larger than those of all other nuclear weapons states combined. These arsenals contain thousands of warheads--each one of which dwarfs the destructive power of those that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki--far more than are needed for any rational requirement of nuclear deterrence and beyond any possible utility for political leverage in the current crisis over Ukraine.

Second, as was the case during the Cold War, reducing nuclear dangers rightly trumps other issues. During the lowest points of the U.S.-Soviet relationship, arms control agreements helped prevent a complete collapse of bilateral communication. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty survived the Vietnam War and crises in the Middle East; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty survived the 1981 declaration of martial law in Poland and the 1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.

The conflicting interests of the United States and Russia in Ukraine or Syria today do not erase their joint interests in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons accidents or unauthorized nuclear weapons use, curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, securing vulnerable nuclear weapons usable material to avoid terrorist acquisition, and reducing their own costly nuclear arsenals, which still vastly exceed common-sense deterrence requirements. These and other common concerns make it imperative that Washington and Moscow continue pursuing efforts to achieve reductions in and limitations on nuclear weapons - independent of the health of the bilateral relationship at a particular point in time.  

Russia's provocative actions in Crimea and the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations certainly make the pursuit of a cooperative agenda even more challenging and there is more than a theoretical danger of backsliding. Yet, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union shared a common interest in reducing nuclear risks and found ways to overcome ideological differences to pursue joint initiatives and agreements designed to reduce those risks and strengthen strategic stability.

The rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine makes it difficult to offer a detailed formula for preserving and promoting advantageous U.S.-Russian arms control and nuclear security outcomes, but some general principles can be outlined:

Continue to scrupulously implement existing treaty verification measures. No matter what their differences on the Ukraine crisis, it is not in the interest of either the United States or Russia to suspend inspections required by New START or to otherwise walk away from a treaty, which establishes clear, verifiable limits on each side's strategic nuclear arsenal--a measure of stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship. Weakening the implementation of verification measures would simply reduce the confidence levels of national threat assessments, leading to higher "worst case" projections and increased strategic spending.

Furthermore, according to Part Five, Section IX of the Protocol of the New START Treaty, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections are "circumstances brought about by force majeure," which do not apply to political differences over events in Ukraine.

Continue to reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility. Even at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions, Washington can and should reduce spending for those nuclear weapons that have no utility as instruments of power in dealing with political crises like Ukraine. The new Quadrennial Defense Review says that the United States can cut strategic warheads by one-third below New START and still provide more than sufficient nuclear firepower to deter nuclear attack. Now is the time to avoid squandering tens of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons projects that the United States does not need and cannot afford.

Refrain from using strategic weapons to make aggressive political gestures. U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are not militarily useful for the defense of NATO allies. Some have recently suggested that such weapons should be deployed further east into the newer NATO members bordering on Russia. However, such action would be politically divisive inside the NATO Alliance and would likely provoke dangerous responses by Moscow.

Some have suggested accelerating the ongoing deployment of U.S. missile defenses to Europe under the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), reviving the "third-site" deployment of strategic missile interceptors to Poland, or deploying missile defense cruisers to the Baltic and Black Seas. Such moves would be extremely counterproductive, since they would seem to validate Russian suspicions that U.S. missile defenses in Europe have either been oriented against them all along, or at least would provide the infrastructure for rapidly adding a capability to threaten Russia's strategic deterrent.

Moreover, as the U.S. Government has continually insisted, none of the specific U.S. missile defense systems considered for deployment in Europe would be capable of defending Europe (or the United States) from Russian strategic forces.  NATO should therefore maintain its steady course in implementing the first three phases of the EPAA, which do not include defenses against ICBMs, in response to evolving missile threats from the Middle East. Moreover, NATO should articulate more clearly its readiness to adapt downward its EPAA deployments if no Iranian IRBM/ICBM threat materializes.

Redouble efforts to maintain "Track 2" dialogue between American and Russian interlocutors. At a time of strained relations between the U.S. and Russian governments, it is even more important to use unofficial channels of communication to better understand the differing national perspectives and to search for policy options that would constitute acceptable compromises by both sides. One such ongoing effort is the German/Russian/U.S. Commission on "Challenges to Deep Cuts in Nuclear Arms," www.deepcuts.org, which is scheduled to release an interim report in late April.

Above all, the United States and Russia need to maintain a realistic perspective about the limits of hostility imposed by the existence of each other's nuclear weapons and an active appreciation of the mutual benefits they are now enjoying from cooperative endeavors - such as the generation of electricity in the United States from Russian-supplied fissile material and the security provided by a northern route of supply (through Russia) for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When the current tensions subside, there will be other cooperative opportunities to exploit in the bilateral relationship and none will be more important for the world than finding the elusive path to mutual reductions in Cold War-sized U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.--GREG THIELMANN


The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.


As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.

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Missile Defense Tester Calls for Redesign

Tom Z. Collina

The Defense Department’s chief weapons tester called in January for the redesign of a key component of the U.S. system intended to intercept long-range missiles launched from North Korea or Iran, raising questions about the department’s plans to expand the current system.

J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, wrote in his annual report, released Jan. 29, that recent test failures of the U.S. ground-based interceptor (GBI) system raise concerns about the system’s reliability and suggested that the missile’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) be redesigned to assure it is “robust against failure.”

Echoing Gilmore’s view, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a Feb. 25 conference in Washington, “We’ve got to get to more reliable [missile defense] systems.” Merely “patching the things we’ve got is probably not going to be adequate. So we’re going to have to go beyond that,” he said.

