Posts Tagged ‘Missile Defense’

When you look at the popular culture, the duck and cover era of civil defense (CD) in the 1950s and early 1960s is often mercilessly mocked. The reason is likely because it seemed insane to take shelter under a desk when nuclear weapons are landing nearby.

However, in those days, the miss distances of the weapons were quite significant, far greater than they are today. As such, they were inclined to be used against soft targets like cities and industrial areas, and less so against hardened military targets. Duck and cover was actually a reasonable bit of preventive guidance for these inaccurate city killers.

However, modern nuclear weapon delivery systems have far greater accuracy. For example, the Claremont Institute’s MissileThreat.com says a Trident D-5 has 90 meter accuracy. Duck and cover might make a real difference when a weapon misses its target by two miles; not so much when that miss distance is down to 300 feet.

But here we are, fifty years later after the duck and cover era and it would appear much of the world (the parts of the world that make good targets for those who would disrupt our security) is stuck with… duck and cover. What’s up with that?!

First, there is the general weakening and unilateral disarmament of the U.S. nuclear umbrella associated with New START but also with the administration’s decision to depend more on conventional forces (which by the way are likely headed in one direction; down) for U.S./allied security needs. Next, there’s nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Pakistan; Iran’s apparently imminent nuclear breakout; likely growth in Chinese nuclear weapons and certain growth in delivery systems) and even greater missile proliferation. Finally, we’re certain to have less-capable-than-hoped for missile defenses as a result of expected defense cuts.

What’s left? Duck and cover, folks, duck and cover.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with taking shelter, and it’s certainly prudent. In fact, given the high-return/low-risk and cost of civil defense, it seems our CD capabilities should be our first step without ignoring the other aspects of deterrence (missile defense; reliable, capable, and available nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and warning methods; conventional capabilities; diplomacy; etc.) which are all part of the deterrence recipe.

When your options are only limited to duck and cover, your approach becomes one of hope (“I sure hope those nuclear weapons miss us!”) and it’s generally well-known within military circles that hope is not a substitute for strategy.

Finally, hope-is-not-a-strategy also explains why the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan have vital interests (and investments) in missile defense.

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Iranian Missile WorksIt appears Iran killed at least 20 of its own in a secret missile test, including Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hasan Moghaddam. Details surrounding the disaster are not well known.

Given the observed outcome, all I can advise is this: keep working boys, keep working. You’ll know you’re fully successful when you’re all dead.

Of course, over time, practice makes perfect, especially when Iran is likely to be getting a fair amount of outside help.

In other news related to the foreign policy success of the so-called Russian Reset comes this from NTI:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his nation would target U.S. antimissile installations if the two nations cannot come to accord on the Obama administration’s missile defense plans, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The United States and NATO for the last year have sought to reach agreement with Moscow for collaboration on a developing Europe-based missile shield. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce a deal, with the sides remaining at odds over the set-up of a cooperative defense system.

The Kremlin has also demanded a legally binding pledge that the NATO defenses would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces. The alliance has rebuffed the request but says the missile shield is intended to counter ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East, notably Iran.

Medvedev said that should the dispute continue Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles in the far-western Kaliningrad region that could be fired at U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. Additional missiles could be placed in the west and south of Russia, he added.

New long-range nuclear missiles would be equipped with technology enabling them to defeat antimissile systems, Medvedev said.

There is a potential upside to U.S. national security embedded within Medvedev’s threats:

The president also said that Russia could suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and curb additional arms control discussions with Washington.

"The United States and its NATO partners as of now aren’t going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account," according to Medvedev.

With security partners like Russia, who needs non-partners?

For missile defense, the system that critics say (in order) won’t ever work, costs too much, is easily defeated with countermeasures and (finally) would be destabilizing to international relations, the Russians sure seem to take it seriously.  (By the way, there’s a final question to ponder: why weren’t we doing this before?)  From Defense News:

Russia cautioned the U.S. and its NATO allies Aug. 8 against plans to extend an anti-missile shield into northern European seas.

(Snip)

"The very fact of deploying U.S. military missile defense infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament", said [Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry] Rogozin at a press conference.

(Begin sarcasm font) A part of the Russian disinformation campaign, I’m sure. (Close sarcasm font)

Rogozin holds out “the process of nuclear disarmament” as both a stick (nuclear disarmament is at risk unless missile defense plans change radically) and carrot (the nuclear disarmament process can continue if the missile defense plans are radically revised).  Of course, only the U.S. is disarming under New START, so maybe Rogozin’s threat could actually benefit U.S. national security. 

Russia has been unable to make progress with lower-level U.S. politicos on missile defense.  This makes the Russians unhappy.  Their plan is to now try and backdoor the whole bureaucratic process and go directly to the President at an unspecified-yet-upcoming face-to-face meeting with Medvedev.  Meanwhile, higher-level administration politicos are saying the administration “would not accede to any deal limiting U.S. antimissile options.” Sounds like the lower-level politicos are just following orders, right?

And what are we to make of the Russians and their dread fear of missile defense?  One thing comes to mind: they must think missile defense has a pretty reasonable chance of upsetting their strategic nuclear apple-cart.

