NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Ballistic missile defence

Ballistic missiles pose an increasing threat to Allied populations, territory and deployed forces. Over 30 countries have, or are acquiring, ballistic missile technology that could eventually be used to carry not just conventional warheads, but also weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of these capabilities does not necessarily mean there is an immediate intent to attack NATO, but it does mean that the Alliance has a responsibility to take this into account as part of its mission to protect its populations.

In early 2010, NATO acquired the first phase of an initial capability to protect Alliance deployed forces against ballistic missile threats. At the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, NATO’s leaders decided to develop a ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability to pursue its core task of collective defence. To this end, they decided that the scope of the current Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme’s command, control and communication capabilities will be expanded beyond the capability to protect forces to also include NATO European populations and territory. In this context, the US European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) and other possible national contributions were welcomed as a valuable national contribution to the NATO ballistic missile defence architecture.

NATO’s work on BMD started in the early 1990s in response to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, including missiles. The initial focus was on protecting deployed NATO troops (Theatre Missile Defence), but work was expanded in 2002 to include considerations of the protection of population centres and territory (Territorial Missile Defence).

  • Components

    The Alliance is conducting three ballistic missile defence related activities:

    1. Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence System capability

    The aim of this capability is to protect NATO deployed 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 multi-layered 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, these agencies are now grouped under 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, Netherlands. The integration test bed is essential to validate development work.

    In early 2010, the first operational 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 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 heads of state and government decided to develop a BMD capability. They agreed that an expanded theatre missile defence programme could form the command, control and communications backbone of such a system. That decision was based on almost 8 years of studies and discussions.

    In June 2011, NATO defence ministers approved the NATO ballistic missile defence action plan, which provides a comprehensive overview of the key actions and NAC decisions required to implement the NATO BMD capability over the next decade.

    In the autumn of 2011, Turkey announced its decision to host a ballistic missile defence radar at Kürecik as an integral part of the NATO BMD capability. Romania and the United States agreed 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 November 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. Finally, Spain and the United States announced an agreement to base four Aegis missile defence ships in Rota, Spain, as part of the US contribution to NATO’s BMD capability.

    Seperately, France plans to develop an early-warning system for the detection of ballistic missiles.

    In May 2012, NATO Heads of State and Government declared at the Chicago Summit the Interim NATO BMD capability. This capability is the significant first step in NATO’s BMD coverage. It offers the maximum coverage within available means to defend NATO’s populations, territory and forces across southern Europe against a ballistic missile attack. The Alliance remains committed to installing full BMD coverage for all NATO territory by the end of this decade.

    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 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 are also examining possible areas for cooperation on territorial missile defence. At the Lisbon Summit, the NRC agreed to discuss pursuing ballistic 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.

  • Mechanisms

    The Defence Policy and Planning Committee (Reinforced) (DPPC(R)) is the senior NATO committee that oversees and coordinates all efforts to develop the NATO ballistic missile defence capability at the political-military level, as well as providing political-military guidance and advice on all issues related to NATO BMD policy.

    The Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) is the Senior Policy Committee responsible for the ballistic missile defence programme.

    The NRC Missile Defence Working Group is the steering body for NATO-Russia cooperation on BMD.

  • Evolution

    The key policy document providing the framework for NATO’s activities in the area of ballistic missile defence is NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept.

    The Strategic Concept recognizes, inter alia, that “the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, threatens incalculable consequences for global stability and prosperity. During the next decade, proliferation will be most acute in some of the world’s most volatile regions.” Therefore, NATO will “develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence, which contributes to the indivisible security of our Alliance. We will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners.” As a defensive capability, BMD will be one element of a broader response to the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

    Key milestones

    Theatre Missile Defence

    May 2001

    NATO launches two parallel feasibility studies for a future Alliance theatre missile defence system.

    June 2004

    At the Istanbul Summit, Allied leaders direct that work on theatre missile defence be taken forward expeditiously.

    March 2005

    The Alliance approves the establishment of a Programme Management Organization under the auspices of the CNAD.

    September 2006

    The Alliance awards the first major contract for the development of a test bed for the system.

    February 2008

    The test bed is opened and declared fully operational nine months ahead of schedule.