The EKV plays a central role in the missile defense mission. It is lifted into space by a booster rocket and then uses its onboard sensors to locate an incoming enemy warhead and destroy it on impact. U.S. officials have compared the task to hitting a bullet with another bullet.

The currently deployed EKVs, built by Raytheon, have missed in their last three tests. One model, called the CE-II, failed its only two tests, both in 2010. An older model, the CE-I, failed last summer. Nonetheless, these same EKVs are now operationally deployed on 30 GBI missiles in Alaska and California, and the Pentagon announced last March that it would add 14 more missiles armed with the CE-II by 2017, if the next test, planned for this summer, is successful. (See ACT, April 2013.)

Deployment Decision

Based on Gilmore’s report, some are now calling on the Pentagon to delay expansion of the system until the new technology is ready. “Not another dime should be spent on more bad GBIs at Fort Greely [in Alaska] or anywhere else. Instead, a new GBI/EKV must be designed, built, and successfully tested to replace the old design,” former Pentagon testing director Philip Coyle said in a Feb. 11 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Although redesigning the system would likely take five years or more and delay the Pentagon’s plan to field more GBI missiles by 2017, missile defense supporters are reportedly worried that lawmakers might resist paying $1 billion to field interceptors with the troubled EKV on board.

Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a Feb. 11 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “the 14 additional interceptors will have the second-generation [CE-II] kill vehicle. At this point in time I know of no changes to this plan.”

According to congressional staffers, it is no secret that the GBI EKV needs to be redesigned and that the MDA and Congress support that goal. They said that Congress fully funded the administration’s $70 million request for the Common Kill Vehicle program in the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014. The aim of that program is to build a common EKV for the missiles in the GBI system and the more successful Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), built by Lockheed Martin and now deployed on Navy ships equipped with the Aegis missile defense radar system. According to the MDA, the Common Kill Vehicle program is a continuation of the effort to develop an EKV for the SM-3 IIB, which was canceled last March and was meant to have some capability against long-range missiles.

In November, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon each received a contract from the MDA to develop designs for a common EKV. Development of a new EKV will cost $560 million over the next five years, part of a $4.5 billion increase that is expected for missile defense funding over that period, Reuters reported Feb. 7.

The congressional staffers said that there is bipartisan agreement that the Alaska expansion should go forward with the CE-II if the next test is successful. As one staffer said, “You can only field what you have in hand” even if there are plans to make it better in the future.

Eastern Sites Announced

Meanwhile, the Defense Department announced Jan. 31 that it would conduct environmental impact studies for four possible missile defense sites in the eastern United States, as directed by Congress, but that no decision has been made to construct a new site.

The four sites are Fort Drum in New York, SERE Training Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth in Maine, Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio, and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan. A site in Vermont was dropped from the original list released in September. (See ACT, October 2013.) The Pentagon said it would take about 24 months to complete the review process.

The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester has called for the redesign of a key component of the U.S. long-range missile interceptor system, raising questions about plans to expand it.

Week Ahead Feb. 8-14: Two nuclear conferences and a film festival

This bulletin highlights significant events in the world of arms control in the coming days, as compiled by staff and friends of the Arms Control Association. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today . Available in print/digital and digital-only subscriptions. -- the Editors at Arms Control Today Iran and IAEA to Meet on Feb. 8 Representatives of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will meet on Feb. 8 to discuss options for completing the agency's investigation into Iran's...

Russia Links Missile Defense, Iran Deal

Tom Z. Collina

The recent deal between six world powers and Iran to temporarily freeze Tehran’s nuclear program would eventually remove the main rationale for NATO’s missile defense plans, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December.

“Implementation of the Geneva agreement on Iran will remove the cause for construction of a missile shield in Europe,” Lavrov told a Dec. 19 news conference in Poland, where U.S. missile interceptors are planned to be installed by 2018. Lavrov was referring to an interim agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 by Iran and six global powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that are seeking to ensure Tehran does not develop nuclear weapons. The agreement adds a new twist to long-standing Russian arguments against U.S. and NATO plans to field missile defenses in central Europe.

In his comments, Lavrov was highlighting the U.S. contention that a Europe-based missile defense system was needed to counter the potential threat to Europe of a missile attack from Iran. U.S. President Barack Obama said in Prague in 2009, “If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

But current and former U.S. officials say that it would be premature to assume the Iran deal will succeed and that even if it does, that alone would not remove the threat from Iran. According to a Dec. 16 press statement by Defense Department spokesman Carl Woog, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, during a video teleconference earlier that day that the Iran deal does not obviate the need for the United States and its NATO allies to continue their current approach to missile defense in Europe. Hagel told Shoygu said that U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts do not threaten Russia, and he urged Moscow to continue consultations with Washington on missile defense cooperation, Woog said in the statement.

Ivo Daalder, U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, said in a Dec. 18 interview that the interim agreement starts a promising process but that “the outcome is not inevitable.” Even if the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon were removed, there would still be the threat from Tehran’s missiles, he said, which can reach southern Europe. But if both threats were eliminated, “I would not be surprised to see a new debate on this in NATO,” Daalder said.

In a separate Dec. 18 interview, a senior Republican Senate staffer said that, in the context of U.S. missile defense, Iran will maintain a capability to break out from any future nuclear agreement “faster than we can deploy missile defenses.” He said that existing U.S. plans to field up to 44 interceptors in Alaska and California are “enough for the current Iran situation,” but that if Tehran flight-tests a long-range missile, which it has not done, “that would be an indicator” to start new projects, such as a missile interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 19 that Moscow was considering the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads, in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea within striking distance of where U.S. missile defenses would be deployed in Poland.

