GAO Report on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development. What GAO Found The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development.

What GAO Found

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued to fall short of its goals for asset deliveries and testing. For example, MDA successfully delivered many of the planned interceptors and conducted developmental and operational cybersecurity testing for MDS elements; however, MDA did not conduct any planned system-level cybersecurity tests—leaving MDA without knowledge of its systems’ vulnerabilities and contributing to programmatic delays. The shortfalls to planned system-level tests were partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDA’s efforts to address hypersonic threats include the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) and Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). These efforts represent technologies that have considerable risks, but MDA has not taken necessary steps to reduce risks and ensure appropriate oversight from the Department of Defense (DOD) or stakeholder involvement.

  • GPI is a missile designed to shoot down a hypersonic weapon in the middle
    (or glide phase) of its flight. Contrary to a DOD directive with which MDA has
    aligned its effort, at the time of our review, MDA did not plan to obtain an
    independent technological risk assessment to determine the maturity of the
    technologies before proceeding with development. In addition, MDA did not
    plan to obtain an independent cost estimate.
  • HBTSS is a concept of space-based sensors to track the unique flight path of
    a hypersonic weapon. However, MDA has not adequately coordinated the
    HBTSS effort with DOD’s Space Development Agency and Space Force.

Increased DOD oversight and involvement would reduce risk. In addition, more clearly delineated roles and responsibilities would help avoid duplication, overlap, or fragmented capabilities among MDA and other View GAO-22-105075. For more information, DOD space agencies.

Download the document here.

Baltic States Need More NATO Forces to Deter a Russian Invasion, Says Estonian Official

Despite the Kremlin’s heavy losses in invading Ukraine, the Russians are “going to come back stronger” in a year or so to threaten the Baltics, Estonian Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary said on Thursday. Speaking at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment event, Kusti Salm said that even given Moscow’s rising number of casualties, […]

U.S. Marines with 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion attached to Task Group 61/2.4, speak to a UH-1Y crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 before boarding near Saaremaa, Estonia, May 22, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Despite the Kremlin’s heavy losses in invading Ukraine, the Russians are “going to come back stronger” in a year or so to threaten the Baltics, Estonian Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary said on Thursday.

Speaking at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment event, Kusti Salm said that even given Moscow’s rising number of casualties, destruction of armored forces and depletion of precision-guided weapons, the Kremlin can still mass fires as it is showing in fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine.

He called NATO’s “trip-wire” strategy and even its “forward presence” in limited numbers obsolete in light of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Because the Baltic nations are on Russian borders and small, they could be quickly overwhelmed in a full-scale Russian invasion.

“Deterrence by denial,” Salm said Wednesday, cannot be achieved by a battalion of NATO troops in his country or any other Baltic member of the alliance. He called it “a joke” that “the second largest nuclear nation would be deterred by a battalion.” The presence “has to be at the divisional level” to “be able to project power across the Russian border.”

Force structure on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks is expected to be high on the agenda at the alliance’s summit meeting later this month in Madrid.

In the first quarter of 2022, Salm added that Estonia has seen the need to “punch above [its] weight” and has been spending about 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Among the systems he mentioned were anti-ship, anti-tank and anti-armor. At the same time, it has doubled its territorial defense force to 20,000 and is training and equipping it to defend against invasion.

The CSBA report on Baltic deterrence calls for the three nations to raise defense spending to 3 percent.

Salm said that the attitude of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania toward Moscow now is “if you want to fight one Baltic state, you’ll fight all the Baltic states and NATO.”

He added later, “There is no stepping back” from Estonia’s building up its defenses and NATO’s need to remain unified. “We feel that the notion is there: ‘Let’s get it done’” when it comes to assisting Ukraine and raising the alliance’s capabilities.

Chris Bassler, one of the authors of the CSBA report on Baltic deterrence, said some of the larger powers inside NATO need to be asking “what are the front line states asking for” to deter Russia from turning on them.

He added that with so many weapons like Javelins, Stingers and sophisticated drones going to Ukraine, the United States could not be the single supplier of systems to the alliance, but all members needed to rebuild their stocks and lay aside prepositioned equipment for follow-on forces.

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in port in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

The report, prepared before Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, states, “While full integration of the national defense plans is likely not an attainable goal, the Baltic states should start by focusing on further coordination of regional investments in [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], air and missile defense, and longer-range fires capabilities.” By doing this, they could reduce costs and increase interoperability with other alliance members.

