New U.S. Missile Defense Plans & Russia, Iran and North Korea

Posted in Other | 28-Oct-09 | Author: Dieter Farwick

"The better U.S. Option for missile defense: The Aegis ships with launchers would "steam to the threat"
"The better U.S. Option for missile defense: The Aegis ships with launchers would "steam to the threat"
Our newsletter, Barack Obama's Decision on Missile Defense in Eastern Europe, triggered a lot of questions from our readers. For many, the political rationale and technical details of the 'old' and the 'new' systems remain unclear.

This lack of information prohibits many readers from coming to their own conclusions as to whether the President's decision will lead to a safer world. We feel obliged to close these gaps of information and knowledge.

Brig Gen (ret) Dieter Farwick, Global Editor WSN, took the opportunity to pose questions to the renowned American expert in this field Peter Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis and Senior Defense Consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.

Dieter Farwick: What is the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Europe and Israel?

Peter Huessy: The threats to the US from long range missiles are those over 5500 kilometers in range; this category includes roughly 470 Russian ICBMs and 35-70 Chinese long range missiles.

North Korea has a two and three stage Taepo Dong; if the third stage had worked in a recent test, Pyongyang would have been able to land a 300-500 kilo warhead on Indianapolis or Tampa. According to Robert Walpole of the CIA, if the North Korean1998 missile launch had been successful, they would be able to target the western United States with a 200 kilo warhead.

Iran's capability has now exceeded North Korea's, in terms of technological capability according to Uzi Rubin, the father of the Israeli Arrow missile defense program and a retired Israeli General. Iran now has solid fueled rockets and has demonstrated "staging" in two tests. According to Jack David, a former senior DOD official, Iran has also demonstrated a new liquid fueled rocket. Staging is a prelude to the development of long range rockets; solid fuel allows a launch to be made quickly. To be able to send missile defenses to the area of concern requires warning time which liquid fueled rockets give you as they have to take some period of time to be fueled and this activity is visible from satellites.

For exact numbers, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright Patterson AF Base has published "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, (NASIC-1031-0986-09), the best compendium of all missile capabilities world-wide from which much of this information is drawn.

Submarine launched missiles can be launched from anywhere in the oceans. Therefore they do not need intercontinental range to target the United States. There are currently 250 Russian SSN18, 20 and 23 submarine launched ballistic missiles. Some 25-50 Chinese SLBMs are under development and not yet deployed. Iran supposedly has purchased small submarines from North Korea for Syria but it is unclear what the characteristics of the system are. For a review of the PRC's rocket arsenal and nuclear capability, see American expert Richard Fischer's work.

According to the MDA Director General O'Reilly, there is a world-wide inventory of some 5,500 short range missiles and/or launchers and 350 medium range ballistic missiles and or launchers. These are deployed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, and others; such missiles could be launched off the coast of the United States from a freighter, for example. If carrying a nuclear warhead, and if detonated some 70-200 kilometers above the United States, it would cause a huge EMP or electromagnetic pulse attack which would destroy much of our electrical systems and infrastructure.

The Congressionally chartered EMP Commission has said this is one of the most serious threats facing the US and its allies. Iran has tested such a missile in such a mode, as have Russia and China. Japan and the Republic of Korea have both asked the US for help in protecting them from such an attack from North Korea.

Such an EMP attack could leave the US with an industrial and economic base only able to support a population and standard of living similar to the early 19th century. Tens of millions of Americans would perish. The 1998 Rumsfeld Commission report unanimously said that was one of the most serious threats facing the US from ballistic missiles.

Many of these some 6000 rockets are held by Iran, China, North Korea, Syria and Russia. The inventory of launchers-i.e., the system used to launch rockets-is known to a rough order of magnitude. Of concern is that the rockets in the ME and North East Asia are capable of attacking US military forces, US allies such as the ROK, Israel, Iraq and others, and are held by countries that have been openly hostile to the US and have been at war with the US through their proxies and militaries for decades, especially Tehran and Pyongyang. In 2008, Sri Lanka interdicted a North Korean freighter carrying short range rockets to the Tamil Tigers and Hezbollah. The rockets were made in the PRC.

