Last week, two important ballistic missile defense (BMD) tests demonstrated significant improvements in the Navy’s Standard Missile that either is or will be deployed at sea on our and Japan’s Aegis BMD ships — and on land as the interceptor of the Aegis Ashore sites being deployed in Romania and Poland to protect Europe against Iranian ballistic missiles. These same interceptors also should be charged with defending Americans at home from ballistic missiles launched from off-shore vessels, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.
- On December 8th, the United States and Japan conducted the second successful test of Raytheon’s Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor, being jointly developed by the two countries. Click here for a video of this important test, which was conducted off the coast of Southern California near Malibu. It is significant for several reasons beyond its specific technical merits:
- The Block IIA is the latest significant product of the U.S.-Japanese joint program, without which the Aegis BMD would not have been successful in the first place.
- The current version of the IIA, when fully developed and tested (Also on December 8th, Raytheon was issued a contract to build 17 Block IIAs.), will provide substantially greater intercept capability for the U.S. and Japanese BMD systems — and set the stage for further possible improvements.
- On December 11, the U.S. Navy supplemented the SM-3 Block IIA test with another successful intercept test of its SM-3 Block IB interceptor, from the Aegis Ashore test site in Hawaii. This first ever intercept for the Aegis Ashore system paves the way to declare operational the Aegis Ashore site in Romania. In my judgment, this test, again beyond its technical merits, is most significant because:
- This test again demonstrates what I believe is the nation’s most successful U.S. BMD system with about an 85-percent successful intercept record, including the 2008 satellite shoot-down by its predecessor, the Block IA.
- This evolving capability should also be exploited to defend the American people from ballistic missile attacks from vessels off our coasts — especially from vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, against which we are currently defenseless.
- Such an attack, if used to set off a nuclear weapon high above the United States, would cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that in turn would present an existential threat to all Americans.
- Aegis Ashore sites, like those in Romania and Poland, on military basses around the Gulf would counter such a threat from the south.
- Aegis Ashore sites along our East and West Coasts would also be effective, but if our Aegis BMD crews on ships in those coastal waters are trained and ready, an effective defense can be provided without coastal Aegis Ashore sites.
A Little Aegis BMD History and Future Possibilities.
In the early days of the Clinton administration — to achieve their assessment of needed interceptor velocities, the Pentagon “powers that be” wanted to require the Navy’s first BMD interceptor (the SM-3 Block IA) to have such a large diameter that it could not fit in the Navy’s Vertical Launch System (VLS). To accommodate that larger interceptor would have required an expensive infrastructure retrofit of the Navy’s Cruisers and Destroyers. In my opinion, the Navy would never accept such a retrofit of its fleet of about 80 Aegis ships, and the resulting bureaucratic disputes likely would have ended the Aegis BMD program that I began on my watch as Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
Japan, an early partner in the Aegis BMD program, brought serious money to the table and insisted that the SM-3 Block IA fit in the existing VLS of the Aegis infrastructure — 21-inches, as was my original plan to assure the Navy’s cooperation in the Aegis BMD program. Japan wanted as soon as possible an effective BMD system on their Aegis ships to counter North Korea’s ballistic missiles — and the joint program is providing that potential capability for Japan’s Kongo ships, as well as for about 35 U.S. Aegis BMD ships at sea today.
I believe Japan’s interest — and money — saved the Aegis BMD program in the 1990s, and Japan remains a major serious partner. Japan continues to bring serious money to the joint program — to date contributing about $1 billion to supplement over $2 billion spent by the United States in developing the Block IIA. This recent test demonstrated we are well on our way for a major Aegis BMD improvement, for SM-3 interceptors at sea and on land — including for the Aegis Ashore site planned to be operational in Romania in 2018.
We are, in fact, pursuing my original gameplan for the SM-3, which was to: 1) Build the largest diameter that would fit in the existing VLS system (21-inches) and 2) Develop lighter-weight kill vehicle technology to reach higher velocity interceptors. The Block IIA is at last achieving the first step, but not yet the second — though its velocity will be significantly greater than the IA and IB interceptors, and that’s a good thing.
