Is Missile Defense Obsolete?

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by pyromaniac, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Pentagon to render "nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete" by building a system to "intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil." Thus, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – or Star Wars, as it was called by its critics – was born.

    Originally conceived as a shield against Soviet ballistic missiles, the missile defense program has gone through several changes. When the Soviet Union withered away, SDI became GPALS (Global Protection Against Limited Strikes) in the waning days of the Bush 41 administration. Instead of a shield, the goal of GPALS was to be able to intercept a ballistic missile launched from anywhere in the world and aimed anywhere in the world [.pdf]. During the Clinton administration, GPALS gave way to NMD, or national missile defense, with a goal of building a missile defense system within the constraints of and consistent with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) became the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). Under George W. Bush, the BMDO became the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which was a promotion, since in the Department of Defense an agency is higher on the food chain than an organization. In a case of going back to the future, the mission of the MDA is "to develop and field an integrated, layered, ballistic missile defense [BMD] system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends against all ranges of enemy ballistic missiles in all phases of flight."

    Throughout the various incarnations of the Pentagon’s missile defense program, its supporters continued to argue that missile defense was necessary to protect America from the grave threat of ballistic missiles – often using doom-and-gloom scare tactics. For example, according to MissileThreat.com (a project of the Claremont Institute): "The greatest strategic threat to the United States is an attack by one or more ballistic missiles armed with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. Today, the United States remains completely vulnerable to this form of attack." To be fair, the truth is that we are defenseless against ballistic missiles. If a nuclear ballistic missile were launched against the United States, we would have no choice but to wait for it to detonate. But that truth needs to be put in context. First, only two other countries currently possess ballistic missiles with sufficient range and armed with nuclear warheads to reach the United States: Russia and China. But Russia is not the foe that the former Soviet Union was. Although the U.S. and Russia still target each other (probably in large part because de-programming the targeting codes is not a simple matter, plus the respective military establishments would have to explain why they need nuclear weapons that aren’t aimed at each other), the U.S.-Russian relationship is not strictly adversarial, nor are the two countries engaged in direct military competition.

    According to the most recent Pentagon report, "Military Power of the People’s Republic of China" [.pdf], China currently has only about 40 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the United States. Even with expected strategic nuclear force modernization, China would still lag far behind Russia. Moreover, it is still to be seen if China aspires to become a strategic hegemon and military competitor with the United States. Doing so would require closing a huge gap, with the United States having a tremendous head start. And the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal (still thousands of warheads) acts as a strong deterrent against any ballistic missile attack, since such an attack would provide a return address for sure and swift retaliation.

    Despite all this, the Heritage Foundation has the chutzpah to portray an end-of-civilization scenario in its 33 Minutes: Protecting America in the Missile Age documentary, which, in a less than subtle ploy playing on Americans’ 9/11 fears, uses a soundtrack with Middle Eastern overtones. Heritage’s James Carafano, standing at ground zero in New York City, intones, "Imagine if instead of planes this had been a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile" – even though terrorists would not likely use ballistic missiles, given their size, cost, technical complexity, and the aforementioned return-address phenomenon. And you have to love former undersecretary of state Robert Joseph proclaiming that "hope is not a good foundation for a national security strategy." I guess Heritage believes fearmongering is.

    So missile defense acolytes must have been taken by surprise last week by Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Cartwright, formerly the head of U.S. Strategic Command (the operational military command with responsibility for missile defense), "Ballistic missiles are about as passé as e-mail." Cartwright essentially said what many critics of missile defense have been saying all along: "No stupid person, enemy out there would be so silly as to come at us anymore with a minimum-energy trajectory. Come on. Give me a break. There’s just no reason to. I mean, even the people that we would call Third World have gone beyond that."

    In other words – according to second highest-ranking person in the military, not some peacenik critic – ballistic missile defense is all but obsolete. So much for:

    * the more than $120 billion that has been spent since SDI was launched in 1983;
    * the handful of interceptors put in holes in the ground in Alaska as part of an initial deployment;
    * the planned deployment of interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively; and
    * the establishment of a new $38.5 million Missile Defense Agency headquarters command center at Fort Belvoir, Va. (part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommendations to close and consolidate military facilities).