How else to explain the alternating and yet unending Russian drum beat of good cop (“there are no grounds for pessimism” for U.S. concessions on missile defense) – bad cop (if “Russia does not discover itself as an invited nation in this [NATO] missile defense architecture, this will cause great problems in our relations")?  You can’t.

The Russians are surely preoccupied with this thought: missile defense can hold nuclear weapons and delivery systems (Iranian, Russian, et al) at risk.  And if the President of the United States had a chance to stop a Russian nuclear weapon from impacting on U.S./allied soil by using this missile defense system, it would be used. 

Who, to paraphrase President Merkin Muffley, could face the history books with the chance to stop (with missile defense) one of the greatest mass murder attempts (a nuclear attack) of all time only to fail to do so?  Short answer: no one.

(image: freepublic.com)

nato punching bagThe military has generals; an executive has a secretary.  NATO, once the world’s most successful military alliance has a Secretary General.

With that out of the way (just sayin’…), there’s this from the Global Security Newswire:

NATO might be willing to collaborate with Russia in operating facilities that would promote information exchanges for missile defense, alliance chief [AKA Secretary General] Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday (see GSN, July 5).

I’ve heard of the fog of war.  Is this the Fogh of peace?

Of course, “might be willing” leaves a lot of wiggle room.  Still, the intellectual consistency of the whole conundrum seems telling: the U.S. underwrites NATO member-states’ security of which Russia is the remaining major concern.  In the meantime, NATO (which depends totally on the funding contributions of alliance members with the U.S. paying well over half) ponders how Russia might be brought into missile defense.

The two sides since November have been studying options for joint efforts on missile defense. However, they remain at odds over how such a program should be structured, and Moscow continues to highlight Western antimissile activities as a threat to its strategic security that could produce a new arms race.

So Russia rattles the ‘new arms race’ saber unless it’s brought into missile defense.  Bringing Russia in is the same as surrendering to their threat.  Is that seems the same as appeasement or is there a more subtle (and diplomatic) term?

This proverbial can will likely be kicked for quite a while.

iranian salvo launch

Is the missile defense lesson that basing and geography matter?  That interceptors matter?  That command and control matters?  All the above and more?

The administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach won’t provide the early intercepts promised according to Inside The Ring and based on a to-be-released Defense Science Board (DSB) report.  “Early intercepts” in this context mean early in the attacking missile’s flight profile as opposed to 2012 versus 2020.

“The report’s unclassified conclusion is that [Missile Defense Agency] plans to achieve an early intercept capability as part of the Phased-Adaptive Approach are simply not credible,”…

The administration’s four-phase plan for European-based defenses calls for using three versions of the Navy SM-3 interceptor missile instead of more capable and faster Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missiles, like those currently deployed in Alaska and California.  The phased [adaptive] approach calls for ultimately fielding a souped-up variant of the SM-3 called Block IIB by 2020. The interceptor would be used against Iran’s arsenal of medium-range, intermediate-range and perhaps continental range missiles. In the future, the Pentagon has said it plans to use to Block IIB for so-called “early intercept” — before a missile releases its warhead and decoys.

I wish I could remember the site who provided the suggestion that the PAA was a cram-down, a ‘make the numbers work’ effort from the get-go.

Missile are fast and missile-defense systems need a compressed (that is, automated once release authority has been given, as it is with the Alaska and California based systems) command and control system.  The missile defense release authority is said to be part of the problem; how big a part is not clear.

Missile speeds and the short times military officials have to make a decision to fire interceptors at an enemy missile means “early intercept wasn’t feasible for missile defense,”

So if the DSB has it right, was the credible missile defense capability (the Poland and Czech Republic basing scheme with GBIs) waved off in order to make the politics of the Russian reset work? 

How will the Russians respond?  Gloating (they’d be smart to avoid creating any bulletin board material)?  Shoe-gazing (gloating, but only on the inside)?  Continued complaining about missile defense (knowing a viable plan can be resurrected and that the technologies will improve)?

Maybe this means a missile defense system centered on protecting U.S. territory will emerge versus the PAA’s European-protection bias.  Maybe.

From always great Global Security Newswire:

The top civilian and uniformed officials at the U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday supported the technical capabilities of U.S. missile defense systems set to be deployed in Europe, Aviation Week reported (see GSN, June 14).

As memory serves (that’s code for you can look it up yourself if you like), top civilian and uniformed officials at the U.S. Defense Department also supported the technical capabilities of the Bush administration’s missile defense systems.  So for those officials, is this an issue of “Where I stand depends on where I sit?” or is it more along the lines of “Any missile defense capability is valued”?

However, there’s trouble in River City:

[An] "unclassified conclusion" of an upcoming Defense Science Board report to lawmakers is "that (the Missile Defense Agency’s) plans to achieve an early intercept capability as part of the PAA is simply not credible," Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said during a Senate Appropriations defense panel hearing. "This is disturbing to some of us."

So where does the disturbance in the force fall?  Along performance, cost, or schedule lines?

While there’s been lots of news about NATO not pulling its weight recently but no such noise regarding what appears to be a massive defense gift—in dollars, for certain and hopefully in capability—to Europe.