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Aegis BMD Afloat and Ashore

Interview: Wesley D. Kremer, Vice President, Air and Missile Defense Systems, Raytheon Company

Wesley D. Kremer is vice president of Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense Systems product line, which includes the Standard Missile (SM)-2, SM-3, and SM-6 programs. His technologies also encompass advanced missile defense, the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element, European missile defense, missile defense targets, and exoatmospheric kill vehicle. Raytheon, with $25 billion in 2010 sales, is recognized worldwide for innovation in state-of-the-art electronics, mission system integration, sensing, command, control, communications, and intelligence systems. Before assuming his current role in June 2011, Kremer was director of the SM-3 program, with development, testing, and production of all variants of the SM-3 interceptor missile. Kremer joined Raytheon in 2003 and won the Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems President’s Award in 2008 and a Raytheon Program Leadership Award in 2006. He earlier served as an Air Force weapon systems officer, flying more than 1,500 hours in F-111 and F-15E aircraft. His flying included 90 combat sorties in Iraq and Bosnia. He was the first person to be named top graduate of both the electronic warfare officer and fighter-bomber courses at specialized undergraduate navigator training. Ranked first of 411 graduates, Kremer was named navigator of the year in 1989. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Montana State University and an MBA in engineering technology from City University.

Kremer took time before an SM-3 IB missile flight test in Hawaii to speak to Defense senior writer Clarence A. Robinson, Jr. His responses address both ship- and land-based ballistic missile defenses in Europe and Southeast Asia.

 

Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.: The U.S. Navy successfully tested its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system with an upgraded radar coupled to a SM-3 Block IA interceptor. What is the significance of this test?

Wesley D. Kremer: You’re referring to our last test of the SM-3 Block IA missile launch that took place in April. This test involved the forward basing of the AN/TPY-2 X-Band radar located on Wake Island, and it demonstrated the SM-3 Block IA’s ability to successfully engage an intermediate-range ballistic missile [IRBM] in what is referred to as launch on remote. A Raytheon AN/TPY-2 radar, which is not organic to the Aegis weapons system, successfully tracked the target as it rose above the horizon from its launch site on Kwajalein Atoll, relaying that information through the command, control, battle management, and communications system to a remote Aegis ship in the Pacific. The Aegis system computed a firing solution and forwarded the information to the Block IA missile and initiated the launch sequence. Leveraging off-board sensors, the SM-3 Block IA engaged and destroyed the IRBM. It was the 19th successful intercept for the SM-3 missile.

 

How does this success relate to the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) in protecting the continent?

The significance is that the engage-on-remote demonstration is representative of the first phase of Europe’s Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic-missile defense. A proven missile interceptor is made even more capable through sensor netting, demonstrating that a forward-based X-Band radar can successfully provide a cue with targeting accuracy and pass that information to the shooter, in this case an Aegis ship operating in the region as sea-based BMD. This test confirms the Phase I approach of defending against short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles. Yes, we took down an intermediate-range ballistic missile but [that] is actually much more of an advanced threat than the EPAA’s Phase I requires.

 

The EPAA architecture envisions initial sea-basing this year with SM-3 interceptors as the key to the first phase of Europe’s missile defense. Are there already Aegis ships on station in the area?

Yes, in March of this year, the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey [CG 61] deployed as the first official sea-based BMD capability as part of the EPAA. This Aegis ship is armed with SM-3 Block IA missiles.

 

The EPAA also envisions land-based Aegis radar and battle management components along with an even more capable SM-3 Block IB by 2015. What is the status of this development effort?

The significance of the Block IB missile is that it is an evolution of the proven Block IA. The IB provides three new features: a two-color infrared seeker, an advanced signal processor, and a throttleable divert and attitude control system. The first two technical advances provide better target discrimination against more complex and advanced threats anticipated in the future.

The throttleable control mechanism for the Kinetic Kill Vehicle [KKV] provides increased maneuverability, managing thrust and acceleration in the final phase as the KKV homes on the target.

There is an ongoing debate in two camps about how to best accomplish target discrimination. An X-band and an S-band radar along with a radar suite controller is intended to provide unprecedented situational awareness to easily detect, track, and engage ballistic missiles in high-clutter environments. The X-Band radar provides higher resolution than S-Band radar, as an example, and the Block IB KKV provides multiple bands in the infrared. There are also space-based sensors Raytheon builds that are part of the equation.

