Collective missile defense
Raytheon leaders discuss NATO, Europe and the course ahead
In the wake of the recent NATO summit, government, military and industry leaders are gathering at the 52nd International Paris Air Show, June 19-25, to review the latest products and strategies for aerospace and defense. We sat down with three of our experts to preview the conversations regarding NATO and a collective approach to European missile defense.
Chris Lombardi, vice president for Raytheon International, Belgium
Bill Blair, vice president of business development for Air and Missile Defense Systems, Raytheon Missile Systems
Michael Tronolone, director of international business development for Europe and NATO, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg refers to missile defense as an important tool in NATO’s core task of collective defense. How is Raytheon helping NATO members accomplish that core task?
Blair: Ballistic missiles can fly over many countries. One nation by itself may not have all the capabilities needed to detect, discriminate, track and intercept that threat. In a sense, missile defense almost defines collective defense for NATO because it is best done by a group of nations. For Raytheon’s part, we have a long partnership with NATO and with individual members of the alliance. The Thales Raytheon joint venture developed the air command and control backbone for NATO. The Aegis Ashore system with Raytheon SM-3s is operational in Romania and next year, will be operational in Poland. Five NATO countries use the Patriot system. We have been contributing to NATO’s collective defense literally for decades.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge to NATO’s goal of collective defense?
Blair: The integration of capabilities. As Chris mentioned, a ballistic missile threat will likely travel over several countries. Those countries must act together to provide adequate regional defense. Today, many countries use different missile defense assets, different communications, different command and control. The largest challenge is the integration of those systems to bring the latest and most effective layered capability.
In addition, the threat is evolving very rapidly. Officials in an individual country may look inward to develop their own indigenous capabilities to solve the defense equation for their country. At the country level, the challenge is to resist this tendency and instead look to external partners, and share the investment among several countries. That way a sustainable and mutually supportive defense network can be developed and constantly upgraded to stay a step ahead of the threats, to the benefit of all the partner countries.
Tronolone: NATO was founded on a motto of readiness, the idea that “we fight tonight” if necessary. This captures the key benefit of the NATO alliance in being able to work out the policy agreements to have the joint capabilities in place before they are needed. That is another challenge – to remember and reconfirm the policies that support the readiness to engage at a moment’s notice.
What do you mean by “smarter” missile defense investments, and what are the benefits for NATO member nations?
Blair: The smarter NATO missile defense construct was built around answering the question on how to best protect all the countries that are part of the NATO alliance. What can each country in each of their military forces, each level of defense, bring to the construct in the most efficient manner? Many great systems exist today, and the question is not what’s best for individual countries, but how do countries come together to implement a layered protection in a cost-effective way?
Lombardi: As Aristotle said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For missile defense, interoperability must be a primary requirement, so that several nations can share intelligence, share the situation awareness that comes from a common air picture. That way, an individual nation doesn’t need to own everything. When nations work together to procure and operate systems, it lowers acquisition costs up front through economies of scale, drives down operational costs, lowers long-term, life-cycle costs and increases interoperability. All this drives smarter defense investments.
Tronolone: When we talk about investments and benefits, it’s important to remember missile defense is about people’s lives. You need a system that is tested and proven in combat. No other system in the world has saved the number of lives our Patriot system has. Recently, we had a news report on 100 individual combat engagements by Patriot. The lives that Patriot saves aren’t just on the battlefield. A lot of interceptions happen over population centers and save the lives of the people living in towns and cities.
We at Raytheon are very proud of this proven record. We have customers around the world and employees within Raytheon – myself included – who have firsthand experience of their own life or the life of their comrades being saved because of Patriot. And we use that experience to help design national or regional defense capabilities, and we continue to invest in upgrading Patriot.
What do you mean by layered protection?
Tronolone: Layered missile defense is an age-old air defense concept known as defense-in-depth. With the advent of advanced ballistic missile threats, the concept of defense-in-depth has taken on a new dimension, which is one of altitude. Layered defense provides you an initial, upper-tier defense that looks to engage a threat 100 kilometers above the earth. And then, with lower-tier defense, you can engage different kinds of threats at lower altitudes. Having both tiers in place gives the highest probability of successfully defending civilian populations or strategic areas such as airfields, seaports, power plants and so forth.
What are the defense and security concerns of government officials in European countries as they look out over the next five to ten years?
Blair: The first thing is the rapid advance of the threat. There is a natural concern with how fast the threat is evolving, far exceeding what we faced 10 years ago. And so the question is, how fast can we advance the capabilities we have, and evolve today’s systems with “leapfrog” technology that can outpace the threats?
Today, we are very successful, for example, with the block evolution of the SM-3 program, so it can address more complex, faster missiles. Another example is the SM-6, where we took a missile designed for anti-aircraft warfare and turned it into a ballistic missile defense capability. And the Patriot system has gone through multiple generations of technology advances.
Lombardi: European government officials are also concerned with finding an economic way to establish a robust missile defense capability. Resources and budgets are limited, and as Bill mentioned, the threats continue to advance, and there is a considerable investment necessary for the layered system that is needed. Interoperability must be a priority, and pooling the investments across individual governments is the most effective approach to gaining a multi-nation capability.
How do you address the cost challenge, and whether NATO countries have the necessary budget for that level of investment?
Blair: Generally, it is more cost-efficient to invest in current systems rather than funding the development of a new system that will not be available for eight to ten years. One way NATO members can maximize their capabilities is by pooling resources and sharing capabilities across different countries.
span style="color: rgb(206, 17, 38);">Tronolone: The largest cost associated with a defense system is in logistics and sustainment following the initial acquisition. Our strategy of evolving our systems means the costs over the life cycle are lower. For example, you are training people incrementally with each system upgrade, whether in command and control systems or logistics and maintenance operations, rather than replacing and retraining on an entirely new system. And in addition to the life cycle considerations, the priority on interoperability and sharing investments across multiple countries is an economic approach to develop and field a mutually supportive missile defense system.
What is your response to the critics who say missile defense capabilities are destabilizing or aggressive in nature? Is there any merit to these arguments?
Lombardi: This is an unfortunate mischaracterization of the systems themselves. These systems cannot be used to attack other countries, they are used for defense. In fact, what is truly destabilizing is the testing or deployment – in violation of international agreements – of medium-range and short-range systems capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction. The missile defense systems we are talking about are necessary to protect against those sorts of destabilizing threats.