Even greater velocities can be achieved by exploiting the light-weight technology promised by the SDI development of space-based interceptors, as demonstrated by studies by the Navy on my watch and during the Clinton administration, but ignored subsequently.
Whatever … the currently planned Block IIA will enable the Aegis BMD system to shoot down satellites at greater altitude than demonstrated in 2008 by the SM-3 Block IA, providing greater potential protection against nuclear weapons on satellites launched from North Korea or Iran to attack the United States from its currently undefended South. And further improvements are possible with the development of appropriate light weight kill vehicles.
Below is a self-explanatory chart from briefings I have given for the past year or so, most recently yesterday at the Las Vegas Nevada National Security Action Summit.
Furthermore, as the “powers that be” consider how best to improve the defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that come over the North Polar region to attack those of us who live near the East Coast, I urge that they consider the below figure, from my July 29, 2014 message.
Currently deployed Block IA/IB interceptors on our ships normally near the east coast can defend the Eastern Seaboard with the aid of a couple of TPY-2 radars (which we are deploying around the world) — one, say in Maine and one, say on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Note the improvement offered by the Block IIA, now being tested for deployment at sea and in Romania, and demonstrated for the second time last week. The crews need to be trained and prepared, of course.
These improvements in the capabilities of the Navy’s Standard Missile will greatly improve the inherent ability of our usually off-shore BMD-capable cruisers and destroyers to defend against ICBMs launched from Iran over the North Polar regions. The defensive footprint to protect the East Coast improves as the interceptor velocity improves. The Block IIA was flight tested just last week. The IIA+ figure illustrates how a light-weight kill vehicle could further improve the defense footprint to cover most of the United States. Worth a bit more R&D, you think?
For additional discussion of these issues and how we can counter the existential threats that are all too real, see my many messages, for example:
- September 22, 2015: “One More Time — Beware Threats from the South!”
- July 29, 2014: “Quick Fixes to Counter the Existential EMP Threat”
- July 2, 2014: “How Aegis Can Help Counter the EMP Threat”
- November 1, 2013: “Aegis Ashore for Us, Too?”
- July 19, 2013: “Southern Exposure . . .“
- April 17, 2013: “Don’t Underestimate Aegis Capabilities”
For over two-and-a-half years, I have been trying to persuade the powers that be that Aegis BMD offers an affordable, effective pathway to protecting the United States from the existential EMP threats, especially from the South. Given this past week’s impressive tests, it is long past time to begin pursuing these measures to defend America.
Urgently needed is a serious assessment of all aspects of the threat to the electric power grid — a worthy objective for the re-established EMP Commission. The Commissioners should monitor all plans for addressing these threats. If they do, it will be hard for them to miss the important role that the Aegis BMD systems can play, but are not playing.
It would be best, of course, for the “powers that be” to arrive at and act on this obvious conclusion so that the Commission can evaluate the progress being made.
Defenses are not the entire answer, because no defense is perfect. Furthermore, solar storms and even hand-held EMP devices can also pose major EMP threats — and then there is the threat of cyberattack. We need to harden the electric grid — and other critical infrastructure — to all these threats. Thus, the Commission can address the appropriate balance on of how best to apply the nation’s resources to provide needed protections for all Americans.
Pray for better leadership in another year. We have been here before, most recently with the “malaise” of the late 1970s — with Ronald Reagan at the helm, we made our way back to an America that made us proud. Pray we can find a way to repeat that return to the American dream that has previously stirred so many — and kept us free.
Include a prayer that we preserve this the greatest nation in History for our posterity.
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
We will continue to inform our readers of the looming threats we confront — and where appropriate urge them to engage in countering that threat. Our leaders are failing at their sworn duty “to provide for the common defense”
We will press for building the most cost-effective ballistic missile defenses possible and working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to the existential threats to the electric power grid.
We are especially focused on the nuclear power reactors that produce 60-percent of SC electricity—and more generally 20-percent of the nation’s electricity.
If it can be assured that they “operate through” a major blackout of the electric power grid — and I believe it can, then these reactors can play a very important role for resurrecting the grid over an extended time and supporting the general public’s survival in the meantime.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.
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