“One of the possible responses [to Western missile defense plans] is to deploy Iskander complexes in Kaliningrad...but I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have not yet made this decision,” Putin said at a press conference, according to RT News.

Putin was contradicting press reports that the Iskanders already were in Kaliningrad, based on a Dec. 16 Russian Defense Ministry statement that “Iskander rocket complexes are indeed standing armed with the rocket and artillery divisions in the Western Military District,” which includes Kaliningrad.

Russia warned two years ago that it would put Iskanders in Kaliningrad if NATO were unable to convince Moscow that its missile defense plans were not a threat to Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, said in November 2011 that the missiles could be placed in the region to “secure the destruction of the European component of the U.S. missile defense system.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.) It is not clear whether the missiles are armed with nuclear or conventional warheads.

Russia has been seeking a legal guarantee that NATO missile interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s nuclear-armed, long-range ballistic missiles. NATO has refused, offering political assurances instead.

The Iskander-M, the version of the missile that may be deployed to Kaliningrad, has a range of up to 400 kilometers and is not banned by any U.S.-Russian treaty. It could potentially target ground-based radars and interceptors deployed at Redzikowo, Poland, a site 250 kilometers from Kaliningrad at which NATO plans to deploy interceptor systems by 2018.

Interceptors are also planned for Romania by 2015. Ship-based interceptors were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea in 2011, along with a radar in Turkey. Last March, the Pentagon canceled U.S. plans to field more-capable interceptors in Poland by 2020.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Nov. 5 in Warsaw that the plan to field the system in Poland by 2018 is “absolutely on target” and noted that officials had recently broken ground on the site in Romania.

In the interview, Daalder said that the possible Russian action is less about missile defense and “all about Poland” because “Russia does not want NATO military capability” in the former Warsaw Pact country. Moscow is sending the message that “the threat to Poland will go up” if interceptors are fielded as planned, he said.

Moscow appears to be much more concerned about U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe than actual interceptor deployments in the United States, which have a greater capability against Russian long-range missiles, Daalder said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program would remove the justification for NATO missile defenses.

Hill to Fix, Not Expand, Missile Defense

Tom Z. Collina

Congress voted in December to drop a controversial proposal to build a new missile defense interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast, agreeing instead to spend more to fix problems with the existing system, which has failed in its last three intercept tests.

The new policy is included in the final $625 billion National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 26. The legislation authorizes raising federal spending on missile defense by $358 million to $9.5 billion for the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30.

The final bill dropped a measure approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which called for spending $140 million on a new missile interceptor site on the East Coast. Instead, the final legislation authorizes $190 million to upgrade the existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to counter long-range ballistic missiles. The GMD system is currently operational at one site each in Alaska and California. That system, first deployed in 2004, had its last successful intercept test in 2008, failing twice in 2010 and again last July.

In interviews Dec. 16-17, senior congressional staffers from both parties described the new approach as a bipartisan agreement to upgrade the current system rather than build a new site. Given the problems with the GMD system, Congress has decided to “fix what we’ve got,” said one senior Republican staffer. He said that the administration’s initial budget request to Congress did not include enough money to fix the system’s inadequacies.

The House approved its version of the defense bill June 14 with a requirement that the Defense Department establish an East Coast missile interceptor site by 2018. The Senate version, passed by the Armed Services Committee on June 13, contained no such provision. The bill did not receive a vote by the full Senate.

Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), wrote to the Senate on June 10 that there was no military requirement for an East Coast site. Syring said he would rather invest funds in new sensors that could help the existing system distinguish real targets from fake ones. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

The system’s ability to tell the difference between real and fake targets is critical because an attacker’s warheads would likely come surrounded by debris and decoys. In congressional testimony last May, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said, “If we can’t discriminate what the real threatening objects are, it doesn’t matter how many ground-based interceptors we have; we won’t be able to hit what needs to be hit.”

Noting that Senate Republicans did not have the votes to mandate an East Coast site, the Republican staffer said that a new site should not be established until the system’s performance can be improved through upgrades to sensors and kill vehicles, the devices that sit on top of interceptor missiles and are supposed to collide with an enemy warhead in space. It is not clear that such upgrades would be achievable by 2018, according to the staffers.

To address Syring’s call for better sensors, the defense act authorizes $30 million as a down payment on the deployment of an additional “long-range discriminating radar” to track missiles launched from North Korea. The new radar would likely be located in Alaska, according to the congressional staffers. The act also says that the secretary of defense should be prepared to field additional sensors near the East Coast by 2019 if a future long-range missile threat emerges from Iran. Unlike North Korea, Tehran has not tested a long-range missile that could reach the United States, although it reportedly sent a monkey into space Dec. 14.

New Radar, Kill Vehicle

In addition to $30 million for the radar, the defense act authorizes $80 million to fix problems that caused the most recent GMD test failure last July, $50 million for better capabilities to distinguish real warheads from fake ones, and $30 million to develop a better kill vehicle. The act allocates $20 million for studying a possible new interceptor site on the East Coast.

Reflecting the MDA’s desire for a more reliable and capable kill vehicle, the act requires the agency to prepare a plan this May to “develop, test, and deploy” an upgraded kill vehicle to be fielded in 2018 or later that can pick out “lethal objects.” This effort is expected to eventually cost up to $150 million per year, according to the Republican staffer.

The Pentagon announced last March that it intends to increase the number of U.S. interceptors from 30 to 44 by 2017, with the additional 14 to be placed at Fort Greely in Alaska. Before that can happen, the interceptor must be successfully tested, according to the Defense Department. The next intercept test is planned for this spring. (See ACT, September 2013.) These additional 14 interceptors have already been purchased, so they would not include the proposed upgrades, the staffers said.

