National Missile Defense

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The most current acronym for National Missile Defense employed by the U.S. Department of Defense is Ground-based Midcourse Defense System, which is "presently under the aegis of the Missile Defense Agency." [1]

"Pentagon spokesperson Larry Di Rita stated that the Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense System being deployed in Alaska and California has, at best, a 'nascent operational capability.' It is unclear what he meant by this, as 'operational capability' has a very specific meaning for Pentagon weapons programs: in order to reach this level of development, they must have passed very explicit testing milestones. According to Di Rita, 'We haven't made a declaration that we are now hereby operational. I don't know that such a declaration will ever be made,' and, instead, there will be a 'focus on testing and evaluation of the system.' This comes on the heels of a flight test failure in December 2004. Di Rita explained the Pentagon’s attitude toward missile defense: 'The system is what it is, and it will get better over time.'," reported Defense Daily, January 18, 2005. [2]

Objective of NMD

"The objective of the National Missile Defense (NMD) program is to develop and maintain the option to deploy a cost effective, operationally effective, and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) compliant system that will protect the United States against limited ballistic missile threats, including accidental or unauthorized launches or Third World threats.

"The primary mission of National Missile Defense is defense of the United States (all 50 states) against a threat of a limited strategic ballistic missile attack from a rogue nation. Such a system would also provide some capability against a small accidental or unauthorized launch of strategic ballistic missiles from more nuclear capable states. The means to accomplish the NMD mission are as follows:

  • Field an NMD system that meets the ballistic missile threat at the time of a deployment decision.
  • Detect the launch of enemy ballistic missile(s) and track.
  • Continue tracking of ballistic missile(s) using ground based radars.
  • Engage and destroy the ballistic missile warhead above the earth’s atmosphere by force of impact."

Source: Global Security.


  • "The NMD is a unilateral, one-country plan and not multi-lateral. Because it violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between Russia and the USA, I fear that other non-proliferation agreements may fall as well. And then we will be back in a very dangerous Cold War situation again, except with many more players eager to join this new race." --Aqqaluk Lynge, President, Inuit Circumpolar Conference [3]


"The National Missile Defense Program was originally a technology development effort. In 1996, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, NMD was designated a Major Defense Acquisition Program and transitioned to an acquisition effort. Concurrently, BMDO was tasked with developing a deployable system within three years. This three-year development period culminated in 2000, and the Department of Defense began a Deployment Readiness Review [see below] in June 2000. Using that review, President Clinton was to make a deployment decision based on four criteria: the potential ICBM threat to the United States; the technical readiness of the NMD system; the projected cost of the NMD system; and potential environmental impact of the NMD system. Rather than make a decision, President Clinton deferred the deployment decision to his successor. The White House in choosing this action cited several factors. Among them were the lack of test under realistic conditions, the absence of testing of the booster rocket, and lingering questions over the system's ability to deal with countermeasures. The deployment decision now rests with President George W. Bush, who is reexamining the Clinton NMD system along with a variety of other proposals. In the meantime, work is continuing on technology development for the NMD system."

Source: Global Security.

Ground Based Interceptor

"The Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) is the weapon of the National Missile Defense (NMD) system. Its mission is to intercept incoming ballistic missile warheads outside the earth’s atmosphere (exo-atmospheric) and destroy them by force of the impact. During flight, the GBI receives information from the NMD Battle Management, Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) to update the location of the incoming ballistic missile, enabling the GBI onboard sensor system to identify and home in on the target. The GBI would consist of a multi-stage solid propellant booster and an exoatmospheric kill vehicle. No nuclear weapons would be used as part of the NMD system." [4]

"Since 1999, MDA has conducted seven hit-to-kill tests. Five have been successful. The most recent was on October 14, 2002, when a GBI from the Reagan Test Site in the central Pacific Ocean tracked and destroyed a target vehicle launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at an altitude of 140 miles and a closing speed in excess of 15,000 miles per hour. MDA plans to perform approximately 17 more hit-to-kill intercepts over the next several years.

"Due to these successes, the GBI program has received enthusiastic support from the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. MDA is currently installing six GBI missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base Over 20 interceptors are scheduled for deployment over the next two years." [5]

National Missile Defense Contractors

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

National Missile Defense: Government Documents


General Information

Articles & Commentary

Northeast Asia


  • "Indian Nuclear Delivery Systems," Center for Defense Information website; Compiled by Ted Flaherty, December 1996; Updated by Ben Friedman, CDI Research Assistant, May 16, 2002.