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Pentagon plan for homeland cruise missile defense taking shape

csis cruise missile defense

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s plan to defend the U.S. homeland from cruise missiles is starting to take shape after a prolonged period of development because until recently , the threat was perceived as a more distant regional one, a senior Air Force official said.

North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command have been working for several years and across two presidential administrations to come up with a design that can effectively defend the continental U.S. from cruise missiles, according to Brig. Gen. Paul Murray, NORAD deputy director of operations.

NORAD and NORTHCOM, in consultation with the Missile Defense Agency and the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization are closing in on a design framework for the mission, Murray said, just as the Pentagon enters a critical decision-making period as it formulates the fiscal 2024 budget request.

Once the design is created, “it’s time to go out and defend the design,” Murray said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference July 14. This translates to conducting modeling and simulation to prove out, in part, that the architecture will work.

It’s also not to say “my computer’s crunching numbers, buy me these capabilities,” he said, adding capabilities need to be demonstrated which includes partnering with the MDA and others to experiment.

Budgets for cruise missile defense of the homeland in fiscal 2022 and 2023 were modest, with combatant commands including NORTHCOM placing additional funding for development in so-called wish lists rather than in base budget requests and hoping that Congress ultimately supplies the dollars.

The cruise missile challenge

Land-attack cruise missiles can be launched from the air, ground or sea and because they fly at low altitudes under powered flight, it is difficult for radars to detect them.

Ballistic missiles can be detected much earlier, which allows more time to detect, track, decide and act. For cruise missiles, decision makers may have only a couple of minutes and salvos of cruise missiles can attack from different directions, complicating the approach to defeating the threat.

While the U.S. has been focused on ballistic missile defense of the homeland from adversaries including North Korea, Russia and China have made investments over several decades to develop cruise missiles capable of carrying out a non-nuclear attack.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review highlighted the need to focus on near-peer cruise missiles and directed the Pentagon to recommend an organization to have acquisition authority of cruise missile defense for the homeland. The designation requirement also appeared in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, but the Pentagon has yet to choose what organization will be in charge of the effort.

The lack of an acquisition authority can hamper the budget process. And budget requests during the Trump administration contained little to get moving on cruise missile defense. In President Joe Biden’s first two budgets, the mission also received very little funding save to conduct a cruise missile defense kill chain demonstration.

Previous attempts to figure out how to defend against cruise missiles hit roadblocks.

In 2015, for example, a large aerostat being evaluated for cruise missile defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland broke free from its mooring and drifted across Pennsylvania. It’s long tether knocked out power lines and, once it landed in a grove of trees in Amish countryside, had to be shot at by State Troopers to get it to deflate.

The JLENS program was promptly canceled .

The debate over what part of the U.S. is most important to protect from cruise missiles also hindered progress because it was difficult to land on policy to help determine site locations, Peppi DeBiaso, a non-resident senior associate at CSIS, said during a panel discussion at the conference.

Impossible to protect everything

CSIS, in a report it debuted at the conference , said it will be impossible to protect everything. Lt. Gen. A.C. Roper, U.S. NORTHCOM deputy commander, said in a recording played at the event, that “placing a Patriot or a [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense] battery on every street corner is both infeasible and unaffordable.”

csis cruise missile defense

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The CSIS report lays out a suggested architecture, implementation plan and cost estimate for a cruise missile defense capability to protect the homeland that uses systems already fielded today and leverages sensors and radars already working other jobs to provide early warning and information to aid detection and then decision making in the event of a cruise missile attack.

The design in the CSIS report consists of five layers implemented over three phases. The elements include over-the-horizon radars, towered sensors, an aerostat, three types of interceptors, command-and-control operations centers and a mobile airborne asset, all with a projected acquisition cost of $14.9 billion. Phased operations and sustainment costs are estimated to be $17.8 billion – or $32.7 billion over 20 years.

A study from the Congressional Budget Office in 2021 developed four architectures with 20-year acquisition and sustainment costs estimated between $77 billion and $466 billion. CSIS said the architecture designs from CBO were “hampered by methodological constraints and by element selection, resulting in brittle and expensive solutions.”

The authors of the report acknowledged that “no weapon system is perfect, and perfection is the enemy of the good,” but added, “even if limited and imperfect, a sufficient and affordable defense can complicate adversary planning and strengthen deterrence.”

Vista Rampart and beyond

NORAD and NORTHCOM held a wargame called Vista Rampart in March and April to further refine cruise missile defense concepts. Then NORAD took the design outside of the headquarters to the Globally Integrated War Game, which addressed the capabilities at a broader level with the services and combatant commands.

Other considerations will need to be made, Murray added, to include how to organize, train and equip the defensive systems.

How the architecture would tie into a broader defensive framework with allies and partners such as Canada will require further coordination and analysis. The U.S. and Canada are extensively partnered through a binational command, with capabilities including the North Warning System at the edge of the Arctic designed to detect airborne threats coming from the polar region.

The Pentagon is also keeping a close eye on how the establishment of a missile defense capability on Guam will inform a homeland cruise missile defense capability. The Missile Defense Agency revealed a relatively detailed plan for defending the island against ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missile attacks as well as other airborne threats and funded the initial development and fielding in the coming years to build it.

“I think as we develop a Guam architecture, working with the Army, working with the Navy, working with the joint staff and the services, I think we will learn a lot from that, how we want to operate that integrated kind of defense” Stan Stafira, Missile Defense Agency chief architect, said at the conference. “And then that area is kind of the size of what you’re looking at trying to defend, say, a limited area in CONUS,” he said.

Last fall the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved an Integrated Air and Missile Defense priority requirements document through a portfolio management review process, Col. Tony Behrens, JIAMDO deputy director, said on the same panel.

“This process will enable a flexible and holistic approach to determining and prioritizing IAMD requirements. It established a priority framework that the combatant commands and Joint Force will help us review annually in developing what we’re calling the Integrated Air Missile Defense portfolio priority list, a holistic approach to the entire IAMD enterprise,” Behrens said.

The list is intended to aid senior decision makers balance budgetary needs and synchronize support across the services and DOD in support of missions like air and cruise missile defense of the homeland, he said.

As the Pentagon looks at cruise missile defense capability “there is a lot of capability out there,” Stafira said, “and all of the services have developed capabilities to defend against cruise missiles.”

Yet as the Defense Department looks at all of these capabilities it is going to need help from industry to answer, “how do you integrate different industry partners’ assets together to do that?”

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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Ballistic and Cruise Missile Defense Advances


Several recent tests suggest progress for both ballistic and cruise missile defenses.

