Borysfen Intel

US Missile Defense Plans

January 25, 2019
<p>US Missile Defense Plans</p>

Problems and Consequences for the World


In mid-January 2019 President of the United States D. Trump unveiled the Missile Defense Review. The document defines the main threats to the United States' security in the missile and nuclear sphere, as well as the plans for further development of US and NATO missile defense systems. The Review is fully in line with Washington's vision of the need to strengthen the defense of the United States and its allies in the conditions of the proliferation of nuclear missile technologies in the world and their reaching a qualitatively new level. This was the reason for the USA's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001.

The Review takes into account the changes that have taken place in recent years both in the geopolitical situation in the world and in the development of nuclear missile weapons by the USA's adversaries and opponents. In this regard, the Review is a continuation of a series of conceptual documents in the security sphere that were adopted during D. Trump's presidency. In particular, the updated National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review. Besides, the Review reflects D. Trump's views on the USA's new National Space Strategy, which recognizes space the same warfighting domain as land, air and sea.


Based on the peculiarities of the current situation in the sphere of nuclear missile threats to the United States and its allies, the report contains a number of new military-political, technical and organizational provisions.

For example, for the first time the document of this kind openly recognizes China and Russia as the sources of these threats. In the past, only nuclear missile programs of North Korea and Iran were mentioned. Thus, the Missile Defense Review contains key political provisions of previous conceptual documents, where China and Russia were classified as main adversaries of the United States.

Besides, it mentions the need to expand the space component of the missile defense system and to deploy new elements as part of it, including: networks of low-orbital satellites (sensors) that can detect launches of ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons; high-altitude unmanned airborne platforms equipped with lasers capable to destroy missiles; satellites with anti-missiles. In fact, this is a partial return to the “Strategic Defense Initiative”, put forward by US President R. Reagan in the early 1980s (known as “Star Wars”).

Current US Homeland Missile Defense Architecture
Current US Homeland Missile Defense Architecture

According to D. Trump's plans, all components of the US missile defense system must be integrated within the Space Force as a separate branch of the US Armed Forces. The new military structure will be created on the basis of the US Air Force Space Command.

The new provisions of the document also include D. Trump's demands to increase NATO countries' defense spending, including in the sphere of Europe's missile defense. In this regard, an approach is proposed that involves the acquisition by the members of the Alliance of US missile defense systems at their own expense.

At the same time, the United States plans to continue the development and expansion of existing components of missile defense systems at the strategic and tactical levels (regional and trans-regional missile defense).

In particular, within the framework of the improvement of the US strategic (national) missile defense system, 20 ground-based midcourse defense (GBM) systems will be additionally deployed at the base of Fort Greely in Alaska. As of today, 44 such ground-based interceptors have already been deployed at the Fort Greely (Alaska) and Vandenberg Air Force Base (California). In addition, in 2019, at the Clear (Alaska) Air Force Station, the Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) will be constructed for discrimination, precision tracking, and hit assessment of ballistic targets in all phases of flight. It is also planned to upgrade the homeland defense discrimination radar in Hawaii, and in the long term — to deploy the third base of the ground-based interceptors on the archipelago.

The deployment and modernization of US missile defense in Europe will continue. By 2020, the land-based Aegis Ashore system will be put into operation in Poland. At present, a similar base is already operational in Romania. Both of them will be armed with modified SM-3 Block IIA interceptors, which will increase their ability to counter adversary ballistic missiles.

US Homeland Missile Defense Growth
US Homeland Missile Defense Growth

Along with this, steps will be taken to strengthen and expand on the European and Far Eastern theatres the US tactical missile defense systems, designed to protect the US and its allies' troops from enemy missile attacks with the use of medium and short-range anti-missiles. In particular, in addition to the deployment of the PAC-3 Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) missile defense systems, a number of new projects are planned, including to equip F-35 Lightning II newest fighters of the fifth generation with missile defense sensors and interceptor missiles.

Some projects are already being implemented in practice, while others are under consideration in the US Congress. In particular, the US Department of Defense is taking measures to deploy a network of space-based infrared sensors (SBIRS).

The expediency of implementing these plans that require significant financial costs (in 2018, the US Missile Defense Agency budget amounted to 7.9 billion US dollars, and in 2019 it is going to amount to 9.9 billion US dollars), are justified by the White House by the need to provide an adequate response to the expanding threats to US strategic security posed by adversaries.

