What's DoD Testing for Theater Missile Defense?


  By Douglas J. Gillert
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- With deployed U.S. forces increasingly threatened 
 by medium-range missile attacks, Defense Secretary William S. 
 Cohen announced Jan. 20 that DoD will step up development of an 
 expanded theater missile defense capability.
 While DoD will continue to fund the Army's Theater High Altitude 
 Area Defense system, Cohen said, the Navy Theater Wide system 
 could become the lead program. He said DoD will increase funding 
 for the Navy system by more than a half-billion dollars through 
 fiscal 2001. Meanwhile, the Pentagon will review both systems in 
 2000, with the goal of fielding one of them as early as 2007.
 The Navy Theater Wide and Army THAAD systems are designed to 
 counter threats above the atmosphere from the sea and ground, 
 respectively. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, DoD's 
 missile defense agency, also will continue developing lower-tier 
 systems, including the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile and 
 the Navy Area Ballistic Missile Defense System.
 Each of these defensive systems is briefly described below. For 
 more information about DoD missile defense programs, visit the 
 BMDO Web site at More information on the 
 Air Force's airborne laser program is available at the Air Force 
 Research Laboratory Web site at 
 DoD Theater Missile Defense Systems 
 Navy Theater Wide 
 System: Upper-tier (above the atmosphere) ballistic missile 
 defense capability from Aegis missile-equipped surface combatant 
 Mission: Provide intercept capability against medium- and long-
 range theater ballistic missiles. 
 Advantages: Capitalizes on inherent mobility of Navy ships. By 
 positioning a ship closer to the threat launch point, a 
 significant increase in the defended area can be realized. 
 Placement near enemy launch sites provides ability to intercept 
 targets at various descent phases, offer additional layer of 
 defense for lower-tier systems.
 Theater High Altitude Area Defense
 System: Land-based, upper-tier defensive missile system with 
 long-range and high-altitude intercept capability. Consists of 
 four principal elements: truck-mounted launchers, interceptors, 
 radar system, and battle management command, control, 
 communications and intelligence system.
 Mission: Defeat tactical theater ballistic missiles; intercept 
 missiles inside and outside the atmosphere; engage at long 
 ranges and high altitudes; give U.S. and allied forces multiple 
 opportunities to intercept incoming missiles.
 Advantages: Ability to intercept missiles at long range and high 
 altitude would give U.S. forces best chance to shoot down 
 incoming missiles far enough out to avoid harm from post-
 intercept debris. Battle management command and control system 
 would link with other missile and air defense systems. All 
 components can be airlifted.
 Patriot Advanced Capability 
 System: Designed to provide the lower tier of ballistic missile 
 defense architecture. Consists of four basic components: radar 
 set, engagement control station, launching station and 
 Mission: Defend troops and fixed assets against short- and 
 medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and other air-
 breathing threats, such as fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. 
 Designed for hit-to-kill accuracy in the terminal phase of the 
 threat missile's flight.
 Advantages: High maneuverability and hit-to-kill accuracy; 
 interoperable with other Army and joint systems; air-
 transportable to support rapid deployments.
 Airborne Laser 
 System: Modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft with multiple laser 
 modules to create a megawatt-class chemical laser. 
 Mission: Shoot down theater ballistic missiles shortly after 
 they're launched. Protect civilian and key military assets from 
 attack by missiles such as the Scuds used by Iraq during the 
 Persian Gulf War. 
 Advantages: Provides means to destroy theater ballistic missiles 
 when they are most vulnerable -- in their boost phase; will 
 become deterrent against weapons of mass destruction by 
 confronting adversary with the prospect those weapons will fall 
 back on its own territory. Will provide aerial dominance 
 combined with other airborne weapon systems -- specifically, the 
 F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter.
 Navy Area
 System: Aegis cruisers and destroyers equipped with a modified 
 Aegis combat system. 
 Mission: Defend U.S. and allied forces and areas of vital 
 national interest against theater ballistic missiles. Detect and 
 track short- to medium-range theater ballistic missiles and 
 engage them with the SM-2 interceptor.
 Advantages: Protect U.S. forces deployed to crisis areas; 
 provide early engagement and defense in depth to reassure 
 allies; Enable reinforcements by protecting debarkation ports, 
 airfields and staging areas; ease strain required for timely 
 airlift and sealift; deter conflict.