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Missile defense systems are a type of missile defense intended to shield a country against incoming missiles, such as intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) or other ballistic missiles. The United States, Russia, France, India and Israel have all developed missile defense systems.[1]


  • The term "Missile defense system" broadly means a system that provides any missile defense against any missile type by any country.
  • Any mechanism which can detect and then destroy a missile before it can cause any harm is called a missile defence system (MDS).[2]

The role of defense against nuclear missiles has been a heated military and political topic for several decades.


China tested the FJ ABM in the Cold War but they were ultimately cancelled. The PLA has currently developed the KT series of anti ballistic missiles and also have adopted limited anti ballistic capabilities on the HQ-9, KS series, and HQ-16.

China successfully tested its exoatmospheric interception capability in a test in 2010 and also in a test in 2013, being the second country and one of two countries able to do so.

Four versions of the S-300 are in service the PMU, PMU1 and PMU2 and the navalised S-300FM Rif. Based on the S-300PMU1, the Rif equips the PLAN’s two Type 51C Luzhou air-defence destroyers enabling them to contribute to the protection of a coastal site against SRBM attack.[3]

The S-300PMU2 has the best chance of intercepting an SRBM missile as it employs the 48N6E2 missile which has a warhead optimised for destroying ballistic missiles, and better kinematics compared to earlier 48N6 missiles.[3]

HQ-9 may have some ABM capability.[Note 1][3]

However, it might be noted that on 11 January 2007 the Chinese successfully performed an anti-satellite missile test[4] using a KT-1[Note 2] missile with a Kinetic Kill Vehicle mounted.[3]

New missiles, the HQ-19, HQ-26, and HQ-29, are being built.[5]

France, UK and Italy

HMS Diamond (D34) a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer equipped with the Sylver A-50 VLS and Aster 15 and 30 missiles. Diamond fired her missiles for the first time during May 2012 successfully intercepting a Mirach drone.[6]

Italy and France have developed a missile family called Aster (Aster 15 and Aster 30). Aster 30 is capable of ballistic missile defense. On 18 October 2010, France announced a successful tactical ABM test of the Aster 30 missile[7] and on 1 December 2011 a successful interception of a Black Sparrow ballistic target missile.[8][9] Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers and French Navy and Italian Navy Horizon -class frigates are armed with PAAMS, using Aster 15 and 30 missiles.

Also, France is developing another version, Aster 30 block II which can destroy ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 3000 km. It will have a Kill Vehicle warhead.

Superficie-Aria Media Portata Terrestre (Italian for Ground-based Surface-to-Air Medium Range, SAMP/T) using batteries of Aster 30 missiles. France has demonstrated the feasibility of destroying medium range ballistic missile.[7]

Aster 15 and 30 missiles differ only in the size of their booster - total weights being 310 kg and 450 kg respectively. Aster 30 requires the longer tubes of the SYLVER A50 launcher, but its range is extended from 30 kilometres (19 mi) to 120 kilometres (75 mi). Aster 30 is also capable of ballistic missile defense. The first stage booster of the missile is entirely designed and manufactured by Avio of Italy.


India's air defence network has two principal components - the ‘Air Defence Ground Environment System’ (ADGES) and the ‘Base Air Defence Zones’ (BADZ). The ADGES network provides for wide area radar coverage and permits the detection and interception of most aerial incursions into Indian airspace. The BADZ system is far more concentrated with radars, interceptors, SAMs and AAA units working in conjunction to provide an intense and highly effective defensive barrier to attacks on vital targets.[10]

Ballistic missile defence

Launching of Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile

The Ballistic Missile Defence Program is an initiative to develop and deploy a multi-layered ballistic missile defense system to protect India from ballistic missile attacks.[11][12]

Introduced in light of the ballistic missile threat from Pakistan,[13] it is a double-tiered system consisting of two interceptor missiles, namely the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for high altitude interception, and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for lower altitude interception. The two-tiered shield should be able to intercept any incoming missile launched 5,000 kilometers away.[14]