On June 22, a Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) successfully destroyed a long-range target high above the Pacific. As the only system for homeland missile defense, the GBI test represents a welcome departure from three past intercept failures in 2010 and 2013, which involved both older CE-1 and newer CE-2 kill vehicles. Immediately, the intercept paves the way for improving the CE-2. In the coming months, we may also expect details on the Missile Defense Agency’s plans to further develop and test the CE-2 in time for 14 additional interceptors scheduled for 2018, sketch out the medium term redesign, and begin to conceptualize a next-generation, volume-kill interceptor.

A less-reported but interesting recent series of tests concern the new SM- 6 , a system designed to defend against cruise missiles, aircraft, and—quite interestingly—short-range ballistic missiles. The SM-6 essentially consists of parts from three other systems: the front end of an AMRAAM, an SM-2 airframe, and the longer-range booster from an SM-3 .

In June, ship-borne SM-6 s were launched against three different cruise missile threats, destroying all three. Comparatively less attention typically goes to cruise missile and antiship threats, which have hitherto been seen as difficult to defeat. Recent developments include increased Chinese coastal deployments, allegations of a Russian ground launched cruise missile in violation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and reports that NORTHCOM and MDA are looking carefully at cruise missile defenses for the continental United States. SM-6 has been deployed aboard ships since December 2013, but need not be so limited. If threats develop, SM-3 Aegis Ashore European deployments could conceivably be supplemented with cruise missile defenses.

Notably, a fourth SM-6 test successfully intercepted a higher-velocity and higher-altitude target capable of simulating ballistic trajectories— presumably part of SM-6 ’s sea-based terminal defense mission. This test certainly brings to mind the Chinese DF-21D ballistic missile, a +1500-kilometer-range antiship carrier killer with a maneuverable warhead. Seen to threaten U.S. naval projection, DF-21D represents part of China’s anti-access/area-denial efforts. SM-6 and other defenses may prove quite welcome.

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Complex Air Defense: Countering the Hypersonic Missile Threat

Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Keith Henry Archives

Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Keith Henry Archives

Table of Contents

Report by Tom Karako and Masao Dahlgren

Published February 7, 2022

Available Downloads

  • Download the Full Report 2832kb

Hypersonic weapons combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the maneuverability and detectability challenges of cruise missiles, leaving little time to react. In the past five years, Russia, China, and others have accelerated their development of hypersonic missiles to threaten U.S. forces in the homeland and abroad. The current Ballistic Missile Defense System, largely equipped to contend with legacy ballistic missile threats, must be adapted to this challenge. The same characteristics that make hypersonic missiles attractive may also hold the key to defeating them. A hypersonic defense architecture should exploit hypersonic weapons’ unique vulnerabilities and employ new capabilities, including a space sensor layer, glide phase interceptor, and alternative kill mechanisms. These changes are not only necessary to mitigate the hypersonic threat but to defeat an emerging generation of maneuvering missiles and aerial threats.

This report is made possible by support from Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, and by general support to CSIS.

Tom Karako

Masao Dahlgren

Programs & projects.

csis cruise missile defense

Interested in learning more about the missile capabilities of China and other countries? The CSIS Missile Defense Project maintains a collection of information on global missile systems, with illustrations and up-to-date information on their capabilities and history.

The Rocket Force is likewise fielding more ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs). Between 2013, and 2020, China’s inventory of GLCM launchers grew from 54 to 70. China unveiled its newest cruise missile, the Changjian-100 (CJ-100), at a parade in 2019 commemorating the 70 th anniversary of the country’s founding. 4 The CJ-100 is believed to have a range of up to 2,000 km, but few details have been publicly revealed.

China’s short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) forces have not experienced similar growth. According to IISS, China’s inventory of SRBM launchers actually fell from 252 in 2013 to 189 in 2020. As a share of China’s full conventional arsenal, SRBM launchers declined from about 72 percent of the total to just 45 percent over the same period.

Estimates of China’s missile forces by the DoD show slightly different figures, but similar trends. According to the DoD, the PLA Rocket Force possessed 200 IRBM launchers in 2020 – a massive uptick from as recently as 2016, when the DoD assessed that it had none . From 2010 to 2020, the number of MRBM and GLCM launchers roughly doubled, while the number of SRBM launchers remained essentially unchanged.

China’s conventional missile arsenal is largely unique in the world. The United States and Russia do not possess significant land-based conventional missile forces. This is because the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty prohibited the two Cold War superpowers from developing or deploying land-based missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 km from 1987 until the United States’ withdrawal in 2019. If Beijing had been a signatory to the INF Treaty, roughly 95 percent of China’s missiles would be non-compliant.

India has made progress in developing increasingly capable missile forces to deter attacks from Pakistan and China, but its arsenal is smaller than China’s and generally consists of shorter-range weapons. For example, India’s Prithvi class of ballistic missiles has a maximum range of only 350 km and makes up most of India’s arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles. The Indian military fields some longer-range systems, including the Agni-2 MRBM (maximum range of 3,500 km) and the Agni-3 IRBM (maximum range of 5,000 km), but these are dual-capable systems that are believed to primarily carry nuclear payloads.

The Role of Land-based Conventional Missiles in China’s Military Strategy 

For decades, the PLA primarily sought to improve its missile capabilities to better ensure its ability to launch retaliatory nuclear strikes. While deterring nuclear attacks remains a top priority, China’s leaders have attached growing importance to the role of conventional land-based missile capabilities for both deterrence and warfighting.

csis cruise missile defense

Alongside conventional missiles, nuclear missiles form a core component of China’s defense capabilities. What steps is Beijing taking to modernize its nuclear missile arsenal? Find out .

China’s pursuit of conventional precision strike capabilities can be traced back to around the end of the Cold War. China’s 1998 defense white paper made clear that the risk of a nuclear world war declined with the conclusion of the Cold War, but the risk of “local wars” remained. For China’s leaders, the US’ success during the 1990-1991 Gulf War provided the first glimpse of how conventional precision strike capabilities could be used to win local wars. The conflict also revealed the extent to which China’s missile capabilities lagged behind those of major powers.

Not long after the Gulf War, leaders in Beijing were again reminded of the need for China to enhance its missile capabilities. During the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, the US deployed two aircraft carrier fleets to the area around Taiwan. The move left Chinese leaders concerned about the ability of the US to project power so close to China’s shores.

This experience is believed to have contributed to Beijing’s pursuit of anti-ship missiles, like the DF-21D and anti-ship variant of the DF-26, along with other missile capabilities that could deter unwanted interventions along its periphery. Together with air and sea defenses, this capability is known as anti-access and area denial (A2/AD).

csis cruise missile defense

Click image to enlarge

The geographic distribution of PLA Rocket Force brigades provides insight into the roles that different conventional missile systems might play in implementing A2/AD. For example, many of the Rocket Force brigades fielding the short-range DF-15B and DF-11A are clustered in coastal provinces along the Taiwan Strait. They would thus be the most likely to engage in a potential Taiwan contingency. Reports suggest they are capable of striking Taiwan within just 6-8 minutes after launching, or even less.

