Department of Defense Off-Camera Press Briefing by Vice Admiral James Syring on Missile Defense
Vice Admiral Jim Syring, MDA Director; Captain Jeff Davis, Director, Defense Press Office
STAFF: Thanks for coming in this morning.
I know for most of you, it's still very early, 10 a.m., so it's 6 a.m. in reporter time.
So, hey, I've got Vice Admiral Jim Syring here with me. He's the director of the Missile Defense Agency. Everything we'll say here today is on the record. I'd ask just for the sake of time that you limit your questions just to one question and a follow-up. And please announce yourself if you're going to ask a question since we can't see you.
And with that, I'll turn it over to Admiral Syring.
VICE ADMIRAL JIM SYRING: Hello, everybody. Good morning.
CAPTAIN JEFF DAVIS: Thank you, Chris. And thank you, Admiral.
Jeff Davis here. We've got -- we've got about 35 or so reporters assembled here, and we'll turn it over to you. I know you have some videos to show, and then we'll call the questions from here.
ADM. SYRING: Thanks, Jeff.
I'll start. Thanks again, everybody, for being here. I do have a video I want to show of the test that we'll release publicly after we show you all this morning.
I want to just share some of the additional details about the test that we conducted yesterday with our industry partners and the warfighters who actually executed the test. It was our first GMD test against an ICBM-range target, and it was the first test of the upgraded GBI, which will complete the balance of the 44 interceptors by the end of 2017.
During the test, the ICBM-class target was launched from the Reagan test site on Kwajalein Atoll. Multiple sensors provided the target acquisition and tracking data to the command and control system. The Sea-Based X-band radar position in the Pacific Ocean also acquired and tracked the target. The GMD system received the target-tracking data, developed the fire-control solution, and then successfully intercepted the target with a direct hit.
Although this was a developmental test, this is exactly the scenario we would expect to occur during an actual operational engagement. Based on all the data we've received to date and all indications are that all our systems performed exactly as designed and this test represents a critical -- critical milestone in the life of the program.
As I've said many times before, ballistic missile defense is an incredible challenge and you all know we're talking about intercepting a missile that can travel thousands of miles per hour with another missile traveling just as fast outside the earth's atmosphere in this case -- hitting a bullet with a bullet.
Our mission becomes more challenging as time goes on, as I've spoken in the past, as they continue to develop increasingly complex threats. But yesterday's test did demonstrate that the system continues to improve and mature, and it is ready to defend the homeland today.
We look forward to further analyzing the data from yesterday's test because we improve and learn from each test regardless of the outcome. In this case, it met its primary and secondary objectives. The lessons we learn from this test will allow us to continue to mature the system and stay ahead of the threat. Our next test will be next year. It will be a salvo test against another ICBM target in the fall to late calendar-year timeframe.
I want to show the video, the highlights of the video of the test yesterday. And I think we can push that to you all. And then after the video, I'd be happy to take your questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO PRESENTATION)
(END VIDEO PRESENTATION)
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. We've seen the video, sir.
ADM. SYRING: Great. Ready for questions.
CAPT. DAVIS: Sure. We'll start with Kristina Wong from Breitbart.
Q: Thank you, General (sic).
Wanted to know -- in -- in what phase was the target intercepted? And was it a single launch to a single interceptor? Or were there multiple targets launched?
ADM. SYRING: It was a single target with a single interceptor, and it was intercepted in the mid-course phase of flight.
Q: So is that distinct from the -- the boost phase, or the terminal phase?
ADM. SYRING: That's correct.
Q: OK. Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, to David Martin from CBS.
Q: Admiral, you said in your statement that the X-band radar was part of this. X-band radar takes forever to get in position. So how -- how realistic was this test, since you obviously knew when it was coming, and you could, you know, position all you -- all the sensors that you -- you needed, and that wouldn't necessarily apply in the case of the real thing?
