Winning on Ballistic Missiles but Losing on Cruise: The Missile Proliferation Battle

Dennis M. Gormley

Because Europe and the U.S. forces based there face a near-term ballistic missile threat, President Barack Obama’s decision to abandon a Bush-era missile defense plan makes good sense. In contrast to President George W. Bush’s approach, which focused primarily on a few potential ICBMs, Obama’s is more suited to Iran’s growing arsenal of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The Obama decision also provides an opportunity to reflect on how the ballistic missile threat has evolved over the last 25 years. There is reason to believe that missile nonproliferation policies have contributed to preventing the flow of specialized skills and technologies that are critical to enabling the leap from medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to intercontinental ones. This success has been reinforced by U.S. ballistic missile defenses, which have kept pace with the way the ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea has emerged thus far.

Yet, the situation with regard to cruise missile proliferation is different. Cruise missile nonproliferation policies are less potent, and defenses are woefully inadequate, which may explain the sudden outbreak of cruise missile proliferation in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia. Unless the Obama administration focuses on making missile controls, which are the primary focus of this article, and missile defenses function in tandem to address the threats from both ballistic and cruise missiles, the overall missile threat to U.S. interests could severely worsen in the years ahead.

Partial Success

Nearly a decade ago, Richard Speier, one of the principal architects of the now 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), argued cogently that the MTCR and missile defenses were not in fact antithetical pursuits but complementary ones.[1] From the outset of the regime, Speier noted, this complementarity was reflected in the MTCR’s goal of targeting missile research, development, and production, while missile defenses focused on targeting the missile once it was launched. According to Speier’s analysis, effective missile defenses should raise the cost of offensive missiles by compelling nations to seek more-effective offensive missiles, larger inventories, and countermeasures (at least for long-range missiles traveling in space). The MTCR should make the job of missile defense easier to achieve by stretching missiles’ development time, lowering their reliability, and reducing their sophistication.

Despite its imperfections, the MTCR—the only existing multilateral arrangement covering the transfer of missiles and missile-related equipment, material, and technology relevant to weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—has brought a significant degree of order and predictability to containing the spread of ballistic missiles, especially with regard to a threatening state’s development of missiles capable of achieving intercontinental ranges. This was evident in the White House fact sheet issued to support the Obama administration’s alternative missile defense plan for Europe, which said, “The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles is developing more rapidly than previously projected, while the threat of potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities has been slower to develop than previously estimated.”[2]

There is little doubt that Iran’s slower than expected progress toward achieving ICBM capabilities is due to the MTCR’s success in blocking the flow of critical technologies and specialized expertise needed for such an achievement.[3]

Dependence on an intelligence community threat assessment returns the Obama administration to the long-standing notion of “threat-based” planning wherein major defense acquisition programs require a specific explication of the threat in order to justify the expenditure of major resources. The Bush administration’s secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had come away from chairing the 1998 Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States newly appreciative of the tendency of U.S. policymakers, he argued, to underestimate the tenacity, resourcefulness, and determination of adversaries to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.[4] Consequently, Rumsfeld formalized capabilities-based planning in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review; thereafter, capabilities were to be developed to handle the full range of likely future challenges rather than a narrow set of predictable threat scenarios. Missile defense funding, focused primarily on protecting the U.S. homeland, rose accordingly.

Rumsfeld dismissed planning on the basis of intelligence community threat projections. The panel he chaired, known informally as the Rumsfeld Commission, established a misguided, though influential, threat metric that suggested a straightforward path for states such as Iran and North Korea to develop ICBMs. As the commission report argued, “With external help now available, a nation with a well-developed Scud-based infrastructure would be able to achieve first flight of a long-range missile up to, and including, intercontinental ballistic missile range (greater than 5,000 km) within about five years of deciding to do so.”[5]

In 1998, Iran and North Korea each possessed more than just a Scud-based ballistic missile infrastructure; both countries had begun producing Scud missiles in the mid-1980s. Moreover, the two countries have benefited from a symbiotic relationship in missile development through shared research, development, and test results, bolstered by Iran’s purchases of North Korean missiles, missile components, and technical assistance. A critical component of this relationship was Iran’s willingness to conduct proxy tests of Nodong missiles for North Korea during the latter’s nearly eight-year test moratorium after the 1998 Taepo Dong-1 test produced a strong international backlash.