Similarly, brigades operating anti-ship missiles like the DF-21D and DF-26 are situated primarily in China’s southern and northern provinces, putting them within range of virtually the entire South and East China Seas, as well as US military forces in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. Notably, only one Rocket Force brigade is located in far-western China, which indicates that PLA leaders assess there is a lower potential need to conduct conventional strikes against ground targets in Central and South Asia. 5

“Other” includes brigades that operate nuclear-only systems, including ICBMs, SLBMs, and the DF-21A/E.

In terms of specific targets, China’s 2008 defense white paper states that the country’s conventional missile forces are charged with conducting precision strikes against “key strategic and operational targets of the enemy.” These targets would include reconnaissance and early warning systems, electronic countermeasure systems, anti-air and anti-missile systems, as well as military bases. By neutralizing these enemy capabilities early in a conflict, the Rocket Force aims to establish the conditions necessary for China’s naval, air, and other forces to conduct their own operations.

The mission set that China has laid out for its land-based conventional missiles differs in important ways from the role that conventional missiles play in other countries’ military strategies. For instance, while much of China’s missile forces are aimed at deterring threats along its maritime periphery, the bulk of India’s land-based missile force is largely geared toward deterring threats along its land border with Pakistan and, increasingly, China.

“The [PLA Rocket Force] plays a critical role in maintaining China’s national sovereignty and security.” — China’s 2019 Defense White Paper

In the US and Russian militaries, land-based conventional missiles have played a minimal role thanks to the limitations put in place by the INF Treaty. However, this may be changing. The US withdrew from the INF Treaty in August 2019 in response to Russia’s fielding of the SSC-8 (9M729) ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missile, which was not compliant with the treaty. The US withdrawal was also motivated by concerns that the treaty left US missile capabilities hamstrung as China rapidly built up its arsenal.

After withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the US carried out two tests , in August and December 2019 respectively, of ground-launched missiles that would have been previously prohibited by the treaty. Additionally, a day after the US withdrew from the INF Treaty, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed his desire for the US to place ground-launched intermediate-range missiles in Asia. So far, however, allies in the region like Australia and South Korea have stated that they have no plans to host any US land-based missiles.

While the US has not yet deployed land-based missiles to the Indo-Pacific, Chinese officials have already voiced their opposition to the US doing so. Fu Cong, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control, warned that “China will not stand idly by and will be forced to take countermeasures should the US deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world.” It remains to be seen whether the US will field new land-based capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, but if Washington does so, it could mark a significant development in the US’ military presence in the region.

The Evolving Indo-Pacific Security Landscape 

As China’s missile capabilities continue to evolve, the security landscape in the Indo-Pacific region is poised to shift significantly in the years to come. Specifically, the advent of hypersonic weapons could undermine existing ballistic missile defense systems established by the US, Japan, and India.

One of the most significant systems in the region is the sea-based US Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System. Aegis is an integrated collection of sensors, computers, software, displays, weapon launchers, and weapons. Together, they facilitate the interception of short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The US Navy will possess 48 Aegis BMD-capable ships in 2021 and is projected to increase this to 65 by 2025. 6 Seven of the destroyers in Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force also operate the Aegis BMD system, with an eighth set to enter service in 2021. 7

India has constructed its own two-tiered missile defense system to deal with missile threats posed by Pakistan and China. Made up of the Prithvi Air Defense and Advanced Air Defense interceptors, the system is engineered to defend against both exo- and endo-atmospheric missiles. According to the Indian government, the tests for the missile defense program were successfully completed by January 2020.

While these missile defense systems might provide some security against enemy missiles, their effectiveness is being eroded by advancements in hypersonic missile technology. Hypersonic weapons, which primarily include hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles, are able to travel above five times the speed of sound (Mach 5, or 1.72 km/s) for sustained periods. Their speed and maneuverable flight path 8 make them difficult to track and intercept.

China developed one of the world’s first HGVs primarily to overcome US missile defense systems. China first tested a prototype HGV known as the DF-ZF in January 2014, and tested it at least eight more times through 2017. The DF-17 , as the weapon is now known, can travel at Mach 5-10 (1.72-3.43 km/s) for 1,800-2,500 km. China publicly revealed the DF-17 at a military parade in October 2019, indicating it is likely operational.

Other countries are racing to develop their own hypersonic weapons. In December 2019, Russia stated that it successfully deployed the hypersonic Avangard system, which Russia claims can travel at Mach 20 (6.86km/s) and fly more than 6,000 km. In March 2020, the US tested a hypersonic glide body in a long-range flight test, continuing years of its own research and development. India first successfully tested a short-range hypersonic missile demonstrator in September 2020.

Multiple states are building defense systems to respond to the threat posed by hypersonic missiles. In March 2020, Russia claimed that its S-400 missile defense system successfully destroyed all hypersonic missiles in a live-fire exercise. The US has initiated multiple programs to develop hypersonic missile defense, including the Glide Breaker , the Hypersonic Defense Weapon System , the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System , 9 and the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor . Since 2020, the US Missile Defense Agency has been investigating ways to integrate hypersonic glide vehicle defense mechanisms into the US’ existing ballistic missile defense architecture, including Aegis.

CSIS logo

The U.S. Defense Industrial Base Is Not Prepared for a Possible Conflict with China

by Seth G. Jones

In a major regional conflict—such as a war with China in the Taiwan Strait—the U.S. use of munitions would likely exceed the current stockpiles of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

According to the results of a series of CSIS war games , the United States would likely run out of some munitions—such as long-range, precision-guided munitions.

This would occur in less than one week in a Taiwan Strait conflict.

csis cruise missile defense

The U.S. defense industrial base also lacks adequate surge capacity for a major war.

These shortfalls would make it difficult for the United States to sustain a protracted conflict.

These problems are particularly concerning since the rate at which China has been acquiring high-end weapons systems and equipment is five to six times faster than the United States, according to some U.S. government estimates .

Challenges with the U.S. defense industrial base are not new. However, there are at least three developments that have added new urgency to resolving the challenges with the industrial base and deterring Chinese aggression:

The war in Ukraine is a stark reminder that any protracted conflict today is likely to be an industrial war.

Industrial wars require a defense industry capable of manufacturing enough munitions, weapons systems, and matériel to replace depleted stockpiles.

The war in Ukraine has exposed serious deficiencies in the current U.S. defense industrial base.

These would negatively impact warfighting and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

Timelines for a possible war in Asia may be shrinking.

In a 2021 testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Philip Davidson, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at the time, suggested that Beijing might move against Taiwan “ in the next six years .”

Credible Deterrence

A U.S. war with China would be disastrous.