Looking at continuing gaps in command and control among NATO forces, especially for forces that rotate between host nations, Jan van Tol, another author, said basic questions like “who’s going to be where” and when need to be addressed. Another important question is whether alliance forces now rotating in the Baltic should be permanently stationed there, he added. The report calls for doubling the number of NATO forces in the three Baltic nations, he added

CSBA also recommended rotating F-35 Lightning II Strike Fighters to the Baltics to better coordinate air defense and policing. Bassler said the F-35s provide “instant interoperability.”

Van Tol said that maritime defenses were not addressed in detail because the report was finished before Finland and Sweden applied for membership. A lesson the Baltics could learn from Ukraine is the value of anti-ship missiles. Ukraine’s use of these missiles has made Russian ship captains feel more threatened after the sinking of RTS Moskva (121) and has been a factor in fighting there.

He added another lesson for the Baltics would also include “mines are a poor man’s weapon” in naval defenses.

U.S. Warships Now in the Baltic Ahead of BALTOPS as Sweden, Finland Move Through NATO Membership Process

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet. Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic […]

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in port in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet.

Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of the BALTOPS 22 exercise series, USNI News has learned.

Gunston Hall and Gravely made a port call in Helsinki, Finland on Friday.

“Prior to their port visit, Gunston Hall and Gravely conducted extensive operations with Allies and Partners in the Baltic Sea, including a series of maneuvering exercises with the Finnish and Swedish navies,” reads a statement from 6th Fleet.

Last week, Kearsarge and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit drilled in the Estonian-led Siil – Estonian for hedgehog – exercise around the island of Saaremaa, the city of Pärnu on Estonia’s western coast and the town of Võru, about 15 miles from the Russian border.

“The exercise scenario will consist of an amphibious landing followed by a multi-day force on force exercise, as well as the execution of a vertical assault raid,” reads a Navy release about the Estonian-led exercise.

Since the late February invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the U.S. has surged ships to Europe.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) sail in formation behind the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) during a maneuvering exercise with the Finnish and Swedish navies in the Baltic Sea on May 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

The drills with the Baltic nations come ahead of the NATO-led BALTOPS 22 exercise, which will be hosted in Sweden this year.

In addition to the U.S., countries in the exercise include Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

“Over 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft, and approximately 7,000 personnel will participate in BALTOPS 22,” reads a NATO release.
The exercise will include “amphibious operations, gunnery, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, unmanned underwater vehicles, and medical response.”

The U.S. contingent for BALTOPS will include Kearsarge, Gunston Hall and the Rota, Spain-based guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78), Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

The 51st iteration of the exercise comes as long-time participants Sweden and Finland have started the process to join NATO amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Swedish officials, in particular, have made calls for the U.S. to operate more in the Baltic, a move that Navy and Marine Corps leaders have endorsed, reported USNI News.

“I look forward to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO and I foresee a day when we’re actually increasing our maritime operations in the Baltic Sea,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee earlier in May.

While the majority of the 30-nation alliance supports the entrance of the two Nordic countries, Turkey continues to raise objections over both Sweden’s and Finland’s protection of what Ankara calls terrorist organizations, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the halting of arms exports.

On Tuesday, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey would not allow Finland and Sweden to join unless Helsinki and Stockholm agree to “halt their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organizing any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara’s military and counter-terrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions,” according to Reuters.

Russian Hypersonic Missiles Underperforming in Ukraine Conflict, NORTHCOM Says

The Kremlin’s most advanced missile systems are not operating effectively in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, U.S. Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck said Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. The Russians have “had challenges with some of their hypersonic missiles as far as accuracy.” He judged the missiles were “underperforming.” […]

A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ALBM being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K in 2018. Kremlin Photo

The Kremlin’s most advanced missile systems are not operating effectively in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, U.S. Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck said Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

The Russians have “had challenges with some of their hypersonic missiles as far as accuracy.” He judged the missiles were “underperforming.”

Despite Russia’s overall inaccuracy in firing all of its missiles, John Plumb, the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said “the sobering reality” is that the estimated 1,500 missiles Russia has fired since the Feb. 24 invasion targeted Ukrainian civilians.

The witnesses agreed it was the largest employment of missile systems since World War II.

