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Hit ’em on the way up… Why the Missile Defense Agency seeks capability to destroy enemy missiles in boost phase

Although defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) was originally proposed in the context of America’s decades-long Cold War with the Soviet Union, missile defense has gained new importance in recent times as the threat from rogue states has increased. With North Korea now having missiles capable of reaching anywhere on U.S. soil, America needs the ability to knock enemy missiles out of the sky before they can hit valuable targets or population centers.

But where should we hit them? Logically, it is preferable to hit them as far away from your own territory as possible. This can best be done by hitting the missile in “boost” phase, or during the phase of it’s initial powered flight from it’s launch site. And this is a capability that America’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is seeking to improve.

The U.S. Naval Institute reports on recent comments by the MDA’s deputy director:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Taking out incoming missiles during the boost phase – the period just after launch – is something the military’s missile defense leadership is confident will occur in the not too distant future. Speaking Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Rear Adm. Jon Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the continental U.S. is safe for the moment, but his team is focusing on how to defend against an ever-evolving threat. Hill’s talk, part of the Maritime Security Dialogue series, was co-hosted by CSIS and the U.S. Naval Institute.

One way of doing this is to deploy guided missile destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar system off the coast of a rogue state where they can act as early warning sensors for ground-based systems further away. According to Hill:

“If that ship is based is properly placed up forward, it gets an early detection, and can cue the ground-based missile defense….It allows them to detect a lot earlier and shoot a lot earlier.”

Read more at USNI…

Another system identified as a possible means of destroying enemies’ missiles in their own territory is the U.S. Air Force’s CHAMP missile (which would use a high-powered microwave to incapacitate missiles within its effective radius).

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