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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 20, November 1997

US Congressional Testimony:
TMD Responses to Iranian Missiles

Statement by Lt. Gen. Lester Lyles, Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), to the House National Security Committee's Subcommittee on Research and Development, 5 November 1997


"I know the Committee has just received a detailed presentation from members of the Intelligence Community on the Iranian medium-range ballistic missile program. The Department [of Defense] is very concerned about the accelerated development of such a medium-range missile capability - especially in the hands of a rogue nation. I want to clearly emphasize that while this specific Iranian capability appears to be emerging more quickly than previously expected, this is exactly the type and range of threat that we have based our Theater Missile Defense (TMD) program on for quite some time. In fact, our specific TMD architecture has been designed to address and counter this emerging threat. I might also add that this is not a new threat - we have seen it developing on the Korean peninsula for some time. What is new is its rapid emergence in the Middle East.

A medium-range ballistic missile threat, combined with existing SCUD-like systems, is the reason why the Department has embarked on - and I believe why the Congress has consistently supported - a TMD 'family of systems' approach that utilizes highly interoperable, upper- and lower-tier missile defense systems. I know the members of this Committee are keenly aware of these programs: the Patriot PAC-3, Navy Area Defense, THAAD [Theater High Altitude Area Defense], and Navy Theater Wide [NTW] systems. These four systems comprise our 'Core' TMD efforts. Our plan is to ensure that these four defensive systems can work together as a 'family of systems' and therefore create a highly effective and highly interoperable defensive capability to protect US and coalition military forces, as well as friends and allies.

Our TMD major defense acquisition programs are progressing as fast as they can given technical constraints and fiscal prudence. The PAC-3 system will begin fielding in Fiscal Year 1999. The Navy Area Defense system is to be incorporated into the Aegis fleet beginning in Fiscal Year 2000. Both these lower-tier systems will inherently have some capability to defend against the medium-range threat potentially posed by Iran. These systems are, of course, optimized to defend against shorter-range systems, such as the SCUD-class missiles already in the missile inventories of several nations around the world. However, there is a 'force-multiplier' effect and additional capability gained when we link them architecturally with other TMD systems, sensors, radars, etc. which is the essence of interoperability and our 'Family of Systems.'

...when we deploy the PAC-3, Navy Area Defense, and THAAD and Navy Upper Tier systems, we will have what the Congress has described as robust and effective missile defenses to meet the emerging missile capabilities we see around the world. However, although designed for a shorter range of threat, we project both PAC-3 and Navy Area Defense systems to have a capability against medium-range missiles and will give us a hedge against such threats until the Upper Tier systems are in our inventory. We are currently optimizing the lower-tier systems by improving their ability to net data, receive advanced cueing and improve their overall interoperability within the TMD family of systems. Thus, one initiative we are interested in is to test those systems against longer-range threat-representative targets. The development of upper-tier systems, such as THAAD and Navy Theater Wide, is of course our planned response to longer-range theater-class ballistic missiles. Upper-tier systems engage enemy ballistic missiles further down-range - away from the target - and at higher altitudes than lower-tier TMD systems. In addition, layered defenses - the combination of upper- and lower-tiered systems - allows us to increase overall system effectiveness by reducing the number of 'leakers.' ...

However, as recent testing has shown, our upper-tier TMD systems are very technically challenging. ...both systems have been experiencing difficulties in their development as well as on the test range.

The THAAD system has been very successful in every aspect except the very critical end-game during our four intercept attempts. We are working toward the next flight early next year after having thoroughly evaluated the technical and management aspects of the THAAD program and incorporates fixes - and in my assessment it will be a successful test. Moreover, the Theater Wide program is still at the beginning stages of our acquisition process. Its current schedule does not call for a system level intercept attempt until Fiscal Year 2000. Though I...am committed to an evolutionary acquisition strategy that would allow us to field NTW as quickly as possible, perhaps without all of its full capabilities. Currently, we are incorporating lessons learned from our THAAD experience across the board in our upper-tier systems in an attempt to make sure they are technically sound and can maintain or exceed their current schedules.

...As the Committee and DOD consider appropriate responses to the Iranian missile program, we must carefully evaluate the options and not just try to accelerate these programs until they have fully demonstrated their ability to meet performance and cost baselines and achieve existing schedules. ... ... We recognize that we have not yet made that giant leap forward in defending against theater-class ballistic missiles since the Gulf War, but we are on the verge of doing so. These TMD systems are technically challenging in that they require a substantial amount of engineering development and integration. Finally, they require proof on the test range - proof that they can reliably hit and kill incoming ballistic missiles and their warheads. While I am confident that these systems will succeed, we have to prove it before we begin fielding them. ..."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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