    You would think this would give the Pentagon reason to pause and maybe think about canceling – or at least scaling back – the program. But as with practically every other major weapons system, you would be wrong. Not surprisingly, Gen. Cartwright believes that the technologies being developed for ballistic missile defense could be used against new threats, such as maneuverable warheads and trans-atmospheric vehicles. But why should we believe that ballistic missile defense technologies will work against these threats when BMD has yet to prove itself to be operationally capable and militarily effective against ballistic missiles? According to February 2009 testimony to the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee by Dr. Charles E. McQueary, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, "There’s simply not been enough testing done in order to be able to state" a high level of confidence in the missile defense system. And McQueary essentially admitted that the Pentagon doesn’t know whether missile defense would work if tested under actual live fire: "If the North Koreans launched an attack against us this afternoon, we wouldn’t say we need more test data before we decided whether we were going to launch against and try to intercept that. We’d see how the system works and we’d find out."

    Yet even as Cartwright argued that the missile defense program should be reconfigured to deal with new and emerging threats (despite not yet being capable against current threats), he provided a damning reason for pulling the plug before another hundred million dollars is frittered away: "The reality is that our ability to stay up with the pace of change, to outguess the enemy, to be able to be in the right place at the right time, has never been a forte of the military. We almost always guess wrong."

    Just put a fork in it. It’s done

    http://original.antiwar.com/pena/2009/03/31/is-missile-defense-obsolete/
     
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  3. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Missile defense technology is a continuously evolving technology and as long as nations of the world continue to produce ballistic missiles,together with greater range and sophistication,the counter technology will be developed.

    At the moment missile defense technology revolves around countering a hostile missile with another missile,even though it has been critiqued as ineffective against a theater ballistic missile attack,it also has been presumed that given the current level of military technology,a mass simultaneous BM launch is out of question.

    However Missile Vs Missile based scenario will become redundant in the near future and militaries of the world will look newer technology.Most sought after aerodefence technology will perhaps be plasma or EMP based.missiles and aircraft's dedicated to aero-defence will carry plasma or EMP devices which will then be released in the pre determined trajectory entry zone of hostile missiles.the plasma devices will explode and release a mass cloud of energized particles which will effectively turn that environment into highly charged one,inhospitable to electronic hardware(like missiles and aircrafts)

    These devices can effectively protect vast areas of a nations aerospace against hostile intrusion.
     
  4. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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    SATA what about laser based defense systems. As producing high energy lasers becoming easy the missiles can be targeted at light speed. What you say?
     
  5. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    The idea of using laser or charged energy beams to counter hostile aerial threats is not new and perhaps they were thought of even before the BMD's came into vogue.apart from other disadvantages which have staggered its adoption for air defense,the photon beams by their very character are linear because of which they are probably still ineffective against mass aerial attack scenario.....

    defense pundits visualize a missile defense as something that provides an umbrella like cover and that can simultaneously disable mass hostile entities(like large number of aircrafts and missiles)
     
  6. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    Sounds fanciful... but trust me its not as easy as it sounds, especially with development of hyper-sonic cruise missiles.
     
  7. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Yes laser based system will find it difficult to contend with a super sonic missiles with trajectory maneuvering capability,which why they are looking at non linear technology.EMP(or Plasma) technology actually were consequence of research into defense system based on charged particles and pretty much work on the same principle except in a non linear manner.

    A shield offers better protection than a scabbard
     
  8. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    An EMP can backfire on the defender.
    If an EMP pulse is released in the atmosphere, it would disable all electrical and electronic devices in its spherical radius.
    It could take out our radar sites, AWACS sensors, anything !

    And only the targeting modules of the missile would be destroyed. The missile will go stupid but if it is designed to explode on contact, it would still do quite a lot of damage. And if its loaded with a nuclear warhead....

    So I prefer systems like THAAD instead of illusions of Star Wars.
     
  9. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    Good point...instead of using fancy EMP pulses or lasers a country can develop a pretty good missile defensive system by relying on "crude" interceptors. The kinetic energy of a missile will be more than enough to take out any incoming cruise/ballistic missile. Doing so will make it easier and cheaper to produce; not to mention safer to store as there will be no chemical/explosive content in the interceptor.

    The EMP option can be used as a last resort or in in the worst case scenario can be used in the upper atmosphere to disable enemy satellites.
     

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