What accounts for the fact that neither North Korea nor Iran has achieved ICBM ranges more than 10 years after the Rumsfeld Commission issued its report and nearly 25 years after they achieved Scud production capability? In light of North Korea’s pursuit of three-stage ballistic missiles and a space-launch vehicle (SLV) and Iran’s progress in two-stage missiles and an SLV program, both states are presumably seeking such a capability. Their slow progress attests to the difficult challenges associated with moving from medium-range ballistic missiles to intermediate- and intercontinental-range ones.

The critical variable is the availability of external technical assistance. The Rumsfeld Commission assumed the existence of such help but did not specify that such assistance comes in various forms. In ascending order of importance, these include explicit representations of missile technology embodied in engineering drawings and blueprints; component technologies, such as light alloys to replace steel-bodied air frames; missile production equipment; and sustained and direct help from systems integration and systems engineering specialists who can furnish the specialized know-how needed to grapple with advances in propulsion systems, thermally protected re-entry bodies, and the complex staging needed to achieve intercontinental range.

Because of the MTCR’s expanding export control guidelines and technical annex, the ways and means of acquiring a ballistic missile have become much more complex since the creation of the regime in 1987. Prior to that time, the Soviet Union and secondary proliferators such as Libya and North Korea had directly provided Scud ballistic missiles to client states. Today, largely due to the MTCR, states seeking a ballistic missile capability are forced to take a different, more complicated approach, often including multiple front companies, intermediaries, transshipment means, and diversionary routing of subsystems and materials, all often supported by money-laundering transactions, designed to work around MTCR controls.

During the MTCR’s first decade in operation, the regime’s denial of provisions and diplomatic engagement helped thwart the missile programs of Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, South Africa, South Korea, Syria, and Taiwan.[6] Additional measures, such as the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), have greatly enhanced cooperation among a growing list of partner states with regard to intelligence sharing, diplomacy, and improved techniques to detain, inspect, and seize suspicious cargo. As Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, Ulrik Federspiel, declared in May 2005, “[T]he shipment of missiles has fallen significantly in the lifetime of PSI.”[7] In mid-2006, a senior Department of State official said that PSI cooperation had stopped some exports to Iran’s missile program.[8]

Another important change has occurred since 1987: an increasing recognition by government nonproliferation officials of the importance of blocking the transfer of highly specialized knowledge, or “black art” skills, to missile programs of proliferation concern. These skills are critical to the goal of achieving substantially longer-range ballistic missiles. The transfer mechanism for these skills consists of lengthy face-to-face engagements between highly skilled missile specialists, especially systems engineers, and their mentees within Iran or North Korea, for example. This more advanced form of external assistance likely began to diminish significantly in the aftermath of several of the more egregious cases of Russian external support to foreign missiles programs in the early 1990s.[9] The shortage of specialized assistance only increases the need for North Korea and Iran to cooperate and set up a division of labor in pursuit of their missile ambitions. Yet, both are likely to struggle mightily toward the goal of achieving a capability to produce intercontinental-range missiles.

The Cruise Missile Problem

Although Speier’s ideal approximation of how the MTCR and missile defense might complement each other seems to have proven valid for ballistic missiles, it does not appear to hold true for cruise missiles. Cruise missile proliferation shows dangerous signs of vertical and horizontal momentum. Beginning in the 1960s, short-range (about 100 kilometers) anti-ship cruise missiles (about 75,000) spread to more than 70 countries, including 40 in the developing world. Until very recently, sophisticated and much longer-range cruise missiles for attacks against land targets remained largely the domain of a few industrial states, most notably the United States and Russia. Since 2004, however, land-attack cruise missiles have begun to spread across the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia.[10]

In the Middle East, Israel was once the sole country possessing land-attack cruise missiles, but now Iran is pursuing cruise missile programs for land and sea attack, including the reported conversion of 300 Chinese HY-2 anti-ship cruise missiles into land-attack systems. Iran’s surreptitious acquisition via arms dealers in Ukraine of at least six Russian Kh-55 nuclear-capable, long-range (about 3,000 kilometers) cruise missiles in 2001 will likely assist that country’s quest to produce more sophisticated long-range cruise missiles for attacking land targets. Iran has provided the terrorist group Hezbollah with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles, one of which severely damaged an Israeli vessel and killed four sailors during the 2006 war in Lebanon.