ADM. SYRING: So the test realism -- to answer your question directly, it was a very realistic test. We had a sensor, the SBX was out as it is today, performing a mission, and did participate in the test.
The test assets that were part of the test provided the detection and queueing to the GMD system, and in this case, provided us the discrimination support required for the intercept.
However, the system is able, today, to operate without the X-band radar. We use it in the test construct to gather the data that we need to gather, and to aid in the discrimination effort. But I don’t want you to walk away to think that it was not a realistic test scenario.
ADM. SYRING: It actually replicated -- without going into classified details -- an operational scenario that we're concerned about.
Q: Did the target include decoys?
ADM. SYRING: Yes, it did.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next, to Jennifer Griffin, from Fox News.
Q: Admiral Syring --
STAFF: Hey, Jeff, if -- if possible, could we get people to come a little closer to the speaker?
STAFF: We're having a difficult time hearing them.
CAPT. DAVIS: I think Jennifer has a louder voice. Let's try.
Q: -- Admiral Syring, just to follow up on David Martin's question, when the interceptor was launched from Vandenberg, was it given a warning as to -- did it know what time the ICBM target had been launched? Was that communicated, or did it know that there was a 4-hour window, and detected the missile not knowing when it would be launched within that window?
ADM. SYRING: Jennifer, it was not notified when -- it was not notified when the target was launched. So in a normal operational scenario, the overhead assets would detect that launch and would queue the entire system to then generate the weapon tasking order to the GMD system that would then queue the interceptor to launch to intercept the target. But everything that we did was operationally realistic in terms of the timeframe that it would have happened.
Now, we did know the test was going to be yesterday. We did know the timeframe that it was going to be. But that is due in almost 100 percent fact of the safety constraints that we're up against in the Pacific Ocean. We're launching an interceptor 100 miles north of the LAX, we're launching an interceptor that's flying thousands of miles past Hawaii; and that requires us to shut down large parts of the ocean in terms of mariners, ship traffic and air traffic and its infeasible to do it any other way.
But the tasking that was provided to the interceptor would have been the tasking that would have been provided to the system and the specific interceptors if it had been a North Korea launch. Nothing was different.
Q: And sir, you mentioned that there were lessons learned. What were some of the lessons learned?
ADM. SYRING: We don't have -- we're going through the data. We always learn in these tests, but we do know 100 percent confidently that the primary and secondary objectives were met, and it wouldn't be worth the time and effort and money to test if we never found anything.
So we view it as data collection, data gathering opportunity. And I don't know what we'll find yet, but we do know that the objectives of the test were met.
MODERATOR: OK, next to Tony Capaccio from Bloomberg.
Q: Hi, sir. Can you talk a little bit about how this ICBM target was much different than 18 or 19 you've used since 1999? Did a replicated KN08 or Taepaedong 2?
ADM. SYRING: I can't -- Tony, I can't go into the threat characteristics of the target, but I can tell you that it flew at a higher altitude and a longer range and a higher velocity than any other target we've flown to date.
Q: On decoys, you know that the arms control community for the last 20 years has criticized your operation for not using counter measures. Can you talk a little bit more about the decoys? Were they considered primitive or fairly sophisticated countermeasures?
ADM. SYRING: Tony, I can't go into the specifics of that. I'm saying as much as I can to even say there were decoys in the test. But it's not the first time that we've tested with decoys in countermeasures.
Q: And there were warfighters. Can you talk a little bit about the NORTHCOM force that actually operated this?
ADM. SYRING: Tony, it was the warfighters here in Colorado Springs that operated the system and got the detection and fired the interceptor.
Q: OK, thanks.
ADM. SYRING: It was all done with warfighters on console.
MODERATOR: Warfighters on console. I'm sorry; tell me your name again?
Q: Dan Wasserbly with Jane’s.
Admiral, I just wanted to -- to follow up. You said the SBX radar also acquired and attracted a target. Did it speak the GMD system? Did it help discriminate decoys from the target?