Impacts could include

  • large numbers of military and civilian casualties and fatalities ,
  • wiping out significant portions of the U.S. and Chinese militaries ,
  • expanding to other countries and regions,
  • massive economic disruptions ,
  • possible escalation to nuclear war , and
  • creation of large-scale environmental and humanitarian implications.

It is critical, then, to deter a Chinese invasion and prevent a war.

There are two main types of deterrence in the context of a possible war with China:

Image captions

csis cruise missile defense

Deterrence by Denial

Preventing an adversary (such as China) from taking an action (such as invading Taiwan) by making the action infeasible or unlikely to succeed , thus denying the adversary confidence in achieving its objectives.

Deterrence by Punishment

Preventing an adversary (such as China) from taking an action (such as invading Taiwan) by imposing severe costs if the action occurs .

In both cases, a strong U.S. industrial base—with sufficient munitions stockpiles and weapons systems—is critical for deterring Chinese action.

Effective deterrence is based, in part, on having the necessary capabilities for warfighting. Yet the United States' defense industrial base would have a difficult time sustaining a protracted conflict. So would its major allies and partners in Europe and Asia.

With Xi Jinping now in his third term following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, most likely confident and emboldened, it is unclear what the timelines could be for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. While Xi Jinping appears intent on recovering Taiwan and has tied it to the “ mandate from heaven ,” there are no guarantees such an invasion will actually occur.

Xi Jinping is applauded on his way to give a speech during the 20th National Congress of the CCP in October 2022. | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

High-ranking officials applaud Xi Jinping during the 20th National Congress of the CCP in October 2022. | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

For the purposes of U.S. planning and deterrence, it is important to think through what factors China would consider in an invasion, and how heavily those factors would be weighted.

These factors include

  • the capabilities and readiness of the People’s Liberation Army,
  • the capabilities and force posture of the United States,
  • the capabilities and force posture of U.S. allies and partners,
  • the progress of Taiwan in reforming its military and the willingness of Taiwan to fight,
  • the degree to which a practical window for peaceful unification is closing, and
  • China’s domestic economic and political conditions.

While it is unlikely that China has a concrete timeline for invasion, the United States needs to be ready now . As the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine highlighted, it is difficult to predict the timelines for any war.

csis cruise missile defense

Munitions Challenges

A major regional conflict, such as a war between the United States and China, would likely expend significant quantities of munitions and exceed current DoD planning efforts.

One of the most important munitions to prevent a complete Chinese seizure of Taiwan are long-range precision missiles, including missiles launched by U.S. ships and aircraft.

In nearly two dozen iterations of a CSIS war game that examined a U.S.-China war in the Taiwan Strait, the United States typically expended more than 5,000 long-range missiles in three weeks of conflict:

A CSIS war game conducted in 2022 explores possible scenarios for conflict in the Taiwan Strait. | CSIS

CSIS hosts a Taiwan Strait war game exercise. | CSIS

Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles

Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles

Harpoon Missiles

Tomahawk Missiles

Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles would be particularly useful because of their ability to strike Chinese naval forces from outside the range of Chinese air defenses. As the war game showed, Chinese defenses are likely to be formidable—especially early on in a conflict—thus preventing most aircraft from moving close enough to drop short-range munitions.

However, in every iteration of the war game, the United States expended its inventory of Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles within the first week of the conflict, creating a critical problem of “empty bins.”

It takes nearly two years to produce a Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, creating a time lag to fix the shortfall. 

The U.S. FY 2023 budget also proposes buying only 88 Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles.

The United States is not the only country facing a munitions challenge.

In a recent war game involving U.S., UK, and French forces, titled Warfighter 21-4 , the United Kingdom’s 3rd Division exhausted national stockpiles of critical munitions in just over a week.

During Warfighter Exercise 21-4, Gen. Garrett, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general, visits the U.K.'s primary site on April 8 at Fort Hood, Texas.

During Warfighter Exercise 21-4, Gen. Michael Garrett, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general, visits the United Kingdom's primary site on April 8 at Fort Hood. | U.S. Army/Sgt. Evan Ruchotzke

U.S. lieutenant general (ret.) Ben Hodges, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, remarked that “in about eight days of exercise, every bit of important ammunition in the British Army’s inventory was expended.”

He continued that the United States and its allies “absolutely do not have enough of the critical munitions that we need, especially what is called the preferred munitions—the ones that are precise in targeting.”

Other analyses have come to similar conclusions.

The problem is not just running out of munitions.

Unlike in Ukraine, where the country’s western border is wide open for weapons shipments, Taiwan is an island.

A Chinese blockade and long-range fire capabilities will make it difficult—and perhaps impossible—to get weapons systems and munitions into the area once war has started.

A war in the Indo-Pacific will therefore require a greater stockpile of munitions in the theater to circumvent the difficulty of flowing munitions in once a war has started.

The island of Taiwan is seen on a CSIS war game board. | CSIS

The island of Taiwan on a CSIS war game board. | CSIS

While the urgency of fixing these problems is obvious, there are four challenges that complicate any expedient solutions:

1. The need for predictable orders 2. Supply chain constraints 3. Replacement time 4. Foreign military sales

Understanding the nature of these challenges is key to resolving the problems themselves and in creating a credible U.S. defense posture appropriate for the current dynamics of the U.S.-China relationship.


The Need for Predictable Orders

Defense companies are generally unwilling to take financial risks without contracts—including multiyear contracts—in place.

It is not a sound business decision to build more munitions or weapons systems without a clear demand signal and financial commitments. This risk aversion is compounded if companies make additional capital investments—especially investments for facilities, infrastructure, and tooling.

As one DoD study concluded:

“ Producers benefited from steady or predictable orders, so the DoD’s inconsistent procurement and concurrent production ramps (both increases and decreases) exacerbate the challenges suppliers face across the [defense industrial base]. ”

There has been an inconsistent demand signal from the DoD to build up stockpiles, which risks production lines being shut down.

Consequently, it is important to buy munitions smarter to take advantage of scale and market power. Examples include advanced procurement, multiyear procurement, and economic order quantity processes.

These tools have been limited to large programs such as ships and aircraft, but they could help with missiles and munitions.

Of particular help would be signing multiyear contracts for munitions that maximize production rates.

csis cruise missile defense

Javelin anti-tank missiles are seen at a Lockheed Martin operations facility. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Cleanroom suits are worn in the Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institution. | Photo by Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Cleanroom suits are worn in the Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institution. | Photo by Annabelle Chih/Getty Images


Supply Chain Constraints

There are also workforce and supply chain constraints to increase the supply of weapons systems and munitions required for major war and deterrence.

Companies need to hire, train, and retain workers. The DoD needs healthy, resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains to ensure the development and sustainment of important capabilities.

Supply chains for the U.S. defense sector are also not as secure as they should be , with some businesses shutting down or moving supply chains overseas to unfriendly countries.

In some cases, there are also single sources for key components and sub-components.

