Exploiting Airpower’s Missile Defense Advantage: The Case for Aerial Boost Phase Interception

In this paper, Alcazar, a Mitchell non-resident fellow and veteran fighter pilot who worked missile defense issues on the Air Staff, and the Mitchell Institute’s Schanz note that cheap and increasingly capable ballistic missiles have become a go-to weapon of choice for potential US adversaries looking for effective means to hold US forces and allies at risk. In the aftermath of the November 2017 North Korean Hwasong-15 missile test, which demonstrated an ICBM that could deliver heavy warheads to the American mainland, the improved missile capability made clear a “substantial challenge” now exists to US security that may not be mitigated by conventional or nuclear deterrent forces.

The ability to shoot down ballistic missiles in boost phase would not be a new-build development program, the authors note, but an investment in improving existing interceptor weapon capabilities and honing new concepts of operation for currently fielded combat aircraft such as fighters and remote piloted aircraft (RPA). “US tactical military airpower… with modest onboard equipment enhancements combined with adapted and battle-proven air-to-air weapons, can provide reinforcement of American missile defenses and pave the way towards developing optimized aerial weapons and sensors, making the missile defense enterprise more robust and resilient,” the paper asserts.

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