Missile defense

Missile defense is a system, weapon, or technology involved in the detection, tracking, interception, and destruction of attacking missiles. Originally conceived as a defense against nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), its application has broadened to include shorter-ranged non-nuclear tactical and theater missiles.

The United States, Russia, China, India, Israel, France, and Taiwan have all developed such air defense systems.[1] In the United States, missile defense was originally the responsibility of the U.S. Army. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has developed maritime systems and command and control that will eventually be transferred to the Navy and Air Force for operation and sustainment.

Arrow Missile Exhibition I
The Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile

Missile defense categories

AAD Launch Crop
India's Advanced Air Defense (AAD) endo-atmospheric anti-ballistic missile

Missile defense can be divided into categories based on various characteristics: type/range of missile intercepted, the trajectory phase where the intercept occurs, and whether intercepted inside or outside the Earth's atmosphere:

Type/range of missile intercepted

These types/ranges include strategic, theater and tactical. Each entails unique requirements for intercept, and a defensive system capable of intercepting one missile type frequently cannot intercept others. However, there is sometimes overlap in capability.


Targets long-range ICBMs, which travel at about 7 km/s (15,700 mph). Examples of currently active systems: Russian A-135 system which defends Moscow, and the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system that defends the United States from missiles launched from Asia. Geographic range of strategic defense can be regional (Russian system) or national (U.S. system).


Targets medium-range missiles, which travel at about 3 km/s (6,700 mph) or less. In this context, the term "theater" means the entire localized region for military operations, typically a radius of several hundred kilometers. Defense range of theater defensive systems is usually on this order. Examples of deployed theater missile defenses: Israeli Arrow missile, American THAAD, and Russian S-400.


Targets short-range tactical ballistic missiles, which usually travel at less than 1.5 km/s (3,400 mph). Tactical anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) have short ranges, typically 20–80 km (12–50 miles). Examples of currently-deployed tactical ABMs: American MIM-104 Patriot and Russian S-300V.

Trajectory phase

Ballistic missiles can be intercepted in three regions of their trajectory: boost phase, midcourse phase, or terminal phase.

Boost phase

Intercepting the missile while its rocket motors are firing, usually over the launch territory (e.g., American aircraft-mounted laser weapon Boeing YAL-1 [program canceled]).


  • Bright, hot rocket exhaust makes detection and targeting easier.
  • Decoys cannot be used during boost phase.
  • At this stage, the missile is full of flammable propellant, which makes it very vulnerable to explosive warheads.


  • Difficult to geographically position interceptors to intercept missiles in boost phase (not always possible without flying over hostile territory).
  • Short time for intercept (typically about 180 seconds).

Mid-course phase

Intercepting the missile in space after the rocket burns out (example: American Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Chinese SC-19 & DN-series missiles, Israeli Arrow 3 missile).


  • Extended decision/intercept time (the coast period through space before reentering the atmosphere can be several minutes, up to 20 minutes for an ICBM).
  • Very large geographic defensive coverage; potentially continental.


  • Requires large, heavy anti-ballistic missiles and sophisticated powerful radar which must often be augmented by space-based sensors.
  • Must handle potential space-based decoys.

Terminal phase

Intercepting the missile after it reenters the atmosphere (examples: American Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, Chinese HQ-29, American THAAD, American Sprint, Russian ABM-3 Gazelle)


  • Smaller, lighter anti-ballistic missile is sufficient.
  • Balloon decoys do not work during reentry.
  • Smaller, less sophisticated radar required.


  • Very short intercept time, possibly less than 30 seconds.
  • Less defended geographic coverage.
  • Possible blanketing of target area with hazardous materials in the case of detonation of nuclear warhead(s).

Intercept location relative to the atmosphere

Missile defense can take place either inside (endoatmospheric) or outside (exoatmospheric) the Earth's atmosphere. The trajectory of most ballistic missiles takes them inside and outside the Earth's atmosphere, and they can be intercepted in either place. There are advantages and disadvantages to either intercept technique.

Some missiles such as THAAD can intercept both inside and outside the Earth's atmosphere, giving two intercept opportunities.


Endoatmospheric anti-ballistic missiles are usually shorter ranged (e.g., American MIM-104 Patriot Indian Advanced Air Defence).


  • Physically smaller and lighter
  • Easier to move and deploy
  • Endoatmospheric intercept means balloon-type decoys won't work


  • Limited range and defended area
  • Limited decision and tracking time for the incoming warhead


Exoatmospheric anti-ballistic missiles are usually longer-ranged (e.g., American GMD, Ground-Based Midcourse Defense).


  • More decision and tracking time
  • Fewer missiles required for defense of a larger area


  • Larger/heavier missiles required
  • More difficult to transport and place compared to smaller missiles
  • Must handle decoys

Countermeasures to Missile Defense

Given the immense variety by which a defense system can operate (targeting nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), tactical, and theater missiles), there are some unarguably effective exoatmospheric (outside the Earth's atmosphere) countermeasures an attacking party can use to deter or completely defend against certain types of defense systems, ranges of ACBM's, and intercept locations. Many of defenses to these countermeasures have been implemented and taken into account when constructing missile defense systems, however, it does not guarantee their effectiveness or success. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has received scrutiny in regards to their lack of foresight of these countermeasures, causing many scientists to perform various studies and data analysis as to the true effectiveness of these countermeasures.[2]


