"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Theater Missile Defense

U.S., Europe Anti-Missile Plans Upset Russia

Wade Boese

A U.S. bid to base anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is provoking strong reactions from Russia, including hints that it might abrogate a two-decade-old treaty restricting Russian missile holdings.

Moscow has consistently opposed Washington’s proposal to base long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Europe since it first became public in 2004. (See ACT, July/August 2004. ) But January revelations that Washington has approached Prague and Warsaw to start formal negotiations over deployment options have reinvigorated the Kremlin’s denunciations.

Lieutenant General Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told reporters Jan. 25 that the proposed stationing of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a high-powered radar in the Czech Republic were not aimed at Russia, but primarily Iran. Tehran’s longest-range deployed missile, the Shabab-3, which some Iranian officials claim can fly up to 2,000 kilometers, could reach southern Europe. The MDA contends Iran might acquire a missile capable of striking the United States before 2015.

In a Feb. 10 speech blasting the United States at a high-level security conference in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Iran as a threat justifying the U.S. bases. Putin said the fielding of missile defenses in Europe “cannot help but disturb us.”

Days later, top Russian military officials, including General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of Russia’s general staff, implied Russia could react to the U.S. interceptors by withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This accord, which led to the destruction of 2,692 missiles, bans U.S. and Russian possession of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Putin also indicated Russia was re-evaluating the INF Treaty, although he attributed the deliberations to the accord’s inequity of forbidding Russia from having missiles similar to those being acquired by other countries. “It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security,” Putin stated.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates registered concerns about the treaty’s possible abrogation. He told reporters Feb. 15 that it would be “a problem for us” and a “special problem” for European countries. Gates also said a Russian INF Treaty withdrawal could not be linked plausibly to the proposed European anti-missile units because they pose “no threat to Russia.”

Obering made a similar case Jan. 25, noting that Russia’s hundreds of ballistic missiles vastly outnumber the 10 planned interceptors. He further pointed out that the anti-missile systems would be physically incapable of stopping Russian missiles launched at the United States because the interceptors would be attempting to catch Russian missiles from behind as they fly away from, not toward, the interceptors.

The MDA chief also said he had kept Russian officials informed of U.S. plans and “will continue to work closely with the Russians.” Obering noted, however, that the United States would have to secure the agreement of host governments to permit Russian delegations to visit any future U.S. anti-missile sites on the continent.

If the Polish and Czech governments quickly consent to U.S. plans, Obering said construction could begin in 2008 and the sites could be operational as soon as 2011. He projected costs could total $3.5 billion and said that the United States would pick up the full tab.

U.S. lawmakers last year trimmed requested funding for exploratory site work from $56 million to $32.8 million and provided $63 million for initial work on 10 interceptors that could be deployed in Europe or the United States. MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Feb. 20 that the administration’s February fiscal year 2008 budget request asks for about $225 million for the European sites. Fiscal year 2008 begins Oct. 1.

The United States is currently deploying and testing the ground-based interceptor model designated for Europe. The model scored its first intercept of a target last September, while earlier prototypes tallied five hits in 10 attempts during rudimentary testing. (See ACT, October 2006. )

Similar to the Fort Greely, Alaska, interceptor field, which totaled 14 interceptors at the end of February, no interceptors will be flight-tested out of the European site. Obering said that, during a real attack, there probably would not be time to consult a host government before launching an interceptor.

Sovereignty concerns, doubts about the system’s capabilities, and comments by Russian officials that they would target the anti-missile sites have caused mixed opinions among the Polish and Czech populations about the endeavor. Nevertheless, leaders in each country say they are inclined to engage in formal negotiations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Forces Policy Brian Green told reporters Jan. 25 that the United States has been “very, very pleased” with discussions with the two governments and that Washington has “every expectation that our more intense discussions…will succeed.” Green and Obering said, however, that alternatives existed if negotiations with the two countries failed.

A U.S. bid to base anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is provoking strong reactions from Russia, including hints that it might abrogate a two-decade-old treaty restricting Russian missile holdings. (Continue)

Missile Defense Remains Budget Priority

Wade Boese

Anti-missile programs have been a consistent Bush administration funding favorite, and its recent budget request to Congress continues the trend. All told, the Pentagon is seeking approximately $10.8 billion for its various missile defense projects.