House Provisions Diluted

Like the requirement for an East Coast missile defense site, other aspects of the original House bill were watered down in the final version of the legislation. For example, the House bill would have blocked reductions required by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until the Pentagon submitted an implementation plan, and it said that reductions below the levels specified in New START could be carried out only under a formal treaty approved by Congress. Obama called for such reductions in a speech last June.

In contrast, the compromise bill allows the Pentagon to prepare for New START reductions, which do not have to be completed until 2018. In addition, the bill expresses only the nonbinding “sense of Congress” that further arms reductions “should” be “pursued through a mutually negotiated agreement” with Russia under the president’s “treaty-making power.”

The defense bill language authorizes about $30 billion more than Congress will be allowed to appropriate under the terms of a bipartisan budget agreement approved in December. Appropriators must decide which programs to cut back by Jan. 15, when the current budget agreement expires.

The final version of the defense authorization bill dropped House language calling for an East Coast missile defense site and boosted funding to improve interception technology.

Missile Defense Against Iran Without Threatening Russia

Jaganath Sankaran

All recent U.S. efforts after the conclusion of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to move ahead on bilateral nuclear arms reductions with Russia have stalled over Russian concerns regarding the capabilities of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as the Obama administration’s missile defense policy in Europe is formally known, and its effect on Russian nuclear retaliatory potential.

Since the early stages of the phased adaptive approach, Russian officials have cited it as an obstacle to further nuclear arms reduction. Last March, however, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a restructuring of the approach, canceling the planned implementation of its fourth phase, which had prompted the strongest Russian complaints.[1] The key feature of that phase was the deployment of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB interceptors in Poland. The SM-3 IIB, with a planned velocity of 5.5 kilometers per second, would have had the ability to fly further and faster than any other missile in the system.

Cancellation of the fourth phase has removed any capability that the fully deployed system would have had to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As described below, Russia should be able to independently verify that, under the restructured plans, the system will not be able to intercept Russian ICBMs even when fully deployed. At the same time, proponents of the phased adaptive approach can be confident that the cancellation of the planned deployment of the SM-3 IIB interceptors did not diminish the ability of the system to intercept Iranian missiles. This restructuring should now pave the way for more-productive U.S.-Russian negotiations on nuclear arms reduction.

The U.S.-Russian Discourse

The phased adaptive approach was originally viewed by many as an attempt to ease Russian concerns over the previous administration’s missile defense plans in Europe. In 2007 the Bush administration proposed deploying a ground-based midcourse defense system in Europe to defend against Iranian missile threats. That system would have included 10 interceptors in Poland, a radar in the Czech Republic, and another transportable radar deployed in a country close to Iran. This proposal raised strong opposition from Russia.[2]

On September 17, 2009, the Obama administration announced it would cancel the Bush-proposed European missile defense program. Instead, the plan was to develop and deploy a missile defense capability based on SM-3 interceptors on land and on ships equipped with the Aegis missile defense system. The interceptors to be deployed in a phased manner, adapting to the threat posed by Iran. Moscow initially welcomed this decision with caution.[3] As details on the phased adaptive approach emerged, however, Russia argued that this missile defense system still posed threats to Russian ICBMs. Russian political leaders have claimed that the phased adaptive approach, particularly the now-canceled fourth stage of the system involving advanced high-velocity interceptors and possibly advanced missile-tracking satellites, was a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent and a potentially destabilizing element.[4]

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Russia has asked for legally binding “military-technical” guarantees from the United States and NATO that the missile defenses that they are deploying in Europe will not be aimed against Moscow’s strategic nuclear forces.[5] The only publicly available explanation of what constitutes military-technical guarantees describes them as making certain changes to the algorithms of the operation of missile defense radars, refraining from bringing Aegis-equipped ships into areas that are in direct proximity to the potential trajectories of Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, stationing Russian observers at U.S. and NATO missile defense installations, and formulating a mechanism to monitor the implementation of such measures.[6]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that his government would contemplate further bilateral nuclear arms reductions only if the United States addressed concerns about the evolving ballistic missile system. “Russia is open to new joint initiatives” in arms control, Putin said in an August 2012 statement. “At the same time, their realization is clearly possible only on a fair mutual basis and if all factors affecting international security and strategic stability are taken into account.” Among the factors, according to Putin, is the “unilateral and totally unlimited deployment of a global U.S. missile defense system.”[7]

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, had expressed similar views. Speaking at the 2011 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries, Medvedev said, “If we do not reach an agreement by 2020, a new arms race will begin.”[8] He further suggested that “a European missile defense system can only be genuinely effective and viable if Russia participates in an equal way.”

Initially, the Kremlin had demanded that Europe be divided into two sectors, with NATO taking responsibility for providing missile defenses for one and Russia for the other. Under this arrangement, the two sides would have equal authority in decision-making for interceptor launches.[9]

The United States and other NATO countries did not agree to Russia’s proposals for such sectoral missile defense. Citing Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an attack on any member “shall be considered an attack against them all” and that each member “will assist” the attacked country, they claimed that NATO alone bears responsibility for defending the alliance from ballistic missile threats.[10]

The constant U.S. response to Russian claims of vulnerability has been that the interceptors to be deployed under the phased adaptive approach would not pose a threat to Russian missile forces. Responding to such concerns in late 2011, Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said, “We have worked at the highest level of the United States government to be transparent about our missile defense plans and capabilities and to explain that our planned missile defense programs do not threaten Russia or its security.”[11]