The Javelin, for instance, relies on a rocket motor—the Aerojet Rocketdyne’s advance solid-propellant rocket motor—without a second source at the moment. There is one company, Williams International, that builds turbofan engines for most cruise missiles, such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, and Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile. There is one main company, PacSci EMC, that produces the energetics for most missiles. There is also one foundry that can produce the large titanium castings for some important weapons systems. 

To help resolve these bottlenecks, the DoD should focus on building the capacity of sub-tier companies, including creating incentives to establish second sources for critical components like rocket motors and turbofan engines for cruise missiles.

Several industrial sites—such as the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Kingsport, Tennessee, and the missile plant in Troy, Alabama—also produce capabilities that have few or no substitutes.

A future war with China over Taiwan could trigger a global shortage of semiconductors with broad ramifications, including upsetting chip supply and demand dynamics, creating cost spikes, and causing supply chain shortages.

There are also significant vulnerabilities due to China’s domination of key markets.

This includes China’s near monopoly on rare-earth metals that are critical for manufacturing various missiles and munitions. China also dominates the advanced battery supply chain across the globe, such as lithium hydroxide, cells, electrolyte, lithium carbonate, anodes, and cathodes.

Finally, China is the global leader in cast products and produces more than the next nine countries combined, including over five times as much as the United States.

The DoD depends on foreign governments , including China, for large cast and forged products, which are utilized in some defense systems and machine tools and manufacturing systems on which the department is dependent.

In addition, there are supply chain vulnerabilities  that include:

1. Titanium 2. Aluminum 3. Other metals 4. Semiconductors 5. Missile propulsion 6. High-temperature materials 7. A range of microelectronics

Some of these problems—particularly supply chain challenges—might be addressed by updating and expanding the authorities of the Defense Production Act . The goal would be to provide additional funding for longer lead times, expand and modernize production lines, and maximize efficiency.


Replacement Time

Lead time is also a significant constraint.

According to one CSIS study , for example, it would take an average of 8.4 years to replace Major Defense Acquisition Program inventories at surge production rates. Missiles, space-based systems, and shipbuilding face the longest replacement times.

It can take roughly two years to produce some types of missiles—such as the PAC-2/PAC-3 air and missile defense system, Tomahawk Block V, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, and Precision Strike Missile.

These lead times are generally to deliver the first missiles—not the last ones. Filling inventories requires sustained multiyear investment as well as accurate projections of the rate of use. Missile obsolescence, tooling, and sub-tier capacity have not been a priority and are a major constraint.

In addition, it can take at least 18 to 24 months to implement investments in some factories to develop capacity to meet surging demands. Lead times have increased with Covid-19, the war in Ukraine, and personnel challenges such as hiring and retention. Inspections, shipping, and logistics can impact lead time as well.

There are also potential challenges in expanding some facilities, such as munitions assembly plants.

Companies are required to have sufficient standoff space—or “ quantity-distance ”—between the plant and surrounding area to protect civilians from accidental explosions. Building a larger plant can involve purchasing additional land, securing permits, buying additional insurance, and taking other steps that require time and money. There are also only a few munitions assembly plants in the United States, such as Camden, Arkansas; Huntsville, Alabama; Rocket Center, West Virginia; and Elkton, Maryland.

Overall, important questions need to be asked—and answered:

csis cruise missile defense

What is the defense industrial base’s ability to replenish critical weapons inventories?

What is the status of missile and munition inventories, supply chains, and the U.S. ability to replenish those inventories if needed?

Similar to reassessing total munition requirements, Congress could be useful in holding hearings, as well as requiring the DoD to conduct a classified study of requirements to replenish critical weapons inventories in a major war.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense hears testimony on proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2023 for the DoD on May 3, 2022. | Amanda Andrade-Rhoades-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense hears testimony on proposed budget estimates for fiscal year 2023 for the DoD on May 3, 2022. | Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Pool/Getty Images

In addition, Congress and the DoD should consider ways to shorten the timelines for reprogramming requests—which involve a change in the application of funds—for munitions and other weapons systems, which the United States did during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

csis cruise missile defense

Air Force soldiers stand behind two U.S.-made Harpoon AGM-84 anti-ship missiles during a drill at Hualien Air Force base on Taiwan in 2022. | Sam Yeh / AFP via Getty Images


Foreign Military Sales

Foreign Military Sales can be useful for the U.S. defense industrial base and can provide Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific allies with munitions stockpiles needed for deterrence.

The Foreign Military Sales program is a form of security assistance in which the United States can sell defense articles and services to foreign countries. The U.S. Department of State determines which countries will have programs, the DoD executes the program, and Congress ultimately approves all foreign sales.

Currently, however, the U.S. Foreign Military Sales system takes too long. The system is not designed for today’s competitive environment—an environment where such countries as China are building significant military capabilities and increasingly looking to sell them overseas .

The Foreign Military Sales program is risk averse, inefficient, and sluggish. This reality is particularly concerning because U.S. allies and partners need to play a critical role in deterrence and warfighting against countries such as China.

In one case, the decision to sell a specific weapons system to Taiwan through FMS, rather than a direct commercial sale, added two years to the delivery date—on top of a two-year production timeline—for a total of four years.

This is a significant and problematic difference given the ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Concerns about selling a piece of sensitive technology can also slow a sale for years. That slow pace can leave some countries unsure if the United States really wants them as partners and risks sending countries with whom the United States wants to stay close elsewhere to shop for arms.

A related issue is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations , or ITAR. It is a U.S. regulation that controls the manufacture, sale, and distribution of defense- and space-related articles and services. But in the current environment, the ITAR process is too slow for sharing defense-related technical data with key allies and partners—even ones such as Australia and the United Kingdom. The ITAR process, with all of the paperwork, can take 12 to 18 months.

FMS, ITAR, and other programs and procedures are important for protecting sensitive U.S. technology and ensure fairness. But they need to be nimbler in the current security environment.

AUKUS—the security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to cooperate on sensitive technologies, including nuclear-powered submarines—demonstrated there is an urgent need to find ways to cooperate more efficiently and effectively between key allies and partners.

The Clock Is Ticking

None of these challenges have quick or easy solutions. But the clock is ticking.

The United States needs to be ready before a conflict starts to maximize deterrence.

The most significant demand on the defense industrial base in a major war would likely be from munitions expenditures and the wear and tear of weapons systems and equipment.

This makes it important now for the DoD to assess the wartime demands on a limited set of weapons systems and munitions, as well as to establish a more certain production future for weapons manufacturing.

The broad goal should be to support the production capacity required to enable the United States and its allies and partners to deter and, if deterrence fails, fight and win at least one major theater war—if not two.

“Just in time” and lean manufacturing operations must be balanced with carrying added capacity to enable a surge in case of a war.

