Mitchell Institute Releases New Entry in Forum Series:
“Exploiting Airpower’s Missile Defense Advantage: The Case for Aerial Boost Phase Interception”

ARLINGTON, VA (October 29, 2018) —The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce the release of its latest Mitchell Forum paper, “Exploiting Airpower’s Missile Defense Advantage: The Case for Aerial Boost Phase Interception,” by Col Vincent Alcazar, USAF (Ret.), with Marc V. Schanz.

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.

While negotiations with the North Koreans on the future of their weapons program are ongoing, and the US has invested greatly in existing missile defense programs, there is no currently fielded capability to intercept ballistic missiles in their most vulnerable stage—the boost phase, just after launch.

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.

It is in the boost phase segment of a missile launch, Alcazar and Schanz note, where airpower’s inherent capability, flexibility, and proven weapons and tactics could be an effective foil against ballistic missiles, from North Korea or any other similarly equipped adversary. Utilizing the capabilities of all US military services, effective airborne boost phase interception would be a “holistic, DOD-wide tactical airpower response” to this threat. The challenge is to innovate now, the paper asserts, before more potent missile capabilities proliferate to other potential adversaries beyond the Korean Peninsula.

The Mitchell Forum series provides a venue for authors with ideas, concepts, and thoughts on national defense and aerospace power to engage with current and emerging policy debates and issues.

For more information on the series, and inquiries about submissions, contact Mitchell’s Director of Publications Marc V. Schanz at or visit our website, at

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