PAD was tested in November 2006, followed by AAD in December 2007. With the test of the PAD missile, India became the fourth country to have successfully developed an Anti-ballistic missile system, after United States, Russia and Israel.[15] On 6 March 2009, India again successfully tested its missile defense shield, during which an incoming "enemy" missile was intercepted at an altitude of 75 km.[16]

On 6 May 2012, it was announced that Phase-I is complete and can be deployed to protect two Indian cities at a short notice.[17][18] New Delhi, the national capital, and Mumbai, have been selected for the ballistic missile defence shield.[19] After successful implementation in Delhi and Mumbai, the system will be used to cover other major cities in the country.[20] This shield can destroy incoming ballistic missiles launched from as far as 2,500 km away. When the Phase II is completed and PDV is developed, the two anti-ballistic missiles can intercept targets up to 5,000 km both at exo and endo-atmospheric (inside the atmosphere) regions. The missiles will work in tandem to ensure a hit probability of 99.8 per cent.[21][22]

Apart from DRDO's endeavour to develop a potent missile defense, India is reportedly examining the Israeli Arrow, the Almaz design bureau's S-300 PMU-1/-2 and S-400 and the Antey design bureau's Antey 2500/S-300VM.[10] India has procured a squadron of S-300V systems which are in use as an 'anti-tactical ballistic missile screen'.[23][24]

Cruise missile defense

Defending against an attack by a cruise missile on the other hand is similar to tackling low-flying manned aircraft and hence most methods of aircraft defence can be used for a cruise missile defence system.[2]

In order to ward off the threats of nuke-tipped cruise missile attack India has a new missile defence programme which will be focused solely on intercepting cruise missiles. The technological breakthrough has been created with an Advanced Air Defence missile (AAD).[25] DRDO Chief, Dr V K Saraswat stated in an Interview "Our studies have indicated that this [AAD] will be able to handle a cruise missile intercept,"[25]

Furthermore, India is acquiring airborne radars like AWACS to ensure detection of cruise missiles in order to stay on top of the threat.[25]

Barak-8 is a long-range anti-air and anti-missile naval defence system being developed jointly by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. The Indian Army is considering induction of a variant of Barak 8 missile to meet its requirement for a medium-range surface-to-air air defence missile. The naval version of this missile will have the capability to intercept incoming enemy cruise missiles and combat jets targeting its warships at sea.[26] India has a joint venture for this missile with Israel.[27]

On 17 November 2010, in an interview Rafael's Vice President Mr. Lova Drori confirmed that the David's Sling system has been offered to the Indian Armed Forces.[28]


An Arrow anti-ballistic missile interceptor.

Israel has a national missile defense against short and medium-range missiles using their Arrow missile system. The Arrow or Hetz (Hebrew: חֵץ </noinclude>, pronounced [ˈχet͡s]) is a family of anti-ballistic missiles designed to fulfill an Israeli requirement for a theater missile defense system. It is reported to be more effective against ballistic missiles than the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile. Jointly funded and produced by Israel and the United States,[Note 3] development of the system began in 1986 and has continued since, drawing some contested criticism. Undertaken by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Boeing, it is overseen by the Israeli Ministry of Defense's "Homa" (Hebrew: חומה‎, pronounced [χoma], "rampart") administration and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The Arrow system consists of the joint production hypersonic Arrow anti-missile interceptor, the Elta EL/M-2080 "Green Pine" early-warning AESA radar, the Tadiran Telecom "Golden Citron" ("Citron Tree") C3I center, and the Israel Aerospace Industries "Brown Hazelnut" ("Hazelnut Tree") launch control center. The system is transportable, as it can be moved to other prepared sites.