ADM. SYRING: It did. It -- and I'm just being a little careful here, it did -- it did provide information to the GMD system.
Q: Information that was used in the intercept?
ADM. SYRING: That's correct.
Q: And you mentioned FTG-11, that will also be the exact same target that was used in this one? Or different, faster, slower?
ADM. SYRING: Different front end, but same range and same ICBM class of target. And I'll just leave it at that.
MODERATOR: Next to Sydney Freedberg.
Q: Admiral, about that next test, you mentioned it will be a salvo test, does that mean multiple incoming, multiple outgoing? Go into a little detail about what that next step is in testing this weapon.
ADM. SYRING: It’ll be one target and two interceptors.
Q: And what's the value of that in stretching the system beyond what you've already done?
ADM. SYRING: I think you may have seen the Colonel up in Alaska talk about -- we shoot more than one in an operational, real-world scenario -- like every system does. The Aegis system does, the THAAD system does. We want to exercise the GMD system with more than one interceptor to gather data for what a first interceptor would do in terms of kill and what the second interceptor would see.
And this is really a desire of the operational test community to see this scenario which is the next step in ever-increasing operational realism.
MODERATOR: Next to Phil Stewart from Reuters.
Q: Hey there. First, how -- how would you characterize this interceptor now? Is it still developmental? And secondly, what kind of notification's given to Russia and to China? They're not probably too happy about the success of the test.
ADM. SYRING: First, the interceptor is not developmental. The interceptor that was shot yesterday is production representative of what will field the balance of the interceptors going into the ground by the end of this year. So the same interceptor configuration that will complete the fielding of 44 interceptors by the end of 2017.
And there were no treaty violations in the test and no notifications given either.
MODERATOR: OK. Next to Patrick Tucker from Defense One.
Q: Thanks, Admiral. Could you go into a little bit more detail about the extra sensors that were used as part of the test and are they as abundant in the Pacific as they were during this test?
ADM. SYRING: OK, so if you think about where we test, we test in basically the eastern two-thirds of the Pacific where we don't have TPY-2, the Japan radar coverage that we would use against a country like North Korea for detection. So the radars that we used was a TPY-2 on the Kwajalein Atoll -- on Wake Island, I'm sorry, not Kwajalein, on Wake. And then the SBX to replicate and -- I'm being very careful here -- to facilitate the execution of the test.
If it was an operational scenario the TPY/2s in Japan would play heavily in that. The radar in Alaska, today at Clear would play heavily into the intercept solution. And the overhead sensors as well. So what we did in the construct of the test since we don't have -- we're much further south and much further east than where we have radar coverage, that's the purpose of having a TPY-2 on Wake and the SBX there to facilitate the testing and the way the test was outlined.
I hope that makes sense.
Q: Yes, it does, thanks .
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. Next Helene Cooper from The New York Times.
Q: Admiral, was there a confirmed kill or a glancing blow?
ADM. SYRING: The information we have was it was a direct hit and we will -- we don't have any indications it was a glancing blow at this time, we have indications it was a direct hit, a complete obliteration. But we will analyze the lethality data over the next 30 days and literally we've got to get down to determining within which centimeter on the RV did it hit. And that takes us, you know, 30 days to go through that analysis and modeling.
Q: Thank you and also --
ADM. SYRING: That's how accurate we need to be.
Q: OK, and did all of the thrusters in the kill vehicle operate -- wasn't there a case, like a while ago, where one of them failed?
ADM. SYRING: The data analysis that we're undertaking today will validate all of the proper operation of -- not just the thrusters, but the other part of the kill vehicle that was flown.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. Next, Hans Nichols from NBC, maybe we'll come a little closer
ADM. SYRING: And, hold on just a second, let me -- the second part of the question was that the thruster in the January 2016 test did not fail. That didn't happen. We flew the control test flight to validate the performance of the thrusters, which was the primary objective, and we did.