The full Department of Defense fiscal year 2008 spending submission equals $623 billion and is supposed to fund all military activities, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the year beginning Oct. 1. But the Pentagon also asked lawmakers Feb. 5 for an extra $93 billion to bridge an estimated spending shortfall through Oct. 1, primarily to maintain ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most of the proposed future missile defense funding is part of the $75 billion research, development, test, and evaluation portion of the Pentagon budget because many of the systems are works in progress. The task of readying them for action rests primarily with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The MDA initially planned this year to ask for $9.3 billion, the same amount as last year’s budget request, but the Pentagon instructed the agency to shave $500 million. Still, the leftover $8.8 billion bid stands as the third largest ever for the MDA or its predecessors and accounts for roughly 80 percent of all proposed fiscal year 2008 missile defense spending.

About one-half of the MDA funds are dedicated to the agency’s three anti-missile systems undergoing or on the verge of deployment. The rudimentary, long-range Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is allocated the largest slice of the budget, at $2.5 billion. The ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and the ground-mobile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) are allotted $1 billion and $858 million, respectively. These two systems are geared toward stopping short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, but the MDA hopes ultimately to upgrade them to counter long-range missiles too.

The $2 billion in non-MDA missile defense spending is dispersed among the Air Force, Army, and Joint Staff. Almost one-half of this amount, $912.5 million, is on tap for the Army’s short- and medium-range ballistic missile defense system, the Patriot, which has a mixed battlefield record. (See ACT, November 2003. ) The Army intends to allocate nearly $473 million for purchasing 108 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors. By the end of this year, the Army PAC-3 inventory is projected to number some 540 interceptors.

The Air Force aims to spend $587 million for the Space-Based Infrared System-high (SBIRS-high) program and $231 million on the Alternative Infrared Space System. Both satellite constellations are intended to spot ballistic missile launches around the world. The Air Force initiated the second program last year because of concerns about the rising costs and technical viability of SBIRS, although its initial orbiting sensor is reportedly performing well.

The MDA hopes that one of the Air Force systems can eventually be paired with the MDA’s own nascent Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) to provide seamless and precise tracking of hostile ballistic missiles worldwide. The MDA is seeking $331.5 million for the program, which is supposed to launch two demonstration satellites this year. But the STSS also has been prone to delays. Indeed, the MDA reported in January that the launch of possible follow-on satellites to the first duo have slipped at least four years to 2016.

The MDA has touted SBIRS and the STSS as key data contributors to the agency’s signature GMD system. Under orders from President George W. Bush, the MDA fielded the first GMD interceptor in July 2004 despite the system’s sparse and spotty testing record. More than two years later, the MDA scored the first and, to date, only intercept of a target in flight using an interceptor model the same as those deployed. (See ACT, October 2006. )

As of the end of February, 14 GMD interceptors were emplaced in Alaska and another two stationed in California. The MDA aims to raise the total to roughly two dozen by the end of this year and up to 54 by 2011, including 10 in Europe.

Similarly, the MDA is looking to build up its sea-based component, the Aegis defense, which has scored seven hits in nine intercept tests. Seven warships are now outfitted with the Aegis missile defense engagement capability, and three more are supposed to join their ranks this year. The MDA envisions up to 18 vessels armed with a total of 83 interceptors sailing the world’s waters by 2011.

The MDA aims to add THAAD interceptors to the deployment mix by 2009. After experiencing a seven-year intercept testing hiatus, THAAD has hit targets in two recent experiments, the latest on Jan. 27. THAAD interceptors are designed to collide with enemy ballistic missiles as they descend toward the ground.

The agency also is trying to perfect two systems to counter missiles shortly after their launch, when they are still ascending. But both projects, the Airborne Laser (ABL) and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), pose significant engineering and technical challenges.

The MDA recently pushed back by a year to 2009 the first shoot-down attempt of a target in flight by the ABL aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 equipped with a powerful laser. This is six years later than originally scheduled.

Indeed, the Bush administration initiated the fast accelerating, ground-based KEI in 2003 as a possible ABL replacement. Now the KEI is experiencing similar problems. Its potential operational availability has moved back four years to 2014.

