Spotlight returns to missile defense

Spotlight returns to missile defense

Missile defense programs have gained scant attention in the past decade as the U.S. has fought two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where U.S. forces have faced little to  no missile threat.

With the success of the Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel and the new defense strategy that shifts the focus to the Pacific, the spotlight is returning to missile defense.

The Iron Dome system shot down about 85 percent of the missiles Hamas lobbed at Israel in November. Its success has grabbed the attention of Pentagon leaders. Panetta said the U.S. military is considering whether to either develop a similar system or buy their own. Before, the U.S. had balked at the expensive price of the Iron Dome.

“We’re in the process of evaluating all of the requests by the different services with regards to what capabilities they want to have for the future. It has to be cost effective in today’s world. And that almost automatically means that we’d better look at all options before we come down and make a final decision,” Panetta said in November.

Iron Dome isn’t the only reason for defense observers to refocus their attention on missile defense. The defense strategy laid out by the president last year often referred to as the Pacific pivot forces the U.S. to more seriously consider potential enemies that feature advance missile systems.

North Korea executed what was considered a successful ballistic missile test on Dec. 12 to the surprise of many U.S. defense leaders. The development of North Korea’s missile program has made Japanese and South Korean leaders nervous. Continued progress will force the Pentagon’s hand to improve the defense of these allies.

Army acquisition leader Heidi Shyu said her service will have to pay closer attention to missile defense as it focuses on the Pacific.

“The pivot tells me the next step the Army needs to go is figuring out how to address an environment that is more contested. That means we have to focus on cyber warfare, we have to focus on working in an electronic warfare environment,” Shyu said. “We have to focus on air and missile defense.”

China poses its own threats. The Chinese military features the carrier-kill missile forcing the Navy to consider its posture in the Pacific. It is a constant variable that must be considered when war-gaming the potential defense of Taiwan.

However, not every missile program is seeing greener pastures since the introduction of the new defense strategy. The Senate subtracted funding for Lockheed Martin’s MEADS program from the 2013 defense budget.

MEADS is a program the Army had decided it would no longer purse, but had planned to finish the development phase in order to harvest technologies of Lockheed Martin’s work. The Senate, however, chose to stop the program permanently. Italy and Germany had joined the U.S. on the international missile defense program.

As Pentagon leaders expect to see their budget strings continue to tighten, it will be interesting to watch how missile defense programs are treated. Often a target for cuts, missile defense programs could see a rise in investment.



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Two points,

One, local area missile defense (ie Iron Dome) is a completely different beast from strategic missile defense. The technology used for Iron Dome is a non-factor in defending against ICBMs, and it says nothing about the ability to defend against either long-range missiles or those with countermeasures.

Two, the North Korean launch was a space launch, not a missile test. I explain the reasons why here: http://​www​.wired​.com/​d​a​n​g​e​r​r​o​o​m​/​2​0​1​2​/​1​2​/​l​a​u​n​ch/

Hoping that MDA cleans up its act and stops cancelling programs after spending billions. Maybe with a Navy leader who understands technology the agency can turn itself around and be able to produce products that will work as needed when needed. This new leader may have to clean house and dump a bunch of bureaucrats and bring in a real team of leaders.

I’m surprised. I’ve been told that the Iron Dome missile defense system was not a success, I read elsewhere a rate of 30%, not 85%.
Well maybe it is 85 after all, but I still have a doubt, it could be an exaggeration for political reasons, every time a topic is related to Israel there are a lot of political reasons.

Sweet dream… Bureaucracy is the very root of the pentagon. Real leaders are automatically discarded.

What launches a satellite into space, is the same technology needed to launch a ICBM. The only real difference is the trajectory.

I believe the misconception comes from one group counting how many rockets hit Israel, and another group counting how many hit Israel in the areas the Iron Dome was operational. I could be wrong though.

I wonder if now that these missiles have been intercepting incoming missiles at substantial success rates (without commenting on whether the published rates are correct or not) will they be debarring or jailing the “scientists” who testified before Congress that it couldn’t be done, or saying that such a feat was impossible? Shooting down satellites was supposed to be impossible too. Remember all the rhetoric about hitting a bullet with a bullet? It’s odd that someone can lie to Congress without fear of retribution when you’re telling at least half of them what they want to hear.

iron dome uses selective engagement mechanism.
Out of 1500 rockets , iron dome decided that only about 500 posed a threat. of those 500 , 85% were intercepted.

Msaybe they weren’t lying. When the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) was being debated the technology to implement it didn’t exist. In fact, it still doesn’t exist, though it’s much closer. As I recall the argument, some proponents of Star Wars were pushing for massive spending for early deployment, on the questionable assumption that break throughs would be made. The success of Iron Dome really only provesthat we have reached a stage where the technology allows us to hit fairly crude, unguided rockets on simple, predictable trajectories. That’s very different from taking out a maneuverable warhead from a cloud of decoys travelling at 6,000 mph.