A common countermeasure that attacking parties use to disrupt the efficacy of Missile Defense Systems are the simultaneous launching of decoys from the primary launch site or from the exterior of the main attacking missile itself. These decoys are usually small, lightweight dud rockets that take advantage of the interceptor sensors tracking and fool it by making many different targets available in an instant, This accomplished via the releasing of decoys in certain phases of flight. Because objects of differing weights follow the same trajectory when in space, decoys released during the midcourse phase can prevent interceptor missiles from accurately identifying the warhead. This could force the defense system to attempt to destroy all incoming projectiles, which masks the true attacking missile and lets it slip by the defense system.[2]

Common Types of Decoys

Since there can be many forms of this type of deception of a missile system, different categorizations of decoys have developed, all of which operate and are designed slightly different. Details of these types of decoys and their effectiveness were provided in a report by a variety of prominent scientists in 2000.[2]

This categorization of decoy is the most similar to the standard understanding of what a missile decoy is. These types of decoys attempt to mask the attacking ICBM via the release of many similar missiles. This type of decoy confuses the missile defense system by the sudden replication the shear amount of similar targets there are. Knowing that no defense system is 100% reliable, this confusion within the targeting of the defense system would cause the system to target each decoy with equal priority and as if it was the actual warhead, allowing the real warheads chance of passing through the system and striking the target to increase drastically.[2]

Similar to replica decoys, these types of decoys also take advantage of the limitations in number within the missile defense systems targeting. However, rather than using missiles of similar build and trace to the attacking warhead, these types of decoys all have slightly different appearances from both each other and the warhead itself. This creates a different kind of confusion within the system; rather than creating a situation where each decoy (and the warhead itself) appears the same and is therefore targeted and treated exactly like the "real" warhead, the targeting system simply does not know what is the real threat and what is a decoy due to the mass amount of differing information. This creates a similar situation as the result of the replica decoy, increasing the chance that the real warhead passes through the system and strikes the target.[2]

This type of decoy is perhaps the most subversive and the most difficult for a missile defense system to determine. Instead of taking advantage of the targeting of the missile defense system, this type of decoy actually reaches into the minds of its operators. Rather than using sheer numbers to fool the targeting system, this type of decoy instead disguises the actual warhead as a decoy and a decoy as the actual warhead. This system of "anti-simulation" allows the attacking warhead to, in some cases, take advantage of certain missile defense systems "bulk-filtering" system (a system in which objects with characteristics that are a poor match to those the defense expects the warhead to have are either not observed because of sensor filters or observed very briefly and immediately rejected without the need for a detailed examination) and simply pass by undetected and rejected as a threat.[2]

Cooled Shrouds

Another common countermeasure used to fool missile defense systems are the implementation of cooled shrouds surrounding attacking missiles. This method covers the entire missile in a steel containment filled with liquid oxygen, nitrogen, or other sub-zero coolants that prevent the missile from being easily detected. Because many missile defense systems use infrared sensors to detect the heat traces of incoming missiles, this capsule of extremely cold liquid either rends the incoming missile entirely invisible to detection or reduces the system's ability to detect the incoming missile fast enough.[3]

Other types of Infrared stealthing

Another commonly applied countermeasure to missile defense is the application of various low-emissivity coatings. Similar to cooled shrouds, these warheads are fully coated with infrared reflective or resistant coatings that allow similar resistance to infrared detection that cooled shrouds do. However, because the most effective coating that has been discovered so far is gold, this method is often overstepped by cooled shrouds.[2]

Biological/Chemical Weapons

This is perhaps the most "gung-ho" approach to countering missile defense systems that are designed to destroy ICBM's and other forms of nuclear weaponry. Rather than using many missiles equipped with nuclear warheads as their main weapon of attack, this idea involves the release of biological or chemical sub-munition weapons/agents from the missile shortly after the boost phase of the attacking ICBM. Because missile defense systems are designed with intent to destroy main attacking missiles or ICBM's, this system of sub-munition attack is too numerous for the system to defend against while also distributing the chemical or biological agent across a large area of attack. There is currently no proposed countermeasure to this type of attack except through diplomacy and the effective banning of biological weaponry and chemical agents within war. However, this does not guarantee that this countermeasure to missile defense system will not be abused via extremists/terrorists. An example of this severe threat can be further seen in North Korea's testing of anthrax tipped ICBM's in 2017.[4]

Command and Control

127th Command and Control Squadron - Distributed Common Ground System
127th Command and Control Squadron - Distributed Common Ground System

Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC)

Command and control systems is a hardware and software interface that integrates a multitude of sensory information at a centralized center for the ballistic missile defense system (BMDS). The command center allows for human management in accordance to the incorporated sensory information- BMDS status, system coverage, and ballistic missile attacks. The interface system helps build an image of the battle scenario or situation which enables the user to select the optimal firing solutions.[5][6][7]

Seal of the United States Strategic Command
Seal of the United States Strategic Command
USCG Command Control and Communications
USCG Command Control and Communications

The first C2BMC system became operational in the year 2004. Since then, many elements have been added to update the C2BMC which act to provide further sensory information and allow for enhanced communications between combatant commanders. The C2BMC is even capable of initiating live planning system before any engagement has even started.[8][9]

GMD Fire Control and Communication (GFC)

The function of GMD is to provide combatants the ability to seek and destroy intermediate and long range ballistic missiles en route to the US homeland via Ground-based Midcourse Defense systems (GBI). Data is transmitted from various the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS), and compiles an image using the coordinated information. The GFC is able to relay real-time data once GBI missiles have been launched. The GMD can also work to receive information from the C2BMC which allows Aegis SPY-1, and TPY-2 to contribute to the defense system[10]

