Go Aegis: Be All You Can Be!

By By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper - High Frontier
Friday, September 20th, 2013 @ 11:10PM

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Extensive tests of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system,  designed primarily to defend our overseas troops,  friends and allies,  also demonstrate an inherent capability to defend the U.S. homeland from several important threats. The Pentagon,  especially the U.S. Navy,  should be encouraged to fully develop this inherent capability,  especially in responding to a congressional mandate.

The Aegis Culture Has Produced an Impressive Track Record

All tests of the Aegis BMD system have been conducted by U.S. Navy sailors aboard an operational Aegis cruiser or destroyer. This time,  the sailors on the USS Lake Erie conducted the 27th successful intercept in 33 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since its flight testing began in 2002.  Even though the target short-range ballistic missile was traveling at a lower velocity than some previous targets,  the test involved the highest altitude intercept to date.

As usual,  in this operationally realistic test—designated Flight Test-Standard Missile-21 (FTM-21),  the short-range ballistic missile target’s launch time and bearing from Kauai was not known in advance and the sailors at sea performed superbly. A development benchmark was that this test involved the most difficult target engaged to date,  at least in terms of its offensive countermeasures.

From an overall operational perspective, the 2008 “Burnt Frost” mission, employing a predecessor Block IA interceptor, was more complex. The block IA interceptor shot down a dying satellite containing over 1, 000 pounds of hazardous hydrazine propellant, a serious threat to any populated location on earth where it might fall if not shot down. The MDA program met complex requirements to integrate a host of other sensors and cue the Block IA interceptor into the proper battle space. That intercept was against the fastest moving target engaged by any BMD system in outer space to date. (A low altitude satellite moves faster than an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a ballistic trajectory).

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Click here to see the 6-minute DoD-released video describing this successful impressive mission—well worth your time to watch because of the broader context as well and the mission itself: Make sure your sound is on!  When that mission,  also performed by Lake Erie sailors and a magnificent industry-government team,  is included in the overall count,  the Aegis BMD system has performed successfully in 28 of its 34 missions since 2002.

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Today,  we have 28 Aegis ships at sea—mostly carrying Block IA interceptors.  Some four or so have modified infrastructure to accommodate the Block IB,  and more are coming.  Given the testing realism and success of both systems,  we have an excellent capability now deployed literally around the world. And planned block improvements will continue to give it a key role in our nation’s defense for years to come.

An Inherent Anti-ICBM Capability

I want to dwell a bit more on the Burnt Frost mission,  personally approved by President George W. Bush after the Aegis BMD system was selected from a review of all missile defense interceptor systems. Aegis BMD met the mission objectives because of its unique mobility and its already demonstrated testing record at that stage.

From my perspective,  it is important to note that Burnt Frost demonstrated the inherent capability of the first generation SM-3 interceptor (the Block IA) to shoot down ICBMs. Wednesday’s test demonstrated the latest version of the second-generation Aegis BMD Weapon System—capable of engaging longer range and more sophisticated ballistic missiles., All that is needed to intercept an ICBM coming over the North Polar region (from Iran or North Korea) is an up-range cue from an appropriate radar in New England—say Maine—to provide track information to the crew on an Aegis BMD cruiser or destroyer along our east coast.  As we have noted previously,  on a randomly selected day last year there were 4-6 such Aegis BMD ships that could have responded to shoot it down from their locations along or in port the eastern seaboard. Repeat: All that is needed is an appropriately located radar,  like the TYP-2 radar,  similar to the radar deployed as part of the Army’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system,  and well trained sailors,  which last Wednesday’s test again demonstrated that we  have., When this anti-ICBM capability is combined with the rest of the system’s proven record (including against short-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase via the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptor),  the Aegis BMD system has demonstrated an impressive engagement capability to defeat the full range of ballistic missiles that could attack the U.S. homeland as well as our overseas troops,  friends and allies.

Aegis Sailors are MDA Team Players

Achieving this anti-ICBM capability is possible because the Aegis BMD team has demonstrated an impressive ability to work well within a multi-service global missile defense architecture,  involving other ballistic missile defense systems and related sensors important to successful operations. The most recent demonstration of this capability was on September 10,  2013 (only seven days earlier than Wednesday’s test) by a system test that shot down two medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs).

This success demonstrated integrated efforts of the MDA,  Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Operational Test Agency,  Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense,  and U.S. Pacific Command in conjunction with U.S. Army Soldiers from the Alpha Battery,  2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment,  U.S. Navy Sailors aboard guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73),  and U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 613th Air and Operations Center. This multi-agency,  muti-service team successfully conducted a complex missile defense flight test,  intercepting two medium-range ballistic missile targets—one by the Navy’s SM-3 Block IB sea-based system and the other by the Army’s THAAD mobile ground-based system., So,  congratulations to the entire MDA team! And on to bigger and better things!

