This development, considered both highly significant and a “first-of-its-kind” technological step forward, does seem to advance the technical infrastructure needed to fire multiple interceptors and integrated systems to increase the probability of an ICBM “kill.” Raytheon is currently working with the Pentagon on this particular task, through the development of an emerging system called Multi-Object Kill Vehilce (MOKV). The new system, to emerge in the early 2020s, leverages advanced sensor technology and engineering to integrate multipe kill vehicles into a single GBI.
As sensor and weapons technologies continue to mature, many senior leaders expect increased coordination between GBIs, satellites and new weapons such as space-based lasers or small drone-like systems able to operate beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Furthermore, there is already ongoing work to extend the range of SM-3s further into space to intercept as well as efforts to develop ship-fired lasers able to operate as advanced sensors to detect enemy weapons.
Step 3 - Nuclear Armed Submarines
Goldfein then cited an often-cited and crucial element of the nuclear triad - nuclear armed ballistic submarines quietly patrolling the undersea. These weapons are, among other things, intended to ensure a massive “second strike” capability to ensure destruction of anyone launching a nuclear attack upon the US. The concept for this is, as one Navy official once put it to me, to tell potential enemies contemplating a nuclear attack on the US….”don’t even think about it.”
-- "But there’ll be one more blinking light on the phone waiting for me and that’ll be the STRATCOM Commander General John Hyten. And he’ll tell me what he needs to generate the nuclear forces required for a safe, secure, effective deterrent against a nuclear armed adversary "-- Goldfein.
Overall, while Goldfein did indicate these steps in a particular order, he emphasized that they would need to happen simultaneously.
-- "Every one of these missions is no-fail. And every one of these missions needs to be accomplished simultaneously" -- Goldfein
This article by Kris Osborn originally appeared in DefenseMaven in 2019.
Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.