In South Asia, India and Pakistan are deploying land-attack cruise missiles for delivery of nuclear and conventional weapons. India, with Russian collaboration, is developing the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, plans for which include deployment with Indian army, navy, and air force units. The BrahMos can strike targets over land or at sea at a range of nearly 300 kilometers, while flying at mach 2.8. India has at least two other land-attack cruise missile programs underway, including one, called Nirbhay, similar to the U.S. Tomahawk with a range of 1,000 kilometers and another shorter-range one co-developed with Israel’s help. In August 2005, Pakistan surprised the world by successfully launching its first land-attack cruise missile, called Babur, purportedly a nuclear-capable ground-launched missile with a range of 700 kilometers. Two years later, it tested a second land-attack cruise missile, the air-launched Raad, with a 350-kilometer range. Pakistan claims they are indigenously produced, but it appears evident that at least China has helped in a substantial way.[11]

In Northeast Asia, China has recently unveiled two new land-attack cruise missiles, including the ground-launched DH-10 with a range of more than 1,500 kilometers and the air-launched YJ-63 with a range of 500 kilometers. According to the Pentagon’s 2009 annual report to Congress on China’s military power, the Second Artillery Corps has already deployed between 150 and 350 DH-10s, which complement the corps’ huge inventory of more than 1,000 ballistic missiles facing Taiwan. Taipei, for its part, first tested its HF-2E land-attack cruise missile in 2005 and seeks to extend its current 600-kilometer range to at least 1,000 kilometers, to reach targets such as Shanghai, and potentially 2,000 kilometers, so that even Beijing is within range. As many as 500 HF-2E cruise missiles were originally sought for deployment on mobile launchers. Not to be outdone, South Korea announced after North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 that it had four new land-attack cruise missiles under development with ranges between 500 and 1,500 kilometers. The South Korean press took immediate note that all of North Korea, as well as Tokyo and Beijing, would be within range of these new cruise missiles. Even Japan, a nation whose constitution renounces war and offensive forces, is toying with the prospect of acquiring land-attack cruise missiles.

Uneven Controls, Weak Norms

What explains the sudden outbreak of cruise missile proliferation? First, compared to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles suffer from more unevenly executed controls and weak international norms against their spread. When the MTCR was formulated in the mid-1980s, the spread of ballistic missiles was a much greater concern than the spread of cruise missiles. Moreover, the regime’s authors found that delineating controls on cruise missiles and UAVs was a more challenging proposition than identifying which ballistic missile technologies to control. Yet, the regime sought to limit both ballistic and cruise missiles, called Category I items, capable of carrying a payload of 500 kilograms for at least 300 kilometers.[12]

After a considerable struggle, MTCR members succeeded in reaching a modest consensus on cruise missiles and UAVs, but actions taken by MTCR members between 1998 and 2002 cemented the status of cruise missiles and UAVs as a lower-priority concern. The first was the decision taken in 1998 by French and British leaders to sell the Black Shahine cruise missile to the United Arab Emirates, notwithstanding U.S. protestations. Making the transaction even more profoundly disturbing was the missile’s advanced characteristics. Not only was the missile subject to the regime’s strong presumption of denial due to its combination of range and payload, but it also possessed an extraordinarily low radar cross section and stealthy aerodynamic design. Thus, it had the same characteristics that, in ballistic missiles, inspired the MTCR’s authors in the first place, i.e., difficulty of defense, short warning, and shock effect. Of even greater concern was the precedent such a sale might have on other MTCR members or regime adherents, such as Russia or China, respectively.

