U.S. Military Needs Improved Missile Defense Technology

Article excerpt

(*) VIEWPOINT

For the last decade, the U.S. military and most of the national security hierarchy justifiably have been focused on winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the world has not remained static during this period. Iran and North Korea have made significant improvements to their nuclear programs and various delivery capabilities. The United States and its allies now find themselves confronting threats such as cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic missiles that can potentially overwhelm the Defense Department's legacy air and missile defense systems.

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Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense

Elevated Netted Sensor System RAYTHEON

It is imperative that the military move rapidly to improve its defensive capabilities against these emerging threats.

The Department of Defense 2010 ballistic missile defense review highlights this growing threat,both qualitatively and quantitatively. The ballistic missiles of potential U.S. enemies are becoming more mobile and accurate while increasing in range. This poses significant strategic and operational challenges to deployed forces and allies.

Improved missile defense capabilities are needed to counter enemy capability to strike nearly simultaneously and from any direction with cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems. The United States needs systems that include rapidly deployable, 360-degree sensors and shooters paired with advanced network architectures that provide integrated fire control and increased mass-raid defense capability.

The current U.S. integrated air and missile defense systems must be thoroughly assessed for operational sufficiency, sustainment cost and manpower requirements in order to understand what improvements should be pursued.

The Army recognized the obsolescence and capability gaps of the current sectored architecture in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when U.S. forces were shown to be vulnerable to ballistic and cruise missile threats approaching outside the field of view of the existing radar. The currentgeneration analog sensors suffer significant non-operational periods because of antiquated electronics. They require significantly more manpower than a modern system to operate and maintain.

Legacy systems, additionally, lack strategic and tactical mobility, thus making them less expeditionary and responsive. …