The United States has declined to engage in negotiations on any formal agreement with Russia on the phased adaptive approach. In March 2012, Ellen Tauscher, U.S. special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense, said Russia was seeking a “legal guarantee” with a set of military-technical criteria that would limit the ability of the United States to deploy future missile defense systems. Tauscher said Russia also was asking for data on when U.S. Aegis-equipped ships entered certain waters and when an interceptor achieved a certain velocity. The United States “will not accept limitations on the capabilities and numbers of our missile defense system” or on where it deploys the Aegis-equipped ships, she said. Those vessels are “multi-mission ships that are used for a variety of missions around the world, not just for missile defense,” she said.[12]

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has expressed a willingness to accept a political agreement affirming that U.S. missile defenses are not aimed at Russia. Tauscher explained that any such statement would be politically but not legally binding and would publicly proclaim Washington’s intent to work with Moscow in charting a course for cooperation on missile defense.[13]

Russia has continued to insist on a legally binding agreement with limits on U.S. missile defense operations. Such a legally binding agreement seems very difficult to achieve given the strong Republican animosity to it in Congress. The Senate resolution supporting ratification of New START, for example, specifically stated that the Senate would not accept any limitations on missile defense.

System Capabilities

Russian concerns, as well as the U.S. responses to those concerns, are closely tied to the location and capabilities of the various elements of the phased adaptive approach. Under that approach, interceptors would be stationed in phases on Aegis-equipped ships in the Mediterranean Sea and at land sites at Deveselu, Romania, and Redzikowo, Poland, to defend against a variety of current and future Iranian missile threats. The first phase of the approach is already in place with a command center in Germany, a forward-based radar in Turkey, and an Aegis-equipped ship with SM-3 IA interceptors deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. Phase II, consisting of SM-3 IB interceptors deployed in Romania, and Phase III, consisting of SM-3 IIA interceptors deployed in Poland, are to begin in 2015 and 2018, respectively (fig. 1). The previously planned fourth phase, consisting of the SM-3 IIB interceptors, was to be deployed in Poland.[14]

The major Russian concern with the system has been with the capability of the SM-3 IIB interceptors that were to be deployed as part of the fourth phase at the Polish site around 2022. The Russians have suggested that the interceptors would be able to intercept Russian ICBMs. Yet, modeling done by this author using minimum energy trajectories of the missiles and interceptors shows that interceptors at that site do not pose a viable threat to Russian ICBMs.[15] Under the original conception of the phased adaptive approach, an SM-3 IIB interceptor launched even with an idealized “zero time delay”—that is, immediately after the launch of the target ICBM—would be able to intercept Russian ICBMs from only five missile sites in western Russia. Modeling demonstrates that, even under these conditions, Russia would be able to launch its ICBMs from at least nine other launch sites without being intercepted.

In reality, interceptors can never be launched without some delay. It takes nearly 30 seconds for an ICBM to rise above cloud cover and for early-warning missile tracking satellites to recognize the launch of an ICBM.[16] After that, depending on the location of tracking radars, it can take as long as a couple of minutes for the system to calculate the point at which it will intercept the target missile. It seems that the closest radar that can track Russian ICBMs is the Fylingdales upgraded early-warning radar located in the United Kingdom. This radar would start tracking Russian ICBMs just as their powered flight ends, approximately three minutes after being launched.[17] Some Russian experts, however, have indicated that the Globus II X-band radar in the city of Vardo, Norway, which is much closer to Russia, also could be utilized in missile defense operations against Russia.[18] These Russian experts claim that the Norwegian radar will begin tracking Russian ICBM flight trajectories 140 seconds after launch.

In order to account for these real-world operational delays, the same modeling described above was repeated with a delay of 155 seconds. That time period was chosen because an additional time of at least 15 seconds is needed from the start of tracking (140 seconds) to calculate an intercept point and launch the interceptor. The interceptors in Poland have no capability to intercept Russian ICBMs with a time delay of 155 seconds. This would have been the case even if the SM-3 IIB interceptors were in place. Because of the distance of Russia from the Polish site, a time delay greater than 45 seconds would guarantee that interceptors from that site could not hit Russian ICBMs.

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The March 15 decision by the Obama administration to cancel the planned deployment of SM3-IIB interceptors, the fourth phase of the phased adaptive approach, has effectively removed any possibility that these interceptors based in Poland and Romania could be a threat to Russia. Russia, however, also has expressed concerns that Aegis-equipped ships with the SM-3 IIA interceptors, which have a velocity of 4.5 kilometers per second, located in the North Sea and the Barents Sea could pose a threat to its deterrent. Under a number of ideal and therefore unrealistic conditions, including immediate launch of the interceptors in response to the launch of the target missiles, ships located at these two positions would be capable of intercepting some ICBMs traveling on trajectories from Russia toward the United States. The threat dissipates again if one assumes a time delay of 155 seconds (fig. 2). Furthermore, during a real attack, Russia would be able to deploy multiple missiles and countermeasures that would make interception even more difficult. If the interceptors are not able to hit Russian ICBMs without taking these factors into account, as the modeling shows, then the interceptors will not be able to do so when they come into play in a real-world scenario.