In my opinion, the combination of all of these sensors will be necessary for discrimination when advanced countermeasures emerge. Our company also is building airborne infrared sensors for use on the Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles for missile defense missions.

Additionally, there is a sea-based floating X-band radar deployed in the Pacific with outstanding discrimination, and early warning radars at locations such as Alaska and Cape Cod, among others.

[Editor’s note: In an early September test from the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie, the SM-3 Block IB failed to intercept a short-range ballistic missile target launched from Kauai, Hawaii. The Missile Defense Agency [MDA] is investigating the cause of the failure of the first IB intercept test. However, the MDA plans to buy more than 300 SM-3 Block IB missiles over the next five years. The Block IB missile is scheduled for an initial operational capability in 2013 and to be available for full operations in 2015.]

 

When will follow-on improvements to the SM-3 Block IA enable engagements of longer-range, faster-flying ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)?

Upgrades to the Block IA missiles are obviously those of Block IB, which extend the range. There is also a Block IIA missile that involves a collaborative development program with Japan and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. None of these SM-3s, however, are designed to go against ICBMs. That is the goal of the EPAA Phase 4, which is now in concept development. We are one of three contractors competing for what is called SM-3 Block IIB.

This concept development is an interesting challenge, involving not only the interceptor missile but also the sensors and command, control, battle management, and communications system in a robust and balanced architecture to address ICBM threats in the 2020-plus time frame.

 

In addition to your company’s AN/TPY-2 radar-supported launch-on-remote demonstration with the SM-3 Block IA, there have been 22 of 27 successful engagements at sea since 2002. Besides launch on remote, which you addressed, what does the term “engage on remote,” which some call the Holy Grail of BMD, mean?

Holy Grail is an interesting term. SM-3 interceptor missiles are no longer constrained by the range of the sea-based Aegis radar, with either launch on remote or engage on remote. This approach leverages the strengths of the sensors, radars, and interceptor components.

We at Raytheon build the sensors, the radar, and the interceptors. Because of that we are uniquely positioned to observe how all three elements work best together. Nevertheless, you need very strong individual components. But the key to successful missile defense does not rest in these individual mechanisms. You must maximize the radars, sensors, and interceptors synergistically to take out the threat at the earliest possible moment in its trajectory.

The IRBM engagement capability is defined in the EPAA Phase 3 target set in the 2018 time frame, and we clearly demonstrated the viability of a forward-based sensor to engage on remote against an IRBM. This shows the robustness of the system and adaptability, the cornerstone of the phased adaptive approach. Engage on remote expands the battlespace. Having a forward-based sensor enables seeing well beyond the radar capability of the Aegis system alone, or with the forward-based X-Band radar alone. Detecting the target sooner enables computing a firing control solution more rapidly, providing an earlier opportunity for the interceptor to engage.

With engage on remote, the entire engagement can be successfully accomplished without the shooter ever seeing the threat. This capability compresses the engagement timeline, further extending the range. This really becomes key with the SM-3 Block IIA missile, where you have a larger round with much longer kinematics that can far outfly organic sensors.

Having engage on remote is part of the EPAA Phase 3, along with a radar site in Romania by 2015 and a second land-based site in Poland in 2018.

 

The growing demand for missile defense-capable ships will outpace the surface fleet’s ability to provide vessels through 2018, according to the Navy. The sea service anticipates having 94 BMD-capable ships by 2024. The global proliferation of land-attack and anti-ship ballistic missiles underpins this requirement. What can European allies do to augment missile defense as demands continue to grow?

We are seeing a lot of recent activity in Europe as nations accept the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s [NATO’s] decision for a territorial missile defense role in the aftermath of the Lisbon Summit last year. We have been working with the allies to help them share the responsibility for missile defense. European nations have tremendous naval platforms capable of all aspects of BMD. That’s why we’re involved in NATO discussions regarding an SM-3 interceptor pool. It makes complete sense.

