The United States and its allies in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia face a growing threat from theater ballistic and cruise missiles. Competitors and potential adversaries, including Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, as well as terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, are deploying large and increasingly sophisticated arsenals of rockets and missiles with a wide variety of ranges and payloads. Just this past October, Iran tested a long-range ballistic missile in violation of explicit United Nations Security Council resolutions. Russia is developing a long-range land-attack cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. China has fielded hundreds of theater ballistic missiles including one allegedly capable of targeting large warships such as U.S. aircraft carriers.
Countering these threats is beyond the capabilities of any one nation, including the United States. In fact, the demands on U.S. missile defense assets such as Patriot batteries and Aegis ballistic missile defense system-equipped ships continually exceed the available supply. While many U.S. allies are acquiring defenses against missiles, none has the combination of sensors, command and control and numbers of interceptors to successfully defend against a large-scale, dedicated attack. The only solution is in regional missile defense architectures.
The United States is committed to working with its allies to develop regional missile defense architectures in both Europe and the Arabian Gulf. In Europe, the first Aegis Ashore theater missile defense site, part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach intended primarily to protect the continent from Iranian ballistic missiles, will be activated in 2018, and a second site in Poland is planned for 2018.
In addition, NATO is pursuing the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) Program intended to protect European populations, industry and critical military targets from all ballistic missile attacks. ALTBMD currently is focused on developing a system-of-systems architecture to support the timely exchange of early warning and targeting data among the national missile defense capabilities.
In the Middle East, the United States is working closely with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to define a collaborative missile architecture. This is no easy task given the wide range of capabilities deployed by the GCC members. The U.S. has long deployed Patriot batteries and Aegis-BMD equipped ships in the region. All the GCC countries already own the most advanced version of the Patriot system, the PAC-3. In addition, the UAE will be the first foreign country to deploy the long range Theater High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD). Qatar also has requested the right to purchase THAAD. Saudi Arabia is looking at a number of advanced missile defense systems including THAAD and a variant of the Aegis BMD system for its planned Eastern Fleet modernization program.
The keys to viable regional missile defense architectures are: integration of national sensors into a single network, reliable and seamless command, control and communications and coordination of national missile defense capabilities both among the GCC members and with U.S. air and missile defense systems. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is working to develop plans and programs in all three of these areas.
The United States also has a close bilateral relationship with the Middle East’s missile defense powerhouse, Israel. Israel has more experience in conducting missile defense operations than any country in the world. The Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted hundreds of short range rockets and missiles. Israel is also the first country to develop a true layered defense against rockets and missiles of all ranges which consists of the Arrow, David’s Sling, Iron Dome and Patriot missile defense systems. In addition, Israeli defense companies have pioneered the development and production of high-performance, relatively low-cost radars including those that support the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems and a family of modular ultra-high frequency active electronically scanned array radars for long-range surveillance and tracking.
The United States and its allies need to create regional missile defense architecture in East Asia where the multilateralism so evident in Europe and beginning in the Arabian Gulf is missing. Currently, the U.S. relies on bilateral cooperation with regional allies to advance the state of missile defenses in the region. Japan has been the closest ally in this endeavor, deploying Patriot batteries and Aegis-equipped destroyers and collaborating with MDA on the development of the advanced Standard Missile 3 Block IIA interceptor. South Korea is committed to acquiring the Patriot PAC-3 and is considering the THAAD system. Australia has been extremely supportive in the operation of the U.S. global missile launch early warning system.
Regional missile defense architectures cannot rely on the United States to do all the heavy lifting. U.S. allies and partners need to do more to improve their missile defense postures. NATO countries, the GCC members and allies such as South Korea and Taiwan need to deploy robust missile defense capabilities. NATO nations should make deployment of additional missile defense capabilities a high priority. The GCC states must make good on their commitment to develop a regional missile defense architecture. South Korea and the Netherlands, both of which operate ships with Aegis radars but no interceptors, need to acquire a full ballistic missile defense capability.
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