Colleagues: Many of you have asked about the ballistic missile defense assets we have that could be deployed to intercept a North Korean attack. This from our friend Riki Ellison lays it out pretty clearly–probably more than you really wanted to know!

Would the system(s) work? Don’t know.


Here is a link to the piece with images: MDAA_In Place to Defeat It All


MDAA Alert:  

“In Place to Defeat It All”

April 12, 2013


Dear Members and Friends,

The ideal destruction and interception of a launched North Korean nuclear ballistic missile or missiles by current deployed United States missile defense systems is to take place in space with the precise use of kinetic energy from an intercepting vehicle at a high speed on a nuclear warhead traveling in space. Over 80 percent of a ballistic missile’s flight is in space which provides extensive time for multiple opportunities to intercept it. Identifying, tracking, and discriminating the warhead, over the course of its flight, is of absolute criticalness to the successful intercept of the ballistic missile.

In the due diligence of the U.S. Military to plan and prepare to defend against the worst case scenario of a launch of one or more of North Korea’s ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, the United States has deployed a robust layered missile defense system to defeat and destroy these nuclear ballistic missiles in space with high confidence. The current deployed U.S. Missile Defense assets are as follows:

* The United States Defense Support Program constellation of satellites and its new GEO-1 satellite, in geosynchronous orbit, can instantly identify and track any and all ballistic missile launches anywhere on North Korean territory in any weather condition day or night and determine within seconds where those missiles are precisely targeted.

* The United States forward based AN/TPY-2 X-Band radars in Northern Japan and Guam in collaboration with its THAAD firing battery as well as an additional AN/TPY-2 X-Band radar to be deployed in Southern Japan, as announced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on March 15, have the demonstrated proven capability to track, in the highest definition and fidelity of X-Band wavelengths, multiples of incoming ballistic missile warheads and provide exact tracking for firing solutions to each and every incoming warhead for precision interception during the warhead’s trajectory through  space and in the upper atmosphere as it renters. These forward based X-Band radars provide exact queuing as well as extending the battle space and range for the deployed United States and Japanese Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships loaded with SM-3 Block IA interceptors in the region. 

* There are 17 United States Aegis BMD ships deployed in the Pacific today and four Japanese Kongo Aegis BMD ships. Each of these ships have a minimum of 90 vertical launch tubes to hold SM-3 Block IA interceptors and each have an AN/SPY-1 phased array radar that can independently and collectively track and produce a firing solution to intercept  incoming ballistic missiles that fly within  hundreds of  miles around each ship. These Aegis BMD Ships have the capability to form a picket fence of connected sensors across the Pacific Ocean and can provide additional cueing for U.S. Homeland Defense as well as Allied Defense.

* The Aegis BMD ships, to include their AN/SPY-1 radars and SM-3 Block IA interceptors have had 24 successful intercept tests with the last being February 12th of this year. Some of these successful tests used the tracking information from the X-Band radars including the successful intercept of the falling satellite in February 20, 2008 to extend their ranges and battle space.

* The THAAD Battery in Guam has the proven capability to intercept ballistic missiles in lower space and in the Earth’s upper atmosphere as the warhead goes through reentry. The THAAD firing battery has six reusable launchers that can fire eight interceptors per launcher. THAAD with its X-Band radar and firing control system can defend an exponential greater area than a single Aegis BMD ship. THAAD has a successful test record of 10 for 10 since 2003 with the last successful intercept in October 25, 2012 in Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

* There is a constellation of two United States low earth orbit satellites called the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) that have provided tracking and firing solutions for both the Aegis BMD system and the THAAD system. This system was last successfully tested in February 12, 2013 with the successful Aegis SM-3 Block IA interceptor and in October 25, 2012 with the THAAD successful intercept test which included the Aegis and Patriot 3 missile defense systems.

* The Sea Based X-Band radar (SBX) now deployed in the Pacific Ocean, is the most powerful radar in the world today in regards to tracking and the discrimination of ballistic missiles and their warheads to provide firing solutions. The SBX has a range of thousands of miles and will provides the best sensing information of North Korean incoming ballistic missiles and their warheads for Hawaii, United States territories in the Pacific, and parts of United States mainland. The SBX provides this information primarily to the 26 Ground Based Interceptors (GBI) deployed in Alaska and the 4 GBIs in California but can also provide this information to the Aegis BMD ships in the region to enhance and extend their battle space. 

* The Upgraded Early Warning Radars in Shemya, Alaska in the far western Aleutian Islands, at Clear Air Force Station of Anderson, Alaska, and at Beale Air Force Base in California can provide tracking information to support firing information to those30 GBIs in Alaska and California in the defense of the North American Continent from North Korea. 

* The 30 GBIs are a combination of first generation and second generation kill vehicles. These GBIs can shoot multiple times at the same incoming ballistic missile over the course of that ballistic missiles flight in space thus increasing its reliability.  The first generation GBIs have had eight successful intercepts out of 15 tests. The last successful GBI test took place in December 5, 2008. The second generation GBI has not yet had a successful intercept test and had a successful non intercept test early this year on January 26th.    

It is abundantly clear that the United States military has a robust layered missile defense capability and capacity in place today with high confidence to destroy and deny nuclear North Korean ballistic missiles in flight.

It is also abundantly clear that more capacity and more missile defense testing will need to be done by the United States and its allies to remain confident with high reliability against and ahead of the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile threats.

It is with outstanding respect and great appreciation to the past 30 years of the resolve by the United States of America in its development and deployment of missile defense, from President Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama, to have a system that is in place today assuring with high confidence that we can defend our country and allies from a limited nuclear ballistic missile attack.



Riki Ellison

Chairman & FounderMissile

Defense Advocacy Alliance


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