    Throughout 2008

    The system design for the NATO command and control component of the theatre missile defence system is verified through testing with national systems and facilities via the integrated test bed; this paves the way for the procurement of the capability.

    March 2010

    The Interim Capability (InCa) Step 1 is fielded.

    June 2010

    NATO signs contracts for the second phase of the interim theatre missile defence capability. This will include the capability to conduct a real-time theatre missile defence battle.

     

    At the June 2010 meeting of NATO defence ministers, it is agreed that, should Allies decide at the Lisbon Summit to develop a ballistic missile defence capability for NATO which would provide protection to European Allied populations and territory against the increasing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles, an expanded theatre missile defence programme could form the command, control and communications backbone of such a system. The US EPAA would provide a valuable national contribution to this capability.

    July 2010

    The more robust Interim Capability (InCa 2) passes key tests during the Netherlands Air Force Joint Project Optic Windmill 2010 exercise.

    December 2010

    At the end of 2010, all InCa 2 components – including BMD sensors and shooters from NATO nations – are linked and successfully tested in an ‘ensemble’ test prior to handover to NATO’s military commanders. InCa 2 is subsequently delivered to the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany.


    Territorial Missile Defence

    November 2002

    At the Prague Summit, Allied leaders direct that a missile defence feasibility study be launched to examine options for protecting Alliance forces, territory and populations against the full range of ballistic missile threats.

    April 2006

    The study concludes that ballistic missile defence is technically feasible within the limits and assumptions of the study. The results are approved by NATO’s CNAD.

    2007

    An update of a 2004 Alliance assessment of ballistic missile threat developments is completed.

    April 2008

    At the Bucharest Summit, Allied leaders agree that the planned deployment of European-based US BMD assets should be an integral part of any future NATO-wide missile defence architecture. They call for options for a comprehensive ballistic missile defence architecture to extend coverage to all Allied territory not otherwise covered by the US system to be prepared in time for NATO’s next Summit.

    April 2009

    At the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit, Allies recognise that a future US contribution of important architectural elements could enhance NATO elaboration of the Alliance effort and judge that ballistic missile threats should be addressed in a prioritised manner that includes consideration of the level of imminence of the threat and the level of acceptable risk.

    September 2009

    The United States announces its plan for the EPAA.

    November 2010

    At the Lisbon Summit, the Allies agree to acquire a territorial missile defence capability. They agree that an expanded theatre missile defence programme could form the command, control and communications backbone of such a system. The NRC agrees to discuss pursuing ballistic missile defence cooperation.

    June 2011

    NATO defence ministers approve the NATO Ballistic Missile Defence Action Plan.

    September 2011

    Turkey announces a decision to host a missile defence radar as part of NATO BMD capability.

    September 2011

    Romania and the United States sign an agreement to base interceptors in Romania as part of NATO BMD capability.

    September 2011

    An agreement between Poland and the United States on basing interceptors in Poland enters into force.

    September 2011

    The Netherlands announces plans to upgrade four air-defence frigates with extended long-range radar systems as its national contribution to NATO’s BMD capability.

    October 2011

    Spain and the United States announce an agreement to port US Aegis ships in Rota, Spain, as part of the US contribution to NATO’s ballistic missile defence capability.

    April 2012 NATO successfully installs and tests the command and control architecture for the Interim Capability at Alliance Air Command Ramstein, Germany.
    May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. Declaration of the Interim BMD Capability.

    NATO-Russia Council Theatre Missile Defence Project

    2003

    A study is launched under the NRC to assess possible levels of interoperability among theatre missile defence systems of NATO Allies and Russia.

    March 2004

    An NRC theatre missile defence command post exercise is held in the United States.

    March 2005

    An NRC theatre missile defence command post exercise is held in the Netherlands.

    October 2006

    An NRC theatre missile defence command post exercise is held in Russia.

    January 2008

    An NRC theatre missile defence computer-assisted exercise takes place in Germany.

    December 2010

    First meeting of the NRC Missile Defence Working Group aimed at assessing decisions taken at the Lisbon Summit and exploring possible way forward for cooperation on ballistic missile defence.

    June 2011

    NRC defence ministers take stock of the work on missile defence since the 2010 Lisbon summit.

    April 2012 Computer-assisted exercise in Ottobrunn, Germany

Last updated: 10-Feb-2014 10:00

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