As the fighting in Ukraine has evolved, Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler said Kyiv needs offensive and defensive missile systems for a layered defense and to stymie maneuvers on the ground. Among the systems he mentioned were Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and specialized mortars.

Noting the “threat only gets worse” in the Indo-Pacific, Sen. Deborah Fischer (R-Neb.), pressed the witnesses on how ready Guam’s defenses are against ballistic and cruise missile attacks from North Korea and/or China.

Plumb said, “Guam is unequivocally part of the homeland” and will be defended as such. The Pacific island territory hosts support facilities for the Navy and an airbase capable of sustaining long-range strategic bombers.

Vice Adm. John Hill, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, said that for Guam the Pentagon is “leveraging mature systems,” with an emphasis on mobility for its missile batteries and command and control. To provide more advanced warning, he said “a ship [Aegis destroyer] is stationed up forward.”

“We did look at a number of fixed sites” for the missile defense systems and command and control, but the island’s mountainous terrain would limit Aegis Ashore’s effectiveness, Hill said. At a budget briefing in March, he said, “you will see a heavy interest in mobile – mobile launchers, so when we talk about distributed systems, it is about being as mobile as possible, so you’re going to see a distributed system that is mobile.”

THAAD and Patriot systems are already in place.

Kabler added that the Army field tested Israel’s Iron Dome system, but ultimately rejected it because it didn’t meet the requirement.

About $900 million has been requested for Fiscal Year 2023 to integrate and expand missile defense systems from the Missile Defense Agency, the Army and the Navy on Guam. he agency’s overall budget request is for $9.6 billion.

At the budget briefing, Hill said, “The architecture on Guam will be a mix … so think of that as MDA systems, Army systems, and Navy systems. It will not be an Aegis Ashore. Think of it as a distributed system because we do – we’re going to respond to the number one requirement of 360-degree coverage against ballistic, cruise and hypersonic threats.”

Hill added at the briefing, “I think that what we do on Guam will inform what we do for cruise missile defense of the homeland. For example, we are using existing sensor technology. We’re going to tie in through command-and-control battle management into space assets and other sensing capability.”

On hypersonic threats, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), the chairman of the subcommittee, said at the hearing that he wanted “a sense of urgency” from the Pentagon on what it’s doing in that area.

Hill said, “we’re not starting at zero.” Today, the best defense against the threat is sea-based, but he said “terminal [defense] is not enough” as the threat evolves. He said this year’s budget requests investment funds for the Glide Phase Interceptor to address the threat from China and Russia.

“We’re moving towards a demo” over the next few years. Earlier, he told the House Armed Services Committee the agency is moving closer to deciding which of the three contractors bidding on the work can proceed.

In his prepared testimony, Hill noted that “in FY 2023, MDA will continue to develop and plan a GPI demonstration and leverage the Aegis Weapon System to provide the U.S. Warfighter increasingly capable regional defensive capabilities.”

Swedish Officials Ask Pentagon to Increase U.S. Naval Presence in Baltic Sea

Swedish officials are requesting a larger U.S. naval presence in the Baltic Sea as part of the ongoing diplomatic push for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, two defense officials told USNI News on Thursday. The Swedish contingent now in Washington is asking to increase bilateral and multilateral exercises with the U.S. Navy and Marine […]

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) transits through the Danish Straits and enters the Baltic Sea on May 13, 2022. US Navy Photo

Swedish officials are requesting a larger U.S. naval presence in the Baltic Sea as part of the ongoing diplomatic push for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, two defense officials told USNI News on Thursday.

The Swedish contingent now in Washington is asking to increase bilateral and multilateral exercises with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and flow more ships into the Baltic, the two defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist met in the Pentagon on Wednesday as the formal submission of Sweden and Finland’s membership to NATO occurred the same day in Brussels.

“They underscored the importance of security and stability in Europe and transatlantic unity,” according to a Wednesday readout of the meeting.
“The two looked forward to deepening bilateral cooperation.”

The Pentagon is now considering how the U.S. could increase its naval presence in the region, the officials told USNI News.

The request comes as U.S. warships in Europe are at a level not seen in years. Ahead of Russia’s late February invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. began sending more ships to both the Baltic and the Mediterranean seas for deterrence missions. In December, Austin ordered the Truman Carrier Strike Group to stay on station in the Mediterranean and will remain until August, USNI News reported.