A problem with GMD is that the ground systems have increasingly becoming obsolete as the technology was initially installed as early as the 1990s. As such, the ground sensors been replaced sometime in 2018. The update will add the capability of handling up to 44 GBI's; it will also reduce overlapping redundancies and inefficiencies.[11]


Link-16 is a data link that networks communication between land, air, and sea forces to support joint operations and improve operability. The system is intended to improve the interoperability for joint operations of NATO as well as coalition forces. Link-16 is also used by the U.S. Army and Navy for air and sea operations. An important feature of Link-16 is its ability to broadcast information simultaneously to as many users as needed. A unique feature of Link-16 is its ability to act as nodes which allows for a multitude of distributed forces to operate cohesively.[12]

The newest generation of Link-16 is the Multifunctional Information Distribution System Low Volume Terminal (MIDS LVT). It is a much smaller unit that can be fitted on air, ground, and sea units to incorporate data. The MIDS LVT terminals are installed on most bombers, aircraft, UAV's, tankers, allowing for the incorporation of most air defense systems.[9]

Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS)

The IBCS is seen as the future for command and control systems for U.S. army defense systems. It's designed to integrate data relaying between weapon launchers, radars, and the operators which allow air defense units to fire interceptors with information being relayed amongst radars. This advantage of such system increases the area in which an air unit can defend. More importantly, it will reduce interceptor waste by reducing the probability more than one air defense unit launch unnecessary interceptors towards the same target. The IBCS is intended to replace other command and control systems already in use. The IBCS is also capable of being comparable with that of foreign military. There are some intentions for the use of IBCS on a global level with the global C2BMC system.[13]

Mda logo
Missile Defense Agency logo

The IBCS system is intended to be operational in 2019; between 2016 and 2017, implementation of IBCS had to be put on hold due to software issues with the system.[9]

  • use data from multiple sensors to integrate into a single picture
  • select different weapons depending on the threat
  • allows for ease of engagement due to its versatility instead of being limited to a particular unit capabilities.


In the 1950s and 1960s, Missile Defense meant defense against strategic (usually nuclear-armed) missiles. The technology mostly centered around detecting offensive launch events and tracking inbound ballistic missiles, but with limited ability to actually defend against the missile. The Soviet Union achieved the first nonnuclear intercept of a ballistic missile warhead by a missile at the Sary Shagan antiballistic missile defense test range on 4 March 1961.

MIM-14 Nike-Hercules 08
Nike Hercules missiles

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the United States Project Nike air defense program focused initially on targeting hostile bombers before shifting focus to targeting ballistic missiles. In the 1950s, the first United States anti-ballistic missile system was the Nike Hercules, which had the ability to intercept incoming short-range ballistic missiles, but not intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) or ICBMs. This was followed by the Nike Zeus, which was capable of intercepting ICBMs by using a nuclear warhead, upgraded radar systems, faster computers, and control systems that were more effective in the upper atmosphere. However it was feared the missile's electronics may be vulnerable to x-rays from a nuclear detonation in space. A program was started to devise methods of hardening weapons from radiation damage.[14] By the early 1960s the Nike Zeus was the first anti-ballistic missile to achieve hit-to-kill (physically colliding with the incoming warhead).

In 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara diverted funds from the Zeus missile program, and instead directed that funding to the development of the Nike-X system, which utilized the high-speed, short-range Sprint missile. These missiles were meant to intercept incoming warheads after they had descended from space and were only seconds from their targets. To accomplish this, Nike-X required advances in missile design to make the Sprint missile quick enough to intercept incoming warheads in time. The system also included advanced active electronically scanned array radar systems and a powerful computer complex.

During the development of Nike-X, controversy over the effectiveness of anti-ballistic missile systems became more prominent. Critiques of the Nike-X included an estimate that the anti-ballistic missile system could be defeated by Soviets manufacturing more ICBMs, and the cost of those additional ICBMs needed to defeat Nike-X would also cost less than what the United States would spend on implementing Nike-X. Additionally, McNamara reported that a ballistic missile system would save American lives at the cost of approximately $700 per life, compared to a shelter system that could save lives at a lower cost of approximately $40 per life.[15] As a result of these estimations, McNamara opposed implementation of Nike-X due to the high costs associated with construction and perceived poor cost-effectiveness of the system, and instead expressed support for pursuing arms limitations agreements with the Soviets. After the Chinese government detonated their first hydrogen bomb during Test No. 6. in 1967, McNamara modified the Nike-X program into a program called Sentinel. This program's goal was to protect major U.S. cities from a limited ICBM attack, especially on one from China.[16] This would be done by building fifteen sites across the continental US, and one site in each of Alaska and Hawaii. This in turn reduced tensions with the Soviet Union, which retained the offensive capability to overwhelm any U.S. defense. McNamara favored this approach as deploying the Sentinel program was less costly than a fully implemented Nike-X program, and would reduce Congressional pressures to implement an ABM system. In the months following the announcements regarding the Sentinel program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated: "Let me emphasize—and I cannot do so too strongly—that our decision to go ahead with a limited ABM deployment in no way indicates that we feel an agreement with the Soviet Union on the limitation of strategic nuclear offensive and defensive forces is in any way less urgent or desirable."[17]

The Soviet Union began installing the A-35 anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow in 1965 and would become operational by 1971, but there were known flaws with the design such as an inability to defend against MIRV style weapons. During installation, a Ministry of Defense commission concluded that the system should not be fully implemented, reducing the capabilities of the completed system. That system was later upgraded to the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system and is still operational.

