First Wave of Technologies to Defend Guam Against New Threats Expected in 2024

WASHINGTON — The first wave of defenses designed to counter complex missile threats against Guam will include radars, launchers, interceptors and a command and control system, and they will be placed on the island next year, the director of the United States Missile Defense Agency. said this week.

The MDA requested more than $800 million in its fiscal year 2024 budget request, released Monday, to develop and begin building its architecture to defend Guam against a range of threats, including ballistic, cruise and hypersonic. Nearly half of this money would continue the design and development of the architecture.

An additional $38.5 million would enhance MDA’s command and control, combat management, and communications program to support the defense of Guam.

The agency invests in architecture, but it is also a partner of the Army and the Navy. The Marine Service will provide technology and capabilities for its Aegis Weapons System and has jurisdiction over the lands where the assets will be placed.

The Army could not easily provide an upper line of its share of the Exercise 24 funding needed to deliver its share of the equipment to Guam, but it will provide three lower level air and missile defense sensors, or LTAMDS, as well as an assortment of Mid-Range Capable Missile Launchers and Indirect Fire Protection Capability Launchers, or IFPCs, as well as the Northrop Grumman-built Integrated Combat Command System designed to connect the right sensors to the right shooters on the battlefield, according to the Army Budget Office.

The Army plans to procure a total of five LTAMDS in FY24; the other two will be test assets, Army Acquisitions Chief Doug Bush said this week.

As the MDA waits for the military’s capability to arrive, it is adapting the Aegis system to work specifically in Guam’s difficult terrain, Vice Admiral Jon Hill, the agency’s director, said this week. The system will be different from what is found on an Aegis vessel and the layout of Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, he said.

Funding for FY24 will cover the installation of four high-end mobile solid-state AN/TPY-6 radars, which are new sensors using technology from Clear Space Force Base’s long-range discrimination radar, in Alaska, along the outskirts of the island. These radars will provide a 360-degree capability to see threats, Hill said, which is a requirement coming directly from the US Indo-Pacific Command.

The agency is grappling with the mechanical engineering needed to take radars that would typically be positioned on a deckhouse of a ship or in a large facility like the one in Alaska and put them in a collapsible trailer so they can be moved, Hill said on March 15. at the McAleese & Associates conference.

MDA is also developing a command suite using Command, Control, Combat Management and Communications System technology that integrates IBCS and Aegis C2 for ballistic and hypersonic missile threat detection and tracking.

While the first stream of capabilities will arrive on the island in 2024, Hill said development will continue to evolve as the technology becomes available. Hill emphasized that there will never be an initial operational capability for the architecture because the capability will always evolve.

For example, once the MDA implements a hypersonic glide phase interceptor, it will be integrated into the architecture. This effort is at a very early stage and won’t be delivered until the early 2030s, Hill said. For now, there is a capability to defeat hypersonic missiles in the terminal phase of flight using current radars and US Navy capabilities.

Difficult territory

The agency faces many challenges as it begins to build Guam’s architecture.

“The challenge right now is picking a location,” Hill said. “We have all the sites identified on the island, and today we know which are the Army sites, we know which are the MDA sites. It’s a Navy Island.

But, he said, there are environmental considerations. “When you think about what we have to do for environmental assessments, just to go and land this craft, that puts time into the equation. … Guam is a tourist island.

Site clearance is also challenging, including the need to clear bamboo and level land, Hill said. “Guam has a shipment of spent munitions from World War II,” so part of the effort is digging to make sure there is no buried munitions, he added.

Other difficult considerations include taking into account possible electromagnetic interference on the island as well as the effect ground-based radars might have on, for example, air operations, including medevac helicopters to and from coming from the area.

The agency also committed to beautification as part of the facility on Guam. “We’re going to make the launchers look good and we’re going to put big bubbles on the radars to keep them from looking so deadly because it’s a tourist area,” Hill said.

Bet on the army

Much of the architecture also relies on the capability of the military which is being developed. The service is close to approving full-rate production for IBCS after years of delay.

The Army’s LTAMDS also struggled to expand and experienced several schedule delays. Raytheon Technologies ran into problems building its first prototypes to replace Patriot air defense radars. The LTAMDS program had to adjust the schedule based on system integration challenges and supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As of last fall, the service was still aiming to deliver four by the end of 2023.

The MRC capability that will be fielded in 2023 has made more progress, and Lockheed Martin delivered the first Typhoon launcher to the military late last year, which uses a Navy MK41 vertical launch system that will fire at both SM-6 ground-launched and Tomahawk missiles. cruise missiles.

The military has chosen Leidos-owned Dynetics to build IFPC prototypes for a durable system designed to counter drone and cruise missile threats in 2021.

At the time of the award to Dynetics, the Army wanted the company to deliver prototypes by Q4 FY22 and a complete system that could integrate with IBCS by Q3 FY23.

Dynetics has been silent on progress, but according to the FY24 Army budget request, the service plans to deliver the IFPC to First Platoon at some point in the year. A production decision for IFPC is also expected for FY24, according to FY23 budget documents.

For now, Guam is secure from the threats that exist today, Hill said. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is deployed on the island along with the Patriot systems, which protect against ballistic missile threats. Aegis ships are patrolling the area, but this is not a persistent solution.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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