Archive for the ‘Missile Defense’ Category

Between 1000 and 1400 Chinese missiles are aimed at Taiwan today.  Before long, that number will increase to 2000.

China is on track to be able and destroy 90 percent of Taiwan’s key assets.

Of course, China says their military build-up is purely defense in nature.  I guess the best defense is a good offense?

No wonder Taiwan is going to want to purchase more U.S. weapons.  Missile defense has to be at the top of the list.

Read the full deal at the Global Security Newswire.

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A sea-based laser might make for a bad day for an unsuspecting UAV.

However, you’d think such a laser it would be even more desirable for missile defense. Especially in a place like the Middle East where a laser’s effect is not so diffused by water vapor.  I suppose there’s some sort of algorithm to constantly reform the beam in an effort to keep its effect in place.

Still, the big deal to me–as a non-laser guy–is the fact this is a solid state laser of significantly lower power (5.5kw) than the 15kw Firestrike.  On the other hand, the naval UAV event used six of 5.5kw lasers.

Is the non-space based Holy Grail of missile defense at hand?

Defense News relays the obvious, which is news because expectation management is being exercised.  The administration doesn’t expect new START to be ratified quickly.

I’d expect U.S. nuclear modernization and perhaps missile defense will become more closely linked to new START ratification. Months ago the administration attempted to sweeten the deal with a proposed plus-up of $5 billion (across five years) largely for the nuclear labs.

The labs are of course essential but it is useful to address the fact they are only a part of the nation’s overall nuclear enterprise.

BTW, just how new START adds to global stability is unclear because the two participating nations, the U.S. and Russia, are…well, pretty stable, at least as far as our nuclear capabilities go.

New START is instead a bilateral team-building exercise and serves as a confirmation of directions that both Russia and the U.S. are intending to take regardless of the actions of the other.  As such, it is perhaps a convenient exercise.

We’re really much less concerned with Russia’s nuclear intentions than those of China and Pakistan (let alone Iran), but those fall into the ‘wicked problem’ category.

If the Senate thought new START would clearly and demonstrably enhance U.S.national security (versus ‘global stability’ per se) wouldn’t they already have taken action on it?

Missile defense successes, much like uneventful landings, are not big news.

Remember the three stages of defense innovation: first it can’t be done.  Next, it will cost too much.  Finally, ‘why didn’t we do this sooner?’

Missile defense haters were not immediately available for comment.

The Reuters article US plans full European missile shield in 8 years raises an interesting question: would it be a good idea for the U.S. to have a full missile shield?

The article describes the European missile defense endeavor as a multi-billion dollar effort.  Now, another question: what is the share-line with the Europeans?  The article says the U.S. will seek ‘appropriate’ cost/burden sharing.  Seek?  While that’s stronger than ‘won’t seek,’ it isn’t too inspiring.

European missile defense seems to be reasonable capability that advances U.S. national security to a degree, however, it seems intuitive that a U.S. missile shield would advance it more.

Is it me?

This article originally appeared in Air University’s The Wright Stuff.

I Know Why The Caged Bear Screams

About sixty days have passed since the administration decided to cancel the European ground-based missile defense program.  The cancelled program had been planned as ten ground-based missile interceptors to be based in Poland.  The interceptors would work cooperatively with other missile-warning sensors and a prominent missile defense radar system sited in the Czech Republic.  The arrangement had been established by the George W. Bush administration and was designed to mitigate the risk of a rogue missile launch (read Iran) against U.S. and European targets. 

The cancellation was rolled-out as a change in strategy based on revised intelligence assessments.  Under the new strategy, the missile defense effort would instead focus on better meeting near-term threats from Iran, which included a greater emphasis on addressing Iranian short and intermediate range missile systems versus the longer-range missile defense associated with the Bush administration’s approach.  Additionally, many viewed the cancellation as throwing a major “reset” bone towards Russia, who had vigorously complained about the program for a number of years. 

If so, it seemed the change of course reflected in the new missile defense strategy might benefit U.S. relations with Russia in general, as well as influencing their cooperation on Iran’s renegade nuclear program in particular.  In deciding to move away from the previous plan, the Obama administration may have removed the sharp stick of missile defense from the Bear’s eye, but why were the Russians snarling so much in the first place?  The proposed Bush Administration plan could never have stopped a full-scale Russian nuclear attack.   

