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Army Magazine >> Army Magazine Archive >> ARMY Magazine - December 2002 >> Why We Need a Globally Integrated Air and Missile Defense Email this... Email    Print this Print

Why We Need a Globally Integrated Air and Missile Defense

Our potential adversaries know all too clearly that it would be futile to take on the United States and our allies directly with their armies, navies and air forces. The time for that sort of attack has come and gone. Our ability, in very rapid order, to pull together a worldwide coalition in response to a head-on attack has been clearly demonstrated. This is why our potential adversaries are now pursuing asymmetrical means by which to attack the United States and its allies. By developing and using approaches that avoid U.S. and allied strengths and exploit potential vulnerabilities using significantly different methods of operation, potential adversaries will attempt to create conditions that effectively delay, deter or counter the application of U.S. and allied military capabilities. Missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and precision-guided rockets and artillery are key components of the asymmetrical means being developed and deployed by many of our potential adversaries. It will require a globally integrated air and missile defense to effectively counter this component of the growing asymmetric threat.

History has shown the physical and psychological impact of missiles when used in a hostile manner. Over the past 58 years (since Germany first fired a V-2 rocket toward Paris on September 6, 1944), more than 5,000 ballistic missiles have been employed around the world, about 2,000 in the last 15 years. Of the roughly 1,400 V-2s aimed at London in 1944-1945, more than 500 hit, causing more than 21,000 civilian casualties. Egypt fired FROG-7 (free rocket over ground) artillery rockets and Scud-B missiles at Israeli targets during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, more than 600 Scuds and modified Scuds were fired by both sides targeting cities. In 1986, Libya retaliated for the U.S. air strike on Tripoli by firing two ballistic missiles at an American Coast Guard facility on the Italian island of Lampedusa. They fell short. In 1988 the Afghan army began using Scuds against guerrilla bases within its borders, and it is believed that more than 2,000 were fired. During January and February 1991, Iraq launched some 90 Iraqi-modified Scuds at targets in Israel, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and on February 25, a single Iraqi Scud killed 28 American soldiers and wounded another 100. In May 1994, North and South Yemeni forces exchanged missile barrages, and in late 1999 the Russians began using ballistic missiles in their military operations in Chechyna. Most recently, in 2001, Iran fired more than 50 Scud missiles into eastern Iraq.

The threat of ballistic missile attacks has often been used to make political statements. In July-August 1995 and again in March 1996, China fired unarmed ballistic missiles into the seas close to Taiwan in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade Taiwan from holding the first democratic presidential elections in Chinese history. In 1995, Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai from China threatened our West Coast should we interfere in any conflict between Mainland China and Taiwan. India and Pakistan, enabled by their claims of possessing nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, consistently raise the specter of nuclear warfare to get the other country to back down during military confrontations. Today, approximately three dozen countries possess ballistic missiles, and that number continues to grow. The clear trend in ballistic missile technology is toward longer range and greater sophistication. Once deployed, such missiles threaten the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and friends. They need not be fired to be effective -- their mere presence is a viable threat unless we have an effective defense against them.

In addition to the growth in countries possessing ballistic missiles, over 80 countries possess cruise missiles, and this number is growing. There are currently about 140 types of cruise missiles out there, mostly shorter range anti-ship systems. However, the successes achieved by U.S. land-attack cruise missiles have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world, and about half of all new cruise missiles under development will or may have a land-attack option. In fact, the CIA’s most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Missile Threats Facing the U.S. states, "One to two dozen countries will probably possess land-attack cruise missiles by 2015, posing primarily a theater-level threat, but with sufficient range to be forward-deployed on air- or sea-launch platforms." Unlike ballistic missiles, whose launch will almost surely be detected by our space-based sensors and tracked from detection to engagement and/or impact, the challenges posed by cruise missiles are more daunting. Their potential long range, low altitude and low observable profile allows them to attack, potentially undetected, from any direction. Complicating the cruise missile issues are the additional problems presented when this threat is considered in the larger context of the overall theater air campaign. Large numbers of aircraft, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and large caliber rockets will characterize the operational airspace of the future. An enemy cruise missile attack in this tactical environment, particularly if part of an integrated attack involving artillery, air and missile forces, complicates timely target identification and increases the chance of asset damage or fratricide. Though not technically classified as cruise missiles, the airliners hijacked on September 11, 2001, performed like cruise missiles and demonstrated for the entire world the devastation and trauma that can result from a precision attack on a densely populated area by a non-weapon of mass destruction-carrying aerial vehicle.

Missiles are not the only threat we face from above. UAVs pose a current threat and in the future we can expect more countries to acquire and deploy UAV systems, using them beyond their traditional roles, such as information collection and targeting, and deploying them in an attack mode to deliver lethal payloads. Manned aircraft, both fixed- and rotary-wing, are expected to acquire increased capabilities in the areas of stealth, lethality and smart weapons employment. The capabilities of these aircraft to perform reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) operations are expected to improve, as is their ability to share this information with elements of their force. In addition, during the ongoing war on terrorism, the United States is demonstrating for all to see the advantages of precision-guided munitions. We can expect our potential adversaries to seek similar capabilities, putting our forces at risk of attack from precision-guided bombs, rockets and artillery. Let there be no doubt, the air and missile threat to our allies and friends, to our forward-deployed forces and to our homeland is real and growing.