Some experts within Russia support the argument presented above. In a number of articles, these experts have said that, in a hypothetical strike against U.S. territory, Russian ICBMs cannot under any circumstances end up within reach of the missile interceptors in Romania and that ICBMs from Kozelsk in western Russia can be intercepted by the missile interceptors in Poland only if they are aiming for the U.S. East Coast. Furthermore, these experts have said that other missile divisions in western Russia, such as those deployed at Vypolzovo, Teykovo, Tatishchevo, Yoshkar-Ola, and Dombarovskiy, could possibly be threatened only by ship-based missile defense systems from the waters of the Baltic, Barents, and Norwegian seas. Yet, the farther east the Russian missile division is located, the more hypothetical this threat becomes. According to these Russian analysts, inasmuch as it is the midcourse, or space, phase of ICBM trajectories that will pass over those seas, even the ship-based missile defense systems in present form are incapable of reaching these missiles.[19]

Although the cancellation of the planned deployment of the SM-3 IIB interceptors has removed the possibility that interceptors deployed under the phased adaptive approach would pose a threat to Russian missiles, it has not diminished the missile defense system’s primary mission of intercepting an array of current and potential future Iranian missiles (fig. 3). The restructured missile defense system would still theoretically be able to handle these Iranian missile threats, even if one factors in a comfortable amount of time for detecting and tracking them.

Moving Forward

The phased adaptive approach in its currently planned form would not have any effect on Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Nevertheless, a number of policy actions to ease Russian concerns have been suggested by experts in Russia and the United States. Giving Russia access to interceptor data, such as burnout velocity, is one of the prominent suggestions.[20] Given the now-reduced maximum velocity of the current system, however, it is not clear what data the United States could provide to the Russians that they could not discern on their own and that would provide them with a greater reassurance about the capabilities of the interceptors deployed under the phased adaptive approach. Russia possesses, among other means, its own early-warning satellites that it can use to monitor and estimate the characteristics of interceptors deployed under the phased adaptive approach.[21] Also, as described above, even under ideal conditions, the currently planned U.S.-NATO system does not pose any potential threat to Russia. Additional data are not needed to determine this.

It might be necessary to reassure Russia about the future evolution of U.S. missile defense systems in order to convince Moscow to engage in negotiations on further bilateral nuclear arms reduction. It is conceivable that Russia is concerned about the possibility of a very ambitious and hostile U.S. effort to employ missile defenses against it in the future. Earlier this year, Medvedev said, “We do not want next generations of politicians in 2019 or 2020 to take decisions which would open a new page in the arms race. But such a threat exists and everyone in Russia and the United States should understand this, that’s why we still have chances to come to an agreement.”[22]

In order for the phased adaptive approach to threaten Russia in a meaningful fashion in the future, not only would the United States have to deploy Aegis-equipped ships at difficult-to-operate locations such as the North Sea and Barents Sea, but it also would have to succeed in some of its ambitious plans for the development of space-based missile defense sensors.

In particular, the Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS) that was planned for launch in 2017 was touted as a sensor that would have been able to provide more-precise missile tracking much earlier in flight than current systems. If the PTSS sensors had been able to reduce interceptor response times to less than 155 seconds, the Aegis-equipped ships equipped with SM-3 IIB interceptors located in the North Sea and Barents Sea would have had the ability to intercept Russian ICBMs.[23] The PTSS, however, has been canceled because of its “significant technical, programmatic, and affordability risks.”[24] Without these advanced sensors, it would not be possible for the United States to reduce the time delays to values small enough to successfully intercept Russian ICBMs. Also, the initial SM-3 IIB conceptual designs with liquid-fueled boosters were unsafe for deployment on Navy ships.[25]

Yet, it might still be prudent to reassure Russia that future U.S. missile defense systems will not affect its deterrent. The United States could bolster the offer of a political agreement that U.S. missile defenses are not aimed at Russia by voluntarily limiting the operational scope and reach of its future space-based missile defense sensors and missile defense interceptors. Developing a joint data exchange center[26] focused on monitoring missile launches might be useful, particularly if it will demonstrate to Russia the limitations of current U.S. early-warning and missile tracking systems.

In conclusion, the U.S. policy decision to eliminate the planned deployment of SM-3 IIB interceptors from plans for missile defense in Europe has removed any potential capability to intercept Russian ICBMs bound for the continental United States. The two countries should utilize the opportunity provided by this policy decision to begin discussions on further bilateral nuclear arms reduction.

Jaganath Sankaran is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He obtained his doctorate in public policy at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. The research for this article was done while serving as a Stanton nuclear security postdoctoral fellow at the RAND Corporation. A more detailed version of this article is forthcoming. The views expressed in this article are the author’s.


1. Tom Z. Collina, Daryl G. Kimball, and Greg Thielmann, “What Does DoD’s Missile Defense Announcement Mean?” Arms Control Now, March 15, 2013, http://armscontrolnow.org/2013/03/15/what-does-dods-missile-defense-announcement-mean/; Eliot Marshall, “A Midcourse Correction for U.S. Missile Defense System,” Science, March 29, 2013, pp. 1508-1509.

2. At a February 2007 security conference in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly criticized the ground-based midcourse defense system, maintaining that it would lead to “an inevitable arms race.” Russia had threatened to abrogate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. For details, see Steven A. Hildreth and Carl Ek, “Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe,” CRS Report for Congress, RL34051, September 23, 2009.

3. Kevin Whitelaw, “Obama’s Missile Plan Decision: What It Means,” NPR, September 27, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112909735; Robert Golan-Vilella, “NATO Approves Expanded Missile Defense,” Arms Control Today, December 2010.

4. “Moscow Takes Harder Line, but NATO Chief Still ‘Hopeful’ on Missile Defense,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 3, 2012; “Russia Warns U.S. Against Deploying Final Phases of Missile Shield,” Global Security Newswire, October 1, 2012. Some Russian leaders also see the act of placing interceptors close to Russian territory more as a betrayal rather than as an actual threat. See Oleg Vladykin, “Missile Defense Push Seen by Russians as Latest in Long Line of U.S. Deceptions,” Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye Online, December 2, 2011 (in Russian).