Added capacity is also critical for deterring adversaries, such as China, and credibly demonstrate that the United States and its allies and partners have the capability to conduct a sustained military campaign if necessary. Greater industrial capacity would also support the DoD’s efforts to provide additional capacity to European and Indo-Pacific allies and partners.

The DoD, in coordination with Congress, should develop a plan now that involves taking steps in an emergency wartime situation to streamline production, acquisitions, replenishment, Foreign Military Sales, ITAR, and other policies and procedures. The United States cannot afford to develop this plan after a war has started. A sense of urgency is critical.

In his history of U.S. defense production during World War II, titled Freedom’s Forge , Arthur Herman documents the critical role of the U.S. defense industry in defeating Germany and Japan. But a revitalization of the defense industrial base did not happen overnight for the United States or its allies.

As the current stresses to the defense industrial base already highlight, the time has come to prepare for the era of competition that now exists.

csis cruise missile defense

Written by Seth G. Jones .

Research support by Riley McCabe .

Special thanks to Dr. John Hamre .

Production, editorial, and data visualizations by Sarah Grace .

Empty bins data visualization video created by Shawn Fok .

Report animation video created by Mark Donaldson .

Copyediting support by Katherine Stark .

Established in Washington, D.C., nearly 60 years ago, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to advancing practical ideas that address the world’s greatest challenges.

1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036 (202) 887-0200

Why it’s so hard to defend against cruise missiles

A recent conference raises the question: What kind of threat does this type of weapon pose to the United States?

By Kelsey D. Atherton | Published Jul 25, 2022 7:00 AM EDT

This Upgraded Early Warning Radar system is in California.

On July 14, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC held a one-day conference premised on a specific threat: What if, in the future, war comes to the United States via cruise missile? Pointing to new developments in cruise missile technology, and the limitations of existing early warning systems that are focused on the high arcing trajectories of ballistic missiles, the CSIS conference and accompanying report suggests that to defend the continental United States from such a threat, the military should adapt and deploy the kind of cruise missile defenses presently used as regional weapons.

Unlike ballistic missiles, which arc up into space before traveling back down towards earth, cruise missiles fly close to the ground, making it hard for radar on the ground that’s pointed up at space to see them.

The perceived threat from new cruise missiles is driven by tech developments occurring across the globe, as new materials, better aerodynamics, and sophisticated sensors and guidance systems make possible the fielding of weapons, like hypersonic missiles , that had mostly been just theoretical decades ago.

For the United States, the development of long-range bombers in the 1940s, followed by the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, shattered the notion that the enormous distances of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were enough to protect the continental US from direct attack. (During World War II, US territories in the Pacific came under direct attack, but the only long-range assault on the 48 states came in the form of incendiary-carrying balloons launched by Japan into the jet stream and carried over to the US.)

With atomic and then thermonuclear payloads, bombers and long-range missiles threatened devastation on an unprecedented scale, and the United States built an elaborate system of early warning sensors focused on detecting early signs of launch, and expanded its first-in-the-world nuclear arsenal to deter attack. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is run by both Canada and the United States, and maintains a series of radars and other sensors designed to detect early attacks across the Arctic or elsewhere. (Every December, NORAD highlights its existence by tracking Santa Claus, turning a system designed to detect oblivion into a kid-friendly Christmas tradition .)

At the conference held by CSIS, the threat from cruise missiles was discussed as a way that other countries could attack the United States that is hard to detect by employing existing, ICBM-focused measures. It is also considered hard to deter through threat of nuclear retaliation, operating on the assumption that if a cruise missile with a conventional warhead destroyed a building or killed people in the United States, the President would not immediately respond with a nuclear strike.

“You know, our adversaries are building diverse, expansive ranges of modern offensive missile systems, and we see them – we see them in the news every day,” Stan Stafira, Chief Architect of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told the panel. “They’re capable of maneuvering in the midcourse and the terminal phases of their flight, like maneuvering reentry vehicles, multiple independent reentry vehicles, hypersonic glide vehicles, and cruise missiles.”

Part of the broader appeal of hypersonic weapons to nations like Russia, China, and the United States is that the speed and trajectories of the missiles make them harder to detect than ICBMs. The ballistic arc of ICBMs means the launch is visible to radar while it is still ascending, once it clears the horizon line. Meanwhile, both hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles, which travel at Mach 5 or above, are designed to fly below that radar horizon, with the cruise missile keeping a close trajectory to earth and the glide vehicle flying in the high atmosphere.

“I want to state that we absolutely believe that nuclear deterrence is the foundation of homeland defense,” said Lieutenant General AC Roper, deputy commander of Northern Command, the part of the US military responsible for North America. “However, we also must have credible deterrence options below the nuclear thresholds, options which allow for a balanced approach of deterrence by denial and deterrence by punishment or cost imposition.”

Deterrence, at its most straightforward, is a strategy of making a big threat on a condition: One country publicly declares it will launch nukes at another if it launches nukes at it, with the intended effect that neither country launches nukes. But because the payload of a cruise missile—it could be nuclear or conventional, unlike ICBMs, which are always nuclear—is unlikely to be known until impact, generals like Roper would prefer to have a range of weapons with which to respond.

Missile defense is one of those options, and the US already employs a few forms. Part of any missile defense system is the sensors, like specially focused radar, that can detect incoming attacks, and then track those weapons as they travel. These radars then send that tracking information to interceptors, which are missiles launched to fly and destroy the incoming attacking missile. Shooting missiles at other missiles is a hard problem because an incoming threat arrives at great speed, and because the cost calculus can favor an attacker. Interceptors, like shorter-ranged Patriot missiles or longer-ranged ballistic interceptors , are often more expensive than the missiles they are intercepting. And unlike interceptors, which have to hit precisely to work, missiles launched in attack can deploy decoys or countermeasures to redirect interceptors away, or can instead be fired in a greater volume, overwhelming interceptors through sheer numerical advantage.

“The resulting 20-year cost to provide even a light defense of a vast area ranged from $77 billion to $466 billion,” reads the CSIS report , citing an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office studying a range of cruise missile defense options. “The considerable cost variation is due to alternative combinations of sensors and interceptors and varying desired warning times of 5 or 15 minutes.”

Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Atherton is a military technology journalist who has contributed to Popular Science since 2013. He covers uncrewed robotics and other drones, communications systems, the nuclear enterprise, and the technologies that go into planning, waging, and mitigating war.

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Report: U.S. Missile Defense Is Cruising for a Bruising

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U.S. Missile Defense Is Cruising for a Bruising

A new report argues the pentagon needs to wake up to low-flying threats..

  • Jack Detsch

It was like a scene from a horror movie: After weeks of calm, Russian cruise missiles, which Ukrainian officials said were fired from the Black Sea, interrupted a peaceful Sunday morning in Kyiv in late June, slamming into two residential buildings, leaving one person dead and six wounded.  

