DoD Speeds Navy Theater Missile Defense Project


  By Douglas J. Gillert
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- To defend against the growing threat of missile 
 attacks on foreign-based U.S. forces, DoD will accelerate 
 development of a sea-based theater missile defense system. 
 A perceived medium-range missile threat and past test failures 
 of the Army ground-based Theater High Altitude Area Defense 
 system provoked DoD into moving up the scheduled fielding of the 
 Navy system from 2010 to 2007, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. 
 Lester Lyles, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization director.
 DoD will continue funding the Army's THAAD system despite its 
 repeated flight test failures. However, the Pentagon will pit it 
 against the Navy Theater Wide system to determine which of the 
 upper-tier defenses can be deployed first. 
 "Tier" refers to a strategy of layered U.S. defenses. "Upper-
 tier" systems would intercept incoming long- and medium-range 
 missiles during their flight in or above the outer atmosphere. 
 "Lower-tier" systems defend at short to medium ranges against 
 missiles in their late or final flight stages.
 "Because of the urgency in fielding an upper-tier system, we are 
 going to continue flight-testing the THAAD interceptor missile 
 and other elements of the system such as the radar," Defense 
 Secretary William S. Cohen said at a Pentagon press conference 
 Jan. 20. "Continued flight tests are going to provide data 
 important for the upper-tier systems beyond the THAAD program."
 DoD will increase program funding of the Navy Theater Wide 
 system by more than $500 million from fiscal 1999 to fiscal 
 2001, including funds added to the program by Congress last 
 The Pentagon will review both systems in late 2000 to assess 
 costs, schedule, technical performance and risk, the secretary 
 said. DoD then will determine the lead program. 
 "Our goal is to have the lead system postured to deploy in the 
 year 2007. Depending upon the results of the review, the other 
 system might continue to be developed but at a much slower 
 pace," Cohen said.
 The BMDO also will continue developing lower-tier defenses, 
 including the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 and Navy Area 
 missile systems. PAC-3 and Navy Area should be fielded by early 
 fiscal 2001 and 2003, respectively, Lyles said. 
 Both upper- and lower-tier systems work in conjunction with 
 space-based sensors -- the same sensors that will be used for 
 surveillance and early warning against missiles targeted at the 
 United States, Lyles said. An airborne laser program, funded by 
 the Air Force, adds to the array of defenses DoD wants to field. 
 Battle management command, control and communications provides 
 "the critical glue that holds all this together," Lyles said.
 "These lower-tier systems will provide effective defense 
 capabilities against the shorter-range missile threats," Cohen 
 said. "The threat to our forces is already extensive and 
 growing, making it imperative that we field these important 
 upgrades as soon as possible."
 The Pentagon also will reallocate $150 million originally slated 
 for the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS.
 "We needed to focus initially on technologies that are relevant 
 to the maneuver force protection that MEADS would have 
 provided," Lyles said. That could be the PAC III or some other 
 system already in the defense inventory, he said.
 The restructured MEADS money also could fund development of a 
 mobile, 360-degree fire control radar and a mobile launcher, 
 Lyles said. "We'll also make sure that we have the right kind of 
 capability to address advanced threats like cruise missiles that 
 the MEADS program was intended to address," Lyles said.
 "We need to have lower-tier systems, we need to have upper-tier 
 systems, and we need to have multiplatforms on the land, from 
 the sea and also from air," Lyles said. "We need to make sure 
 that all of these systems work together and can be 
 interoperable. That's formed the heart of our program for 
 theater missile defense.
 "What has changed over the last year, however, is the growing 
 urgency of making sure that we have an upper-tier capability to 
 counter the growing medium-range threat," he said. Lyles said 
 this threat comes from offensive missiles like the North Korean 
 No Dong, Iranian Shihab III and Pakistani Ghari. "We need to 
 make sure that we have the capability to negate those threats."