Daryal radars planned
As part of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972, all radars for detecting missiles were placed on the edges of the territory and faced outward.

The SALT I talks began in 1969, and led to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972, which ultimately limited the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to one defensive missile site each, with no more than 100 missiles per site. This included both ABM interceptor missiles as well as launchers. Originally, the agreement made by the Nixon administration and the Soviet Union stated that both of the two nations were each allowed to have two ABM defensive systems present in their own countries. The goal was to effectively have one ABM defense system located near each nation's capital city as well as another ABM defense system placed near the nation's most important or strategical ICBM field. This treaty allowed for an effective form of deterrence for both sides as if either side were to make an offensive move, the other side would be capable of countering that move. However, a few years later in 1974 both sides reworked the treaty to include only one ABM defensive system present around an ICBM launch area or the nation's capital city. This occurred once both sides determined the other side was not going to construct a second ABM defensive system. Along with limiting the amount of ballistic missile defense systems each nation could have, the treaty also stated if either country desired to have a radar for incoming missile detection, the radar system must be located on the outskirts of the territory and must be aligned in the opposite direction of one's own country. This treaty would end up being the precedent set for future missile defense programs, as any systems that were not stationary and land-based were a violation of the treaty.[18]

As a result of the treaty and of technical limitations, along with public opposition to nearby nuclear-armed defensive missiles, the U.S. Sentinel program was re-designated the Safeguard Program, with the new goal of defending U.S. ICBM sites, not cities. The U.S. Safeguard system was planned to be implemented in various sites across the US, including at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, and Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 placed a limit of two ABM systems within the US, causing the work site in Missouri to be abandoned, and the partially-completed Montana site was abandoned in 1974 after an additional agreement between the US and USSR that limited each country to one ABM system. As a result, the only Safeguard system that was deployed was to defend the LGM-30 Minuteman ICBMs near Grand Forks, North Dakota. However, it was deactivated in 1976 after being operational for less than four months due to a changing political climate plus concern over limited effectiveness, low strategic value, and high operational cost.[19]

Space Laser Satellite Defense System Concept
An artist's concept of a Space Laser Satellite Defense System as a part of the Strategic Defense Initiative

In the early 1980s, technology had matured to consider space based missile defense options. Precision hit-to-kill systems more reliable than the early Nike Zeus were thought possible. With these improvements, the Reagan Administration promoted the Strategic Defense Initiative, an ambitious plan to provide a comprehensive defense against an all-out ICBM attack. In pursuit of that goal, the Strategic Defense Initiative investigated a variety of potential missile-defense systems, which included systems utilizing ground-based missile systems and space-based missile systems, as well as systems utilizing lasers or particle beam weapons. This program faced controversy over the feasibility of the projects it pursued, as well as the substantial amount of funding and time required for the research to develop the requisite technology. The Strategic Defense Initiative earned the nickname "Star Wars" due to criticism from Senator Ted Kennedy in which he described the Strategic Defense Initiative as "reckless Star Wars schemes.".[20] Reagan established the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) to oversee the development of the program's projects. Upon request by the SDIO, the American Physical Society (APS) performed a review of the concepts being developed within SDIO and concluded that all of the concepts pursuing use of Directed Energy Weapons were not feasible solutions for an anti-missile defense system without decades of additional research and development.[21] Following the APS's report in 1986, the SDIO switched focus to a concept called the Strategic Defense System, which would utilize a system of space-based missiles called Space Rocks which would intercept incoming ballistic missiles from orbit, and would be supplemented by ground-based missile defense systems. In 1993, the SDIO was closed and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) was created, which focuses on ground-based missile defense systems utilizing interceptor missiles. In 2002, BMDO's name was changed to its current title, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). See National Missile Defense for additional details. In the early 1990s, missile defense expanded to include tactical missile defense, as seen in the first Gulf War. Although not designed from the outset to intercept tactical missiles, upgrades gave the Patriot system a limited missile defense capability. The effectiveness of the Patriot system in disabling or destroying incoming Scuds was the subject of Congressional hearings and reports in 1992.[22]

ICBM Comparison
Various ICBMs utilized by varying countries.

In the time following the agreement of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, it was becoming increasingly more and more difficult for the United States to create a new missile defense strategy without violating the terms of the treaty. During the Clinton administration, the initial goal the United States had interest in, was to negotiate with the former Soviet Union, which is now Russia, and hopefully agree to a revision to the treaty signed a few decades prior. In the late 1990s the United States had interest in an idea termed NMD or National Missile Defense. This idea essentially would allow the United States to increase the number of ballistic missile interceptors that would be available to missile defense personnel at the Alaska location. While the initial ABM treaty was designed primarily to deter the Soviet Union and help create a period of détente, the United States was primarily fearing other threats such as Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. The Russian government was not interested in making any sort of modification to the ABM treaty that would allow for technology to be developed that was explicitly banned when the treaty was agreed upon. However, Russia was interested in revising the treaty in such a way that would allow for a more diplomatic approach to potential missile harboring countries. During this period, the United States was also seeking assistance for their ballistic missile defense systems from Japan. Following the testing of the Taepo Dong missile by the North Korean government, the Japanese government became more concerned and inclined to accept a partnership for a BMD system with the United States. In late 1998, Japan and the United States agreed to the Naval Wide Theater system which would allow the two sides to design, construct, and test ballistic missile defense systems together.[23] Nearing the end of Clinton's time in office, it had been determined that the NMD program was not as effective as the United States would have liked, and the decision was made to not employ this system while Clinton served out the rest of his term. The decision on future of the NMD program was going to be given to the next president in line, who ultimately would end up being George W. Bush.[24]