5. “Russia Restates Demand for Pledge on NATO Missile Shield,” Global Security Newswire, September 14, 2011; Titus Ledbetter III, “U.S. Invites Russia to Monitor Aegis Missile Intercept Test,” SpaceNews, March 30, 2012; Robert Bridge, “Moscow Looking for NATO Cooperation, Missile Defense Guarantees,” RT, February 19, 2013, http://rt.com/politics/russia-missile-defense-nato-security-document-566/.

6. For details, see Sergey Rogov et al., “Russia: Experts—Missile Defense Compromise Dependent on Obama Reelection,” Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye Online, September 20, 2012 (in Russian).

7. “New Russian Nuke Cuts Will Depend on U.S. Missile Defense Moves: Putin,” Global Security Newswire, August 24, 2012.

8. Peter Topychkanov, “Missile Defense: Not Joint, but Cooperative,” Russia Beyond The Headlines, June 24, 2011.

9. “NATO Missile Shield Needs to Include Russia, Medvedev Says,” Global Security Newswire, May 16, 2011.

10. Frank A. Rose, “Reinforcing Stability Through Missile Defense” (remarks made at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Forum for Security Cooperation, Vienna, June 6, 2012), http://osce.usmission.gov/may_6_12_fsc_rose.html; Frank A. Rose “Growing Global Cooperation on Ballistic Missile Defense” (remarks, Berlin, September 10, 2012), http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/197547.htm. For the text of the North Atlantic Treaty, see http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm.

11. “Obama Administration Defends Antimissile Plan,” Global Security Newswire, September 15, 2011.

12. Ellen Tauscher, “Ballistic Missile Defense: Progress and Prospects” (remarks at the 10th Annual Missile Defense Conference, Washington, DC, March 26, 2012), http://www.state.gov/t/186824.htm.

13. Ibid.; Ledbetter, “U.S. Invites Russia to Monitor Aegis Missile Intercept Test.”

14. For a review of the evolving architecture of the phased adaptive approach, see Tom Z. Collina, “The European Phased Adaptive Approach at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, May 2013, http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Phasedadaptiveapproach.

15. In order to evaluate the capabilities of the various SM-3 interceptors against Russian ICBMs, a computer model was developed in the engineering software Matlab. The modeling was done using impulsive minimum energy trajectories of the missile and interceptor. Given the performance of a particular combination of missile and interceptor, the lowest required burnout velocity for interception was calculated.

16. David K. Barton et al., “Report of the American Physical Society Study Group on Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense: Scientific and Technical Issues,” Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol. 76, No. 3 (October 2004).

17. Yousaf Butt and Theodore Postol, “Upsetting the Reset: The Technical Basis of Russian Concern Over NATO Missile Defense,” FAS Special Report, No. 1 (September 2011); Dean A. Wilkening, “Does Missile Defense in Europe Threaten Russia?” Survival, Vol. 54, No. 1 (February-March 2012).

18. Colonel-General Viktor Ivanovich Yesin and Major-General Yevgeniy Vadimovich Savostyanov, “Russian Experts Conclude European BMD Will Have No Significant Effect on RVSN,” Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye Online, April 13, 2012 (in Russian).

19. For details, see Aleksandr Khramchikhin, “Russia: Khramchikhin Answers Criticism of His Earlier Article on Missile Defense,” Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye Online, July 22, 2011 (in Russian); Yesin and Savostyanov, “Russian Experts Conclude European BMD Will Have No Significant Effect on RVSN.”

20. Jim Wolf, “Exclusive: U.S. Dangles Secret Data for Russia Missile Shield Approval,” Reuters, March 13, 2012.

21. For example, Russian radars detected the recent Israeli test-firing of the Sparrow missile in September. Available public information suggests that Russia was able to determine the launch direction and impact point. Given this, it is reasonable to conclude that Russia would also be able to monitor and estimate the velocity of the SM-3 interceptors independently. For a review of current Russian early-warning satellites and radars, see Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, “Early Warning,” August 22,,2013, http://russianforces.org/sprn/. For details on the detection of the Israeli missile launch, see Dan Williams and Steve Gutterman, “Unannounced Israel-U.S. Missile Test Fuels Jitters Over Syria,” Reuters, September 3, 2013.

22. “‘No Flexibility’ in U.S. Missile Talk—Medvedev,” RIA Novosti, January 27, 2013. Although rarely considered seriously in the U.S. debate, this ambitious vision does emerge from time to time. See Jon Kyl, “Missile Defense Is Self-Defense,” The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2012.

23. For details on how the Precision Tracking Space System can be combined with land-based radars to intercept ICBMs in boost phase and early post-boost phase flight, see Jaganath Sankaran, “Debating Space Security: Capabilities and Vulnerabilities” (Ph.D. diss., University of Maryland, August 2012), pp. 148-225, http://www.cissm.umd.edu/papers/files/sankaran_debating_space_securitycapbilities_and_vulnerabilities.pdf.

24. SpaceNews, “PTSS Canceled Before Analysis of Alternatives, Report Says,” July 29, 2013.

25. ACTMedia News Agency, “U.S. Defence Official: The Deveselu Base Will Be Equipped With SM3 IB Interceptors by 2015, Later On to Be Upgraded,” March 25, 2013, http://actmedia.eu/daily/us-defence-official-the-deveselu-base-will-be-equipped-with-sm3-ib-interceptors-by-2015-later-on-to-be-upgraded/45087.

26. Steven Pifer, “NATO-Russia Missile Defense: Compromise Is Possible,” Brookings Institution, December 2012, http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2012/12/us-russia-nato-arms-pifer.

Cancellation of the planned fourth phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach has removed any capability that the fully deployed system would have had to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles but does not diminish the system’s capability against Iranian missiles.

