Top U.S. Defense Department missile defense leaders provided positive updates on U.S. missile defense systems at a congressional hearing last Thursday, but one official was reluctant to say when the Missile Defense Review (MDR) would be released and written testimony identified an issue with Aegis Ashore.
Buried near the end of his written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), revealed a military construction (MILCON) delay at the Aegis Ashore site in Poland. This is pushing back the European Phase Adaptive Approach (EPAA) Phase 3 Technical Capability Direction back two years. The Phase 3 declaration was originally expected for Dec. 2018 but now is being moved back to 2020.
The EPAA is the European missile defense plan that originated in the Obama administration.
Greaves was testifying before the subcommittee with John Rood, under secretary of Defense for Policy, Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of U.S. Northern Command, and Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
The Poland site delay occurred despite efforts by the MDA and Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate the MILCON delays by creating an onsite Poland Integrated program Office to administer the construction contract, providing supplemental program leadership, subject matter experts, additional personnel to Poland, proactive use of contractual incentives, starting joint weekly program updates with MDA leadership, and quarterly onsite flag and general officer reviews.
“At that time, the government decided to rebaseline the project schedule given the likelihood of continued schedule erosion and consumption of all margin," Greaves said. "The rebaseline effort is on-going.”
The MDA’s FY ’19 budget request includes $15 million in defense-wide procurement and $28 million in research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds to address “the multiple actions required to field Aegis Ashore in Poland and continued operation of other Aegis Ashore sites.”
However, Greaves said given “successful efforts of controlling military construction costs,” the agency does not expect it needs any increase it its MILCON budget for Aegis Ashore Poland.
Both Subcommittee Chairwoman Deborah Fischer (R-Neb.) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) asked Rood when Congress can expect the upcoming missile defense review.
Rood was only willing to say they expect to finish it in “the near-term, in the spring” and that the department is still looking at “some competing approaches” in the review, pushing its release back.
Sullivan tried to hold Rood to a timeline, hoping to have the MDR by April, but Rood was unwilling to commit to anything sooner than in the “next couple of months here.” Rood reiterated there are a number of real challenges the department is still working through and “internal discussion” working through “certain questions.”
Prompted by Ranking Member Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Rood explained the report has changed from earlier ballistic missile defense reviews because the Trump administration wants to include other forms of missile attack, like cruise missiles and hypervelocity glide vehicles. He said the department is working to counter all three types of threats in an integrated air and missile defense manner.
Separately, Greaves noted in his written statement how MDA is working to review Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in a stockpile reliability program (SRP). This includes removing two GBI’s from the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to inspect and test them as par of an effort “to gain an understanding of how the GBIs age in the silos.”
Greaves said another GBI will be removed from a silo this year for the SRP and highlighted the agency has also been able to extend the service life of the GBI C1 and C2 boosters.
Greaves also gave rough estimates for future GBI tests: two system-level ground-tests are scheduled for FY ’18 and five more are planned in FY ’19.
The director said MDA plans to conduct seven more flight tests of missile defense systems in FY ‘18 and another 12 flight-tests in FY ’19. The FY ’19 tests include the first salvo test using the GMD system and the operational test of Aegis Ashore capabilities, known as the EPAA.
MDA is working on detailed planning to conduct an Aegis ballistic missile defense test against a long-range ballistic missile test. It is looking to add an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) target to the GM CTV-03+ test as a risk reduction for the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program. Both tests are currently planned for FY 2020.
The RKV is meant to enhance GBI kill vehicle reliability and improve in-flight communications and assessments, using an SM-3 Block IIA kinetic warhead seeker.
MDA expects this will low costs, reduce risks, and increase the speed of fielding the RKV. The first RKV controlled flight test is scheduled in FY 2020 and will be designated GM CTV-03+. The first intercept flight test is planned for FY 2021 (FTG-17) and a second intercept test is planned for FY 2022 (FTG-18).
Greaves reiterated the agency will conduct a demonstration using the SM-3 Block IIA missile against an ICBM-class target by Dec. 2020, as directed by the FY ’18 National Defense Authorization Act.
Fischer asked when the MDA will transition more of its money out of procurement, operations and sustainment and back towards its core mission of research and development.
Rood said this has been a challenge for MDA in the Defense Department. DoD has struggled with this discussion for a decade and a half. He revealed this is part of the discussion of the upcoming MDR, to make sure DoD gets the balance right between near-term production and developing new systems.
In his written statement, Greaves said the agency is working with the Army to develop an agreement on the conditions and terms of transfer for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and AN/TPY-2 radar systems. He declined to say when the transition is expected to be finished.
Separately, MDA is developing a plan to transition Standard Missiles missiles to the Navy. The agency requested this change in the FY ’19 budget request.
“Transitioning operations and sustainment to Services allowed development agencies to re-focus on RDT&E activities to address evolving threats,” Greaves said in his written testimony.