Raytheon, as an example, has invested company funding in developing a dual-band data link. This new data link will allow European ships to communicate with the SM-3 family, either through S-Band, as they currently do, or X-Band radars. The data link will enable NATO ships with the proper radar capability to carry SM-3s on board. In early 2010, NATO acquired the first phase of an initial capability to protect alliance forces against missile threats.

At the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO’s leaders decided to develop a missile defense capability to pursue its core task of collective defense. They decided that the scope of the current Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense [ALTBMD] programs’ command, control, and communication capabilities architecture would be expanded to encompass European populations and territory.

As one example, Turkey has agreed to deploy an early-warning radar system by the end of the year as part of NATO’s missile defense program for Europe. It is aimed at countering the threat of missile attacks from Iran. There is also NATO agreement for its ships to communicate with SM-3 BMD missiles. There is an ongoing dialogue of using the SM-3 Block IIA system in a collaborative effort as we do with Japan. We are certainly looking for opportunities in the EPAA Phase 4 architecture circa 2020 by partnering with European industry.

 

Are there any operational BMD assets in Europe? Are there European phased-array radar ships that could be used to implement missile defense with SM-3s? Which nations operate these assets?

There are ships from European nations that could be modified. There are four in the Netherlands, three in Germany, and three in Denmark, and this is where our attention is focused now. These ships could use the dual-band data link and be equipped with SM-3s and other modifications to become ready as sea-based missile defense assets. This is a great opportunity to combine world-class European-developed naval sensors and combat systems with the SM-3. Making the most of existing European and U.S. investments provides more territorial missile defense capability at lower cost and sooner than any other available upper-tier option. I really view the data link as the ultimate enabler of networked ballistic-missile defense intercept capability. This is a perfect example of how NATO can save money and increase capability by pooling and sharing. Plus, European ships can take on the additional upper-tier mission, while maintaining their full multi-role capabilities. That’s important.

 

Last year, we spoke with Rear Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, USN, for Defense. He is the Navy’s director, Surface Warfare Division, or N86. The admiral mentioned that the Aegis combat system would be upgraded with a dual-band advanced air and missile defense radar. What is the difference between this and the dual-band data link you mentioned?

The dual-band data link is a communications mechanism. What Adm. Pandolfe was talking about is actually a dual-band fire-control radar that is in the early stages of competition. It would provide both X-Band and S-Band radar for future Aegis ships, an important sea-based BMD evolution.

 

Thus far, we have concentrated on Europe; however, an even more serious missile threat is emerging, and much faster, in China and North Korea. Can the same integrated BMD approach in Europe be applied to China’s land-mobile DF-21D and DF-31 ballistic-missile threats?

The EPAA could be applied to BMD operations in Asia. The sea-based sensors, space-based assets, and forward-deployed land-based sensors apply to other geographies. The key asset is the flexibility that enables a mobile system to operate anywhere in the world where U.S. or allied interests are threatened by ballistic missiles.

Raytheon’s dual-band data link allows the expansion of users around the world, pointing toward the Aegis ashore concept, with land-based interceptors and sensors as key elements. An Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex in Hawaii already is engaged in expanding the land-basing concept.

 

What is next for Raytheon’s SM-3 program?

We are focusing on production deliveries of the important BMD assets to the fleet – this includes bringing the SM-3 Block IB into production – and on the Block IIA with Japan. The IIA offers the evolutionary approach to increasing capability against threats in the 2018 era. We are 90 days ahead of schedule with deliveries of 130 SM-3 Block IA missiles to the U.S. and its allies. As soon as we deliver a missile, it is deployed. The Block IIA program finds the Japanese building new second- and third-stage rocket motors, which expand from 13.5 inches in diameter to a full 21-inch propulsion stack, greatly increasing range and the engagement envelope.

Raytheon also builds the sensors for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System [STSS], which has successfully completed on-orbit testing. The STSS consists of two satellites in low-Earth orbit that carry sensor payloads to detect cold objects such as ballistic missile re-entry vehicles in space for precise tracking, from launch to re-entry. This satellite system relays the necessary cueing data to missile interceptors before a warhead reaches friendly territory. Providing both the sensors and the interceptor missiles [allows] Raytheon to work with the government and U.S. allies to optimize solutions that are both flexible and robust for the future.

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Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., is the author of Battleground High, a book in progress on...