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When, Not Whether

When, Not Whether

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 48 -- National Missile Defense Program: When, not Whether If a national-level missile threat does not emerge in the short term, the U.S. plan is to continue to advance defensive technologies so we will be ready to deploy an even more capable system when the threat develops.

Prepared remarks by Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, Air Force chief of staff, to American Defense Preparedness Association/National Defense University Missile Defense Breakfast, Washington, May 16, 1996.

Thank you. ... This morning, I would like to describe how the United States Air Force, which I describe as the nation's full-service Air Force, is working to provide a near-term, affordable option to perform national missile defense for America if a decision is made to deploy such a capability.

I am not here to inject myself or the Air Force into a debate on whether or not we should deploy this capability. You have recently heard from both sides of this issue with outstanding presentations by Sen. Jon Kyl and Bob Bell of the National Security Council.

I will tell you, however, that my firm belief is that it is not a question of whether or not we will have a NMD in this country -- it is a question of when it will occur. I think we're seeing many people on the international scene, as represented by [former British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher's recent presentation in Prague [Czech Republic], becoming more and more cognizant of what missile defense will mean worldwide and the role it will play in coalition warfare. As such, it's becoming an ever more important subject.

In recent remarks at the George Washington University [Washington, D.C.], Secretary of Defense [William J.] Perry highlighted the emerging threat of missile technology in the hands of rogue states -- states that could be hostile to the United States. As he indicated, a very real danger exists that these states could secure long-range missiles and couple them with nuclear, biological or chemical warheads. Then, that hostile regime -- one that we may be unable to deter with the threat of nuclear retaliation -- could employ intercontinental ballistic missiles against our country.

Secretary Perry stressed that we need to be ready to deploy an NMD system to defend our nation against this potential threat. While no rogue nation has ICBMs today, he indicated that it is conceivable that a country could develop its own missile delivery system or secure outside help in fielding an intercontinental strike capability. In this manner, the leaders of a rogue nation could deploy a weapon system that could reach America's shores from their country.

As a result, the U.S. is pursuing what we would call a hedging strategy that entails developing an NMD system that we could deploy if this kind of ICBM threat appears on the horizon.

That NMD system will be capable of defending North America and Hawaii against a small and relatively unsophisticated ICBM attack that a rogue state could mount in the foreseeable future. The defensive system will also be capable of intercepting an unauthorized or accidentally launched missile from a more recognized state. It will include sensors in space to identify and track incoming missiles, ground-based radars, and interceptor missiles.

In essence, the Department of Defense is shifting from a technology readiness to a deployment readiness program in order to position the U.S. to respond effectively to a strategic missile threat as it emerges. This program entails developing the elements of an initial NMD system over the next three years. Then, if a rogue threat emerges, we will construct and deploy the defensive system within three additional years, by about the year 2003.

If such a threat does not emerge, we will continue to advance missile defense technologies so that we will be ready to deploy an even more capable system when the threat develops. You all know this approach as DoD's three plus three program.

In an effort to be good stewards of the nation's defense, the United States Air Force has developed what we think is a viable option for fielding a NMD system that fits well within the three plus three program.

Our Minuteman NMD option leverages existing components and infrastructure to provide the required defensive capability at the earliest time, for the lowest cost and with the least risk. Fundamentally, it entails deploying 20 modified Minuteman missiles armed with defensive kinetic kill vehicles in existing silos at a single site in central United States.

This option, we believe, offers significant growth potential. It will comply with existing arms control agreements. And it will not preclude any long-term options. I am not here to promote this concept today, but I am here to describe it before what I consider to be one of the most informed audiences on this subject in this country.

The Minuteman NMD concept originated in 1995 during the deliberations of a "tiger team," which was established by BMDO [Ballistic Missile Defense Organization] to look at this issue. The team sought to develop a national missile defense system that could be deployed at the earliest possible date to counter the developing missile threat posed by rogue nations.

The tiger team recommended deploying 20 Minuteman ICBMs equipped with kinetic kill vehicles in existing silos at Grand Forks AFB [Air Force Base], N.D. Those interceptors would be supported by a network of early warning radars enhanced by software upgrades. The BMDO tiger team determined that such a single-site Minuteman NMD system could provide the capability to defend North America and Hawaii.

Then, at BMDO's request, the Air Force provided technical support in evaluating the Minuteman NMD option. In doing so, we discovered that our Minuteman missile system and infrastructure could make a major contribution to the defense of the nation against ballistic missiles at a substantial cost savings to the American taxpayer.

Charged with defending this great nation against external threats in a time of limited resources, we felt obligated to further develop the Minuteman option as a candidate for the initial NMD system and offer it to the people who are engaged in the debate. Minuteman NMD fits well within DoD's three plus three program, providing the earliest available and least costly defense for North America and Hawaii that would also be treaty compliant. In fact, we believe that if required by the nation, we could achieve an initial operating capability within four years.