Peter R. Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis and Senior Defense Consultant at the National Defense University Foundation: "I believe that…
Peter R. Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis and Senior Defense Consultant at the National Defense University Foundation: "I believe that the new administration saw the proposed deployment as a "bridge too far"
Russia and China have been assisting both North Korea and Iran in their ballistic missile programs; an indictment by the city attorney for New York claims that a Chinese firm in the PRC was helping Iran develop both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The 118 count indictment showed the dimensions of foreign assistance Iran is getting. However, the Iranians currently have a robust indigenous and demonstrated missile capability which is far beyond the capability claimed by a May 2009 report of the East West Institute.

Finally, an offshore freighter launching a rocket over the US would not have a "return address" from which to deter the attacker. The freighter could very well be scuttled, giving the terrorists a head start in getting to their 72 virgin mermaids. In that the Iranian leadership has said they would welcome a conflict that would lead to world turmoil as creating the necessary conditions for the return of the 12th Imam, it is therefore not necessarily the case that Iran can be deterred through the sole ability to retaliate.

As for Europe, the threat from Iran to Europe, for example, involves rockets with a 2000-2400 kilometer range that can put Warsaw and Bonn at risk. Iran can use the threat of ballistic missile attack as a coercive umbrella under which to carry out its terrorist operations in Lebanon, North Africa, including Egypt, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as its terrorist campaigns with Hezbollah and Hamas. NATO has warned of this development and has unanimously called for the deployment of missile defenses to defend NATO from such threats. The fanciful idea that missile defense is not needed because missiles have a "home address" or that deterrence will always work is based on a childlike understanding of geostrategic conditions as they exist in the world today. Iraq, NK and Iran have launched ballistic missiles at their neighbors; Saddam attacked Israel and the US during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, despite the fact that both countries were armed with nuclear weapons. Deterrence often breaks down. Missile defense is a prudent insurance policy.

Dieter Farwick: What is the current timetable for Iranian missiles that exceed their current deployments?

Peter Huessy: The USAF Space and Missile Intelligence Center says Iran will be able to deploy an ICBM capable of reaching all of Europe around 2013 and the continental US in 2015; from a Scud launched freighter, they can reach the United States and all of Europe today. Iran can launch rockets up to at least 2000-2400 kilometers which would cover much of SE and Central Europe, as far west as Warsaw. Uzi Rubin believes they have a capability in the 2400+ kilometer range. At 4000 kilometers, all of Europe including London is in range.

Dieter Farwick: What are the current missile defense capabilities of the US, Europe and Israel?

Peter Huessy: The current ballistic missile defense capabilities of the United States, Europe and Israel and other allies such as Japan, Korea and Australia, will be by the end of Fiscal Year 2010 on the order of some 1050-1500 interceptors including Patriot and PAC-3; Aegis Standard Missiles aboard Navy cruisers; Theater High Altitude Air Defense Systems, or THAAD; Arrow ballistic missile defense batteries; David's Sling and/or Iron Dome, and the 30 US deployed Ground Based Interceptors in Alaska and California, (previously scheduled to be 44). I use a range because some of the actual deployed numbers are classified.

The next point is critical: under the previous administration, of these 1050-1500 interceptors deployed world-wide, including those of our allies, 44 would have been GBI (ground based interceptors) capable of shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles; these systems would have also been augmented by an additional 10 missiles deployed in Poland to shoot down long range rockets from Iran, for example, for a full inventory of 54-some 3-4% of the total inventory from the US, its allies and Israel. If one includes Japanese, Australian, and ROK deployments as well as others, by the end of 2010, the deployed number of missile defense interceptors could exceed 1500 of which only 30 would be capable of shooting down long range ballistic missiles under the new administration's plan.

The number of such missile defense systems deployed by the US in January 2001 was ZERO. The number now deployed is as robust as it is because of the use of "spiral development" where the US has developed technology, tested it, fielded it and then improved it while in the field. This technique has accelerated dramatically the deployment of such systems that would only now beginning to come into the inventory under traditional or conventional acquisition strategies. Such a strategy was used by the late General Bernard Schriever to develop the first Minuteman for the United States and submarine ballistic missile capability-both of which were first developed in some 3-5 years.

