Theater Ballistic Missile Defense from the Sea
Charles C. Swicker - Newport Paper 14


Joint Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Operational Considerations

AS A REGIONAL CONTINGENCY IN 2008 matures and the U.S. response in theater gathers momentum, the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander should see more and more of the TBMD effort transitioning ashore. If he has done his job well as AADC and JFACC, the power projection force available to the Joint Force Commander will have remained mobile, sustainable, and capable. Essential logistics nodes will be secure to support the three major phases of a contingency operation: "build up in theater, reinforce the force, and a shift to offensive operations."120 Forehanded protection of the CINC's defended assets list by the naval TBMD forces available at the outset of conflict will have demonstrated U.S. resolve and reassured threatened regional powers. Betrayed by a neighbor and shielded by the United States, these nations will have become committed coalition partners against the aggressor in their midst.

In such a postulated mission successful to this point, America will have shown the world a technically adept defensive battle waged by U.S. forces against the otherwise unanswerable ballistic blows of a local bully. U.S. public opinion, bolstered by media coverage of the successful fight waged by these outnumbered assets, and now sympathetic to the demonstrated concerns of the coalition, will support the vigorous prosecution of multinational military operations to defeat the aggressor and destroy his TBM and WMD capabilities. Given these happy circumstances, the JFMCC will require a thorough understanding of the follow-on TBMD capabilities for whom he has "held open the door" and a clear concept of how he will transfer control of the subsequent TBMD battle to other elements of the Joint Force, as directed by the JFC. He should prepare for the consequences of success. He must plan to work himself out of a job.

Joint TBMD Active Defense Capabilities to 2008

The sequential nature of the events just described is in part a rhetorical device, emphasizing the essential "enabling" role of the naval component in the phased execution of joint operations. Naval forces will clearly not carry 100 percent of the defensive burden until some magic moment in the campaign when Army, Air Force, and Marine TBMD assets are suddenly declared to be sufficiently robust and a time-out is called to effect transition of the main effort to shore-based elements.

As explained in the C2I section of chapter III, command and control of joint TBMD forces is a dynamic, mutable function. The JFMCC must understand the capabilities of non-naval systems and be able to incorporate such systems into his plan as they become available, often before these assets have built up sufficient organic strength in theater for their particular component commanders to be considered for overall command of the TBMD fight.

Several active defense systems currently under development by other services are likely to be operational by this study's target date of 2008. All are in some way complementary to Navy Area and Navy Theater Wide systems. Some provide unique capabilities not otherwise available to the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander. This section will give a concise overview of non-naval TBMD active defense capabilities anticipated to be available in 2008.

Army Active Defense. Like Navy TBMD, Army active defense will be built around a two-tier concept of defense-in-depth, with PAC-3 Patriot providing area defense and the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system covering the upper tier. PAC-3 replaces the GEM interceptor of the final version of Patriot PAC-2 with the smaller hit-to-kill ERINT (extended range interceptor) missile. ERINT is not a unitary kinetic weapon (like SM3), since a small ring-type tungsten projectile device called a "lethality enhancer" is fitted.121 Like SM3, however, ERINT is intended to hit its target directly. Indeed, this new missile was selected in large measure because of its agile, hit-to-kill design. A multi-mach kinetic impact is one of the best nonnuclear kill techniques against the rugged chemical submunition warhead, a particular threat that has become the designated bÍte noire of TBMD cost and operational effectiveness analysis (COEA) lethality studies.

Much like Evolved Sea Sparrow's relationship to the larger, vertically launched SM2 series, PAC-3 ERINT is designed to use existing launchers—and also fits four missiles in the same size canister as a single PAC-2 GEM. Thus, lift requirements for Patriot formations remain unchanged and challenging—but each fire unit can bring to bear four times its previous complement of interceptors.

The defended footprint for PAC-3 will be greater than that of PAC-2 GEM, primarily due to improved kinematics of the ERINT missile. PAC-2's less efficient command guidance and track-via-missile (TVM) terminal homing are replaced in ERINT by inertially guided flight to a predicted intercept point, calculated by the fire control system and programmed into the missile before launch, followed by active terminal homing using a Ka band emitter.122 As shown by the results of Roving Sands 95, however, the PAC-3 footprint will still be only a fraction of that for Navy Area SM2 Block IVA.

The Army's upper tier of TBMD protection will be provided by THAAD, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system. The system itself is unique in the TBMD arena in that THAAD missiles can consummate intercepts both outside and inside the atmosphere. This fills a gap in the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander's naval TBMD engagement envelope. NTW is a strictly exoatmospheric system. As explained in chapter III, many common shorter range TBMs reach apogee within the upper atmosphere and are thus never engageable by NTW. Navy area defense is limited by the kinematics and aerodynamic controls of the SM2 Block IVA missile to a maximum intercept altitude of 35km. The resulting "engagement gap" is filled by the versatile THAAD.