Now, Minuteman NMD's superior characteristics derive from the fact that it leverages three operational systems that are now in the field: the Minuteman ICBM weapon system, deployed strategic sensors and existing battle management systems.

Let me give you some background on Minuteman. In nearly 34 years of operation, the Minuteman weapon system is one of the most reliable and effective systems in the U.S. inventory. The Minuteman missile has maintained alert rates that routinely exceed 96 percent, and it has demonstrated its reliability in hundreds of operational tests from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. In fact, typically we accomplish three test launches each year involving operational assets taken from the field and launched down the Western Test Range. The latest launch occurred on the March 6, and it achieved excellent results.

The Minuteman system has been modernized and upgraded over the years to extend its useful life as part of ... America's strategic nuclear deterrent force ... through the year 2020. Minuteman solid booster motors are now being refurbished to extend their service life and to maintain high reliability rates. Also, Minuteman III missile guidance sets are being upgraded with state-of-the-art electronic components.

All these improvements are part of an already established and funded program to maintain Minuteman as a reliable and robust booster system. They are not part of a new program undertaken for NMD. As a result, Minuteman boosters used for missile defense would provide the same level of performance as our ICBM force.

Both BMDO and the Air Force's ICBM System Program Office have assessed the engineering plans to convert the Minuteman to a defensive role. They have discovered no technical show-stoppers. In fact, they found that converting the Minuteman to a defensive role would be a very straightforward endeavor. It would involve using all three stages of the missile, changing some computer software and replacing the re-entry vehicles with a kinetic kill vehicle and associated kick stage.

Our ICBM SPO [System Program Office] estimated that it would require, at most, four years to engineer, test, produce and deploy the Minuteman interceptor. In the end, the availability of the kill vehicle will be the thing that will drive the program completion date.

The Minuteman booster also offers the added advantage of being compatible with a variety of kinetic kill vehicles. This results from using its own guidance system and does not have to rely on the kill vehicle for initial guidance. This is a big advantage that the Minuteman option offers.

The Air Force NMD option of deploying 20 interceptors at a single site would capitalize on the existing Minuteman infrastructure to include our trained personnel, specialized equipment, and established support network.

In fact, the ongoing deactivation of the 321st Missile Group at Grand Forks AFB will free up existing missile silos and launch control centers for possible use in an NMD launch system. And our ICBM SPO assesses that we will not have to invest in any significant changes in the ground support systems to produce a defensive capability.

Additionally, we would be able to utilize the fully developed test, evaluation, and training infrastructure that currently support our Minuteman weapon system. In the end, Minuteman NMD would capitalize on the Air Force's nearly 40 years of experience in operations with long-range, guided missiles.

As envisioned, the defensive system would also capitalize on existing and planned improvements to strategic sensors and battle management systems.

The DSP [Defense Support Program] satellite program will detect missile launches against the U.S. and cue upgraded early warning radars. These radars will generate track information for the battle management center at Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado, which will disseminate the track info to the interceptor site for launch and guidance. Ground-based X-band dish antenna radars will provide refined tracking data to help discriminate reentry vehicles from other objects.

After detection and warning of a missile attack, a Minuteman interceptor would be launched from its silo, and it would guide itself to the vicinity of the target. Then, the kill vehicle would separate and receive guidance updates from a ground-based radar located at the interceptor site. Finally, the kill vehicle would acquire the target, guide itself into the path of the oncoming warhead and destroy it through impact at high velocity.

In the end, the U.S. will have to deploy the X-band ground-based radars I mentioned to support whatever initial NMD system that the nation decides to field. Once operational, the Minuteman system will be able to take advantage of enhanced warning and cueing provided by advanced strategic sensors -- for instance, the much touted Space and Missile Tracking System -- as they are deployed in the future.

Feasibility tests of Minuteman NMD are already under way -- we have a major test scheduled in June that will demonstrate our concept of operations. Then, in January of 1997, we will conduct a major end-to-end test.

We estimate that it will take approximately four years to field the Minuteman NMD system at a cost of about $2.5 billion. The resulting NMD system will provide the nation a force of 20 interceptors capable of defending all 50 states as the earliest available and least costly alternative.

We believe that the Minuteman NMD system can accomplish this mission and be deployable in this time frame because it maximizes the use of existing infrastructure and relies upon minimal modifications or upgrades to current systems. The Minuteman weapon system, the DSP satellites, early warning radars, battle management centers and communications interfaces are existing, functioning systems today.

This approach to fielding an initial NMD system is directly in line with DoD directives for major defense acquisition programs. These directives require the military to first look at using or modifying existing weapon systems to provide the required capability before investing in brand new systems.