The fear at the Pentagon is that those kinds of attacks are not some far-off threat. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly five months ago, Russia’s cruise missiles, which can be launched from the air or by sea, have become the Kremlin’s garden-variety weapon. And they’ve scrambled the minds of American defense planners, who spent decades planning to defend against a nuclear attack by a rogue state, like North Korea, and now have to contend with non-nuclear weapons that can outfox traditional missile defenses.  

The United States does not have the defenses to keep up with Russian and Chinese advances in cruise missile technology, according to a new report set for release Thursday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. While the U.S. defensive structure remains focused on ballistic missiles, which are easier to defend against because they leave and reenter the atmosphere in a predictable trajectory, the report authors are calling on the Pentagon to beef up a constellation of radars. They call for more U.S.-based over-the-horizon radars, which peer far from the homeland, and prioritized area radars, which focus on U.S. territory, to more quickly respond to Russia and China if they fire a weapon at the United States from the Arctic or Atlantic oceans. 

“The current system of command and control, though staffed by highly dedicated U.S. and Canadian military personnel, employs 1990s-era technology and uses 1960s-era decision processes,” the CSIS authors wrote in their report. “Besides a near complete lack of mission integration, there are almost no purpose-built defenses against low-altitude cruise missile threats.” The two-decade-long modernization program for sensors, shooters, and radars would cost U.S. taxpayers about $33 billion.

Under the plan, the United States would first add four over-the-horizon radars that range more than 600 miles offshore and one area defense radar, before completing 360-degree coverage in three phases. Those defenses would be backstopped by fighter jets; CSIS also leaves open the possibility for adding space-sensing capabilities and drone and hypersonic defenses in the future. 

The plan comes as the U.S. Defense Department is busy putting together its nuclear and missile defense reviews. Washington is also sketching out a response to more capable Russian and Chinese missiles, including hypersonic weapons, some of which can circumnavigate the globe at five times the speed of sound and move to dodge projectiles in flight. 

New variants of Russian and Chinese cruise missiles cover “a whole lot of the United States with standoff capability,” said Tom Karako, a senior fellow at CSIS and the lead author of the report. “It’s pretty astonishing.” That means that China and Russia could have nuclear-level effects without resorting to the bomb. For instance, China has developed the DF-26 missile, known in Pentagon parlance as the “Guam Killer,” because it can reach—and perhaps destroy—much of the U.S. island in the Pacific without necessarily resorting to a nuclear salvo. 

And it’s no longer a risk that the United States can accept, some believe, considering the possibility of Russia or China firing cruise missiles from the Atlantic Ocean or from the Arctic circle, where both nations have tried to carve out more turf, with U.S. neighbors moving faster in some instances than the Pentagon. After a visit to North American Aerospace Defense Command in June, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that his country would invest nearly $4 billion in the next six years to add two over-the-horizon sensors and a network of classified sensors to reinforce possible northern missile approaches, upgrading a chain of radar stations in the far north that have been in place since the 1980s. 

A senior defense official told Foreign Policy earlier this month that the command is still figuring out how to deal with the threat of Russian and Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles, after China’s around-the-world launch test last year, compared to ballistic missiles, which the United States is able to defend against.

“Peer-level competitors don’t envision coming into direct strategic conflict with the United States,” the official said, speaking anonymously according to ground rules set by the Pentagon. “But their concern is that they could end up in a conflict that escalates in their near abroad, and they want to be able to inflict damage in order to compel de-escalation on the part of the U.S.” 

The threat has grown as Russia has unveiled new families and classes of cruise missiles. During the 1980s, Russia had prepared rudimentary land attack cruise missiles that could hit targets about 1,600 miles away, in an effort to saturate NATO’s front lines with explosions. But new generations of cruise missiles have raised eyebrows even further at the Pentagon, such as the air-launched AS-23A that first began development in the 1990s, guided by the Russian alternative to GPS, that may have a range of around 3,000 miles, enough to reach targets in North America from well outside the early warning zone. 

Even subsonic cruise missiles could be fired from off the coast of North America by Russia with little to no warning. The senior U.S. defense official said that both Russia and China have been working on missile programs that can strike critical infrastructure inside the United States, including cruise missiles with intercontinental range. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office proposed putting in place airborne and ground-based radars to form a perimeter along the coastal United States and rely heavily on fighter interceptors to down fast-traveling missiles. CSIS offers up a cluster of 10 over-the-horizon radars, seeing far into the reaches of northern Canada, giving the United States eyes that can see almost everywhere, backstopped by the sensor towers—think cellphone towers laden with sensors to detect incoming missiles.

“You get three different layers of sensors and three different types of interceptors,” Karako said. “If anything, we went too big.” 

But there’s a sign that there could start to be buy-in within Washington for plans to better cover the country with sensors and shooters. Pentagon budget documents indicate the new U.S. National Defense Strategy, still on hold in the department, will highlight long-range cruise missile threats from Russia. The Missile Defense Agency has allotted nearly $14 million for cruise missile defense experiments. What’s key is progress on controversial U.S. missile defenses in Guam, known as Aegis Ashore, as China has tried to rapidly ramp up its missiles designed to attack the island. The Pentagon is investing nearly $200 million into the effort next year. 

“What we learn on Guam is also something that can be applied here,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said at an event in May. “Because you’ve got to remember, Guam is really about the size of Chicago, right? We’re defending the size of a very large city. So, I think it’s very applicable to what we’ll do in the United States.”

Jack Detsch is a Pentagon and national security reporter at Foreign Policy . Twitter:  @JackDetsch

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Ukraine Situation Report: UK MoD Says Two More Russian Ships Were Hit In Missile Raid

T he U.K. Ministry of Defense is claiming satellite imagery proves that two additional ships were damaged in the Ukrainian cruise missile strikes in Sevastopol on March 24th. This is in addition to another Ropucha class landing ship that we confirmed via satellite imagery had sustained at least some form of damage.

Ukraine originally claimed at least one other Ropucha was damaged, so the one shown in the MoD's satellite imagery would align with that claim. As for the Yury Ivanov class intelligence ship the same assessment says was damaged, it has been targeted by Ukraine before , so an attempt to take it out again would not be surprising. These ships can collect multiple types of intelligence, with their signals intelligence suite being most concerning for Ukraine's military operations.