Although U.S. objections to the Black Shahine transaction may have suggested a firm U.S. position with respect to equal treatment of ballistic and cruise missile transfers, U.S. behavior after the Black Shahine decision was ambiguous. In its long, drawn-out negotiations with Seoul prior to South Korea joining the MTCR in March 2001, Washington strongly urged a cap of 300 kilometers for the range and 500 kilograms for the payload in Seoul’s future ballistic missile programs, although allowing Seoul to “research” 500-kilometer ballistic missiles. Yet, the United States allowed South Korea the option of pursuing cruise missile development to what the United States thought would be a maximum range of 500 kilometers, as long as the payload was under 500 kilograms.[13] Here again, Washington’s differentiation between cruise and ballistic missiles conveyed the impression that the consequences of cruise missile proliferation were not terribly important compared with the spread of ballistic missiles. Ironically, during missile negotiations with Seoul in 1999, Washington had steadfastly insisted that Seoul not pursue missiles beyond the 300-kilometer range, arguing that 500-kilometer systems provided little additional military utility, especially in light of the financial cost and the risk of fueling a missile competition with Pyongyang and fomenting suspicion in China, Japan, and Russia.

Another form of unwelcome differentiation practiced by some MTCR members is making a rare exception to the regime’s “strong presumption to deny” the transfer of proscribed Category I missiles.[14] For example, the United States has transferred Category I Tomahawk cruise missiles to the United Kingdom and Spain, fellow members of NATO. Although Russia and South Korea are not formal allies, Moscow transferred a Category I first-stage liquid rocket to Seoul to support South Korea’s program to develop an SLV called the Naro-1, which made its inaugural flight August 25. Washington had earlier refused to help Seoul achieve its SLV ambitions, which places that nation in the position to convert such a launcher into a long-range ballistic missile were Seoul to violate the end-use restrictions to which it committed itself in order to acquire support from Russia. The chief difficulty with this type of differentiation is that it makes objecting to undesired missile proliferation behavior elsewhere more difficult.

Washington’s informal differentiation between ballistic and cruise missiles became even more apparent when the MTCR membership fashioned the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, which was launched in 2002 and now has 130 nations subscribed to its normative principles. By agreeing on a set of general principles and commitments designed to establish broad international norms and confidence-building measures dealing with the proliferation of ballistic missiles alone, the code of conduct fostered the wrong impression about acceptable and unacceptable missile activity. In effect, by not including cruise missiles in the code’s mandate, the initiating states created the notion that although curbing the spread of ballistic missiles was in the best interests of peace and regional stability, the unbridled spread of cruise missiles somehow would have less pernicious consequences.

Weak international norms related to cruise missiles have affected India’s behavior with regard to the utility of confidence-building measures and access to foreign cruise missile technology. Although India has not subscribed to the Hague Code of Conduct, which urges subscribers to implement pre-launch notifications, New Delhi has cooperatively pursued a missile launch notification agreement with Islamabad. From the outset of negotiations, Pakistan sought to include cruise missile launches in the agreement. India balked, not least because prior to a tentative agreement between the two countries in August 2005, only India had tested cruise missiles. With Pakistan’s surprise launch of its own cruise missile barely a week after the tentative accord was reached, New Delhi must have begun to reconsider its shortsightedness in keeping cruise missiles out of the agreement. By April 2006, after Pakistan had successfully conducted its second flight test of its new cruise missile, India signaled its interest in bringing cruise missiles into the joint notification accord. Thus far, cruise missiles remain outside this important regional accord, intensifying concerns about the destabilizing impact of a cruise missile arms race in South Asia.

The perception of normative differentiation between ballistic and cruise missiles also appears evident in India’s attempts to acquire cruise missile technologies to extend the range of its nascent cruise missile programs. Pakistan’s surprise cruise missile test in 2005 prompted calls in the Indian press to extend the range of the BrahMos cruise missile at least to that of Pakistan’s Babur and much farther if possible. Such an extension in range, it was noted, would require access to restricted technologies from Russia, an MTCR member state. The Indian press assumed that obtaining these technologies was feasible because the BrahMos cruise missile, unlike India’s ballistic missiles, was not subject to the same level of international scrutiny. Although there is no evidence that Russia has aided India in an extended-range version of the BrahMos cruise missile, Indian officials have publicly spoken of a BrahMos follow-on capable, within a decade, of traveling 1,000 kilometers at hypersonic speeds.

Even more provocative was India’s failed attempt in 2006 to flout existing MTCR guidelines by approaching the European missile giant, France-based MBDA Missile Systems, in hopes of obtaining a technology transfer arrangement and complete cruise missile systems. The Indian press reported that the deal fell apart in last-minute negotiations, but a more likely explanation is that after the respective French and Indian defense organizations reached a tentative agreement, the deal was nixed by the French government in light of obvious MTCR restrictions.[15] Since then, India has turned to Israel for assistance in achieving longer-range cruise missiles while India and Pakistan compete for advantage with new cruise missile deployments.

