WASHINGTON — The Ballistic Missile Defense Review ordered this month by Defense Secretary James Mattis won’t wrap up until the end of the year but the Missile Defense Agency’s fiscal year 2018 budget request shows signs of flexibility ahead of the reviews findings.
MDA is requesting $7.9 billion in FY18, an increase of $379 million from the FY17 request, according to budget documents released Tuesday.
Big and small changes could be afoot as President Donald Trump considers how to shape both regional and homeland defense in his administration.
The Obama administration can take credit for the European Phased Adaptive Approach which sets up a series of radars in Europe to protect U.S. forces deployed abroad and its allies against possible ballistic missile threats from Iran. And the Ground-based Mid-course Defense System that protects the homeland from possible threats from Iran and North Korea was initially fielded during the George W. Bush administration.
While it remains to be seen what the Trump missile defense legacy will be, MDA is looking at a few capabilities that might be considered in the review while proceeding forward with major current and future missile defense programs in the works.
Nothing in the FY18 budget would "preclude moving forward" when a review comes out, Gary Pennett, MDA’s director for agency operations, said during a Pentagon budget briefing Tuesday. "We try not to preclude anything in advance of that and we did that with the thought in mind that the BMDR would potentially inform us as we go forward and so we are prepared for that."
For example, MDA plans to fund a $5 million study to look the possibility of establishing an Atlantic radar. The study would assess "the feasibility of appropriate tracking and discrimination sensor capabilities to support the defense of the United States against emerging, long-range, ballistic missile threats from Iran," Pennett said.
The results of the study will inform the BMDR, he added.
MDA is also preparing to ramp up radar coverage in the Pacific Ocean, according to Pennett.
A sensors analysis of alternatives conducted by the Defense Department identified a next near-term critical step to optimizing tracking and discrimination capabilities in the Pacific is to deploy a radar there, Pennett noted.
MDA is requesting $21 million for an Enhanced Homeland Defense Radar in Hawaii, Pennett said, and will conduct source selection activities in 2018 with a plan to deliver initial capability for the radar by 2023. The agency plans to award a radar contract in FY18.
Pennett added the current defense radar is effective and a new radar anticipates future threats from Iran and North Korea.
Much of the budget continues on the same path for both homeland and regional defense.
The agency is requesting $828.1 million for the GMD system in place at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and Fort Greely, Alaska.
Currently, Pennett said, there are 36 ground-based interceptors in place and MDA is on track for installing 44 GBIs to complete the full complement of GMD interceptors by the end of the year.
MDA is also asking for $465.5 million for Improved Homeland Defense Interceptors as part of the GMD Redesigned Kill Vehicle that "will address an evolving threat, enhance kill vehicle reliability," which has struggled in tests over the years, "and improve in-flight communications to better utilize off-board sensor data," the budget documents read.
In FY18, MDA plans to conduct its first GMD operational flight test, FTG-11, which is a salvo intercept using GBIs launched from Vandenberg against Intercontinental Ballistic Missile threats from the Reagan Test Site.
MDA is also asking for $130.7 million to extend the amount of time its Sea-Based X-Band radar is on station from 120 days at sea to 330 days at the request of U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Northern Command.
The agency is also continuing a study on a possible East Coast site for an SBX radar. The study is due to be completed by the end of 2018.
The budget request contains $357 million for the Long Range Discrimination Radar, a mid-course sensor that will bolster BMDS target discrimination. MDA will complete the design and buy radar antenna components and will conduct qualification and sub-system testing in 2018, Pennett said.
As part of the EPAA, MDA supports the operation of an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey, an Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Romania and is preparing for a second Aegis Ashore site to become operation by the end of calendar year 2018.
The agency is requesting $59.7 million in FY18 for the Aegis site in Poland.
Additionally, MDA is asking for $852.1 million for Aegis BMD activities including the integration of the SM-3 Block IIA into BMD weapon systems. The agency is requesting $624.1 million in Aegis BMD procurement — $425 million to procure 34 Aegis SM-3 Block IB missiles in FY18 along with 287 SM-3 Block IB missiles with 182 delivered to the fleet by the end of FY18.
Further development of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) would require $230.2 million to include integration of THAAD into the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense System Battle Command System.
Another $36.2 million is needed for THAAD testing and $451.6 million to procure THAAD equipment including 34 THAAD interceptors in 2018. By the end of FY18, the agency will deliver 52 additional interceptors to the Army. MDA is requesting $78.8 million for operations and maintenance for THAAD batteries.
THAAD is currently deployed in Guam and South Korea. MDA will support seven THAAD batteries total in FY18.
MDA has plans to invest in high power lasers, a Multi-Object Kill Vehicle and other breakthrough technology, according to Pennett. Better discrimination and tracking capabilities and improving the shot doctrine are among goals for science and technology efforts.
The agency wants $128.4 million that would partly fund integrating an advanced sensor onto a Multispectral Targeting System and the MQ-9 Reaper "to address precision track and discrimination performance of this technology with the goal of eventually migrating to a space sensor layer," according to budget documents.
MDA will also continue work on an unmanned aerial vehicle-borne laser for boost phase missile defense.
The agency is requesting $252.9 million for the Common Kill Vehicle Technology program "for killing multiple lethal objects from a single interceptor," the documents notes. The agency has awarded contracts to three prime developers to reduce technical risk over three years.
The request also includes $17 million for a Space-based Kill Assessment experiment. "The full SKA network is currently planned to be on orbit in FY17," the documents state.
Mandated by Congress, MDA will continue to work on hypersonic defense systems in FY18 to include a "defense against hypersonic threats analysis of alternatives, capability roadmap development and initial investment in sensor technology demonstrations and weapon concepts to address the advanced threat," according to budget documents.
MDA also plans to use existing sensors and ground-based command and control "to quickly demonstrate and deploy a three-phase contingency capability to provide real-time warning over the majority of the hypersonic threat profile by 2019," the documents read.
The agency is requesting $75.3 million on hypersonic defense activities.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.