Ballistic missile defence [fr]

NATO has been developing for several years a ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme. Initially designed to protect its forces when deployed on a theatre of operation, the program evolved, following a decision by Allies in Lisbon in 2010, to develop a system to ensure the full coverage and protection of populations, territory and forces of NATO European countries.

Following the declaration of an interim ballistic missile defence capability and the adoption of a specific framework for the development of the NATO ballistic missile defence system at the Chicago Summit in 2012, Heads of State and Government declared at the Warsaw summit in July 2016 an initial operational capability of the system. Consequently, NATO’s BMD was declared permanent on the basis of the transfer to NATO of a land-based interceptor site in Romania. Heads of State and Government also confirmed the need for further work to fully develop the system towards full operational capability. Before achieving this, the next major milestone will be an enhanced operational capability which will notably mark significant progress in the command and control system.

Theatre ballistic missile defence

Several years before deciding to develop a territorial BMD system, NATO developed a theatre ballistic missile defence programme to protect its forces when they are deployed on a theatre of operations: the Active-Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme.

Ballistic missile defence of populations and territories

In 2009, the United States suggested that NATO develop its own ballistic missile defence capability to defend the populations, territory and forces of NATO European countries. After abandoning the Bush administration’s missile defence shield project, the Obama administration proposed a “phased and adaptive approach” (EPAA) aimed at protecting the European territory against ballistic missiles.

In this context, Allied Heads of States and governments decided at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 that “the Alliance will develop a ballistic missile defence capability to pursue its core task of collective defence” by expanding its existing theatre ballistic missile defence capabilities. They decided that this BMD capability would be developed “based on the principles of the indivisibility of Allied security and NATO solidarity, equitable sharing of risks and burdens, as well as reasonable challenge, taking into account the level of threat, affordability and technical feasibility, and in accordance with the latest common threat assessments agreed by the Alliance.”

This system’s mission is “to provide full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces against the increasing threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

In terms of capabilities, NATO’s ballistic missile defence program aims at developing an Alliance command and control (C2) system by integrating ballistic missile defence capabilities into the Alliance’s existing planning, conduct and communications systems. It also aims at integrating, on a voluntary basis, the capabilities provided on a voluntary basis by nations with regards to sensors (radars, satellites) and effectors (interceptor missiles).

The Chicago Summit: a new step towards the development of NATO BMD, within a reaffirmed and more detailed framework

During the Chicago Summit, the Alliance took a new step by declaring an interim territorial ballistic missile defence capability. This interim capability represented a first, limited, step towards the operational implementation of NATO BMD. It provided coverage to South-Eastern European Allies against ballistic missile attacks, within available means (for the most part, at this stage, American radars and interceptors).

France fully supported the development of a territorial ballistic missile defence capability, provided certain parameters were respected. At the Chicago Summit Allies therefore set out a precise framework for NATO BMD which comprised the following elements:

  1. The development of the NATO ballistic missile defence system must be based on a regular threat assessment, and it will adapted according to the evolutions of the threat ; the Chicago declaration underlines that “should international efforts reduce the threats posed by ballistic missile proliferation, NATO missile defence can, and will, adapt accordingly”;
  2. NATO ballistic missile defence is a complement, not a substitute, to nuclear deterrence;
  3. NATO must acquire its own ballistic missile defence capability in order to allow all allied countries to exert political control over this capability;
  4. The costs of the development of NATO BMD must be controlled: only command and control systems will be eligible for common funding. Other contributions (radars and interceptors) will be funded nationally, on a voluntary basis;
  5. NATO will engage in a dialogue with third States, in particular those that could be affected by NATO BMD operations (in the event of an interception above their territory, for example). At the time, NATO sought in particular to cooperate with Russia.

The work to develop territorial ballistic missile defence, within this framework, is ongoing.

The Warsaw Summit: declaration of an Initial Operational Capability and recognition of NATO BMD as a permanent mission

At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, Heads of State and Government declared an Initial Operational Capability of NATO BMD.

This important step marked substantial progress in the development of the system:

- In terms of political control, Allies adopted a framework and procedures which are consistent with a permanent mission, through the standing defence plan for integrated air and missile defence. It describes the role and responsibilities of the Council as well as the responsibilities delegated by nations to the various military authorities. Such a document is essential to ensure political control and oversight over a mission which, in essence, does not allow for political control of nations during the execution phase, given the very short timeframes for interception.
- In operational terms, procedures for the standing defence plan were validated during the Steadfast Alliance exercise in the spring of 2016, in which French forces took part. The architecture of the C2 system was also validated.
- The declaration of a permanent mission was possible thanks to the full operational capacity of a new land-based site of interceptors based on the Romanian base of Deveselu, providing continuous coverage of the southeast territory of the Alliance, and supplemented by Aegis anti-missile frigates when necessary and according to the level of threat. The operationalization of this site is consistent with the US EPAA. The United States transferred authority on this site to NATO as a consequence of the IOC declaration.
- Many Allies, like France, also reported on national capabilities which can be made available to the Alliance in the framework of theatre ballistic missile defence missions.

A second site of interceptors is planned under the EPAA, as part of its final phase of implementation. It is planned to be operational in Redzikowo, Poland, by 2019 and once in service will reinforce the coverage of the Alliance’s territory.

The next major milestone, which date has yet to be decided, will provide for enhanced operational capability, including through progress in the command and control system.

- More information on NATO’s website

Dernière modification : 22/08/2017

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