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Army Pushes To Upgrade Missile Defense Systems

by Kris Osborn on October 22, 2013

THAAD2The U.S. Army released a paper Tuesday that outlined how the service must invest in missile defense systems to bolster its ability to support the Navy and Air Force-led Air Sea Battle operating concept.

The Air-Sea Battle operating concept is a method of countering anticipated global technological trends wherein potential adversaries’ use of advanced weaponry could make it more difficult for the U.S. to project power.

In particular, things like longer-range ballistic missiles with varying degrees of precision guidance, more sophisticated air defenses, and jamming technologies make it harder for Navy ships and planes to operate in coastal areas of strategically important waterways.

The Sept. 25 paper, titled “The Army’s Role in Countering Anti-Access and Area Denial: Support to Air-Sea Battle,” articulates a series of potential investment strategies designed to assist the core tenets of Air-Sea Battle. Military​.com obtained a copy of the paper.

Army officials said their service can complement and integrate with Navy and Air Force strategies to gain and preserve access to strategically vital ports and waterways, the paper explains. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, said Monday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition that the Air-Sea Battle concept applies to an environment and not to specific services.

The Army paper states that the service could protect “critical infrastructure nodes” through theater-wide integrated air and missile defense.

“Ground-based systems add persistency in the provision of early warning to and protection of critical assets that is not always attainable with air and maritime assets,” the paper states.

Specifically, the Army paper recommends development, procurement and investment in systems like Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile system.

“THAAD would provide the upper tier of a layered defense shield to protect high value strategic or tactical sites,” the paper states.

The Army paper also calls for the development of a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile, directed energy capability, and additional land-based anti-ship fires capabilities such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

The Army calls for increased fielding of THAAD Patriot and the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, a technology which delivers precision fires against stationary or slow-moving targets at ranges up to 300 km., the paper cites.

Specifically, the paper suggests upgrading the M57 ATACMS with an active radar guidance system and in-flight communications uplink. In addition, the Army sees value in developing a precision ballistic missile in the 1000 km. class to provide land-based deep strike capability. Authors of the paper maintain directed energy applications could successfully defend against unmanned aerial systems, aircraft, cruise and ballistic missile systems.

Officials who wrote the paper support a potential adaptation of the RGM-84 Harpoon and calls for the development of boost-glide entry warheads able to deploy “to hold adversary shipping at risk all without ever striking targets inland.”

“Boost-glide weapons use rocket-boosted payload delivery vehicles that glide at hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. An increase in the Army’s investment in boost-glide technology now could fast track the Army’s impact in the Air-Sea Battle fight in the near term,” the paper states.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

blight_ October 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

The moment I saw hypersonics, I realized this was long term pipe dream.

Navy will probably claim a monopoly on Aegis Ashore and use it for anti-BM, without "wasting" slots on harpoons.

THAAD might slot in above Patriot and below GBI and SM's.

Adding BM back to the army might bring flashbacks for people from the '80s, from when the Army had Pershing's and GLCM's. We may go back to a guided BM of some kind, and a GLCM intended to defeat shipping or land targets. Adopting ATACMS would provide a "short-range" capability (100 mi?), though ATACMS cannot be retargeted, nor can it track targets…yet. Wonder if those Brilliant Anti-Tank munitions work on ships.

That said: If we are integrating an environment of GBI, Aegis Ashore, Patriot and THAAD…can all of these systems integrate and talk to each other? Probably not?

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tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Fixed-station AEGIS might be in the offering, but I don't think the Navy could support them in an expeditionary role. They won't have the personnel to support it. The Army would be a good fit to provide an air defense corridor to secure sea lanes in contested or congested sea lanes.

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blight_ October 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Wait…then who's going to do Aegis Ashore in Romania? Unless you mean expeditionary in the "non-permanent deployment of Mk 41's ashore" sense?

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tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Romania would be a single permanent site that the Navy could probably handle. I'm thinking more like a battalion or more of air defense units spread around an island chain for a specific mission.

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blight_ October 22, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I wonder if you could design a quad-cell Mk 41 to launch from a TEL or a mobile truck. After the missiles fire, the firing position is compromised, leading to a use-it-or-lose-it. Either the platform shoots and scoots, or is small enough to be expendable.

Conversely, a Mk 41 battery on land would attract considerable attention: a missile attack would potentially allow triangulation and a counterattack, and a counter-attack to the counter-attack. Hrm, the possibilities could be interesting.