US Missile Defense Agency Budget

First of all, in this regard, emphasis is placed on China's active steps to build its nuclear missile capabilities, which is not restricted by any international agreements and is not actually controlled. Thus, over the past few years, China has deployed a number of new missile systems, including new multi-warhead ballistic missiles DF-5B, as well as DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile, solid-propellant ballistic missiles with a range of 11.2 thousand kilometers. At the same time, Chinese Navy now possesses the first four nuclear submarines, armed with JL-2 ballistic missiles with a range of 7.4 thousand kilometers.

A direct threat to the United States is China's creation of the anti-ship ballistic missiles DF-16, DF-21 and DF-26, which can also strike ground targets. In particular, the DF-26 missile has a range of up to 4,000 kilometers, which threatens the island of Guam, where the largest strategic US military base in the Pacific is situated.

At the same time, the worst concern for Washington is the development by the PRC of a hypersonic glide vehicle, which is already undergoing practical tests. In addition, it is noted that China is developing a new antisatellite weapons that can strike satellites in orbit.

In turn, one of the main threats from Russia is the rearming of the Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) with new mobile and silo-based multi-warhead “Yars” ICBMs.

The United States is also paying attention to Russia's efforts to develop and build up its missile defense system through modernization of existing ones and creation of new systems. The main of them is strategic missile defense system of the Moscow region A-235 “Nudol”, which is modernized Soviet system A-135, and is designed to intercept targets at altitude 50–1,000 kilometers. At different stages of development and testing are the missile defense weapons of the new generation — S-500 system and the airborne anti-ballistic system 30P6 “Contact” (includes 76M6 “Contact” interceptor missile which is launched from MiG-31D aircraft).

According to US experts, in the long run, a significant problem for the USA can be Russia's creation of hypersonic glide missile complex “Avangard”. At the same time, it is believed that this project is still far from complete.

There is an increase of missile nuclear threats from North Korea, which is already capable of targeting the continental United States of America (Alaska and the entire East Coast — from Boston to Miami), as well as the USA and its allies' troops (bases) in the Asia-Pacific and in Europe. Despite Pyongyang's official giving up implementing its nuclear and missile program, the US intelligence warns about the preservation of missile systems and nuclear warheads by the DPRK, as well as the scientific and industrial potential for their development and production.

According to the US leadership, similar threats are posed by Iran, which so far does not have intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, but can create them in the near future.

US Adversaries’ Offensive Missile Capabilities
US Adversaries’ Offensive Missile Capabilities

At the same time, D. Trump's publication of the Missile Defense Review has a number of purely political objectives. First of all, this is about demonstrating the role of the United States as the only global military power. Through the demonstration of plans to enhance the combat capabilities of the US missile defense, the White House is trying to strengthen the international position of the United States, as well as to exert pressure on America's adversaries.

Along with this, D. Trump's resonant initiatives in the missile defense sphere are a step to raise his rating inside the country within the framework of the strategy “America First”. This issue is becoming more and more important for the US President with the actual preparations for the next presidential election in 2020. As we predicted in our previous publications, it is precisely such initiatives that will form the basis of D. Trump's election campaign. Especially as they contribute to growth of defense contracts and, accordingly, to creation of new jobs. Profits of US defense contractors (including Honeywell, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and Boeing), which are lobbying the initiatives of the current US President, are also gaining momentum.

And another, equally important goal of the White House's reanimation of the ideas of “Star Wars” is the exhaustion of Russia by drawing it into a new arms race, following R. Reagan's example in the first half of the 1980s, when the USSR was involved in the war in Afghanistan. That allowed the United States to undermine the Soviet economy, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And now, the same strategy is being used by the United States against Russia, which, like the USSR, has got bogged down in the war, now with Ukraine.


However, whatever the goals pursued by the United States, its actions to strengthen the missile defense system, or the very announcement of such intentions, will inevitably lead to further exacerbation of relations with Russia, China and other adversaries possessing nuclear missile weapons. And, as a consequence, the actual acceleration of the arms race is already observed in practice. At the same time, unlike the USA and the former USSR of the times of the Cold War, which understood the horror of this problem and sought to find compromises, the present participants of the geopolitical confrontation deliberately raise rates and go to conflict. And this can have unpredictable consequences for the whole world. Including for Ukraine, which remains at the intersection of the interests of the United States and Russia.


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