US DOD Ballistic Missile Defense Agency Graphic

Party with the US Missile Defense Agency

The US Missile Defense Agency celebrates the 12th annual Engineers Week at the Pentagon.

Keith L. Englander, the Defense Department agency’s director for engineering, spoke to an audience that included Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as engineering officials from the military services and the DoD Laboratory Enterprise.

Englander is MDA’s technical authority for all matters related to technical planning for, developing and integrating the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

He is responsible for system and element engineering, generating system and element test requirements, developing system-level modeling and simulation efforts, developing technical intelligence information, acting as the lead for failure review boards, and conducting independent technical assessments.

Ballistic Missile Defense

Englander said the modern concept of a defensive missile system began with President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative program, widely known at the time as “Star Wars.” The SDI consolidated missile defense programs scattered among government offices into the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

SDI technologies evolved, and in 1994, SDIO became the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization with a mission defined by the National Missile Defense Act of 1999.

In 2002, the BMDO became the Missile Defense Agency, and MDA scientists and engineers continued to research and develop hit-to-kill technologies and later to test and field elements of today’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. The system’s architecture includes:

— Networked sensors that include space-based sensors, and ground- and sea-based radars to detect and track targets;

— Ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles to destroy a ballistic missile using the force of a direct collision — hit-to-kill technology — or an explosive blast fragmentation warhead; and

— A command, control, battle management and communications network to give operational commanders links between the sensors and interceptor missiles.

Layered Architecture

Missile defense technology being developed, tested and deployed by the United States is designed to counter ballistic missiles of all ranges: short, medium, intermediate and long.

Because ballistic missiles have different ranges, speeds, sizes and performance characteristics, the Ballistic Missile Defense System has an integrated architecture, called “layered” because it offers several opportunities — at boost/ascent, midcourse and terminal stages — to destroy missiles and their warheads.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Japanese Defense Ministry of Defense and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones conduct a successful flight test off the west coast of Hawaii, resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, Feb. 3, 2017. DoD photo by Leah Garton

Pictured: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Japanese Defense Ministry of Defense and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones conduct a successful flight test off the west coast of Hawaii, resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, Feb. 3, 2017. DoD photo by Leah Garto.

Missile defense elements are operated by military personnel from U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Forces Japan, U.S. European Command and others, Englander said.

“Right now, we’re essentially deployed globally,” he added.

The United States has missile defense cooperative programs with allies that include the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Israel, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and many others.

The Missile Defense Agency also participates in NATO activities to help in developing an integrated ballistic missile defense capability for the alliance.

Missile Defense Evolution

In the mid-1990s, as the agency went into SDIO system Phase I, Englander said, they were looking at going against hundreds of nuclear missiles aimed at the United States at any one time.

“We had a very large architecture — we had space-based weapon systems … and ground-based systems and sensors [that included] space-based sensors,” he added.

“Under President [George H.W.] Bush, we migrated to global protection against limited strikes. We were looking at more like tens of missiles, not hundreds of missiles,” Englander said. “When we moved under President [Bill] Clinton, we essentially became a theater missile defense system and we started looking at research and development into national missile defense. By the end of his tenure, we had generated what we called the National Missile Defense Program.”

Under President George W. Bush, he said, “we had decided to deploy against rogue nations.”

“At the time, it was North Korea and Libya, and since then it’s become North Korea and Iran,” he said. “That’s where it was under President [Barack] Obama, and currently where we are under President [Donald J.] Trump.”

The new administration has asked for a Ballistic Missile Defense Review, Englander said. The review will kick off this year, he added, to determine where MDA will go next.

The review evaluates threats posed by ballistic missiles and develops a missile defense posture for current and future challenges. Such reviews are conducted under guidance from the president and the defense secretary and address a legislative requirement to assess U.S. ballistic missile defense policy and strategy.

The last Ballistic Missile Defense Review was conducted in 2010.

US Department of Defense

Photo: US DOD Ballistic Missile Defense Agency Graphic.