In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, the issue of defense against cruise missiles became more prominent with the new Bush Administration. In 2002, President George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, allowing further development and testing of ABMs under the Missile Defense Agency, as well as deployment of interceptor vehicles beyond the single site allowed under the treaty. During the Bush's time in office, the potentially threatening countries to the United States included North Korea as well as Iran. While these countries might not have possessed the weaponry that many countries containing missile defense systems had, the Bush administration expected an Iranian missile test within the next ten years. In order to counter the potential risk of North Korean missiles, the United States Department of Defense desired to create missile defense systems along the west coast of the United States, namely in both California and Alaska.[25]

DEW radar site in Greenland (cropped)
A NORAD Distant Early Warning Line (DEW) station in western Greenland is visible in the distance beyond the snow-drifted equipment pallets in the foreground of this photograph. The DEW Line was designed to track inbound ballistic missiles.

There are still technological hurdles to an effective defense against ballistic missile attack. The United States National Ballistic Missile Defense System has come under scrutiny about its technological feasibility. Intercepting midcourse (rather than launch or reentry stage) ballistic missiles traveling at several miles per second with a "kinetic kill vehicle" has been characterized as trying to hit a bullet with a bullet. Despite this difficulty, there have been several successful test intercepts and the system was made operational in 2006, while tests and system upgrades continue.[26] Moreover, the warheads or payloads of ballistic missiles can be concealed by a number of different types of decoys. Sensors that track and target warheads aboard the kinetic kill vehicle may have trouble distinguishing the "real" warhead from the decoys, but several tests that have included decoys were successful. Nira Schwartz's and Theodore Postol's criticisms about the technical feasibility of these sensors have led to a continuing investigation of research misconduct and fraud at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[27]

In February 2007, the U.S. missile defense system consisted of 13 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) at Fort Greely, Alaska, plus two interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The U.S. planned to have 21 interceptor missiles by the end of 2007.[28] The system was initially called National Missile Defense (NMD), but in 2003 the ground-based component was renamed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). As of 2014, the Missile Defense Agency had 30 operational GBIs.[29]

Defending against cruise missiles is similar to defending against hostile, low-flying manned aircraft. As with aircraft defense, countermeasures such as chaff, flares, and low altitude can complicate targeting and missile interception. High-flying radar aircraft such as AWACS can often identify low flying threats by using doppler radar. Another possible method is using specialized satellites to track these targets. By coupling a target's kinetic inputs with infrared and radar signatures it may be possible to overcome the countermeasures.

In March 2008, the U.S. Congress convened hearings to re-examine the status of missile defense in U.S. military strategy. Upon taking office, President Obama directed a comprehensive review of ballistic missile defense policy and programs. The review's findings related to Europe were announced on 17 September 2009. The Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) Report was published in February 2010.[30][31]

NATO missile defense system

Defence Imagery - Missiles 19
HMS Diamond firing an Aster missile for the first time in 2012.


The Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) is the senior NATO committee which acts as the tasking authority for the theater missile defense program. The ALTBMD Program Management Organization, which comprises a steering committee and a program office hosted by the NATO C3 Agency, directs the program and reports to the CNAD. The focal point for consultation on full-scale missile defense is the Reinforced Executive Working Group. The CNAD is responsible for conducting technical studies and reporting the outcome to the Group. The NRC Ad hoc Working Group on TMD is the steering body for NATO-Russia cooperation on theater missile defense.

In September 2018, a consortium of 23 NATO nations met to collaborate on the Nimble Titan 18 integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) campaign of experimentation.[32]

Missile defense

By early 2010, NATO will have an initial capability to protect Alliance forces against missile threats and is examining options for protecting territory and populations. This is in response to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, including missiles of all ranges. NATO is conducting three missile defense–related activities:

Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System capability

Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System is "ALTBMD" for short.

As of early 2010, the Alliance has an interim capability to protect troops in a specific area against short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles (up to 3,000 kilometers).

The end system consist of a multi-layered system of systems, comprising low- and high-altitude defenses (also called lower- and upper-layer defenses), including Battle Management Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (BMC3I), early warning sensors, radar, and various interceptors. NATO member countries provide the sensors and weapon systems, while NATO has developed the BMC3I segment and facilitate the integration of all these elements.

Missile Defense for the protection of NATO territory

A Missile Defense Feasibility Study was launched after NATO's 2002 Prague summit. The NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A) and NATO's Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) were also involved in negotiations. The study concluded that missile defense is technically feasible, and it provided a technical basis for ongoing political and military discussions regarding the desirability of a NATO missile defense system.

During the 2008 Bucharest summit, the alliance discussed the technical details as well as the political and military implications of the proposed elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe. Allied leaders recognized that the planned deployment of European-based U.S. missile defense assets would help protect North American Allies, and agreed that this capability should be an integral part of any future NATO-wide missile defense architecture. However, these opinions are in the process of being reconstructed given the Obama administration's decision in 2009 to replace the long-range interceptor project in Poland with a short/medium range interceptor.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that NATO's pattern of deployment of Patriot missiles indicates that these will be used to defend against Iranian missiles in addition to the stated goal of defending against spillover from the Syrian civil war.[33]

Theater Missile Defense cooperation with Russia

Under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council, a 2003 study assessed possible levels of interoperability among in-theater missile defense systems of NATO allies and Russia.

