Ground-Based Interceptors Work

For decades, people have derided even the theory of Ballistic Missile Defense.  Never, they said, would we be able to hit a bullet with a bullet and shoot down a missile flying through space, carrying a nuclear weapon to destroy an American city.  But there’s bad news for the naysayers: ground-based interceptors work.  And if we deploy them, instead of delaying them, our children and grandchildren will not be defenseless against an attack by rogue nations or terrorists.

This GBI capability was recently demonstrated in the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) successful completion of a flight test involving the intercept of a threat-representative missile launched from Kodiak, Alaska.  The missile was successfully destroyed by a long-range Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.  The GBI is designed to protect the United States against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack by intercepting an enemy missile in its midcourse phase of flight more than 100 miles above the earth.

The exercise was designed to evaluate the performance of several elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System in an operationally realistic setting. Mission objectives included demonstrating the ability of the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Beale Air Force Base, California, to acquire, track and report on objects. The test also evaluated the performance of the interceptor missile’s rocket motor system and exo-atmospheric kill vehicle, which is the component that collides directly with a target warhead in space to perform a “hit to kill” intercept using only the force of the collision to totally destroy the target warhead.

This successful and timely test must be fully appreciated as Congress prepares to go to conference negotiations on the Department of Defense appropriations bill to fund GBIs to be deployed in the United States as well as in Europe.  Twenty GBIs are currently fielded in Alaska and California.  Ten more are proposed to be fielded in Poland.  This European Interceptor Site is designed to address long-range missile threats from the Middle East.  The European site will be integrated into the global BMDS.

Earlier this Summer, House Appropriators cut $ 97.2 million out of GBI funding, which is inconsistent with House Armed Services Committee (HASC) official support for "near-term" programs, and is directly conflicting with the legislation passed in last year’s NDAA advocating DOD focus on near-term capabilities.

The Ground-base Midcourse Defense (GMD) Block 2004/2006 effort is on track to complete the fielding of 24 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) by the end of this year, and a total deployment of 30 GBIs by the end of 2008.

Aside from GMD in the United States, the European Site was also unfunded due to a ‘lack in testing’ and unfinished negotiations with host countries. Now that MDA and our warfighters have once again proven the current system works, and as our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic move closer to completing negotiations with the United States, Congress must fully fund GMD as the only fielded defensive capability that could defeat an incoming long-range ballistic missile possibly bearing a weapon of mass destruction.
The 20th century danger of a nuclear-armed and aggressive Soviet Union has evolved into the 21st century threats of jihadist terrorism, rogue nations, and state sponsors of terrorism actively fielding weapons to terrorist actors committed to the destruction of the West; and these continue to pose one of the greatest threats to peace that has ever faced the human family. 

Paradoxically, missile defense is not only the last line of defense against a launched nuclear missile: it is our first line of defense against proliferation because it devalues such weapons as offensive military assets.  Nations like Iran have far less motivation to develop and proliferate weapons for which its enemies already possess an effective defense, and thereby these weapons become less likely to fall into the hands of would-be terrorists who would create the unthinkable scenario of a nuclear weapon being detonated in an American city.

Congress must be unambiguous on issues affecting national security.  Support for GMD and its testing program sends a clear message of not only our commitment to a strong defense against the growing ballistic missile threat, but ultimately our unyielding determination to protect, defend, and preserve the cause of human freedom.