From these numbers it is obvious that while much of the media attention on ballistic missile programs was centered on the long range missile interceptors, usually associated with the traditional SDI program, it is obvious the cumulative deployments of short and medium range ballistic missiles are significant. However even though the defense does not have to match defensive missile for offensive missile, the acquisition of additional US and allied inventories of missile defenses needs to be accelerated. Purchases of such systems by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States would be a good development; some recent reports are that Turkey would purchase some $7.8 billion worth of Patriot systems. Defense of key nodes, deployment areas and key infrastructure remains critical and US missile defenses can help support that strategy. Complaints that billions have been spent on missile defense and only for the deployments in California and Alaska are way off base. The entire 26 year effort starting in 1983 has led to the deployment now and into the future of very capable systems for our security amounting to some 1500+ interceptors. These deployments have been supported by our combatant commanders in repeated testimony before the US Congress.

"Iran will be able to deploy an ICBM capable of reaching all of Europe around 2013"
"Iran will be able to deploy an ICBM capable of reaching all of Europe around 2013"
Dieter Farwick: What was the original timeline for the Eastern European missile defense deployments?

Peter Huessy: The original baseline deployments scheduled for Poland and the Czech Republic would have been built in 2013-2015 if delays to the program had not occurred by virtue of restrictions placed there by the US Congress in 2007-8; and if the legislative process in the host countries had not been bullied by Russia, helped by a number of American critics that gave assistance to the opposition.

The planned system would have defended Europe from rockets with ranges in excess of 2000+ kilometers, which other currently available deployments would not be able to do. The systems in Poland would also have been able to defend the United States from such Iranian rocket threats. Such a system would have been a symbol of the last nail pounded into the coffin of Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe. The 10 interceptors in Poland were never designed to deal with the short and medium range ballistic missile threats to Europe or the Middle East. Those threats needed to be dealt with through the deployments by the US, by host NATO countries or others in the European theater and the Middle East of other ballistic missile systems, including those based on land, Patriot and THAAD), at sea, (Aegis) and possible air systems, (such as ABL, the Air-Borne Laser which showed great promise in simulated exercises in defending the Persian Gulf from Iranian rocket threats). The Polish and Czech systems were to compliment other deployments, not be substitutes for such deployments. Given the assumption that long range Iranian rockets might very well be carrying nuclear warheads, it was deemed imperative to secure such defenses as quickly as possible. The GBI two-stage rocket designed for Poland was a derivative from the 3 stage GBI deployed in Alaska and California. It was deemed a relatively easy technology development and deployment program.

Dieter Farwick: What is the downside to the decision on Poland and the Czech Republic?

Peter Huessy: As Vice President Biden has now said, the manner in which the decision was made could have been done considerably better; it appears a leak of the pending decision prompted action by the administration;

It left the two governments wondering about the commitment of the US to their security and the security of NATO;

It eliminated additional protection for the United States east coast from Iranian threats which would have been an adjunct to the current protection afforded by the Alaskan and Californian GBI systems;

Current plans are unclear as the QDR and NPR and missile defense reviews are not complete but it appears from MDA announcements there is a tentative plan to develop faster interceptors for the Aegis Cruisers, a Standard Missile Block 3 (2) (B) that would approach 4.5 kilometers per second (or faster) compared to 3k/sec today that would be able to be deployed in the European theater and provide protection for NATO and Europe and the United States from long range rockets. However, that protection would not be deployed until 2020, (perhaps 2018).

Current Standard Missiles can intercept Iranian rockets with a 2000 kilometer range but much beyond that and we are pushing the envelope. An interceptor with a speed of between 4-5/6 kilometers per second could defend all of Europe from Iranian missile threats with from between 1-3 ships. The previous administration had plans in their defense five year planning to develop just such systems and use some portion of the planned deployment of some 80+ Aegis ships to provide just such protection.

Finally, even if it is true that there was no quid pro quo in the decision to stop missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, the impression was left that Russian threats, bullying and coercive behavior succeeded in undermining NATO and the decision to go forward with much needed deployments. Russia has sent a message to other governments in the region that they will not hesitate to use financial, economic and military resources with which to intimidate and bully governments who might make decision with which they do not agree. In an outrageous move, the Russian threatened to deploy nuclear armed Askander missiles in areas nearby to Poland to pressure Warsaw to not go forward with such deployments. And just recently, the Russians have said that deployments of mobile, ship-based missile defenses in the Baltic or Arctic would be opposed by Moscow because the interceptors, if fast enough, would have a capability against Russian rockets aimed over the North Pole toward the United States.

Dieter Farwick: What is the advantage of the new plan? And how will the new systems be deployed?

