It is important to remember that, in an actual crisis, the demand for these relatively limited ground air defense assets would also come from commanders around the world, who would themselves be faced with a multitude of air and missile threats. . Beyond cruise and ballistic missiles, drones (including various types of weapons) now present very real threats to troops on battlefields abroad and at home as well. The drone and missile strikes on oil-related infrastructure in Saudi Arabia in 2019 were a particularly noticeable red flag on these issues. The war zone has, on several occasions, specifically underlined the potential danger that small drones pose to US national critical infrastructure, as well as to US military activities.
Struve rightly pointed out that US fighter jets, along with their Canadian counterparts, are the primary layer of air and missile defense, including against incoming cruise missiles. However, one of his fellow panelists at the MDAA roundtable, Air Force Col. Jason Nalepa, commander of 173rd Operations Group, which is part of the 173rd Air National Guard Fighter Wing of Oregon, noted the “tyranny of distance” which limits how quickly fighters can respond to threats after leaving bases in North America. Additionally, these jets simply cannot be everywhere at once and only carry a limited number of missiles, further underscoring the importance of ground resources positioned on or near critical sites to provide additional layers. more localized protection.
All of this clearly requires the kind of discussions that Struve says are going on right now about how the U.S. military can best use available assets to mitigate growing risks, especially long-range conventional cruise missiles that can be used. launched from planes, submarines and ships, including even potentially nondescript commercial cargo ships. His comments also raise clear questions about how the United States can and should expand its ability to provide domestic air and missile defenses in the future.
In addition, the NORAD Vice Director of Operations stressed the importance of existing integrated sensor networks, such as the North Warning System, as well as futures and other forms of intelligence to detect potential threats or even help prevent crises from turning into full-fledged conflicts, to begin with. “What we really need is a complete, integrated system of… sensors, from the seabed to orbit, that will be able to detect any type of any of these threats, so that we may we have this alert capacity so that we can inform our national leaders and take action, ”he said.
“We also work a lot in the information dominance phase, and that would be the ability to take data from old sensors that have been specifically calibrated. [to detect certain threats] and [that] leave about 90% more of their data on the cutting room floor … [and] to be able to put [new] back-end processing on some of these sensors, ”he added. There is a desire to “integrate this with …”launch left“, to be able to give us more time and space … something that every commander needs in order to be able to defuse a conflict”, also.
Since September 11, NORAD has been working to implement new and improved distributed sensor and networking capabilities, as well as additional interception capability, first as part of the Territorial defense design effort and now under a new global initiative known as the Strategic Homeland Integrated Ecosystems for Layered Defense (SHIELD). One of the more particularly “spiral” developments of SHIELD has been the integration of new evolving agile beam radars AN / APG-83, a new type of active electronically scanned array, on the F-16C / D of the Air Force, giving them enhanced capabilities to spot and engage a variety of threats, including low-flying cruise missiles. You can read more about this project here.