Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 X-band mobile radar is one of the United States’ most powerful assets in the defense against ballistic missiles. That threat is an increasingly worrisome one: according to unclassified U.S. Missile Defense Agency data the number of such missiles outside the control of the U.S., NATO, Russia and China is around 6,300. That figure is forecast to grow to nearly 8,000 in the next decade.
Missile Defense Agency
On May 16, at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, a Raytheon SM-3 Block IB hit-to-kill interceptor was successfully fired by the Aegis-equipped cruiser U.S.S. Lake Erie at a separating short-range ballistic missile target. The FTM-19 test was not only the 23rd successful intercept for the SM-3 weapon, but the third consecutive success for the latest Block IB version. Having achieved three successful strikes in a row, the Block IB is now authorized for production.
Boeing said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is the first payload customer for its Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. On June 5, the Department of Defense (DOD) agency announced a $6.8 million contract modification with Boeing to incorporate an unspecified payload aboard future test flights of the aircraft.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a “phased adaptive approach” (PAA) for the missile defense of Europe to be deployed in four phases with a mix of sea- and land-based assets. A critical element is the Raytheon Standard Missile 3 interceptor, which in its Block 1A configuration forms the basis of PAA Phase I capability, which has now been implemented.
Late last month Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing officials gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their partnership developing the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system. At the same time, they announced an extension to the partnership, which at present is working on the Arrow 3 two-stage interceptor.
Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system successfully undertook a sophisticated “two versus two” trial-firing last month, and the air defense system has just completed a final review regarding the possible sale to the United Arab Emirates, which could be announced imminently.
Having been developed in some urgency, Rafael’s Iron Dome dual-mission defense system is now operational, and in April an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) battery proved its worth for the first time when several Grad rockets were intercepted after launch from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.
It was always an ambitious plan: Develop the world’s most powerful airborne laser, integrate it on a large airliner and use it to shoot down ballistic missiles at the most opportune time–during the boost phase. Go operational in 2007. But after spending almost $5 billion on the airborne laser (ABL) in 15 years, the MDA redesignated it as the airborne laser test bed (ALTB).
Are the nations of Europe serious about comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD)? Or are they happy to let America provide the only effective shield over their cities and populations? Despite a ringing declaration of intent at the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last November, these questions remain unanswered.