The Necessity for Missile Defense As the Russians Modernize Their Strike Capabilities

By Riki Ellison

The deployment and operational capability of missile defense systems around the globe have made the world a safer place. Most abundantly and most importantly are the missile defenses in place today negating North Korea’s nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities and intent that have enabled the seven months of denuclearization peace and nonproliferation talks.

Adding to this achievement are Saudi Arabia’s and United Arab Emirates’ Patriot intercepts of missiles launched from Iranian backed Houthis out of Yemen, in providing a continuous defense for the population of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

These capabilities, as well as the United States’ operationally deployed missile defense systems in and with the Gulf Coalition Council also provide deterrence, stability, and defense against Iran’s growing ballistic missile capabilities and capacity. Active operational missile defense systems play critical roles today in the United States, the Middle East, Europe, and the Pacific to enable and allow peace to prosper.

The requirements and necessity to have capability to defend national territory against missiles is becoming pervasive to western democratic societies and indicative of how far missile defense has come from the sole reliance on nuclear mutually assured destruction of not having any missile defense from the previous century.

Switzerland, a neutral and non-NATO country in the middle of Europe, has missile defense requirements for its territory, with Patriot and the F-35 being considered. It is in this reality, that Switzerland hosted the Full Spectrum Air Defense Conference in Zurich this past week with NATO allies, neutral countries of Portugal and Malaysia, and other non-NATO allies such as Australia from around the world, in the merging of Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) and Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) together that have been separate in NATO,  for the current and future missile threats.

As a result of Cold War victory over the Soviet Union in 1989 and the peace dividends, European defense budgets were divested and applied to social welfare programs. One of the first capabilities eliminated across the NATO Alliance was air and missile defense. Forward basing GBIs in Poland to best defend the United States from Iran was eliminated and replaced by interceptors in Poland and Romania to best defend Europe instead of defending the United States.

Today Russia has become aggressive in capability and intent to NATO European nations and has taken advantage of NATO gap and lack of capabilities and investment in Missile Defense. Russian air and missile threat to NATO Europe has been deliberate, strategic, and demonstrated in the Ukraine, deployed in Kaliningrad, and significantly exercised on the borders of Eastern Europe. NATO Europe also has to contend with Iran, Syria, and North Africa as future missile threats to their populations.

Only eight nations today of the 29 NATO nations spend the required 2% on their defense budgets.

The United States and its public foot the bill for Europe, putting forward 3.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards NATO. The notable list of the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Greece have all stepped up to contribute at least 2% of their GDP for NATO.

There are five NATO nations today that can and have contributed to the capability and capacity of the air and missile defense mission to NATO – the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and France.

There are eleven additional NATO nations today building air and defense capability and capacity – Poland, Romania, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. Added to this are three non-NATO countries of Europe that are seeking missile defense – Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland.

As the Russian threat to NATO Europe advances into more advanced ballistic missiles, Hypersonic Glide Vehicles and over the horizon cruise missiles, which both are not limited by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty NATO has to address these threats and is significantly handicapped today with integrating antiquated Cold War era air defense systems from its NATO nations, lack of persistent and seamless sensors from its NATO nations, and a nonexistent overall cross domain command and control system.

NATO is challenged to deter Russia and adequately support Article 5 without an integrated ballistic, air, hyper, and cruise missile defense systems that is mobile, fixed and multi layered that is shared amongst the coalition of the willing NATO allies.

It’s prudent for NATO to address this specific gap, unite, and integrate its ballistic missile defenses of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), into a future IAMD with sensors, cross-domain command and control, effectors, and leverage artificial intelligence, space, technology advancements in directed energy and boost phase missile defense.

It is of concern that the Rapid Response Force of NATO and the Forward Enhanced Presence of NATO forces in the Baltic States do not have air and missile defense embedded capability or capacity.

We need the bare necessities of territorial missile defense for our western nations and policies to help enable our allies around the world deploy effective and efficient missile defenses against current and future threats.

Published as “The Bare Necessities” by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance on September 25, 2018