@PanikaFalcon October 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I like that Army (too USMC)should and ought to have some Air defence units, air superiority will be luxury (too little of planes and concentrated on small number of airfields guess what will happen?) Something like s 400 and Pancir S1. Think about it Patriots do not provide full azimuth defence rather 90 deg

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Big-Dean October 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm

next thing you know the Army is going to want to start flying fixed wing aircraft-oh noooo ;-P

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Bman October 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

They should have never let go of the Army Air Corps to begin with.

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Riceball October 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

They already have and still do, they're just not supposed to fly armed fixed wing aircraft is all, per their agreement with the Air Force in the Key West Agreement.

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ajerusalem October 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm

A guided theater ballistic missile would offer an excellent prompt strike capability at the theater level, which is more realistic than prompt global strike. this seems to be the most attainable low risk hypersonic capability currently. Think of the utility of being able to launch a ballistic missile at a emerging theater target 1000 km away that gets there at ballistic missile hypersonic speeds. Now…what if we could mount that on a ship?

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blight_ October 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

TBM's are short-range. Most prospective enemies will have TBM's, since they're all you get under MTCR rules. A cruise missile good out to 100 miles will be just as nasty as a TBM…

I'd love to see long-legged anti-ship missiles. I wonder if one could fit stealthy exhaust ports to a CM to reduce IR emissions, and shape the missile to be low RCS…then whack enemy ships without triggering a CIWS/RAM defense.

A missile so stealthy that radar didn't pick it up would moot anti-missile defense in very scary ways….

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ajerusalem October 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

We did that in the '80's, but not as an anti-ship missile: the AGM 129. And this is the basic idea behind the LRASM program that is using the Extended Range AGM 158 JASSM.

In regards to ballistic missiles, I'm just compelled by some of the charicteristics of missiles like the Chinese DF 21 or the Russian 9K720 Iskander. The DF 21 travels at Mach 10 out to somewhere between 1000 and 2000 miles, the Iskander travels at Mach 6 or 7 out to 250 miles. Either way, a missile or family of missiles like this would provide a very prompt theater strike weapon. More importantly, this type of hypersonic capability is the most realistically attainable in the short term, compared to boost glide hypersonics, and yet they do not share the strategic concerns of using a ICBM as a conventional weapon (accidental nuclear provocation. A truck mounted version could allow a quick response strike option with persistant presence to strike time sensitive targets (like a terrorist meeting).

If mounted on a ship, along with stealthy cruise missiles and stealth bombers and fighters, this would present a diverse set of threats for an A2AD environment to defend against.

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jack October 22, 2013 at 10:01 pm

You told everyone today that u only have 2 combat ready brigades and you want all these new toys???? This is one of the reasons we're 17+ trillion dollars in debt.

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blight_ October 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

"Cut everything, I don't care what. We need weapons"
~Soviet Army

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Rage October 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Missiles in general are a much cheaper means of warfighting then maintaining combat brigades or air wings. So actually investing in them would be a way to maintain combat power for less money. The downside is they have much less flexibility.

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Dan Zimmerman October 23, 2013 at 6:58 am

I think its a positive sign that the Army is looking at the future and thinking about what it can bring to the table and what investments it needs to make in order to stay relevant against a high end opponent. However, as jack said above, being 17 trillion in debt and only having two brigades combat ready isn't a good position to be in.

I think that Army now needs to have a good look at how it is spending the money it does have with the recognition that the future contribution to the joint force that they see themselves providing places emphasis on fires, ADA, and force protection. In that light, I have to ask if programs like GCV are good uses of scare dollars.

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TonyC. October 23, 2013 at 7:28 am

The US Army has invested in ballistic missile defense, now they are thinking about ballistic missile offense as well.

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josh.p October 23, 2013 at 11:06 am
Anonymous October 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Josh just launched 4 ballistic missiles at DefenseTech,

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Bman October 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

The army wouldn't be playing this "lets develop this or that kind of missle" game if they still had the Army Air Corps. At the very least, the Air Force should be a branch within the Department of Army as the Marines are to the Navy. It makes no logistical or fiscal sense. Maybe back in the cold war where draftees were forced into service and you wanted to pull the brighter talent to the emerging technologies but now that is no longer the case and it duplicates the costs of things in so many areas.

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WulfTheSaxon October 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Wouldn’t a 1000 km missile contravene the INF?