Three themes come to mind.  The first is that Russia might be fearful of being ‘fenced in,’ NATO commitments notwithstanding.  Having strategic U.S. equipment and presence in both Poland and the Czech Republic would provide a clear and bright “red line” sign to the Russians in a part of the world where they feel they hold historical squatter’s rights.  Also consider that as Russia looks to their east, they may well anticipate future tensions with China.  A Chinese push for resources and “breathing room” may someday lead to conflict, so perhaps a bit of posturing regarding territorial encroachment was in play. 

This theme may require a paradigm shift from our traditional strategic Russian focus towards more regional Russian concerns.  For example, as the Cold War’s two most significant players, U.S. and USSR nuclear systems were major elements of the era’s calculus.  Today however, it’s easy to project the lessons of a generation ago into the present, even if they aren’t true.  The Air Force Research Institute’s Adam Lowther goes full-monty on this topic when he suggests “The United States must come to grips with the fact that it is no longer the center of Russian security concerns.”  In effect, Lowther says, they’re just not that into us. 

Lowther’s proposal warrants we examine the evidence and the findings should affect our view of Russia, including topical events that relate to their cumulative national power.  Included on such a list would be the issue of tactical nuclear weapons (which Russia will be disinclined to give up in the on-going START talks as they have significant regional deterrence effects), the aforementioned missile defense, territorial worries, and anything else Russia might be inclined to pursue to increase its regional power and standing.  Included in this last category would be Russian efforts to become the arbiter of Iran’s future.

A second theme is centered on a national Russian cognitive dissonance of sorts.  This can be seen in the vain-glorious desire to turn back the hands of time, typified by a statement made in 2005 by then-President Vladimir Putin.  At that time, Putin nostalgically described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” a perhaps indicative, if gruesomely inaccurate manifestation of Russian thinking.  The lost love for empire, when combined with today’s trend line towards Russian third-world status (driven by the graying/brain-drain affect of demographics and a massive dependence on selling its natural resources) have to be internally disconcerting to many Russian’s, including its leaders. 

A third theme is driven by elements of the second, that is, demographics and economics.  As nuclear weapons and delivery systems are difficult and expensive to develop, manufacture, and sustain, Russia will move towards fewer strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems (and they will want the same of the U.S.).  This, when combined with an ever-maturing U.S. missile defense capability of close proximity, could diminish the asymmetry of a smaller Russian strategic nuclear capability, greatly impacting the efficacy of Russian long-range missiles.  Over a period of years this could have a large deleterious effect on Russian power. 

Russia has a complex set of security challenges it will struggle to manage, but they can certainly be expected to deal with these issues in ways which are most beneficial to their own needs and desires.  As Russia has come to realize it currently has little to fear from the U.S. security-wise, these three themes all have explanatory power regarding the Bear’s snarling.  While Russia may not yet be fully backed into the metaphorical cage, it seems they understand they are well on their way.

Mark Stout is a defense analyst and researcher at Air University’s National Space Studies Center. The opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and may not reflect the views and policies of the US Air Force or the Department of Defense.

With the pending expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), Senator Richard Lugar goes full-court press in advocating for Congressional and executive approval to allow for continued interim inspections and monitoring following START’s actual expiration.  The follow-on to START still has to finish re-negotiations and then get ratified by both the Russian Duma and the Senate.  The odds of this happening before the current treaty’s expiration date of 5 Dec 09 approach zero.

The Senator makes an impassioned plea to extend the treaty, which features a complex and intrusive regime of on-site inspection criteria.  Senator Lugar points out that the U.S. has conducted more than 600 START inspections since it entered in force in 1994, and while it’s impossible to prove that these inspections have actually made us safer, it seems to be a reasonable hypothesis.  If the U.S. had somehow managed to have a START-like program in place regarding Iran’s nuclear program it certainly seems likely we would have better and earlier understood the full complement of their duplicity. 

The compelling reason for the intrusive inspection criteria is that without verification, a treaty can be worse than useless–it can actually be delusional.  START, more than 1000 pages long, is one of the most complex treaties in history.

It’s almost certain the Russian position regarding U.S. missile defense capabilities will (and has) complicated treaty discussions.