Plans and problems of modernization of the US missile defense system

Launcher complex GMD

The US national missile defense system is in need of modernization and expansion. The ABM Agency studies current threats and challenges, and also forms plans for the further development of the system. In parallel, system developers and legislators are optimizing the military budget to meet new challenges.

Funding issues

The existing strategic missile defense system is large, complex and expensive to operate. The development and strengthening of the system is associated with additional large spending. In recent months, the topic of missile defense funding has been raised several times, and all such news is of interest.

In December 2020, it became known that Congress intends to increase the budget for the ABM Agency for FY2021. According to the draft military budget prepared by the Pentagon, the Agency needed to allocate $ 9.13 billion for the activities of the Agency – $ 1.27 billion less than the same spending in 2020. At the same time, the Agency provided the Congress with a list of programs that can be reduced or canceled to save approx. 1 billion.

Rocket launch GMD

After analyzing the draft budget, the Congressmen noted the discrepancy between the Agency’s plans and the real needs of the missile defense system. In addition, the proposed project was in conflict with some strategic documents, and its adoption in the future directly threatened national security. In this regard, the revised draft military budget provided for an increase in missile defense spending by $ 1.3 billion.

In mid-January, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on current work and plans to upgrade missile defense. Its authors found that the estimated spending on the development of defense was underestimated. According to the Department’s calculations, the 10-year missile defense modernization program, in line with the ideas of the 2019 Missile Defense Review, will cost $ 176 billion. Curiously, an earlier similar estimate from the ABM Agency was 40% lower.

The Congressional Office pointed to a number of additional factors that could increase the cost of modernizing missile defense. First of all, this is the lack of clear and precise plans for the entire period of the program implementation. In addition, the development of the means of attack of a potential adversary, which requires an appropriate update of the missile defense, has not been taken into account. There are also risks of higher prices for projects as they are implemented.

Aegis Ashore ground-based missile defense system

Factors of a political nature also persist. The current plans for the development of the American missile defense system were formed during the Donald Trump administration, taking into account its policy. The new leadership in Washington may offer different ideas and revise the missile defense plans. Any such change will lead to the need to adjust the budget, up or down.

Practical measures

The plans of the Pentagon and the ABM Agency for the coming years provide for the construction of new facilities and the modernization of existing systems. In the future, it is possible to launch promising projects aimed at including new components into the missile defense system.

It is proposed to continue the deployment of ground-based GMD systems. So, the “Review” in 2019 provided for the deployment of 60 GBI interceptor missiles on alert at Fort Greeley (Alaska). Now it is proposed to increase their number to 100 units, which will take several years and approx. $ 5 billion

SM-3 anti-missile launch from the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70)

Over the past several years, the ABM Agency has pushed forward plans to increase the number of THAAD systems on alert. It is proposed to deploy nine such batteries to cover all strategic areas. At the same time, the draft defense budget for FY2021. provided for the operation of only seven batteries. Then Congress allocated an additional $ 800 million for the purchase of the eighth battery. The operation of the unit will cost approx. $ 30 million annually.

All components of the American missile defense system are integrated using the Command and Control Battle Management Communications (C2BMC) system. Since its adoption, a gradual and systematic modernization has been carried out, each stage of which takes at least 2-3 years. Recently it became known that the Pentagon is going to speed up the renewal processes.

The appearance of new missile weapons among potential adversaries, including hypersonic systems, leads to the need for constant modernization of all missile defense components to maintain the required combat qualities. At the same time, the current pace of updating the C2BMC system was recognized as insufficient. The Missile Defense Agency has issued an Opportunity Request on Finding Solutions to Accelerate Modernization. The restructuring of the architecture of this system is not excluded for faster and more efficient implementation of new components and capabilities.

Promising components

In the future, new components may become part of the strategic missile defense system. Some of these developments are intended to replace existing complexes, while others will occupy an empty niche. It is expected that such measures will lead to a significant increase in the combat capabilities of missile defense and will allow for a more flexible response to emerging threats.

Destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) launches SM-6 rocket

In the future, the Next-Generation Interceptor (NGI) interceptor missile will be on alert. At the moment, the NGI program is at the stage of competitive development of preliminary projects. In the near future, the Pentagon will study the proposals of the three participants and choose the most successful one for further development. The NGI interceptor missile will replace the existing GBI and will provide an increase in range, altitude and interception efficiency.

Preliminary studies on the topic of integration of F-35 fighters into missile defense are ongoing. To solve this problem, it is necessary to update the communication facilities and the aiming and navigation system of the aircraft, as well as to develop two types of interceptor missiles. Depending on the ways of further development of the defense system as a whole, from 30 to 60 aircraft can be put on anti-missile alert.

Expected Problems

The program for the construction of a strategic missile defense system capable of protecting US territory from major threats has become perhaps the largest and most ambitious in the history of the American armed forces. At the same time, the constructed system must be constantly updated, supplemented and expanded in order to maintain its combat capability corresponding to the level of existing and expected threats.

Features of the promising project of the HGI rocket from Lockheed Martin

Right now, the Pentagon and the ABM Agency are making plans for the further development of missile defense. Various possibilities of modernizing existing components and creating new ones are considered. In addition, the financial side of such modernization is being worked out, and the corresponding items of expenditure are included in the defense budget.

In the course of these processes, the US Army faces a number of specific challenges. First of all, this is the need to create extremely complex weapons and equipment. Moreover, over time, as percussion systems develop, their complexity only grows. The high complexity affects the cost of promising programs, with a recent Congressional report showing that their cost estimates could be understated by tens of percent.

It is obvious that the United States will continue to improve its missile defense system by all available methods. The number of equipment and weapons on alert will grow, and over time, available samples will be supplemented or replaced with promising ones. However, these processes will continue to be accompanied by inherent problems. Continuous technical difficulties will lead to deadlines and revisions of plans, as well as unplanned increases in costs. And it is quite possible that all the tasks set will not be able to be solved even for 176 billion, determined by the Congress.

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