Inadequate Defenses

The second reason that cruise missiles are spreading relates to another unfortunate impression only growing in strength: that cruise missiles are undetectable and therefore highly survivable.

Until the 2003 war against Iraq, ballistic missiles were broadly seen as capable of penetrating U.S. missile defenses. During that conflict, however, while Patriot missile defenses successfully intercepted all nine threatening Iraqi ballistic missiles, they failed to detect or intercept any of the five primitive cruise missiles that Iraq employed.[16] Furthermore, changes in rules of engagement necessitated by having to deal with ballistic and cruise missiles contributed to the downing of two friendly aircraft by Patriot missiles. Before the 2003 war, cruise missiles were rarely depicted as weapons virtually impossible to intercept. Soon after, that message became the featured narrative accompanying the launch of nearly every new land-attack cruise missile program discussed earlier in this article.

Foreign Assistance

As with ballistic missile proliferation, outside technical assistance, particularly the specialized skills possessed by experienced systems engineers, is a critical proliferation factor in most new cruise missile programs. Chinese fingerprints are all over Pakistan’s cruise missile developments, while Russian engineering is known to have enabled China to further its cruise missile ambitions beginning in the early 1990s. Russian technical assistance, formalized in a joint agreement, has boosted India’s capacity to join the supersonic cruise missile club; Israel has helped India with its subsonic cruise missile programs. Iranian cruise missile programs depend heavily on foreign-trained engineers who honed their skills in five different countries. Even though the United States has sought to forestall Taiwan’s cruise missile ambitions with diplomatic interventions, Taiwan obtained critical U.S. cruise missile technology to improve the performance of the cruise missiles being developed under its new program. Unless the flow of foreign skills and technology is stanched soon, cruise missiles will only spread further.

Repairing the Damage

To address the spread of cruise missiles, several approaches deserve policymaker attention. The first is to take a more evenhanded approach to improving defenses against ballistic and cruise missiles. Demonstrably improved U.S. missile defenses against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles have made cruise missiles much more attractive to the country’s adversaries because U.S. cruise missile defenses remain weak and poorly managed.

Fighter aircraft equipped with advanced detection and tracking radars possess some modest capability to deal with low-volume cruise missile threats. If the cruise missile threat grows uncontrollably, however, the comparatively high cost of missile defense interceptors could make such defenses increasingly unaffordable and ultimately ineffective in coping with combined ballistic and cruise missile attacks. Existing U.S. cruise missile defense programs are underfunded, while doctrinal, organizational, and interoperability issues continue to discourage the military services from producing truly joint solutions for defending U.S. forces and allies. Homeland defenses are even more sorely lacking, but cruise missile defenses for safely projecting force overseas should take priority over the more improbable threat of a terrorist group launching a cruise missile from a freighter.

Also worthy of policymaker attention is the idea of working with Russia, within the NATO-Russia Council, on expanding the mandate of the Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI) beyond its current goal of achieving a system of air traffic information exchange along the borders of Russia and NATO member countries. The CAI, working in possible cooperation with functionally equivalent U.S.-funded Air Sovereignty Operations Centers in the former Warsaw Pact states, could form the basis for investigating an expansion of air monitoring capabilities to the domain of cruise missile warning and defense. Russia’s long-standing prowess in developing effective air defense systems, including the S-400, which can intercept ballistic and cruise missiles as well as aircraft, could fit nicely into a broad-area concept for European cruise missile defense.[17]

No less important is the complementary challenge of improving MTCR controls covering cruise missiles. Beginning in 2002, the MTCR began to fill many of the then-existing shortcomings in cruise missile controls, notably by creating a uniform set of ground rules for determining the true range of cruise missiles, expanding licensing requirements for civil engines and integrated flight navigation systems, and establishing new controls over complete UAVs equipped with aerosol dispensers. The import of these seemingly arcane adjustments was, in fact, substantial. Creating a coordinated list of controlled technologies representing potentially the most dangerous items from a proliferation point of view is a critical component of effective, although not foolproof, nonproliferation policy.