As of Monday, 28 U.S. warships were deployed to Europe, compared to 20 in early January, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

Amphibious warships USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently in the Baltic, along with guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107), officials confirmed to USNI News.

Ahead of the current push for NATO membership, momentum has been building for the Navy and Marines to operate in Europe, particularly the Arctic and the Baltic since the 2018 deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the Arctic.

On Wednesday, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, “I look forward to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO and I foresee a day when we’re actually increasing our maritime operations in the Baltic Sea.”

At the same hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said, “during this ongoing conflict with Russia and Ukraine … we’ve had small units, destroyers operating with allies and partners in the High North to put pressure on Russia to make sure that they know that we’re there with capable platforms,” he said.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger at the same hearing said the Marines would likely deploy smaller units to the Baltic and the Arctic more often.

“I think yes, in both Alaska and frankly in Europe, we’re going to more frequently deploy smaller units for two to four weeks at a time, absolutely,” Berger said.

The Marine Corps’ new Force Design 2030 vision calls for small units armed with anti-ship weapons to island-hop in the Western Pacific, a strategy that would overlay well on the small islands and archipelagos that surround the coasts of both Sweden and Finland, officials have told USNI News.

Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said the Swedish military has made it clear they’re interested in working more with the U.S.

“She wants us to come up and exercise,” Heckl said of Chief of Swedish Navy Rear Adm. Ewa Skoog Haslum.

Report to Congress on Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense

The following is the May 18, 2022 Congressional Research Service report Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for […]

The following is the May 18, 2022 Congressional Research Service report Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. BMD-capable Aegis ships operate in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran, and in in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. The number of BMD-capable Aegis ships has been growing over time. MDA’s FY2023 budget submission states that “by the end of FY 2023 there will be 50 total BMDS [BMD Systems] capable [Aegis] ships requiring maintenance support.”

The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2023 budget requests a total of $1,659.1 million (i.e., about $1.7 billion) in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for two Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania. MDA’s budget also includes operations and maintenance (O&M) and military construction (MilCon) funding for the Aegis BMD program.

Issues for Congress regarding the Aegis BMD program include the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify MDA’s annual procurement and research and development funding requests for the program;
  • the adequacy of MDA’s cost estimating and its reporting of costs;
  • what role the Aegis BMD program should play in defending the U.S. homeland against attack from ICBMs;
  • required versus available numbers of BMD-capable Aegis ships;
  • the burden that BMD operations may be placing on the Navy’s fleet of Aegis ships, and whether there are alternative ways to perform BMD missions now performed by U.S. Navy Aegis ships, such as establishing additional Aegis Ashore sites;
  • allied burden sharing—how allied contributions to regional BMD capabilities and operations compare to U.S. naval contributions to overseas regional BMD capabilities and operations;
  • the role of the Aegis BMD program in a new missile defense system architecture for Guam;
  • whether to convert the Aegis test facility in Hawaii into an operational land-based Aegis BMD site;
  • the potential for ship-based lasers to contribute in coming years to Navy terminal-phase BMD operations and the impact this might eventually have on required numbers of ship-based BMD interceptor missiles; and
  • technical risk and test and evaluation issues in the Aegis BMD program.

Download document here.

Report to Congress on U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ […]

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ strategic approach to the region has varied greatly. From September 11, 2001, until almost the next decade, strategic emphasis was placed largely on global counterterrorism, primarily focused on U.S. Central Command’s (USCENTCOM’s) and later U.S. Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM’s) areas of operation. Starting around 2004, the George W. Bush Administration began to consider strengthening relations with allies in Asia and potentially revising U.S. doctrine and force posture in the region to improve U.S. capabilities.

In 2011, the Obama Administration announced the United States would expand and strengthen its existing role in the Asia-Pacific region. Referred to as the “Rebalance to Asia,” this strategic shift away from counterterrorism was intended to devote more effort to influencing the development of the Asia-Pacific’s norms and rules, particularly as China was emerging as an ever-more influential regional power.

While many view the Indo-Pacific as primarily a Navy- and Air Force-centric region, the Army and Marine Corps have a long and consequential presence in the region and are modifying their operational concepts, force structure, and weapon systems to address regional threats posed primarily by North Korea and China. The Army and Marines each play a critical role in the region, not only in the event of conflict but also in deterrence, security force assistance, and humanitarian assistance operations.