John is right, the Israelis set up Iron Dome to protect the cities and towns, but it does not cover the country side. I have seen reports that count the un-engaged missiles as being targets that Iron Dome failed to destroy.

Hitting a rocket that only gets a few miles off the ground before coming down isn’t the same thing as hitting a nuclear missile in the upper atmosphere traveling several times the speed of sound. The rockets being fired at Israel have a predictable range and impact location. A nuclear missile can hit anywhere. The US is a much bigger target than Israel. If a Fajr rocket breaks up after being destroyed a few thousand feet off the ground and lands on someone’s car and nobody cares. That’s not an option with a nuke.

Hell yeah it’s not the same. It’s much easier to hit a ballistic missile. Ever wonder why the call it “ballistic”. Here’s a hint, bozo. That’s what makes them so damn easy to hit.

The fact that Iron Dome and Patriots have such a high success rate but the MDA has had problems over the years with their missiles would suggest otherwise.

Ballistic simply means it goes up then comes down. Hezbollah rockets fall at a few hundred miles per hour. SCUDs fall at a couple thousand. Both can be safely shot down during terminal fall. An ICBM falls at 15,000mph and must be destroyed before it can go terminal.

Defens.… do know what a MIRV is right…

When a ballistic missile launches after hitting orbit it breaks into multiple warheads that steer onto different targets.

Whats more these are coming in at extreme velocity. Meaning hitting them is HARD.

tmb — You’re right there’s a difference between short range rockets and ICBMs (the author doesn’t help with his write up which is guaranteed to boost posts) but I think you might want to recheck the performance of the ABM systems. They have demonstrably improved and the press has been slow to report.

A system like Iron Dome would help fixed Army facilities like FOBs.

On an unmentioned note, check out the Russian deployment of Iskander missiles to Syria. The capabilities and deployment against Turkish and Jordanian borders is interesting.

Belesari — true. You can also hit them in the lift phase and before they launch MIRVs. The modt likely culprits Iran and N. Korea are weak in that technology.

The problems with hitting ICBMs are significant. They aren’t insurmountable.

It’s a target about the size of a fighter fuselage that’s not maneuvering. Oh yeah, real hard to hit. Hell, if you hit them in reentry, all it takes is a pinhole to get the whole thing to turn into sparklers like Columbia did.

I’ll concede they’ve been getting better at ABM and I love Iron Dome, but they’re two completely different things. My point was that Dfens seems to believe its some conspiracy that Iron Dome has a great success rate and the MDA doesn’t. He’s either lying or ignorant of how drastically different taking down an ICBM is to a short to medium range rocket.

Its all about internal navigation systems. Same technology that allows GPS guided/internal nav guided missiles, artillery shells, bombs likewise now gives the ability to intercept missiles of any speed. In some respects a missile traveling fast likewise can’t change its vector either and is easy target to intercept from the defensive missile perspective. Of course…

A hypersonic missile is essentially invulnerable because the only limiting factor anymore is target acquisition. Maneuverability of the defensive missiles along with their navigation systems has essentially been perfected in the last 20 years, high precision target acquisition at long ranges on the other hand, nope. We know within, ‘x’, but blast area for a defensive missile isn’t even close to that. Comes down to defensive missile sensors. With advent of better IR sensors, this might be a fairly moot issue anymore.

As for the MIRV debate, that gets back to $$$. A decoy is a few pounds and a ICBM can carry hundreds. Now if those decoy’s don’t last all that long, then once again one can ascertain bombs from junk and deal with it. Somehow I doubt this will happen, as a hunk of mass made from Carbon carbon composites will make it all the way to the ground. Add in “suitcase sized nukes”. Gets back to the absurdity of it really, as we are talking nuclear war here.

Attacking cruise missiles is an entire different kettle of fish.

And falls at least 10 times the speed of sound giving you a very short window to take it out. If the missile is a MIRV then it’s too late which is why we’re putting the ABM facilities in the Pacific, and in Eastern Europe rather than right over the potential target like Iron Dome. The AEGIS missile that destroyed a satellite has a ceiling of 100 miles and took the shot when the bird would be right overhead whereas an ICBM can conceivably travel twice that high and twice the speed of the AEGIS SM-3. The MDA would also like to avoid turning the ICBM into a dirty bomb by destroying it before it is over US soil.

>Ever wonder why the call it “ballistic”…

Eeuhh, because it’s designed to hit something and it travel without any contact with the ground or water? Any decent etymology dictionary will give a hint, just google ‘ballistic etymology’.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

I suppose if you wanted to cheat, you could program your MIRVs to airburst at high-alt and let the EMP do the job, instead of trusting them to make it to the ground to airburst.

Or nuke in waves. EMP for wave one, then airburst for wave two.


I’m really glad Iron Dome did so well. I am extremely curious on how much of this system will be required for safeguarding Japanese based bases.

