This week Defense Department officials told a Congressional panel how it is moving forward on cruise missile defense of the homeland, plans for increasing missile defense of Guam and the value adding additional funds for hypersonic defense programs.
Early in a June 15 hearing before the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, ranking member Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) asked DoD officials about progress on a previous congressional directive for the department to designate a lead single authority in cruise missile defense of the homeland. The fiscal year 2017 defense authorization act required the department to designate a central figure for this purpose.
“That is something that the administration is going to look at. My understanding is the previous administration looked at it and decided not to designate a single authority. We do understand that there are capability gaps. We need to look at where and how to prioritize cruise missile defense of the homeland,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy Leonor Tomero said.
Tomero previously served as the Democratic professional staff lead for nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, military space and military defense on the committee.
“There are cost issues. I know the Congressional Budget Office identified significant costs ranging from $75 billion to $180 billion over 20 years, so that would include acquisition, also operationalization of the system, [and] maintenance over the long term. But I think what we need to look at is what is the viability of our capabilities, what are the costs and how do we prioritize that defense,” she added.
Separately, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) pressed the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on what kinds of capabilities it sees helping to defend Guam, as U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) is requesting support for.
This year’s MDA budget request includes $78.3 million to assess systems to support defense of Guam and budget documents said DoD was in the process of finalizing details for this integrated air and missile defense system. The agency also requested $40 million in procurement of long-lead items that are common to the architectures under consideration.
“Your agency has not yet actually detailed what type of system this would be…when can we expect to have a detailed overview of the system and its deployment timeline?” Wilson asked.
MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said he discussed that very topic with Adm. John Aquilino, commander of INDOPACOM, the previous night.
“You’ll see those details when we deliver the report to Congress. We’re on a path to deliver that from MDA to the [office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, CAPE] and have a discussion with INDOPACOM within the next couple of weeks,” Hill said.
He acknowledged previously promising to get the report to Congress by June, “but given the complexity of it, it’s going to take us a little bit longer to get there but we will definitely outline with the detail based on the threat set, which is ballistic, cruise and hypersonic.”
“We’re going to leverage mature systems and we’re going to procure those areas that we need for long-lead in order to hit the timeline. It’s a very aggressive timeline given where we’re at,” Hill continued.
Last March, former head of INDOPACOM Adm. Phil Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee more funding should be dedicated to defending Guam for various threats, including adding additional missile defense capabilities beyond the currently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system (Defense Daily, March 9).
Last year, Davidson said his top priority for INDOPACOM implementing the National Defense Strategy was installing a Baseline 10 Aegis Ashore facility in Guam (Defense Daily, July 22, 2020).
Hill also outlined the utility of adding $62 million listed under MDA’s unfunded priorities list to accelerate hypersonic defense system development. The list, sent to Congress on June 4, named additional hypersonic defense funds as the third priority (Defense Daily, June 14).
The MDA’s FY ‘22 base budget request already includes $248 million to develop a layered hypersonic weapons defensive architecture which includes accelerating development of an operational demonstration of hypersonic defense using the Aegis Weapons System (Defense Daily, May 28).
Hill said last year MDA was focused more on the science and technology (S&T) of operating in intercepting an enemy hypersonic missile in its glide phase.
“But after viewing many of those real world flight events to include actual U.S. test events, we were able to show that, with our models of the systems, which are very high fidelity, that we can in fact close the fire control loop.”
Hill underscored MDA is looking at using Aegis destroyers for hypersonic defense with its engage-on-remote capability because “we can track in glide phase. We can have a ship upstream, before you ever get the space constellation in place, pass that data to a ship, and close the fire control loop.”
However, he noted “so what’s missing in that equation is the interceptor. And so we put out a broad area announcement earlier this year and in [the president’s FY ‘22 budget request] you see an acceleration of that program.”
Hill said MDA is now moving away from an S&T program that expected to deliver a capability in the mid-2030s and instead is focusing on a program to deliver capability this decade.
“And so that’s what we’re doing. So when you look at the plus-up area, that will continue some of the parallel work to reduce risk in that program.”
According to the unfunded list, the additional $62 million is divided into $40 million to participate and collect data in flight test events to support development and fielding of a new defensive capability, $12 million to conduct systems engineering activities needed to evolve missile defense systems further, and $10 million to identify and develop new technology and capabilities with industry to support this kind of defense.
Last February, MDA changed its plans for a hypersonic missile defense system, ending a request for prototype proposals for the Regional Glide Phase Weapons System and instead moved to a newly-designed Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) initiative. The agency thereafter launched the first phase of the GPI in April with a broad agency announcement (BAA) (Defense Daily, Feb. 4).
MDA spokesman Mark Wright previously told Defense Daily the initial phase of GPI is expected to be available for fielding in the mid to late 2020s, “dependent on industry response” while the previous program was planned for initial fielding by the early 2030s.
The April BAA said MDA is seeking GPI prototype concepts that reduce technical risk; destroy targets via kinetic intercept; provide a capability to be integrated with the Aegis Weapon System; demonstrate a glide phase intercept capability; and will be upgradeable over time.