U.S. Names Possible Missile Defense Sites

Tom Z. Collina

The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

In a Sept. 12 letter to members of Congress, U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director James D. Syring wrote that his agency is “conducting a study of possible additional locations to determine their suitability for a potential future interceptor deployment site.” The five candidate sites are Fort Drum in New York, Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont, SERE Training Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth in Maine, Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio, and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told Reuters on Sept. 12 that no decision had been made to build an additional site for missile interceptors and there was no money to do so in the Pentagon’s future budget plans. Because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, “we get very worried about whether or not we’re even going to have enough money to do what we’ve decided to do,” she said, adding that an additional interceptor site would be “extraordinarily expensive.”

In a June 10 letter to Capitol Hill, Syring wrote, “There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Congressional Republicans have been pushing the Obama administration to build a missile defense site on the East Coast in addition to existing sites at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Proponents of a new site say the United States needs better defenses against a possible missile attack from Iran. Opponents counter that Iran does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States and, if it did, the West Coast sites could intercept them. Others argue that the West Coast system is ineffective and would be no more effective if fielded in an eastern state.

In the 2013 defense authorization law, Congress required the Defense Department to identify three possible new interceptor sites, including at least two on the East Coast. The department has a congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 to decide which of the five announced sites to include in an environmental impact study expected to take 18 to 24 months. All of the sites are on federal land, operated by the Defense Department, the National Guard, or both.

The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

Key Missile Defense Test Delayed

Tom Z. Collina

In the wake of a failed July 5 intercept attempt, the Defense Department has delayed an upcoming missile defense test that will help determine if it can move ahead with plans to field additional long-range interceptor missiles in Alaska by 2017. Originally planned for this fall, the trial launch will not take place until March, according to July 17 testimony from the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring said that the March 2014 test “must” be completed successfully before the Defense Department carries out its plans to increase the number of ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles deployed in Alaska and California from 30 to 44 by 2017. That planned increase, announced March 15, was motivated by recent missile and nuclear tests by North Korea. (See ACT, April 2013.)

“We need to know these missiles perform as advertised, through rigorous intercept tests,” Syring said of the 14 new interceptors, which will cost $1 billion.

In July 30 comments to reporters, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the defense appropriations panel, also emphasized the need for further testing. “Before we go forward on missile defense, we need a successful test, period,” he said. “Before we expand the missile defense layout to include the East Coast, we need a pretty fulsome debate after a successful test,” he said, referring to Republican proposals to field a new missile interceptor site in a northeastern state. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Since 1999, according to the MDA, GBI missiles have hit their target in eight out of 16 attempts. This record falls short of other missile defense systems, such as the Aegis system based on ships, which has hit 25 of 31, or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is 10 for 10. All of these tests are conducted in a “controlled, scripted environment,” Syring said.

The additional 14 GBI missiles for Alaska would be armed with a newer version of the system’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), known as the Capability Enhancement-II (CE-II). The CE-II has never had a successful intercept test, having failed twice in 2010. Nonetheless, CE-IIs are already deployed on 10 of the 30 GBI missiles.

The EKV, a key part of the GBI system, is lifted into space by a booster rocket and is designed to use its onboard sensors to locate an incoming enemy warhead and destroy it on impact.

Surprise Failure

The subject of the failed July 5 test was not the CE-II, but the CE-I, which sits atop 20 GBI missiles and had not been flight-tested since 2008. Because it had successfully hit the target in three previous tests, this failure came as a surprise. In the latest test, which cost about $200 million, the CE-I did not separate from the booster’s third stage, Syring testified. The MDA is conducting a review, which is expected to take several months, to confirm the cause of the failure and has not determined when a retest might take place.

James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a July 17 Capitol Hill forum that he “would like to see a test of both versions” of the EKV in the next 12 months and that he still expected to reach the goal of 44 deployed GBI missiles by 2017.

An MDA spokesman told Arms Control Today in a July 29 e-mail that the July 5 CE-I test failure was not directly responsible for the postponement of the CE-II test to March. He attributed the delay to the need for more time to fix issues arising from the last failed CE-II test in December 2010. But he said that the MDA wanted to wait for the review of the July 5 test to be completed before conducting any more GBI tests, as the two EKVs use the same rocket booster.

Schedule Pressure

At the July 17 hearing, Durbin said the GBI system had performed poorly because it had been rushed into deployment by the Bush administration in 2004. “There was deployment before development” for the GBI missile, which was not the case for Aegis, Durbin said.

Syring agreed, saying that the “schedule-driven pressure to get interceptors in the ground” led to “the decision to field what were prototypes” with the intent to improve them over time. That, Syring said, led to the development of the CE-II, which was an upgrade to the GBI system that was fielded “very, very quickly.”

According to the MDA, the Pentagon is spending more than $1 billion in remedial efforts to get the CE-II interceptor to work, including the two failed 2010 tests, failure reviews, a nonintercept test in January, and the test planned for March.

In the wake of a failed July 5 intercept attempt, the Defense Department has delayed an upcoming missile defense test that will help determine if it can move ahead with plans...

Friday's Missile Defense Test: What Will It Mean?

Missile interceptor test lights up the night sky By Tom Z. Collina In its own multi-million dollar display of fireworks, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will conduct an intercept test of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) system on Friday, July 5. This will be the first test of the system's ability to hit a mock target since two failures in 2010. The last successful intercept was in 2008. However, this is not the key test that will determine if the Pentagon can go ahead with its $1 billion-plan to field 14 additional GBIs in Alaska by 2017, as announced by Defense Secretary Hagel in...


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