Together with the interoperability study, several computer-assisted exercises have been held to provide the basis for future improvements to interoperability and to develop mechanisms and procedures for joint operations in the area of in-theater missile defense.[34]

Aegis-based system

In order to accelerate the deployment of a missile shield over Europe, Barack Obama sent ships with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System to European waters, including the Black Sea as needed.[35]

In 2012 the system will achieve an "interim capability" that will for the first time offer American forces in Europe some protection against IRBM attack.[36] However these interceptors may be poorly placed and of the wrong type to defend the United States, in addition to American troops and facilities in Europe.[37]

ACCS Theatre Missile Defense 1

According to BioPrepWatch, NATO has signed a 136 million euro contract with ThalesRaytheonSystems to upgrade its current theatre missile defense program.

The project, called ACCS Theatre Missile Defense 1, will bring new capabilities to NATO's Air Command and Control System, including updates for processing ballistic missile tracks, additional satellite and radar feeds, improvements to data communication and correlation features. The upgrade to its theatre missile defense command and control system will allow for NATO to connect national sensors and interceptors in defense against short and medium-range ballistic missiles. According to NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment Patrick Auroy, the execution of this contract will be a major technical milestone forward for NATO's theatre missile defense. The project was expected to be complete by 2015.[38] An integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) capability will be delivered to the operational community by 2016, by which time NATO will have a true theatre missile defense.[39]

Defense systems and initiatives

See also


  1. ^ "Demonstration of integrated missile air defense system by June next year: Dr VK Saraswat". domain-b.com. 10 December 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sessler, Andrew M.; et al. (April 2000). "Countermeasures: A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned US National Missile Defense System" (PDF). MIT Security Studies Program.
  3. ^ Lewis, George N. (2017). "Ballistic missile defense effectiveness". Washington, DC, USA: 030007. doi:10.1063/1.5009222.
  4. ^ Mizokami, Kyle (20 December 2017). "North Korea Is Reportedly Testing Anthrax-Tipped ICBMs". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Command and Control".
  6. ^ Pigeau, Ross. "RE-CONCEPTUALIZING COMMAND AND CONTROL" (PDF). journal.forces.
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External links

263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command

The 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command is an air defense artillery command of the United States Army, South Carolina Army National Guard. The 263rd is one of several National Guard units with colonial roots, and is one of only nineteen Army National Guard units with campaign credit for the War of 1812. The 263rd ADA Brigade was reflagged as 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command during 2000.

94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command

The 94th Air Defense Artillery Command is an activated (at Fort Shafter on 16 October 2005) air defense artillery command of the United States Army assigned to United States Army Pacific.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (Aegis BMD or ABMD) is a United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency program developed to provide missile defense against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. It is part of the United States national missile defense strategy. Aegis BMD (also known as Sea-Based Midcourse) is designed to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry.

It enables warships to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles by expanding the Aegis Combat System with the addition of the AN/SPY-1 radar and Standard missile technologies. Aegis BMD-equipped vessels can transmit their target detection information to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system and, if needed, engage potential threats using the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) mid-course interceptors and the RIM-156 Standard Missile 2 Extended Range Block IV (SM-2 Block IV) or RIM-174 Standard Extended Range Active Missile (SM-6) terminal-phase interceptors. The Aegis BMD system is not designed, at least at present, to intercept longer-ranged intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Detection and tracking data collected by the Aegis BMD system's radar, however, might be passed to other U.S. BMD systems that are designed to intercept ICBMs, which might support intercepts of ICBMs that are conducted by those other U.S. BMD systems.The current system uses the Lockheed Martin Aegis Weapon System and the Raytheon Standard missile. Notable subcontractors and technical experts include Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Honeywell, Engility, Naval Surface Warfare Center, SPAWAR Systems Center, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (Lincoln Lab).

Aegis Combat System

The Aegis Combat System is an American integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin. It uses powerful computer and radar technology to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets.

Initially used by the United States Navy, Aegis is now used also by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Spanish Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy, Republic of Korea Navy and Royal Australian Navy. Over 100 Aegis-equipped ships have been deployed. It is also part of NATO's European missile defence system.

Air Defense Artillery Branch

The Air Defense Artillery branch is the branch of the United States Army that specializes in anti-aircraft weapons (such as surface to air missiles). In the U.S. Army, these groups are composed of mainly air defense systems such as the Patriot Missile System, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and the Avenger Air Defense system which fires the FIM-92 Stinger missile. The Air Defense Artillery branch descended from Anti-Aircraft Artillery (part of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps until 1950, then part of the Artillery Branch) into a separate branch on 20 June 1968. On 1 December 1968, the ADA branch was authorized to wear modified Artillery insignia, crossed field guns with missile. The Branch Motto, "First To Fire", was adopted in 1986 by the attendees of the ADA Commanders' Conference at Fort Bliss. The motto refers to a speech given by General Jonathan Wainwright to veterans of the 200th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) stating they were the 'First to Fire' in World War II against the Empire of Japan.

Anti-ballistic missile

An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a surface-to-air missile designed to counter ballistic missiles (see missile defense). Ballistic missiles are used to deliver nuclear, chemical, biological, or conventional warheads in a ballistic flight trajectory. The term "anti-ballistic missile" is a generic term conveying a system designed to intercept and destroy any type of ballistic threat; however, it is commonly used for systems specifically designed to counter intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Boeing YAL-1

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system was a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. It was primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase. The aircraft was designated YAL-1A in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Defense.The YAL-1 with a low-power laser was test-fired in flight at an airborne target in 2007. A high-energy laser was used to intercept a test target in January 2010, and the following month, successfully destroyed two test missiles. Funding for the program was cut in 2010 and the program was canceled in December 2011. It made its final flight on February 14, 2011 to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to be kept in storage at the "Boneyard" by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. It was ultimately scrapped in September 2014 after all usable parts were removed.