Guided by updates from the ground-based radar, the missile uses a specially shielded IR seeker on a thruster-controlled kinetic kill vehicle to achieve a hit-to-kill intercept of its TBM target. The inevitable engineering tradeoff for the versatility thus offered by endo- and exoatmospheric capability is no capability against the TBM ascent phase. This remains the high-leverage province of the Navy Theater Wide SM3.

Like Navy Theater Wide, THAAD has been the subject of intense debate in regard to the ABM Treaty. Treaty compliance has been certified for UOES flight tests, but questions remain about the type and scope of cueing that future BMC4I architectures may provide to the highly capable, Strategic Defense Initiative-derived THAAD ground-based radar.124 In 2008, any treaty-related restrictions on full BMC4I integration of this powerful sensor could have a significant effect on the overall TBMD capability of a joint power projection force.

For the JFMCC, then, the key points of interest regarding Army active defense in 2008 include:

In ideal circumstances, the incorporation of THAAD and Patriot PAC-3 in a fully integrated joint TBMD active defense plan will allow the JFMCC four layers of protection, with NTW positioned for ascent-phase and long-range midcourse intercepts, THAAD covering the upper-tier exoatmospheric and very-high-altitude endoatmospheric threats, Navy area defense providing robust capability below 35km, and fast, agile PAC-3 destroying leakers in the endgame.

Air Force Active Defense. Both during and after DESERT STORM, significant U.S. Air Force contributions to theater ballistic missile defense focused on the critical task of attack operations and the overall enabling capability of BMC4I, especially TBM launch detection and defense cueing via TALON SHIELD (and now ALERT). However, just as ascent phase intercept represents the highest leverage form of Navy Theater Wide active defense, boost phase intercept (BPI) is an emerging high leverage niche for Air Force active defense.

No BPI systems are currently fielded, but one concept shows potential for capability by 2008. Known as the Airborne Laser (ABL), a modified Boeing 747 transport will be equipped with a full TBMD BMC4I suite, an infrared tracking and laser ranging sensor—and a chemically fueled, weapons-grade laser firing through a trainable nose turret. When a TBM launch is detected and a boost phase engagement is ordered:

Inside the 747, some 300 to 600 kilometers away, a tracking laser illuminates the first missile. Its reflected beam measures the distance between the missile plume and the red hot glow of the missile nosecone. A computer aboard the 747 determines the length of the missile body and the missile's location, course and direction. . . . Invisibly, a second, high-energy laser fires from the 747's nose, striking the first missile's body, which . . . explodes. . . .126

The ABL aircraft is self-deploying, although, like AWACS, it will require in-theater support, including secure, defended airfields. Additionally, refueling and maintenance facilities for the chemical laser will have to be provided. However, if the system works as intended, it can potentially operate outside enemy national airspace, conducting pre-hostilities antimissile deterrent patrols much like the NTW AEGIS cruiser described in chapter III. Once hostilities commence, the leverage of such a capable BPI system, especially against WMD-configured theater ballistic missiles, is unmatched by any other active defense capability, ensuring as it does that all WMD warhead components fall short of their intended targets, and optionally on the territory from which they were launched.

Characteristics of Air Force TBMD active defense thus of interest to the JFMCC in 2008 include:

With a fully integrated BMC4I architecture in place, ABL would be not only a primary active defense asset but also an invaluable sensor node, providing very accurate cueing to both other active defense systems and attack operations forces. It is thus a bold gamble. For Congressional review, it must show impressive results, on-schedule and on-budget. If ABL works as hoped, it will most certainly bolster the Air Force's "Global Reach, Global Power" contribution to national defense.

Marine Corps Active Defense. As the likely leading ground element of any power projection operation in a littoral theater, the Marines have specific requirements for organic TBMD active defense:

With Patriot still insufficiently mobile and the HAWK-successor MEADS (medium extended air defense system—formerly CORPS SAM) in budgetary limbo, the Corps has continued its proud tradition-of-necessity of wringing every last ounce of value from its equipment—by modifying the venerable HAWK system for a limited TBMD role. Unfortunately, all HAWK missiles will have been retired from the active USMC inventory during 1998. However, the Marines are incorporating an improved BMC4I capability in the form of a mobile air defense communications platform (ADCP). The ADCP "receives TBM data from the TPS-59 radar and from other sources," including JTIDS/LINK 16 and the tactical data distribution system (TDDS).127 JTIDS/LINK 16 will thus provide connectivity with the 2008-era joint data network, while TDDS receive-capability will allow receipt of JTAGS and ALERT data. Further modifications are planned to the TBM-mission-unique TPS-59 radar, modifying it to accept external cueing.128