One especially peculiar part of the aftermath of this latest attack on the Black Sea Fleet is that we have seen no images from near these vessels on the ground or the water showing the damage. This is true even for the Ropucha class ship that has a giant scorch mark or crater on the pier next to it. It would seem that Russia is going to new lengths to keep these types of leaks from occurring, which is a tall order considering the large lines of sight that can be obtained around Sevastopol's bay.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage  here .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims Russia may be planning a major Spring offensive. This comes as a report states Moscow's forces have regained just 505 square kilometers (just shy of 195 square miles) since last Fall. Still, the momentum that Ukraine benefitted from months ago has now largely evaporated. The lack of new shipments of weaponry from the United States is a major factor in Ukraine's future ability to keep Russia's onslaught at bay as Kyiv moves to a defensive posture. Training new troops as soon as possible will be another critical variable in stopping a future offensive as Russia continues to grow its ranks ahead of the potential operation.

https://twitter.com/KyivPost/status/1773467726633144705?s=20 https://twitter.com/front_ukrainian/status/1773393025147777488?s=20 https://twitter.com/KyivIndependent/status/1773588917704634559?s=20 https://twitter.com/sdbernard/status/1773273834524692530?s=20 https://twitter.com/CSIS/status/1772716425922121772?s=20

Work is frantically underway to reinforce the front as Kyiv's goals change due to the realities on the battlefield.

Another mass attack by Russian missiles and drones occurred last night with energy infrastructure being among the top targets. In particular, hydroelectric facilities were struck, which is raising concerns about a much wider potential disaster if their associated dams are breached.

https://twitter.com/NOELreports/status/1773623599007432809?s=20 https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa/status/1773725203916365931?s=20 https://twitter.com/clashreport/status/1773592523962798436?s=20

Yet another Russian Flanker fighter derivative was shot down yesterday. Russia's own air defenses are thought to have been the culprit. Dramatic footage of the stricken fighter splashing down off Crimea while on fire has been making the rounds on social media and now Ukraine is also saying that Russia did this one to itself.

https://twitter.com/Gerashchenko_en/status/1773376234988175437?s=20 https://twitter.com/KyivIndependent/status/1773747063836016841?s=20

Ukraine took out one of Russia's vehicles that have had naval anti-submarine rocket launchers grafted onto them .

Like Ukraine, Russia is increasingly experimenting with, and in some cases operationally leveraging on a consistent basis, unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) at the front. A still image from a video captured by a drone seen below two of these tracked vehicles equipped with AGS-17 grenade launchers operating near Bakhmut.

A highly intact Storm Shadow cruise missile has been retrieved by Russia after crashing somewhere in territory it controls. This is by no means the first time this has happened, you can read about another instance and its implications here , but the accompanying video is of interest and it is far more detailed than past recovery clips. Russia will use these failed rounds for intelligence exploitation. Although very capable, the Storm Shadow isn't that new of a weapon so the potential for technological loss isn't massive. Still, considering Russia is looking for any countermeasure it can deploy to thwart these weapons, any new insights would certainly be welcome, as would material, manufacturing, and engineering sciences intel.

First-person view (FPV) drones continue to rain hell on both sides of the front lines. We are so used to seeing videos of individual soldiers picked off by these weapons that we are being desensitized to the tactical revolution they represent. The videos, many shot by spotter drones that work in hunter-killer teams with FPV drones, are gruesome, with maimed men dying in agony in the frigid mud, or in one particularly horrific clip, running around on fire looking for a way to extinguish themselves. View description highly advised:

The soldier on fire video will not embed and can be seen directly on X here .

https://twitter.com/casualtanker23/status/1772851022601576728?s=20 https://twitter.com/front_ukrainian/status/1773437676810616891?s=20 Ukraine is having trouble equipping all their FPV drones —  they want to produce 1,000,000 this year — with warheads of some kind. Often these consist of improvised repurposed munitions. The video below shows how these are 'harvested' from cluster shells, which can be an incredibly dangerous job. You can read more about this established practice here . https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1773555257269797195?s=20

Purpose-built shaped-charge warheads optimized for FPV drones are also being built. This would improve the lethality and performance of the drones that host the charges.

Russia is also fielding a similar type of purpose-built FPV drone warhead:

We are now seeing far more elaborate drone screens or "cope cages" on Russian vehicles to try to counter FPV drones' high degree of maneuverability.

Omnidirectional jammer assemblies that leverage multiple emitters arranged in a ring are apparently in use on Russian vehicles in an attempt to better defend against FPV drone attacks. Other on-vehicle jammers used by Russia have had questionable results, including Chinese types.

The clip below shows Ukrainian recruits going through trench warfare training.

Satellite imagery shows how Russia is trading fuel for weapons with North Korea. A report from the Financial Times newspaper in the United Kingdom details how tankers are being sent to Russia to get the fuel in exchange for massive numbers of artillery shells and more advanced weapons needed to fuel Moscow's war in Ukraine. This obviously shatters U.N. sanctions regimes.

Separately, Russia's delegation to the United Nations vetoed a resolution to extend monitoring of sanctions on North Korea yesterday. "Now, it will be more difficult for Member States to address the DPRK’s unlawful pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and sanctions evasion efforts within their jurisdictions. Russia is responsible for that," U.S., U.K., French, South Korean, and Japanese authorities subsequently said in a joint statement.

https://twitter.com/RobbieGramer/status/1773398357584548286?s=20 https://twitter.com/RobbieGramer/status/1773398357584548286?s=20

Speaking to Russian Air Force pilots today, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the looming arrival of F-16s in Ukraine.

"We have no aggressive intentions toward [NATO] states," Putin said. "Of course, if they [Ukrainian F-16s] are used from airfields of third countries, they become a legitimate target for us, no matter where they are located."

Putin pledged that Russian forces would destroy the F-16s "the same way we destroy their tanks, armored vehicles, and other equipment today, including multiple-launch rocket systems" wherever they might be located and insisted they "will not change the situation on the battlefield."

https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1773311576038056392?s=20 https://twitter.com/Gerashchenko_en/status/1773311261326848177?s=20

On the U.S. government side, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown told reporters yesterday that "the risk of escalation is not as high as maybe it was at the beginning" when it comes to sending Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missiles to Ukraine. The U.S. military sent a tranche of ATACMS to Ukraine last year, but had long resisted doing so in large part due to concerns about escalation. There have been reports that a new ATACMS transfer may be in the works.

Russia is delaying the delivery of S-400 air defense systems to the Indian armed forces due to the demand for the weapons in Ukraine, as well as other major factors, like sanctions. The last two of the five planned Indian S-400 units will now not be equipped until 2026 — two years later than previously agreed to. The S-400 is a critical system for India which is facing increasing territorial tension with its neighbor, China.

Russian arms exports have plummeted since the full-on invasion began with some long-time users of more advanced Russian systems, like aircraft, moving to Western types due to lack of support and spare parts.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense says Russia is forcing the change in citizenship for those living in the Ukrainian territories it has occupied since shortly after the all-out invasion began.

Finally, it appears that a mining operation went very wrong for one Russian small boat crew.

Contact the author: [email protected]

Ukraine Situation Report: UK MoD Says Two More Russian Ships Were Hit In Missile Raid


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