Even a 500 km missile like the Iskander-M would certainly be an upgrade though, given the US’s longest-range missile outside of ICBMs* is currently only 300 km. Might even be able to fit it within M270 size constraints, whereas a 1000 km missile would likely be stuck on a trailer behind an M983 like Patriot or Pershing.

*excluding target missiles like the Hera

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Rage October 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm

It sure would break INF, unless I dunno, the army only based them on floating barges. Or we copied Imperial Japan and had the army build its own submarines!

The Army intends to completely phase out the M270 in favor of the HIMARS launcher anyway, and basing a 1000km range missile on a semi trailer is fine. In fact most Follow On to Lance proposals in the 80s were going to be on a semi trailers as it was. FOTL was never built in any form, it would have pushed to the edge of INF range limits, proposals included a SRAM-II with wraparound booster for uber fun, but the requirement was partly met by extending Army Tactical Missile to 300km with a reduced warhead post cold war. Basically this is the army going back and saying hey, that capability was always useful to have even if we aren't going to ask for a nuclear warhead too.

Another launcher option would just be a large tracked vehicle, as the original Pershing 1 launcher was, only 1A and 2 used trucks, but that's not the best idea since then road speed is low and the vibrations caused reliability problems at least with 1960s electronics. On the other hand it might be useful to use tracks when deploying in remote Pacific islands that don't have roads anyway.

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blight_ October 24, 2013 at 8:00 am

5. The term "intermediate-range missile" means a GLBM or a GLCM having a range capability in excess of 1000 kilometers but not in excess of 5500 kilometers.

6. The term "shorter-range missile" means a GLBM or a GLCM having a range capability equal to or in excess of 500 kilometers but not in excess of 1000 kilometers. http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/inf

That said, 1000 km isn't too bad. It's not impressive in terms of striking targets around the ocean.

Russia and the United States may want to reconsider the IRNF treaty (perhaps conventional-only unitary IRBMs, without provision for RV's and incompatible with W-87/W-88?)

I guess we were smart in the '80s to ban the systems outright…knowing that we would not believe each other if we claimed to conventionalize these systems. But we're out of the Cold War and Europe is no threat to Russia, so nuclear systems ranged to hit only Europe are a silly idea for Russia and a terrible idea for the US.

We still need MTCR/ITAR though. Flooding the export market with long-ranged missiles won't do anybody any good.

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WulfTheSaxon October 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm

The US missile defense complex in Poland wouldn’t have been a real threat to Russia either, but that didn’t stop Russia from pretending it was.

I also can’t see how extending the permissible range to 1000 km would benefit Russia (unless they start upping the “Ukraine is not even a state” rhetoric again – in which case it’d be better not to increase the range anyway).

Given these things, I tend to think that it’s a waste of time for the Army to think about getting the permissible range increased to 1000 km. It would be better to focus on at least getting a 500 km capability, which still has clear benefits. If that isn’t enough R&D work, it would be good to address the fact the US is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of cruise missile technology (hypersonic, stealth)…

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WulfTheSaxon October 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm

“The Army intends to completely phase out the M270 in favor of the HIMARS launcher anyway[…]”
As of last year the M270 was supposed to be upgraded, complete with tech from HIMARS: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/USA-Moves-to-

“[…]basing a 1000km range missile on a semi trailer is fine.”
You’re definitely right on that. I was thinking relative to a 500 km range – which would, for example, require being right on the Syrian border to hold Damascus at threat from Turkey. With a 1000 km range, you could fire from Ankara if you wanted to. :P

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scott October 24, 2013 at 7:22 am

i would love to see the impact explosion from this picture

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WulfTheSaxon October 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm
oblatt1 October 24, 2013 at 10:15 am

The army is grasping at straws.

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Keith Turk Jr. November 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I think the paper is overly ambitious, directed energy yeilds low dividends on its research. The ATACMS missile is an old technology and if the army really wants enhanced ballistic missile capabilities they need to acquire them through newer platforms from the navy or air force. I do feel that the army's AMD capabilities deserve some additional funding though for several reasons.

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Rage October 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm

The US already did design more or less a quad cell Mk41 for a truck, as the Ground Launch Cruise missile TEL, though all were destroyed under the INF treaty.. Also THAAD actually was originally going to be a joint army-navy program and had some commonality with Mk41 VLS as well, and the 21in big booster THAAD proposal which has existed almost as long as THAAD itself to gain ~800km class range has some relation to what became the bigger versions of SM-3. But putting any of it into hardware, its serious money

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