More must be done to shore up cruise missile controls. The cruise missile threat could grow dramatically worse if countries incorporate stealthy features or, worse, add certain highly tailored countermeasures to already stealthy cruise missiles. The addition of language in the MTCR’s technical annex covering specially designed countermeasure equipment, such as towed decoys and terrain-bounce jammers, which mimic the missile they protect, is critically important. The latter two devices will become commonplace as cruise missile observability shrinks through improved aerodynamic design and the addition of stealthy materials.[18] Also, as Speier has long argued, the United States should push to incorporate controls covering the export of ballistic missile countermeasures that render ballistic missile defenses more problematic.[19]

Detection of substantial transfers of specialized knowledge is conceivable; such transfers therefore are risky for the perpetrator. The MTCR should heighten awareness of the importance of monitoring such intangible technology transfers and highlight opportunities for intelligence sharing and collaboration among key member states.

The MTCR is criticized for including states that matter little as threats to proliferate missile-relevant items and for not including the world’s foremost proliferators. If China became the chief global dispenser of cruise missiles and the specialized know-how central to their further development, an intensification of the emerging missile contagion would be a near certainty. China’s membership status (it unsuccessfully sought membership in 2004) and its point of view on what technologies should be controlled (China’s national export controls fall short with regard to cruise missiles) stand as perhaps the greatest MTCR challenge today.

On balance, it would be better to have China operating from within the MTCR than as a mere adherent. Even though China was for years considered a proliferator, Beijing was permitted to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 2004. Critics used most of the very same concerns about Beijing’s poor proliferation track record and weak enforcement mechanisms to argue against Beijing’s NSG accession, but Bush administration officials countered by stating that China had made enough improvements to warrant NSG membership. Formal accession to the MTCR would mark not only China’s involvement in a key security institution it doubted for many years, but also, more broadly, its increasingly close engagement in international economic and political institutions. Continuing to block China’s accession to the MTCR could backfire by encouraging Beijing to increase its incautious behavior regarding missile sales. That would make it easier for China to subvert U.S. security interests from the comfort of Beijing’s imprecise and occasionally self-serving adherent relationship with the MTCR today, most notably with regard to cruise missiles.

Last but not least is the need to repair the Hague Code of Conduct’s shortsighted normative treatment of missile proliferation. Certainly, countries such as South Korea and the United States that are wary of seeing cruise missiles added to the code of conduct’s mandate view them as precision delivery systems for conventional weapons, not as a means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Lawrence Freedman has observed that “cruise missiles…are to some extent the paradigmatic weapon” of the revolution in military affairs, which is perceived as a decidedly conventional, not WMD, phenomenon.[20] Sadly, some states, notably India and Pakistan, are acquiring cruise missiles with nuclear and precise conventional delivery in mind. Cruise missiles are conservatively 10 times more effective than ballistic missiles in delivering biological weapons.[21] Moreover, by tying precision conventional-strike systems to pre-emptive war doctrines, states are moving closer to lowering the vital threshold between peace and war and escalation to WMD use.

Sentiment is growing for broadening the code’s mandate to include cruise missiles. Beginning in 2003, the 14-member independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Hans Blix, deliberated for more than two years to develop “realistic proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction.”[22] On WMD delivery systems, the commissioners unanimously recommended the following: “States subscribing to the Hague Code of Conduct should extend its scope to include cruise missile and unmanned aerial vehicles.”[23] As missile proliferation specialist Aaron Karp notes, “If it is to prosper, expanding the Hague Code of Conduct to include cruise missiles probably is inevitable, if only because so many governments want it.”[24] The time is ripe to make the Hague Code of Conduct relevant to the changing nature of ballistic and cruise missile proliferation.

Table 1: Selected Cruise Missile Programs

Beginning in 2004, there was an outbreak of new land-attack cruise missiles in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia. Current capabilities of selected countries in those regions are detailed below.