Following the construction and testing of the Arrow 1 technology demonstrator, production and deployment began with the Arrow 2 version of the missile. The Arrow is considered one of the most advanced missile defense programs currently in existence.[29][30] It is the first operational missile defense system specifically designed and built to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles.[31][32] Initial operating capability of Arrow 3 is expected in 2014.[33] The first Arrow battery was declared fully operational in October 2000. Although several of its components have been exported, the Israeli Air Defense Command within the Israeli Air Force (IAF) of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is currently the sole user of the complete Arrow system.

Apart from Arrow missile, Israel has Iron dome which is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometers away[34] and David's sling that is designed to intercept medium-to-long range rockets and slower-flying cruise missiles, such as those possessed by Hezbollah, fired at ranges from 40 km to 300 km.[28]


S-300PMU-2 vehicles. From left to right: 64N6E2 detection radar, 54K6E2 command post and 5P85 TEL.

The Russian A-135 anti-ballistic missile system is currently operational only around the city of Moscow, the national capital, and is being augmented to protect major cities in Russia. The A-135 anti-ballistic missile system is a Russian military complex deployed around Moscow to counter enemy missiles targeting the city or its surrounding areas. It became operational during 1995. It is a successor to the previous A-35, and compliant with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty from which the US unilaterally withdrew in 2002.[3]

The A-135 system attained "alert" (operational) status on 17 February 1995. It is currently operational although its 53T6 (NATO:SH-11) component is deactivated (as of February 2007). A newer missile is expected to replace it. There is an operational test version of the system at the test site in Sary Shagan, Kazakhstan.

The S-300PMU1 and PMU2 can intercept SRBMs, and the S-300V and S-400 Triumf systems are capable of intercepting a multiple IRBM attack by all DF-21 model IRBMs.[3]

The enhanced but yet to be produced S-300VM/VMK is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 km re-entry speeds of 4.5 km/s, whereas the S-400 is claimed to be capable of intercepting ballistic missiles with a range of 3,500 km which equates to re-entry speeds of 4.8 to 5 km/s. A system designed to intercept warheads at 5 km/s has the ability to act as a point system against simple ICBM warheads which have a typical re-entry speed of 7 km/s.[3] Apart from the main Moscow deployment, Russia has striven actively for intrinsic ABM capabilities of its late model SAM systems. Russian ground based theatre defence against ballistic and cruise missiles are centered on the in-service

  • S-300P (SA-10)
  • S-300V (SA-12A/B Giant/Gladiator)
  • S-300PMU-1/2 (SA-20A/B Gargoyle)
  • S-400 (SA-21)
  • S-500 ( In development )

United States

A Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) carrying a prototype exo-atmospheric kill vehicle is launched from Meck Island at the Kwajalein Missile Range on 3 December 2001, for an intercept of a ballistic missile target over the central Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Sentinel program was a planned national missile defense during the 1970s, but was never deployed. Elements of Sentinel were actually deployed briefly as the Safeguard Program, although it wasn't national in scope. United States has had in development a nationwide antimissile program since the 1990s. After the renaming in 2002, the term now refers to the entire program, not just the ground-based interceptors and associated facilities. This article focuses mainly on this system and a brief history of earlier systems which led to it.

Other elements yet to be integrated into NMD may include anti-ballistic missiles, or sea-based, space-based, laser, and high altitude missile systems. The NMD program is limited in scope and designed to counter a relatively small ICBM attack from a less sophisticated adversary. Unlike the earlier Strategic Defense Initiative program, it is not designed to be a robust shield against a large attack from a technically sophisticated adversary.[35]

As of 2012, this system is operational with limited capability. In early April 2013, the Pentagon deployed 14 missile interceptors to Guam in response to the North Korean threats to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States.[36][37]

Other developments


Since 1998, when North Korea launched a Taepodong-1 missile over northern Japan, the Japanese have been jointly developing a new Surface-to-air interceptor known as the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) with the US. So far tests have been successful, and there are planned 11 locations that the PAC-3 will be installed. A military spokesman[38] said that tests had been done on two sites, one of them a business park in central Tokyo, and Ichigaya – a site not far from the Imperial Palace. Along with the PAC-3, Japan has installed a US-developed ship-based anti-ballistic missile system, which was tested successfully on 18 December 2007. The missile was launched from a Japanese warship, in partnership with the US Missile Defense Agency and destroyed a mock target launched from the coast.