While it’s true comparing Iron Dome to US strategic missile defence is like comparing a rubber dingy to an aircraft carrier (not that anybody should expect a “journalist” to know the difference), you are dead wrong regarding the NK test. Guess what both the US and Russia used for their first space launch vehicles. That’s right — modified offensive missiles (Vanguard was an exception to the norm). So while it may be true that NK launched a satellite in this latest test, to think that it can be dismissed as nothing to do with their long range missile development is the height of stupidity. The comic book level of accuracy is one thing I really can’t stand about Wired’s “Danger Room”.

we should remember “star wars” and the rhetoric, all poker with Reagan holding a pair of deuces. (retired senior team leader, electronic countermeasures)

How fast it falls is irrelevant when you know where it will be. That’s how we hit satellites traveling 25 times the speed of sound. Remember the word “ballistic”? Maybe you should look it up.

Dfens, ole buddy, the “speed” of an inbound ballistic object is roughly proportional to the range, i.e. from launch point to impact point. Short range ballistic missiles inherently come in a bit slower. The flip side of the coin is that short range ballistic missiles are only ballistic for a short few minutes or seconds, ICBMs give you.… well.… several more minutes to do all of your C4ISR and then get that interceptor missile out there in front of it. So long as the interceptor is in the right position in space when the inbound arrives, the absolute velocity of the interceptor could be next to nothing with the incoming warhead supplying the KE of its doom! Iron Dome has to respond to short range and very short range ballistic objects, so even though its targets are quite slow (compared to an ICBM), it has to set pretty much directly on or in front of the intended impact point to defend…. . :-)

Ummm.…. You are assuming that the warhead rides in attached to the booster (ain”t always the case!)…. and a “pinhole” is only interesting if it is a leak from a pressurized fuel or oxidizer tank (preferably both of course!). Would also suggest that you consider a “burned out” solid booster to a heavily armored, but EMPTY and unpressurized sewer pipe. Once the fuel is burned out of your ballistic missile about the only thing you can do is look for a catastrophic kill, which is why “hit to kill” instead of a fragmentation warhead is the general kill mechanism. You want to convert that very “hard” NBC ballistic reentry vehicle into a rapidly expanding ball of plasma or a spray of superheated liquid metal .… . not just knock a few dents in it.

I guess you didn’t take any physics or reading comprehension classes in school since we already covered this. The goal is to take out the missiles BEFORE it starts to fall back towards you to avoid dealing with MIRVs and fallout. Satellites travel very fast, but on programmed and predictable orbits. We hit satellites traveling that fast because we know where they’ll be and oh by the way THEY’RE NOT FALLING.

Heard DoD report that recovered part of NK missile shows fueling consistent with ICBM (re: “solid” oxidizer— as opposed to liquid oxidizer used for space missile launches. ) Thoughts?

Sorry SOG9-CCN, Im afraid that you are making way too general of an association. The Shuttle and Titan heavy space launchers no less, had solid rocket boosters and the Long March and old Titan ICBMs were purely liquid fueled. ALL of the 1st generation ICBMs were liquid fueled up to, I think, the Polaris. The breakout for boosters generally is “solid fueled”, “storable liquid fueled” and “non-storable liquid fueled”, where the non-storable liquids include such things as cyrogenics and some of the highly corrosive fuels and oxydizers that have been used. Solids definitely have some tactical advantages for ICBMs, but.… its not a hard and fast answer.

At least from what I have read in AvWeek and other trade rags, a big solid booster would have been a major “step up” for the NK missile technology.

TMB2, there is an old saying about “throwing rocks”…. .. First off, you are correct, it IS easier to deal with a boost-phase missile than a swarm of dispensed warheads from a MIRV’d missile.… if you can get at that missile before it dispenses. (If hoppity-toads had wings.…!) I guess by your definition, a satellite in anything other than a perfectly circular orbit would be “falling” at least half the time, right? Others, including I suspect, old man Newton, would probably say that satellites are in fact falling, just that their trajectories do not intersect the atmosphere or surface of the earth! :-) Which physics classes did you miss?

That’s odd… I’m pretty sure a few years ago you were saying an aircraft moving at Blackbird speeds should be all but immune to modern SAMs, and in these very comment threads you’ve wished we’d stuck with “airspeed and armor” instead of stealth. Naturally I am not an air-o-notical engineer as you seem to present yourself as, but I am probably not alone in perceiving an inconsistency in these opinions.

Polaris rocket motors were Solid Fuel

Indeed they were! Guess that I wasn’t clear that Polaris was one of the first solids and not the last of the liquid fueled missiles. Polaris IOC actually predates Minuteman by about a year. The 1st generation Russian SLBMs were liquid fueled and a real handfull onboard a boat.

How about a long range iron dome that will cover a large area on a certain country and will cover anti missile missile, anti ship and J-10, Russian T-10 aircraft and missiles; and anti ballistic missiles?


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