We think that Minuteman NMD also provides us tremendous flexibility. First, it supports DoD's current three plus three program. Should a rogue nation threat emerge in the near future, we could deploy an initial force of 20 interceptors at a single site within the designated time frame to provide an effective defense against this limited, relatively unsophisticated threat.

Second, Minuteman NMD would allow growth in the future. We could expand a Minuteman-based NMD to 100 interceptors at a total cost of between $3.5 to $4.5 billion. Or we could upgrade kill vehicles to deal with a more sophisticated threat should it develop before more advanced NMD options are available.

Third, the Minuteman approach would not preclude any long-term option that the nation might chose to develop nor would it drive the long-term NMD solution in any particular direction.

Instead, we believe it would put an effective homeland defense capability on line at the earliest possible time for the least possible cost. And it would not entail building costly new infrastructures involving environmentally sensitive issues such as digging new missile silos -- an issue that cannot be ignored in building weapons systems today. Moreover, it would not absorb enormous resources that would then be unavailable for investing in other future defensive technologies or other modernization programs.

In the end, the Minuteman option would provide a highly cost-effective, initial NMD capability to protect America against the rogue nation threat.

Let me talk just a minute about arms control implications -- keeping in mind that you are the experts on the issues, not me. I would never want to present myself as an expert on these issues, but let me address a few points.

Let me start out by saying that all NMD proposals under consideration have treaty implications that the nation will have to address. However, we believe that Minuteman NMD can be made compliant with both the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the ABM [Anti-ballistic Missile] treaty.

The START agreement does not bar the use of ICBM boosters in a missile defense role. What it does require is that the U.S. agree to count Minuteman interceptors against the offensive ceilings established by START.

So, by serving as START counters, we believe that the Air Force proposal of having Minuteman interceptors would further enhance stability and confidence between the U.S. and Russia. That is, we are reducing the number of offensive weapon systems to build a defensive system.

Additionally, START provides inspection and data exchange rights to the Russians that would reveal more information about a Minuteman-based NMD system than would be obtainable if the U.S. built a wholly new defensive system. That is, under START we would be obligated to give them the same access to a defensive Minuteman system as we have to our offensive systems under the START agreement.

At the same time, we must also comply with the ABM treaty. Or let's say that we have to make the assumption that we must abide by or comply with the ABM treaty. Again, this is a policy issue being debated at levels well above the Air Force.

So I assume we must ensure that we don't exceed the ABM treaty's numerical and geographic limits. And we must make the interceptor's launcher distinguishable from ICBM silos. We think that these two items are relatively straightforward technical tasks that we can readily accomplish should we proceed with Minuteman NMD.

In the final analysis, Minuteman NMD will not violate START or the ABM treaty if the U.S. is willing to use START-accountable interceptors and launchers exclusively for defense; the U.S. agrees to make them distinguishable from Minuteman ICBMs and launchers; and the U.S. obeys the numerical and geographic restrictions of the ABM treaty.

Thus, we could deploy up to 100 interceptors at a single site in the central United States and still comply with both START and ABM treaties.

Now, the Air Force realizes that if the Department of Defense selects the option we propose and the Congress funds it, then the U.S. will need to discuss treaty implications of Minuteman NMD with the Russians. However, we believe the possibility of fielding an effective NMD system to defend the nation that would save billions of dollars in program costs makes this option well worth pursuing. And DoD has already indicated a willingness to discuss with the Russians the treaty implications of deploying an initial NMD system.

So now to the bottom line: We in the Air Force believe that we have no higher obligation to the American people than to defend them and our country against attack. Timing and concepts are driven by the threat.

So as a service chief charged with organizing, training and equipping forces as well as conducting research and development, it's quite appropriate for me to be interested in developing the Minuteman NMD option and making it an achievable program for the nation because in the end, Minuteman NMD offers a viable response to the emerging danger posed by rogue states that would gain the capability to attack the U.S. with long-range ballistic missiles.

In the end, we must be able to field a defensive system capable of protecting America against such a threat when it eventually arises. And Minuteman NMD can provide that capability.

It takes maximum advantage of established, operational capabilities to create a near-term, cost-effective, low-risk, flexible and we believe, stability-enhancing NMD system. It capitalizes on existing technology, proven reliability and nearly 40 years of operational experience to provide an affordable and effective capability.

In an era of declining resources and competing social requirements, I believe it's essential that we secure the best value for every dollar expended on America's defense. We're convinced that if the nation decides to field a treaty-compliant NMD system in the near future to defend against a rudimentary rogue nation threat, then the Minuteman option will provide the best value for the nation.

Thank you very much.

Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html . 116

* As presented at ADPA/NDUF Missile Defense Breakfast, Washington, D.C., 16 May 96


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).