Congress continues to play an active and essential role in Indo-Pacific security matters. The Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), created by the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; P.L. 116-283, §1251) is just one example of congressional involvement in regional security efforts. The February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and its present and future implications for European and Indo-Pacific security will likely increase both congressional interest and action in the near term and for the foreseeable future.

Potential issues for Congress include:

  • the role of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • the posture of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • U.S. ground forces execution of regional wartime missions, and
  • the potential impact of the Ukrainian conflict on U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region.

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Navy Shipboard Lasers

The following is from the May 9, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Shipboard Lasers: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report This report provides background information and issues for Congress on shipboard solid-state lasers (SSLs) that the Navy is developing for surface-ship self-defense. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests continued research and development […]

The following is from the May 9, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Shipboard Lasers: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

This report provides background information and issues for Congress on shipboard solid-state lasers (SSLs) that the Navy is developing for surface-ship self-defense. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests continued research and development funding for these efforts.

The Navy installed its first prototype SSL capable of countering surface craft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a Navy ship in 2014. The Navy since then has been developing and installing additional SSL prototypes with improved capability for countering surface craft and UAVs. Higher-power SSLs being developed by the Navy are to have a capability for countering anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Current Navy efforts to develop SSLs include:

  • the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;
  • the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);
  • the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as the high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS); and
  • the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).

The first three SSL efforts listed above are included in what the Navy calls the Navy Laser Family of Systems (NFLoS).

The issue for Congress is whether to modify, reject, or approve the Navy’s acquisition strategies and funding requests for shipboard laser development programs. Decisions that Congress makes on this issue could affect Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the defense technology and industrial base.

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The following is the May 5, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. […]

The following is the May 5, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

The Pentagon’s FY2023 budget request for hypersonic research is $4.7 billion—up from $3.8 billion in the FY2022 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $225.5 million for hypersonic defense. At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not have approved either mission requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Principal Director for Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.

As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and arms control. Potential questions include the following:

  • What mission(s) will hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-effective means of executing these potential missions? How will they be incorporated into joint operational doctrine and concepts?
  • Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible?
  • How, if at all, will the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
  • Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building activities?

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Destroyer Programs

The following is the May 2, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy began procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, also known as Aegis destroyers, in FY1985, and a total of 89 have been procured through FY2022, including two in FY2022. […]

The following is the May 2, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy began procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, also known as Aegis destroyers, in FY1985, and a total of 89 have been procured through FY2022, including two in FY2022. From FY1989 through FY2005, DDG-51s were procured in annual quantities of two to five ships per year. Since FY2010, they have been procured in annual quantities of one to three ships per year. (The Navy did not procure any DDG-51s in FY2006-FY2009.)

The first DDG-51 entered service in 1991, and a total of 70 have been delivered as of February 2022. The DDG-51 design has been updated multiple times over the years; the version currently being procured, called the Flight III DDG-51 design, incorporates a new and more capable radar called the SPY-6 radar.

DDG-51s were procured in FY2018-FY2022 under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract that Congress approved as part of its action on the Navy’s FY2018 budget. Three previous MYP contracts for the DDG-51 program covered DDG-51s procured in FY1998-FY2001, FY2002-FY2005, and FY2013-FY2017. As part of its FY2023 budget submission, the Navy is requesting a new MYP contract for DDG-51s scheduled for procurement in FY2023-FY2027.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the procurement of two DDG-51s in FY2023. The budget estimates the combined procurement cost of the two ships at $4,417.5 million (i.e., about $4.4 billion). The two ships have received $41.0 million in prior-year Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding, which is a kind of advance procurement funding that can occur under an MYP contract. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $4,376.5 million needed to complete the two ships’ estimated combined procurement cost. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $618.4 million in EOQ funding for DDG-51s to be procured under the proposed FY2023-FY2027 MYP contract, and $228.6 million in cost-to-complete funding to cover cost growth on DDG-51s procured in prior fiscal years.

The Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan includes 10 DDG-51s, to be procured at a rate of two ships per year. Although the Navy’s FY2023-FY2027 shipbuilding plan includes 10 DDG-51s, the Navy’s proposed FY2023-FY2027 MYP contract for the DDG-51 program includes nine (rather than 10) firm ships, plus an option for a 10th ship, as well as additional annual options that could expand the contract to include more than 10 ships. The Navy’s proposal for the FY2023-FY2027 MYP contract to include nine rather than 10 firm ships is a potential oversight issue for Congress in its consideration of the Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget.

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