Still, the agency is currently standing by both programs. The MDA is seeking nearly $549 million for the ABL and $227.5 million for the KEI. MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Feb. 20 that KEI bore much of the agency’s $500 million cut.

The other program primarily affected was the agency’s proposed space-based test bed. This project calls for deploying and testing by around 2012 a few satellites armed with interceptors. The MDA had slated $45 million for initiating work but slashed it to $10 million. Future annual funding is projected to climb to $124 million in fiscal year 2013.

The MDA nearly doubled funding this year for another futuristic effort, the Multiple Kill Vehicle. Slotted for $271 million, this program aims to develop kill vehicles small enough so several can fit on a single interceptor. This capability, which is supposed to be ready for flight by 2012, would lessen the requirement for satellites or interceptors to try and discriminate an actual warhead from any decoys or other countermeasures employed to confuse a defense.

Critics say that the MDA’s anti-missile systems, most notably the GMD, are vulnerable to decoys and countermeasures. They contend tests must be made more challenging by conducting them under greater real-world conditions and against more realistic targets.

The Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, the Pentagon’s independent weapons testing office, shares a similar view. In an annual survey of arms programs, the office recently described the U.S. missile defense capability as “very basic” but “increasing.” Although the office assessed the MDA as conducting “disciplined ground and flight testing,” it noted that the programs need “additional flight test data under stressing conditions…to increase confidence in the models, simulations, and assessment of system capability.”

At least one lawmaker, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), is almost certain to pay careful attention to the testing reporting. Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Levin has been critical of the Pentagon’s missile defense approach. “I think it’s a mistake to purchase all of the missiles before we know that they’re going to work,” he told reporters last November.

If Levin’s remarks are any indicator, the Bush administration may find its latest missile defense spending proposal to be a tougher sell this year with Congress under Democratic control than it has been in previous years when Republicans ruled.

Anti-missile programs have been a consistent Bush administration funding favorite, and its recent budget request to Congress continues the trend. All told, the Pentagon is seeking approximately $10.8 billion for its various missile defense projects. (Continue)

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Daryl G. Kimball

The Cold War may be over, but the nuclear-armed missiles and suspicions remain. Now, Washington’s plan to deploy ground-based missile interceptors in the former Eastern Bloc—coupled with the expansion of NATO and the Bush administration’s resistance to further offensive nuclear reductions—are increasing Moscow’s anxieties about U.S. strategic missile capabilities.

U.S. officials say their anti-missile systems are designed to deal with a potential Iranian missile force not Russia’s. They correctly note that even if 10 U.S.-controlled missile interceptors are eventually stationed in Poland, Russia’s missiles could overwhelm and evade the defenses with far cheaper countermeasures.

Rather than simply dismiss Russia’s complaints as an overreaction, U.S. and European leaders should engage Russia in a broad strategic dialogue and negotiate further, verifiable reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. If the situation is mishandled, it could revive dormant tensions and instability.

Recent signs do not bode well. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military leaders said a European-based anti-missile system could trigger a new arms race and lead Moscow to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. That pact led to the elimination of more than 2,600 U.S. and Soviet short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles, and with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), helped thaw the Cold War confrontation less than a generation ago.

The commander of Russia’s strategic forces also bluntly warned Poland and the Czech Republic that if they host U.S. anti-missile systems on their soil, Russian forces would be “capable of having these installations as their targets.” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shot back, calling the comment “extremely unfortunate.” The Czech foreign minister accused Russia of “blackmail.”

It was not supposed to be this way. Five years ago when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, he asserted that U.S. withdrawal would not “in any way undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Putin resisted the move but could do little to stop it. To save face, Putin successfully pressed Bush to codify planned reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, which led to the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).

But SORT, unlike previous agreements, provides far too little predictability and transparency. SORT obliges Russia and the United States to reduce their respective deployed strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200 by 2012, but the warhead limit expires the day it enters into force, allows each side to retain thousands of nondeployed reserve warheads and delivery systems, and provides no new monitoring or verification mechanisms.