"The aquisition of additional US and allied inventories of missile defeneses need to be accelerated"
"The aquisition of additional US and allied inventories of missile defeneses need to be accelerated"
Peter Huessy: First, it should be understood the "new" plan is not fully developed yet and so we do not know the exact planned acquisition strategy. We do know the number of SM's to be purchased remains the same at 320; that the number of PAC-3, Patriot and THAAD batteries may be accelerated but the previous administration was considering exactly such a strategy in order to more fully deploy such systems in NATO and the Persian Gulf.

Second, the idea of moving the standard missile "ashore"-i.e., base it on land, was also contemplated by the previous administration in its budget submissions. The on-shore deployment is flexible in that it would not be in fixed-silos but mobile, above ground. Sources tell me that the Navy has not developed plans yet for how the system could be moved, but as General Cartwright, our fine Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, the only fast forward button in the US government is in the US military! They'll figure it out!

There also may be plans to increase the number of ships with the SM from 28, (including the Navy test bed) to perhaps 33-35 in the near term, but any SM's deployed on-shore would not be available for deployment off-shore onboard the Aegis ships unless additional procurements were made. There is also the issue of the industrial capacity and whether the US can over what time build such missiles at a faster rate. All of these things need to be determined.

As was previously planned, the Aegis ships would "steam to the threat"; to the extent that the Navy would always have a presence in the Mediterranean 24/7/365, at least 3 ships would be on station generally, each armed with 6-10 interceptors, with another ship riding "shotgun". This would provide somewhere near 30 interceptors but could be overwhelmed by a salvo of more than 15 attacking missiles if we shot two interceptors at each Iranian rocket. The exact deployment pattern has not been worked out yet; however, with the development of solid-fueled Iranian rockets, we would have less warning time to "steam to the threat" and therefore a fixed, sustained capability 24/7/365 could be provided eventually by the SM ashore-and hopefully that deployment will be available sometime between 2015-2018. I predict that whatever we build and deploy, the Russians will begin a campaign of objections as deployment approaches.

Apparently both Poland and the Czech Republic view these prospective deployments, including associated radars with the Standard Missile deployments on land positively and any such deployments could help cement missile defense as an integral part of NATO's defense role in the region and the ongoing defense relationship with the US.

Dieter Farwick: What was the main political rationale for the decision? And what is the new "burden"?

Peter Huessy: I believe the new administration saw the proposed deployments as a "bridge too far"; that Russian cooperation on Iran, (doubtful at best), was worth the cost in their view; that substitute missile defenses could eventually be deployed that made sense given the Aegis and SM infrastructure available, including the fact that Spain, Italy and the Netherlands also had Aegis assets which could be complimentary; and that domestic critics of missile defense could not be persuaded to support near term budgetary support for such high visibility systems.

One US critic traveled to Prague and claimed the US deployed radar would cause birth defects among Czech children. The charge made headlines but was preposterous on its face. My own view is that even the appearance of having caved to Russian pressure is very bad form.

The same arguments were heard when in 1981-3 the Reagan administration worked first to procure ground launched cruise missiles and Pershings and second worked to deploy them in Italy, Germany, England and the Netherlands. I worked on these issues, especially in getting Congressional approval for the funding necessary to actually build the INF rockets. The nuclear freeze critics and their Soviet allies spend hundreds of millions to defeat Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl and the Pope, (who also obliquely supported the deployment). Many of these same critics were against missile defense deployments as well.

As for whether we needed to "give" to Moscow something in order to secure a new START or SORT agreement, the Russians do not want to spend the money to maintain more than the nuclear deterrent strategic systems they see as relatively modern. That is what they are proposing to keep---some 1675 warheads on roughly 500 launchers. Their remaining systems would largely be modernized. The Russians are asking us to make major concessions in return for them making decisions they already have made! We should keep all our Minuteman missiles, (450), all of our Trident submarines, (14) and the number of bombers dedicated to the nuclear role that our leaders believe is required. While warheads can be reduced, given the extended deterrent the US must provide our allies; the wide advantage the Russians have in numbers of tactical nuclear weapons; and the relative modernization efforts for our strategic systems, the US should concentrate on counter proliferation with respect to Iran and North Korea and especially the continued assistance by Russia and the PRC for both ballistic missile programs of these two countries and their nuclear programs, including nuclear weapons. Russia and China are spurs to proliferation and are complicit in supporting terror sponsoring regimes. That is where the real attention of NATO and the western world must be focused.