There was another issue found with the flight computer on that particular vehicle that caused one of the signals to not flow to the thruster, in layman's terms. But it had nothing to do with the thruster and everything that we needed to get out of that test we got and I think was validated during the operational intercept yesterday.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. Hans Nichols from NBC News.
Q: Yeah. Thanks Admiral, could you tell us how far off the coast the intercept happened and then you mentioned that the altitude was exo-atmospheric, could you also give us an indication there?
ADM. SYRING: I'd like to answer your question, but I can't. Just because I don't want to be that specific, but suffice it to say it was well over 1,000 miles off the coast -- I would say thousands of miles off the coast.
Q: OK. Can you say before or after Hawaii?
ADM. SYRING: Northeast of Hawaii. So it was before Hawaii. If you're looking at it from the West coast.
Q: OK, thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Queue is empty folks, Kristina Wong from Breitbart.
Q: Yes, Admiral sorry -- sorry for misspeaking and calling you General earlier. What counter measure --
ADM. SYRING: That's an honor when they call me general.
Q: What countermeasures were employed? And how well did -- I think it was the kill vehicle, how well did it discriminate? And did the target have a homing beacon on it? Device?
ADM. SYRING: I can't go into the countermeasure package on the vehicle and the target absolutely does not have a homing beacon on it.
Q: OK, thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK, next Marcus --
ADM. SYRING: Despite what some have written.
CAPT. DAVIS: Marcus Weisgerber from Defense One.
Q: Hey Admiral I look for clarification. You mentioned decoys have been used in the past, is the first success when decoys were used?
ADM. SYRING: I'm sorry you broke up the last part of that question.
Q: You said that decoys have been used in the past, is this the first success when decoys have been used?
ADM. SYRING: No.
Q: OK, and in terms of --
ADM. SYRING: We've been successful in the past.
Q: And just in terms of the overall threat you've talked about left of launch before and stuff like that. Essentially how much time do you expect the technology that was used in this test and -- this actual test itself to by you in terms of the threat that's evolving?
ADM. SYRING: It's a good question. The interceptor that we flew yesterday certainly keeps pace with -- I would actually say helps us outpace the threat -- through 2020. And the new development that we have going with the redesigned kill vehicle which is ongoing, which will flight test by the end of calendar year '19 will be the next step to not only improving reliability, but improving performance against the evolving threat.
And then I think you saw our budget announcement that we now have a multi-object kill vehicle program in the budget. And that will start development this year in '18, in fiscal year '18. And we're targeting the 2025 timeframe for that. So we're on a very good stepwise progression here of not only increasing reliability, but being ahead of where we believe the threat will go. In terms of complexity, countermeasures and ultimately consideration for capacity down the road.
CAPT. DAVIS: Next Courtney Kube from NBC.
Q: Hi Admiral. Just -- can you just explain -- I don't quite understand what you mean that -- that you think that with this test you've outpaced the threat through 2020? Can you explain exactly? Forgive me, I don't -- I don't understand what you mean by that.
ADM. SYRING: Sure, so the intelligence community gives us a body of evidence of where they think the threat is today and where it will evolve by 2020. And we designed tests specifically to incorporate the attributes of that threat today and what the intelligence community predicts it will be in say three years.
So our entire test program is based on intelligence forecasts and projections. And where they may be with reentry vehicle technology, with countermeasure technology, with rocket motor technology. And we seek to replicate many of those intelligence projections in the tests that we conduct.
And what we see in 2020, without going into classified details, was very well replicated in the test that we conducted yesterday.
Q: And just to be clear, so you believe based on the success of this test yesterday that the threat that exists to the U.S. from either Iran and North Korea is mitigated now? That the U.S. has confidence that you have defenses to defend against anything that they might throw at the U.S. in the next couple -- like in 2020? Is that fair? Is that a fair characterization of what you're saying? Just to dumb it down a little for me
ADM. SYRING: I was confident before the test that we have the capability to defeat any threat that they would throw at us. And I'm more confident today -- even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday that we continue to be on that course.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Ryan Browne from CNN.
