The Alliance is conducting three BMD-related activities:
1. Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence System capability
The aim of this capability is to protect deployed NATO forces against short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats (up to 3,000-kilometer range). In order to manage the risk associated with the development of such a complex capability, ALTBMD will be fielded in several phases.
The completed capability will consist of a system of systems, comprising low- and high-altitude defences (also called lower- and upper-layer defences), including battle management, communications, command and control and intelligence (BMC3I), early-warning sensors, radars and various interceptors. NATO member countries will provide the sensors and weapon systems, while NATO will develop the BMC3I segment and facilitate the integration of all these elements into a coherent and effective architecture.
In 2005, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) established the NATO Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Programme Management Organization (ALTBMD PMO) to oversee the ALTBMD Programme. The NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A) and the NATO Air Command and Control System Management Agency (NACMA) are other key NATO bodies involved in the programme. As part of the NATO agencies reform, this programme is now managed by the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA).
The initial activities were mainly focused on system engineering and integration work, and on the development of an integration test bed hosted at the NCIA facilities in The Hague, the Netherlands. The integration testbed is essential to validate development work.
In early 2010, the first operational ALTBMD capability (called Interim Capability) was fielded. It provides military planners with a planning tool to build the most effective defence design for specific scenarios or real deployments. A more robust version of that capability was fielded at the end of 2010 and provides shared situational awareness. The next version will be delivered in the 2016-2017 timeframe. After that, ALTBMD will be merged with the BMD effort detailed below.
2. BMD for the protection of NATO European territory, populations and forces
At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, NATO leaders decided to develop a BMD capability. They agreed that an expanded ALTBMD Programme should form the command, control and communications backbone of such a system. That decision was based on almost eight years of studies and discussions.
As part of the US European Phased Adative Approach (EPAA), Turkey announced in autumn 2011 its decision to host a US-owned and -operated BMD radar at Kürecik. Romania and the United States agreed in 2011 to base Aegis Ashore capabilities at Deveselu airbase in Romania, and a similar basing agreement between the United States and Poland entered into force in 2011 to host Aegis Ashore at the Redzikowo military base. Also in 2011, Spain and the United States announced an agreement to base four Aegis missile defence ships in Rota, Spain. These assets are national contributions, and are integral parts of the NATO BMD capability.
In September 2011, the Netherlands announced plans to upgrade four air-defence frigates with extended long-range missile defence early-warning radars as its national contribution to NATO's ballistic missile defence capability. .
Separately, France is studying options to develop an early-warning system for the detection of ballistic missiles.
In February 2012, Germany announced that its Patriot air- and missile-defence systems would form a national contribution to the NATO BMD system.
In May 2012 at the Chicago Summit, NATO leaders declared the Interim NATO BMD capability operational. It offers the maximum coverage within available means to defend NATO’s populations, territory and forces across southern Europe against a limited ballistic missile attack. The Alliance aims to provide full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces against the increasing threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles. This coverage is based on the principles of indivisibility of Allied security and NATO solidarity, equitable sharing of risks and burdens, as well as reasonable challenge. It also takes into account the level of threat, affordability and technical feasibility, and is in accordance with the latest common threat assessments agreed by the Alliance. Should international efforts reduce the threats posed by ballistic missile proliferation, NATO missile defence can, and will, adapt accordingly.
3. Missile defence cooperation with Russia
In 2003, under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), a study was launched to assess possible levels of interoperability among the theatre missile defence systems of NATO Allies and Russia.
Together with this study, several successful computer-assisted exercises have been held to provide the basis for future improvements to interoperability, and to develop mechanisms and procedures for joint operations in the area of theatre missile defence.
NATO and Russia also examined possible areas for cooperation on territorial missile defence. At the Lisbon Summit, the NRC agreed to discuss pursuing ballistic missile defence cooperation, and to resume territorial missile defence cooperation. They agreed on a joint ballistic missile threat assessment, and to continue dialogue in this area. The NRC was tasked to develop a comprehensive joint analysis of the future framework for BMD cooperation. In April 2012, NATO and Russia successfully conducted a computer-assisted missile defence exercise hosted by Germany.
In October 2013, NATO-Russia missile defence-related discussions were paused by Russia, and in April 2014, NATO suspended all cooperation with Russia in response to the Ukraine crisis.