Ground-Based Midcourse Defense

Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is the United States' anti-ballistic missile system for intercepting incoming warheads in space, during the midcourse phase of ballistic trajectory flight. It is a major component of the American missile defense strategy to counter ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional warheads. The system is deployed in military bases in the states of Alaska and California; in 2018 comprising 44 interceptors and spanning 15 time zones with sensors on land, at sea, and in orbit. In 2019, a missile defense review requested that 20 additional ground-based interceptors be based in Alaska.GMD is administered by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), while the operational control and execution is provided by the U.S. Army, and support functions are provided by the U.S. Air Force. Previously known as National Missile Defense (NMD), the name was changed in 2002 to differentiate it from other U.S. missile defense programs, such as space-based and sea-based intercept programs, or defense targeting the boost phase and reentry flight phases. The program was projected to have cost $40 billion by 2017. That year, the MDA scheduled its first intercept test in three years in the wake of North Korea's accelerated long-range missile testing program.

Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme

The Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme is an initiative to develop and deploy a multi-layered ballistic missile defence system to protect India from ballistic missile attacks.Introduced in light of the ballistic missile threat from mainly Pakistan, as well as from China, it is a double-tiered system consisting of two land and sea-based interceptor missiles, namely the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for high altitude interception, and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for lower altitude interception. The two-tiered shield should be able to intercept any incoming missile launched from 5,000 kilometres away. The system also includes an overlapping network of early warning and tracking radars, as well as command and control posts.The PAD was tested in November 2006, followed by the AAD in December 2007. With the test of the PAD missile, India became the fourth country to have successfully developed an anti-ballistic missile system, after United States, Russia, and Israel. The system has undergone several tests but system is yet to be officially commissioned.

Missile Defense Agency

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has its origins in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which was established in 1983 by Ronald Reagan which was headed by Lt. General James Alan Abrahamson. Under the Strategic Defense Initiative's Innovative Sciences and Technology Office headed by physicist and engineer Dr. James Ionson, the investment was predominantly made in basic research at national laboratories, universities, and in industry. These programs have continued to be key sources of funding for top research scientists in the fields of high-energy physics, supercomputing/computation, advanced materials, and many other critical science and engineering disciplines—funding which indirectly supports other research work by top scientists, and which was most politically viable to fund within the Military budget of the United States environment. It was renamed the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization in 1993, and then renamed the Missile Defense Agency in 2002. The current director is U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill.Rapid changes in the strategic environment due to the rapid Dissolution of the Soviet Union led, in 1993, to Bill Clinton focusing on theater ballistic missiles and similar threats, and renaming it the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, BMDO. With another change to a more global focus made by George W. Bush, in 2002 the organization became the Missile Defense Agency.

The Missile Defense Agency is partially or wholly responsible for the development of several ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, including the Patriot PAC-3, Aegis BMD, THAAD and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system. They also led the development of numerous other projects, including the Multiple Kill Vehicle and the newer Multi-Object Kill Vehicle, the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the Airborne Laser. As the inheritor of the SDI and BMDO work, the MDA continues to fund fundamental research in high-energy physics, supercomputing/computation, advanced materials, and many other science and engineering disciplines.

Missile defense systems by country

Missile defense systems are a type of missile defense intended to shield a country against incoming missiles, such as intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) or other ballistic missiles. The United States, Russia, Taiwan, India, France, Israel and China have all developed missile defense systems.

RIM-161 Standard Missile 3

The RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is a ship-based missile system used by the United States Navy to intercept short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as a part of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. Although primarily designed as an anti-ballistic missile, the SM-3 has also been employed in an anti-satellite capacity against a satellite at the lower end of low Earth orbit. The SM-3 is primarily used and tested by the United States Navy and also operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site

The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, commonly referred to as the Reagan Test Site (formerly Kwajalein Missile Range), is a missile test range in Marshall Islands (Pacific Ocean). It covers about 750,000 square miles (1,900,000 km2) and includes rocket launch sites at the Kwajalein Atoll (on multiple islands), Wake Island, and Aur Atoll. It primarily functions as a test facility for U.S. missile defense and space research programs. The Reagan Test Site is under the command of the US Army Kwajalein Atoll, or USAKA (pronounced /uːˈsɑːkə/).

Sea-based X-band Radar

The Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1) is a floating, self-propelled, mobile active electronically scanned array early-warning radar station designed to operate in high winds and heavy seas. It was developed as part of the Missile Defense Agency's Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The radar is mounted on a fifth generation CS-50 twin-hulled semi-submersible oil platform. Conversion of the vessel was carried out at the AmFELS yard in Brownsville, Texas; the radar mount was built and mounted on the vessel at the Kiewit yard in Ingleside, Texas. It is nominally based at Adak Island in Alaska, but has spent significant time at Pearl Harbor in test status.

Strategic Defense Initiative

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposed missile defense system intended to protect the United States from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons (intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles). The concept was first announced publicly by President Ronald Reagan on 23 March 1983. Reagan was a vocal critic of the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD), which he described as a "suicide pact", and he called upon the scientists and engineers of the United States to develop a system that would render nuclear weapons obsolete.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee development. A wide array of advanced weapon concepts, including lasers, particle beam weapons and ground- and space-based missile systems were studied, along with various sensor, command and control, and high-performance computer systems that would be needed to control a system consisting of hundreds of combat centers and satellites spanning the entire globe and involved in a battle that would last only minutes. A number of these concepts were tested through the late 1980s, and follow-on efforts and spin-offs continue to this day.