To remain dominant on the battlefields of the future, we and our allies and friends must develop and deploy an effective counter to the emerging air and missile threat. Past efforts have focused on developing systems to counter specific threats: aircraft, theater ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, long-range ballistic missiles, rockets/artillery/mortars and tactical air-to-surface missiles. More often than not, these systems were not designed to be interoperable, and the battle management/command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (BM/C4I) systems associated with them were usually stovepiped within the respective service and/or country. Today, we are developing systems that can effectively counter multiple threats. The Patriot advanced capability 3, for example, can counter aircraft, cruise missiles and short- and medium range ballistic missiles. The medium extended air defense system is being developed to do the same, as is the Navy’s airborne early warning/ground environment integration system fleet, and directed energy systems are being developed to negate a wide variety of targets. In addition, we are developing sensors that can simultaneously seek out and track a variety of airborne targets, and we are beginning to develop networks that will link together, in real time, the growing sensors, shooters and command and control nodes so that they will work together in a cooperative manner.

In contrast to the way we and our allies have developed our air and missile defense capabilities in the past, a much more effective solution would be to take the current plans for a globally integrated ballistic missile defense system a step further and leverage improvements in technology to develop and deploy a globally integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) that will protect all of us against the emerging air and missile threat. This IAMD would include all operations (attack, active defense and passive defense) taken to prevent, defeat or minimize the effects of space, air and missile threats and to disrupt or destroy support-related infrastructure. Support-related infrastructure includes those resources used to build, house, store, supply, move, plan, test or train any component associated with these threats.

The advantages of this solution are obvious. First, it would not require each country to expend scarce resources to build its own defenses against every air and missile threat. All countries involved would contribute what they could to the overall architecture. This could include shooters, sensors or command and control nodes, or perhaps merely the geographic location for placement of these systems (similar to the United Kingdom’s granting approval for the United States to locate and operate a ballistic missile early warning radar at Fylingdales). A globally integrated defense would provide protection to all participants, negating the ability of an adversary to employ blackmail against one or more countries by threatening to attack another country.

Second, it would allow for the building of integrated architectures of interoperable systems. In so doing, we would leverage technological advancements to conduct collaborative planning; share early warning and tracking information among all participants; coordinate efforts of all participants so the best system engages the target at the appropriate time; and ensure sufficient engagement attempts are undertaken to destroy the target. If you look at countering the air and missile threat from the perspective of its three elements -- attack operations, active defense and passive defense operations -- it is easy to see the advantages that accrue for all concerned from the development of a globally integrated defense.

The preferred method of eliminating the threat is to destroy or disrupt it before it can get airborne. This is accomplished through attack operations. Successful attack operations require persistent surveillance, shared common situational awareness, a minimized sensor-to-shooter timeline and the ability and willingness to take preemptive action. A globally integrated defense would provide a wider variety of sensors (space-, air- and ground-based) from which to develop situational awareness of the battlespace. The wider the variety of sensors you have looking for launch points and support-related infrastructure, the more likely you are to find them. The networking of interoperable systems will enable shared common situation awareness among a greater number of shooters. In addition, technological improvements have reduced the sensor-to-shooter timelines from the hours we experienced in the Gulf War to tens of minutes in the ongoing war on terrorism. A greater likelihood of finding the target, more situationally aware shooters and the ability to get a shooter on a specific target faster than we ever have before will make our attack operations in the future much more successful than they ever have been. It would be folly, however, to assume that we will negate 100 percent of the threat through attack operations. That is why we will always require the ability to engage enemy air and missile threats while they are airborne.

A globally integrated air and missile defense would improve the likelihood of success of active defense operations as previously outlined. As is the case in offensive and active defense operations, the development of a globally integrated air and missile defense would also greatly improve passive defense operations. Improvements in launch detection and reporting would result from the networking of all available sensor systems, from the forward deployment of sensor systems and the expanded sharing of target information through the network.

With the recent activation of the new U.S. Strategic Command, we have combined under one unified commander the responsibilities to conduct global operations (which would include offensive operations to negate the air and missile threat); provide space support to the warfighter (which includes missile defense early warning); and afford global integration of our emerging missile defense capabilities. Therefore, this is the logical organization to develop the architecture for a globally integrated air and missile defense.

The advantages to be accrued from the development of a globally integrated air and missile defense are numerous. Not only would it give us a better chance of precluding any adversary from launching an air or missile attack should they choose to continue to invest in these type systems, but it would also significantly improve our ability to shoot down any air or missile threat that manages to get airborne. The ultimate payoff, however, is that by developing and deploying a globally integrated air and missile defense, we would send a clear message to our potential adversaries that we will not allow free nations of the world to be terrorized or blackmailed by the employment or threatened employment of these types of threat systems.

President Bush, in his April 17 speech at the Virginia Military Institute, summed it up very succinctly, "America, along with other nations, will oppose the proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies. ... We will take the necessary action to oppose emerging threats."

LT. GEN. JOSEPH M. COSUMANO JR. assumed command of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) and the U.S. Army Space Command in April 2001. He previously served as director of the Objective Force Task Force.