Q: Hello, Admiral. Thank you for doing this.
Just a question. I know you said that a salvo interceptor will be used in the next test. Is there any plans to test enemy ICBM salvos like multiple threats in the near future?
ADM. SYRING: Not -- not in the near future. Our program plan has it out in the 2023 timeframe.
Q: Thank you.
CAPT. DAVIS: Follow-up from Helene Cooper, New York Times.
Q: Thank you, sir. Just a quick question. How close to the real speed of an incoming ICBM does the test warhead come?
ADM. SYRING: Just a second. I'm just checking classification.
CAPT. DAVIS: They say you don't need to do that, sir. They'd love to hear the classification --
ADM. SYRING: How about if I just -- it's within the expected range and altitude of an ICBM. And there's a range -- an ICBM flies greater than -- it's open source -- greater than 5,500 kilometers; and speed -- the speed we saw yesterday is representative -- and I'll just leave it at that -- of what we would predict an ICBM to fly at. Very, very close.
CAPT. DAVIS: And another follow-up from Tony Capaccio from Bloomberg.
Q: Sir, would you -- are you claiming that yesterday's test was the most realistic to date conducted, or pretty much replicates the realism that you said was in play in June of 2014?
ADM. SYRING: I wouldn't say it was the most realistic to date because we -- all the testing that we do, Tony, in the recent years has been very, very operationally realistic. So I don't want to compare one test to another. But this did represent a very real operational scenario in the Pacific.
Q: Was this like a mobile missile you're worried about or one from a silo launch?
ADM. SYRING: I'm worried about all of them.
Q: Was SBIRS used, by the way, in this --
ADM. SYRING: And -- what's that?
Q: Was SBIRS used in this case to track the initial launch?
ADM. SYRING: Yes, it was.
ADM. SYRING: Yes, it was.
CAPT. DAVIS: And Dan from Jane’s
STAFF: You've got about three more minutes.
CAPT. DAVIS: Dan from Jane's.
Q: Thank you. Admiral, just -- one of the criticisms we've heard is the sort of time of day that these tend to take place in the morning when the sun helps illuminate the target. Is that a fair criticism? And are there any plans, I guess, in the future to test at night or inclement weather or anything like that?
ADM. SYRING: What we did today, we've tested at different times of the day, but we believe that it was within the operational envelope of what we would expect.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK and the last question goes to --
ADM. SYRING: I don't want to get into specifics of the classified details of that question, but it falls within what we would expect.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK. Luiz Martinez from ABC News.
Q: Hi Sir. Looking at the pictures of the missile at the launch pad in Kwajalein that doesn't look like a Minuteman. Was this kind of a specific missile design intended to replicate what we may be seeing in North Korea or was this some kind of prior design that was in the U.S. inventory?
ADM. SYRING: Our intention wasn't for it to replicate a Minuteman. It was to replicate a threat missile from a country like Iran. And a re-entry vehicle In terms of its performance and how it flies and what the system saw before intercept.
Q: OK. Just to clarify, did you say replicate a missile from Iran or North Korea as well?
ADM. SYRING: From North Korea or Iran. In this case it was a Pacific scenario.
CAPT. DAVIS: One last real quick one here from Richard Sisk, Military.com.
Q: Yes, Admiral, do you have a cost estimate on the test?
ADM. SYRING: $244 million.
Q: You said earlier, you know the next testing, I couldn't hear it, and did you say it's going to be this fall or next fall?
ADM. SYRING: Next fall, in the -- I'll say August/September timeframe.
CAPT. DAVIS: OK thank you ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you, Admiral for your time, any final words before we sign off?
ADM. SYRING: Nope. Thank you very much. If you have follow up questions, my PAO Chris Johnson, is available and will follow-up with you immediately. Hopefully you'll get the video and I appreciate the interest and the questions. Thank you.
STAFF: The video is on DVIDS now, guys.
CAPT. DAVIS: Thanks everybody.