Under the SDIO's Innovative Sciences and Technology Office, headed by physicist and engineer Dr. James Ionson, the investment was predominantly made in basic research at national laboratories, universities, and in industry; these programs have continued to be key sources of funding for top research scientists in the fields of high-energy physics, supercomputing/computation, advanced materials, and many other critical science and engineering disciplines — funding which indirectly supports other research work by top scientists, and which would be politically impossible to fund outside of the defense budget environment.

In 1987, the American Physical Society concluded that the technologies being considered were decades away from being ready for use, and at least another decade of research was required to know whether such a system was even possible. After the publication of the APS report, SDIs budget was repeatedly cut. By the late 1980s, the effort had been re-focused on the "Brilliant Pebbles" concept using small orbiting missiles not unlike a conventional air-to-air missile, which was expected to be much less expensive to develop and deploy.

SDI was controversial throughout its history, and was criticized for threatening to destabilize the MAD-approach and to possibly re-ignite "an offensive arms race". SDI was derisively nicknamed by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy as "Star Wars", after the 1977 film by George Lucas. By the early 1990s, with the Cold War ending and nuclear arsenals being rapidly reduced, political support for SDI collapsed. SDI officially ended in 1993, when the administration of President Bill Clinton redirected the efforts towards theatre ballistic missiles and renamed the agency the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). BMDO was renamed the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is an American anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase (descent or reentry) by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach. THAAD was developed after the experience of Iraq's Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War in 1991. The THAAD interceptor carries no warhead, but relies on its kinetic energy of impact to destroy the incoming missile. A kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding conventional-warhead ballistic missiles, and the warhead of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles will not detonate upon a kinetic-energy hit.

Originally a United States Army program, THAAD has come under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency. The Navy has a similar program, the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which also has a land component ("Aegis ashore"). THAAD was originally scheduled for deployment in 2012, but initial deployment took place in May 2008. THAAD has been deployed in Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Romania, and South Korea.

The vulnerability and lethality analyses of the THAAD have been conducted by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The vulnerability assessment for the THAAD featured an evaluation of the effects of major electromagnetic elements. This included EM interference, EM radiation operations, EM radiation hazards, EM pulse, electrostatic discharge, and lightning effects on components of the THAAD system.The ARL assessments were designed to determine the THAAD system's growth potential given its tactical design as well as provide survivability analysis against threats such as conventional weapons, chemical weapons, and electronic warfare countermeasures. The data collected from the analyses were used to develop trajectory models for targets and missile as well as target trajectories using infrared scene generation of infrared countermeasures (IRCMs).The THAAD system is being designed, built, and integrated by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control acting as prime contractor. Key subcontractors include Raytheon, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense, and MiltonCAT.

United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command

The United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) is an Army Service Component Command (ASCC) of the United States Army. The command was established in 1997.

The current USASMDC commander is Lieutenant General James H. Dickinson with Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sergeant Major Finis A. Dodson.

The Army Space Command (ARSPACE) stood up in April 1988 as a field operating agency of the Deputy Chief of Staff (of the Army) for Operations and Plans. As the Army component of U.S. Space Command, ARSPACE was to provide the Army perspective in planning for Department of Defense space support and ensure the integration of Army requirements into joint planning for space support and "conduct planning for DoD space operations in support of Army strategic, operational and tactical missions."

A relatively small organization, it was soon put to the test. The new command was instrumental in bringing space assets to U.S. Army forces during Operation Desert Storm. Following the war, new operational missions, such as the Army Space Support Teams and the Joint Tactical Ground Stations, became key elements of the Army space program.

Organizationally however, ARSPACE remained a command, a Tables of Distribution and Allowances, or TDA, organization with offices and directorates according to mission, rather than an Army operational Table of Organization and Equipment unit. This changed on 1 May 1995. On that date, ARSPACE's Military Satellite Communications Directorate or MILSATCOM Directorate became the 1st Satellite Control, or SATCON, Battalion—the first Army battalion with an operational mission tied to space systems and capabilities.

United States missile defense complex in Poland

The United States missile defense complex in Poland, also called the European Interceptor Site (EIS), was a planned American missile defense base. It was intended to contain 10 silo-based interceptors: two-stage versions of the existing three-stage Ground-Based Interceptors with Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles that had a closing speed of about 7 km/s. The first planned complex was to be located near Redzikowo, Poland, forming a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system in conjunction with a U.S. narrow-beam midcourse tracking and discrimination radar system located in Brdy, Czech Republic. EIS was cancelled in 2009 and subsequently replaced with a phased plan—the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which will include SM-3 Block IIA interceptors to be positioned in Poland from 2018.

United States national missile defense

National missile defense (NMD) is a generic term for a type of missile defense intended to shield an entire country against incoming missiles, such as intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) or other ballistic missiles.

This is also used to refer to the American nationwide antimissile program the United States has had in development since the 1990s. After the renaming in 2002, the term now refers to the entire program, not just the ground-based interceptors and associated facilities. This article focuses mainly on this system and a brief history of earlier systems which led to it.

Other elements yet to be integrated into NMD may include anti-ballistic missiles, or sea-based, space-based, laser, and high altitude missile systems. The NMD program is limited in scope and designed to counter a relatively small ICBM attack from a less sophisticated adversary. Unlike the earlier Strategic Defense Initiative program, it is not designed to be a robust shield against a large attack from a technically sophisticated adversary.


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