Republic of China

Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, is also engaged in the development of an anti-ballistic missile system, based on indigenously developed Tien Kung-II (Sky Bow) SAM system and Patriot-III missiles.[39]

Taiwan is building up a "missile defense shield" in response to Chinese missiles pointed in its direction. The latest addition will be six Patriot III batteries and a long-range early warning radar system. Albeit, Taiwan needs Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) units.[40]


Many still consider missile defense to be destabilizing.[41] French policy makers consider that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the doctrine of Mutual assured destruction to be the cornerstones of strategic stability. Some French analysts viewed missile defense as jeopardizing both the doctrine and the Treaty, as well as risking a new arms race.

Experts however question the precision of the system. All the experiments to develop and test MDS were scripted so far and nobody knows about their credibility in an actual war situation. Knowing the speed of these missiles, it's more difficult than hitting one bullet with another.[2]

Moreover, most French security experts doubted the technological feasibility of ballistic missile defense. Some think it is foolish to spend huge amounts of money on unproven technologies that lacked operational or political usefulness. Instead, the French defense policy community viewed missile defense merely as an American "economic weapon" used to defeat the Soviet Union and win the Cold War.[42]

Some are simply of the opinion that reliance on missile defense as an element of nuclear deterrence is wrong and that missile defense is a bust technically, and it encourages the proliferation of both nuclear and conventional weaponry instead of preventing such an increase from taking place.[43]

Missile defenses are vulnerable to supersonic missile vehicles which travel at speeds high enough to outmaneuver missile defenses. China is among the countries pursuing supersonic vehicles as missile delivery systems.[44]

Critics of missile defense also state that just as with nuclear weapons, the U.S. infatuation with missile defense will cause other nations to desire this expensive and destabilizing technology.[43]

Russia's top military officer has threatened to carry out a pre-emptive strike on U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if Washington goes ahead with its controversial plan to build a missile shield.[45] Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov also warned that talks between Moscow and Washington on the topic are "close to a dead end."[45] U.S. State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher responded that neither country can afford another arms race.[45]

See also


  1. However, it is kinematically inferior to the imported Russian S-300PMU2 Favorit according to this source
  2. described by the director of United States Defense Intelligence Agency as a SC-19 missile
  3. Dr. Uzi Rubin: "The Arrow program used practically no U.S. technology, just U.S. money. It was almost entirely based on Israeli technology, though we bought some components in the U.S. because they were cheaper." (2003) —source


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  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "China’s Cruise and Ballistic Missile Defence". A Strategic Assessment of PLA Theatre Missile and ASAT Capabilities. Air Power Australia. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  4. "World fury at satellite destruction". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
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  13. The New GuardianIndia unveils an all new anti-ballistic missile expected to be the fore-runner of a sophisticated air defence system to thwart, among other threats, a Pakistani nuclear weapons attack
  14. "India tests interceptor missile". 2009-03-06. Archived from the original on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
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  16. Pollack, Andrew. "India successfully tests missile interceptor". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
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  20. "Delhi, Mumbai to get missile defence shield - NDTV News". 2012-06-24. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  21. "More Teeth to Defence System". Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  22. PTI Jun 24, 2012, 04.30PM IST (2012-06-24). "Delhi, Mumbai to be first provided with missile defence shield". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
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  33. Ben David, Alon (2012-01-26). "Boeing links up with IAI on Arrow-3". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  34. Sharp, Jeremy M. (16 September 2010). "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel". Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  36. "The Ultimate North Korean Missile Threat To America: A Nuke Power Grid Attack". Forbes. 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
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