Implications for solving a looming vulnerability to the U.S. homeland!

, The above observations,  beyond demonstrating an impressive development record,  illustrate that Aegis BMD offers responsive near-term solutions to several shortfalls I have noted in several recent emails—particularly re. the growing threat from Iranian ballistic missiles:, Nuclear-armed ICBM attacks over the North Pole,  especially from Iran—our current defense of the Eastern Seaboard needs improvement; congress is aware of this problem but may not come up with sufficient funds for a dedicated ground-based defense. With a TP-2 radar in Maine,  the Aegis BMD ships almost always in a location along our eastern seaboard could provide a near-term defense against this threat., Nuclear-armed satellite attacks over the South Pole—we are vulnerable to this mode of attack,  which Iran and North Korea may have practiced; and this clearly possible threat appears to be being ignored. If our Aegis ships were prepared and perhaps aided by other available sensor systems,  they might provide an early defense against this threat.  Their Spy-1 radars could also possibly help cue the ground-based interceptors at Vandenberg AFB,  California,  to provide intercept opportunities.  Ultimately,  space based defenses will be required to deal effectively with this threat.

Nuclear-armed short,  medium,  or intermediate range missiles launched from vessels off our coasts—we are vulnerable to this mode of attack,  but could employ Aegis ships normally near or on our coasts to provide limited defenses if we trained their crews to do so. Aegis Ashore sites,  like those to be built in Romania and Poland,  also could address this problem. The administration is supposed to address this issue next year in response to a congressional directive.

Regarding the references to Aegis Ashore in last two bullets,  note that key system elements (e.g., the interceptors, launchers, radar and command and control system) can be deployed in an area the size of a football field to provide a relatively inexpensive ground-based interceptor system.  In fact,  efforts to deploy such an operational “Aegis Ashore” system in Romania in 2015 are beginning this month. Another site is anticipated in Poland by 2018. If we can afford to defend our overseas allies against Iran,  then we can afford to defend the American people at home in the same way.

These threats are existential threats to all Americans.  If a nuclear weapon is detonated a few hundred miles above the United States to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP),  it could cause irreparable damage to the key large transformers of the electric power grid—and under certain well known conditions that could cause a complete failure of the electric power grid for an indefinite period. The ultimate result anticipated by credible experts could be that the consequent chaos would lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year.

We should not delay in building effective defenses. Furthermore,  it is very important to harden the electric power grid so that if an attacking missile gets through the defense and detonates its nuclear weapon high above the United States,  we will not lose our electric power indefinitely. If we can accomplish this hardening of the electric power grid,  then we will have a good chance of reinstating other critical infrastructure upon which our survival depends. Such hardening will also protect us against EMP from the solar storms. For a more complete summary of these issues, see http://highfrontier.org/august-2-2013-former-cia-director-warns-about-the-existential-emp-threat/#sthash.1NtV2YAf.SG3IxAFs.dpbs

The above possible initiatives should be considered when the Pentagon prepares its report in response to a congressionally mandate to consider additional missile defenses against Iranian ICBMs and,  in particular,  “[T]he potential for future enhancement and deployment of the[Navy’s] Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor to augment United States homeland ballistic missile defense; missile defense options to defend the United States homeland against ballistic missiles that could be launched from vessels on the seas around the United States,  including the Gulf of Mexico,  or other ballistic missile threats that could approach the United States from the south,  should such a threat arise in the future.”, In addressing these concerns,  it should be emphasized that the federal government’s first duty is to provide for the common defense. Providing effective missile defenses and hardening the electric power grid as quickly as possible should be a top national priority.

High Frontier Plans

We at High Frontier will continue to stick to our knitting,  by seeking as quickly as we can to inform “the powers that be” of existential threats to the American people—as we have discussed in our emails for many months—and to urge them to “provide for the common defense” as charged by the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Hopefully,  key federal authorities and members of congress will soon begin to deal more effectively with the existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse., Key initiatives are to urge the Washington powers that be to undertake both the Shield Act and efforts to enhance our ballistic missile defenses, especially for our citizens on the East Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, where they are completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf—or from Latin America, e.g., Venezuela.

But frankly, we have come to doubt that Washington will act in an expeditious way. Thus, we are also taking the message to grass roots America.  Our local and state authorities need to understand these issues and what they might do if their federal representatives continue to fail “to provide for the common defense.” The end of this month, I will be meeting with citizens in the Florida panhandle, seeking to advise them of their absolute vulnerability against ballistic missiles launched from the Gulf of Mexico—and what can be done about it if only their representatives do their jobs.

In particular we will be observing that it would be wise for the Florida state legislature to follow Maine’s initiative and harden the electric power grid in Florida, while holding the Washington authorities accountable for their oath to provide for the common defense. Hopefully, in joining such an effort, other states will be encouraged for follow them.

 


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