Australia hasn’t officially opted for a capability to defend against ballistic missile attack but is doing plenty of the right things in developing the fundamental precursor, an integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) system.
Retired USAF Brigadier General Kenneth Todorov, director of international programs for Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, said the US had some battle scars from its experience.
“As I look at Australia and how they are going about it, I am very jealous of the approach being taken here. I am very complimentary in a lot of ways,” he said.
Previously Todorov was deputy director of the US Missile Defence Agency and director of the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defence Organisation (JIAMDO) charged with the difficult job of integrating missile and air defence capabilities across US services.
He said the missile threat was growing, with more missiles of greater sophistication, longer range and greater diversity. That includes a new generation of hypersonic missiles.
But there’s no “big bang” off-the-shelf solution for missile defence, he says.
The US approach has involved each service developing their own capability which take care of their own domains.
“We didn’t do it smartly. We bought all this stuff and said oh gosh, we have got to make it work together. In Australia there is a recognition that it needs to be joint force by design,” he said.
“Before you procure this capability … we have to make sure it’s planned for and there is an architecture. First get the architecture right.”
That means there needs to be an effective system to detect and classify threats, communicate threat data to commanders who can direct an appropriate response. That should come well before Australia acquires any capability to shoot down incoming missiles.
Todorov said elements of Australian Defence Force capability, such as Vigilare, the RAAF’s integrated air battle management system and JORN, existed now which could form part of the future system.
The integrated air and missile defence system will be further advanced through a pair of projects, LAND 19 Phase 7B and AIR 6500.
It had to be recognised that the backbone of the system needs to be modular, open and adaptable to new threats, he said.
“We can take existing capabilities and mould them into a revolutionary architecture,” he said. “That command and control architecture has to be got right first. Then you can worry about the sexy stuff, the shooters, the effectors and even some of the sensors.”
To go to ballistic missile defence would be a significant and very political step.
Australia has long pondered acquiring a ballistic missile defence capability, most likely aboard the navy’s three new air warfare destroyers. That would take the form of the proven SM-3 missile with appropriate upgrades to the AWD Aegis combat system.
Todorov said that program was phenomenally successful.
“Given the Royal Australian Navy’s relationship with the US Navy, the importance of interoperability in Pacific Command’s area of responsibility and the desire of both nations to work together in conflict, it would make tremendous sense,” Todorov said.