Pentagon missile defense doctrine to explore space-base tech

Pentagon missile defense doctrine to explore space-base tech
© U.S. Missile Defense Agency

The Pentagon’s soon-to-be-released update to American missile defense doctrine will include new space capabilities aimed at bolstering U.S. forces against possible threats from Iran and North Korea.

A senior administration official told reporters Wednesday that the long-awaited report, known as the Missile Defense Review, will advocate for dollars and research for technologies, including high-energy lasers, that could halt ballistic missiles, potentially putting missile interceptors in space and using fighter jets such as the F-35 to counter intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

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“This is really a comprehensive look at our missile defense capabilities and programs and posture,” the official said. “Both what we have today, what we’d like to make improvements to and then what are the next generation programs we’d like to invest in to get ahead and stay ahead of the threat.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE will visit the Pentagon at 11 a.m. on Thursday to unveil the long-delayed report, a status of the country’s missile defense capabilities and new plans.

Trump will be flanked by Vice President Pence, national security adviser John Bolton; Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Army Secretary Mark Esper; Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva; Pentagon policy head John Rood; undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord; head of Pentagon technology Mike Griffin; Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves;and Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerLive coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing House questions Volker as impeachment probe ramps up Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   MORE (R-Ohio), according to the official.

The review — the first since 2010 — will drive the administration’s Pentagon funding request for the upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget and provide a roadmap for how Washington will continue to deter and counter missile threats.

One new area covered in the review will be space-based technologies to track missiles before they are launched. The official called the frontier the “key to the next step of missile defense.”

“A space-based layer of sensors is something we are looking at to help give early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles when they are launched,” the official said. “We see space as an area that’s very important as far as advanced, next-level capabilities that will help us stay ahead of the threat.”

The official added that the technology is still in the early stages and that “we’re going to study it and we’ll see whether or not it’s feasible.”

The Pentagon’s current missile defense system is made up of long-range, ground-based interceptors located at Fort Greeley, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as well as interceptor missile on Navy ships that can be placed anywhere in the world.

The review will continue to look at whether it’s feasible to creating a third ground-based interceptor site in the continental United States, a study that has been in the works for several years.

The official added the review will not change the Pentagon’s approach to deterring China and Russia from launching any missile attack, noting that America’s missile defense systems is meant only as a defensive against a rogue attack.

Washington “still relies on nuclear deterrence to deter a potential Russian or Chinese nuclear attack,” the official said.