Space-based missile defense: 'An absolute must'

US Missile Defense Review echoes Raytheon CEO's call for advanced tech

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy participates in a panel about missile defense at the Reagan National Defense Forum

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy participated in a panel about missile defense at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

The new U.S. strategy for defense against ballistic missile attack, as described in the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Review on January 17, calls for advanced space-based missile defense technologies in an era of escalating threats around the globe.

That echoes the call Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy made late last year to an audience of defense experts and policymakers.

“To have a space-sensor layer, to be able to pick up this advanced threat … that’s an absolute must for us to get on board and develop that technology,” Kennedy said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum, an annual conference attended by members of Congress, military leaders, current and former administration officials, scholars and defense industry representatives.

The panel, moderated by CNBC anchor Morgan Brennan, focused on missile defense – specifically the legacy of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the effect of defense technology on geopolitics and the reactions of adversary nations to newer and more capable missile defense systems. Other panelists included U.S. Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona).



The panelists agreed that current missile defense systems are vital, citing the Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense systems, but they aren’t made to stop scores of ICBMs or cruise missiles being fired at once. That means they may not deter peer-level adversaries, or those capable of launching missiles en masse.

One answer lies in space and the development of new technology, Kennedy said in a precursor of the DoD's Missile Defense Review. The commercialization of space has provided valuable research and development and reduced the cost of an integrated system of sensors to increase detection and tracking abilities. Lasers, microwaves and other technologies will multiply protection at a lower cost, Kennedy said.

“I believe there’s more we need to do. And the reason we need to do more is because technology has changed, and the threat has significantly evolved based on that technology,” Kennedy said.

Much as they did during the Cold War, U.S. allies are playing an important role in developing and funding new capabilities, Kennedy said, pointing to Raytheon’s partnership with Japan on the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor. The interceptor carries its own ballistic-missile killer and can be launched from land and from sea.

“It’s not only a sale, it’s also co-development,” Kennedy said. “And getting our coalition partners engaged from that perspective, not just in buying the article after the U.S. develops it, but also in the co-development of it, significantly reduces the cost to the U.S. and in getting the dollars required to put these capabilities in place.”

In all, the panelists agreed on Reagan’s view that space-based missile defense "leads us away from the days of mutual assured destruction to a future of mutual assured safety."

“His vision was that defending against a ballistic missile attack from the Soviet Union was a more moral way of deterring such an attack,” Kyl said of Reagan. “He saw it as a deterrent.” 

Published On: 01/17/2019
Last Updated: 01/18/2019