Country System

Range (kilometers)

Payload (kilograms) Status Origin
China Dong Hai-10 (DH-10) 2,000 Operational China
YJ-63 500 500 In development China
India PJ-10 BrahMos 290 300 In development/In service Russia/India
Nirbhay 1,000 In development India
Lakshya 350 600 Potential/Unknown Israeli help
Iran Converted HY-2 350 500 Potential/Unknown China
Kh-55 Potential/Unknown Ukraine
Pakistan Babur/Hatf 7 700+ In development China
Raad/Hatf 8 350 In development China?
South Korea Cheonryong 500+ In development South Korea
Boramae 500+ In development South Korea
Hyunmoo III 1,000 In development South Korea
Hyunmoo IIIA 1,500 In development South Korea
Taiwan Hsiung Feng-2E (HF-2E) Less than 1,000 400-450 In development Taiwan

Source: Data adapted from Dennis M. Gormley, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), app. A.

Dennis M. Gormley is a senior fellow in the Washington office of the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ JamesMartinCenter for Nonproliferation Studies, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and author of Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (2008).


1. Richard Speier, “Can the Missile Technology Control Regime Be Repaired?” in Repairing the Regime, ed. Joseph Cirincione (Washington. DC: Routledge, 2000), pp. 202-216.

2. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy,” September 17, 2009,

3. On the MTCR’s broad accomplishments, see Vann Van Diepen, “Missile Nonproliferation: Accomplishments and Future Challenges,” International Export Control Observer, No. 5 (March 2006), pp. 16-18. See also Dennis M. Gormley, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), pp. 32-34, 157-158.

4. Bradley Graham, The New Battle Over Shielding America From Missile Attack (New York: Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 41-42.

5. “Executive Summary of the Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” July 15, 1998,

6. Dinshaw Mistry, Containing Missile Proliferation: Strategic Technology, Security Regimes, and International Cooperation in Arms Control (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).

7. Arms Control Association, “Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) at a Glance,” 2007,

8. Mary Beth Nikitin, “Proliferation Security Initiative,” CRS Report for Congress, RL34327, September 10, 2009, p. 3 (citing Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph’s remarks on July 18, 2006).

9. The Russian case of detecting 200 illegally obtained passports for Makayev Design Bureau scientists, engineers, and family members and the detention of 36 of them at a Moscow airport before their departure for Pyongyang in 1992 shows that these activities can be detected and forestalled. The Russian government has advised scientists and engineers at enterprises suspected of aiding Iranian and North Korean missile programs that if they were subjected to U.S. sanctions for their activities, the government would take additional measures to penalize such behavior. Gormley, Missile Contagion, pp. 156-159.

10. For documentation and analysis of these developments and others discussed in this article, see Gormley, Missile Contagion.

11. Ibid., pp. 73-74.

12. Frederick J. Hollinger, “The Missile Technology Control Regime: A Major New Arms Control Achievement,” in World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1987, ed. Daniel Galick (Washington, DC: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1988), p. 26.

13. See Mistry, Containing Missile Proliferation, p. 96. Mistry states that the policy declaration that Washington negotiated with Seoul included a trade-off provision allowing South Korea to develop 500-kilometer-range land-attack cruise missiles with a 400-kilogram warhead. South Korean press reports uniformly indicate that the agreement placed no restriction on the range of cruise missiles as long as the payload remained under 500 kilograms.

14. For a discussion of these examples, see Gormley, Missile Contagion, ch. 9.

15. Former French export control official, e-mail communication with author, July 2007.

16. For a full account, see Gormley, Missile Contagion, ch. 7.

17. For further elaboration, see Dennis M. Gormley, “The Path to Deep Nuclear Reductions: Dealing With American Conventional Superiority,” Institute Français des Relations Internationales, Fall 2009, pp. 40-41.

18. There is reason to believe that endgame countermeasures for cruise missiles can be controlled under the MTCR. Equipment that can be legitimately exported as part of a manned aircraft is not subject to control under the MTCR. Endgame countermeasures, however, such as towed decoys and terrain-bounce jammers, must be specially designed to work with the particular missile they are to protect, to achieve the intended mimicking of the radar signature.

19. Richard Speier, “Missile Nonproliferation and Missile Defense: Fitting Them Together,” Arms Control Today, November 2007,

20. Lawrence Freedman, “The Revolution in Military Affairs,” Adelphi Paper, No. 318 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 70.

21. Eugene McClellan, interview with author, Arlington, Virginia, August 1997.

22. See Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms,” May 2006, p. 15,

23. Ibid.

24. Aaron Karp, “Going Ballistic? Reversing Missile Proliferation,” Arms Control Today, June 2005,