The approach gives U.S. defense planners the flexibility to reconstitute a larger nuclear force and utilize leftover strategic nuclear delivery systems for conventional strike missions. Having discarded the ABM Treaty, the Bush administration rushed to deploy rudimentary ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska beginning in 2004. It wants to deploy a similar system in Europe around 2011. Russia, which is no longer able to maintain parity, sees these combined developments as a threat to its shrinking nuclear strike force. Making matters worse for both sides, START is due to expire at the end of 2009, and with it the verification provisions that U.S. strategic forces commander General James Cartwright has said promote transparency and stability.

It was in this context that on June 27, 2006, Putin called for the resumption of the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear dialogue. Unfortunately, U.S. officials rejected Russia’s September proposal for expert-level talks. Without the transparency and limits of START and INF Treaty, the United States and Russia risk returning to the distrust, worst-case assumptions, and arms competition of the past.

Now, Bush is asking Congress for $225 million for fiscal year 2008 to begin building the anti-missile system in Europe. Lawmakers should reject the project, which can’t work effectively, is intended to counter a potential Iranian missile threat that is still years away, and would undermine other risk reduction priorities.

Congress should also call on the White House to pursue talks with the Kremlin to preserve the INF Treaty and START verification provisions, and to accelerate the drawdown of the still massive and dangerous U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles. Thousands of these warheads remain on high alert. Withdrawal of the 400-some U.S. short-range nuclear weapons in Europe could spur cuts in Russia’s far larger arsenal of these smaller and more portable nuclear weapons, which remain high-value targets for terrorists and a threat to everyone.

Russia ’s cynical rhetoric should not be seen as an invitation to confrontation so much as a reminder that there has not been enough meaningful cooperation. Given the long history of U.S.-Russian nuclear rivalry and Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, U.S. and Russian leaders must extend the life of their existing arms control agreements and seek new reductions to reestablish trust and stability.

The Cold War may be over, but the nuclear-armed missiles and suspicions remain. Now, Washington’s plan to deploy ground-based missile interceptors in the former Eastern Bloc—coupled with the expansion of NATO and the Bush administration’s resistance to further offensive nuclear reductions—are increasing Moscow’s anxieties about U.S. strategic missile capabilities.

U.S. officials say their anti-missile systems are designed to deal with a potential Iranian missile force not Russia’s. They correctly note that even if 10 U.S.-controlled missile interceptors are eventually stationed in Poland, Russia’s missiles could overwhelm and evade the defenses with far cheaper countermeasures. (Continue)

Israel Looks to Bolster Arms Capabilities

Wade Boese

After absorbing thousands of rocket and missile attacks this summer, Israel is keener than ever to expand its missile defenses. As international tensions with Iran mount, Israel also is moving to boost its offensive military capabilities with the purchase of two new submarines.

Reacting to the July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants, Israel launched a four-week offensive to root out and eliminate members of the radical Shiite group in southern Lebanon. As Israeli air strikes pounded targets across southern Lebanon and its ground forces poured across the border, Hezbollah unleashed a torrent of rocket attacks against northern Israeli cities.

By the time hostilities ended Aug. 14, 3,970 rockets and missiles had struck inside Israel, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The projectiles killed 43 Israeli civilians and forced more than a million people to seek protection in shelters, the ministry reported.

Israel possesses two operational anti-missile systems: the joint U.S.-Israeli Arrow and the U.S.-manufactured Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2). Although both systems were activated during the recent conflict, no interceptors were fired because the incoming rockets were of a shorter range capability than the two missile defenses are designed to counter.

An estimated 80 percent of the rockets that struck Israel were 122-millimeter Katyushas with ranges of 20 kilometers or less and flight times of roughly one to two minutes. Hezbollah also fired 220-millimeter and 302-millimeter rockets but did not apparently launch many Fajr-type missiles, with ranges of 40 to 70 kilometers, or a single one of its longest-range missiles, the Zelzal, which has an estimated range of up to 200 kilometers. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that it succeeded in destroying some of these more potent missiles before they could be fired.

Prior to the recent conflict, the Israeli government had estimated that Hezbollah had stockpiled up to 12,000 rockets and missiles primarily from its patrons in Iran and Syria. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserted in an Aug. 15 statement that “most of the missiles [that] hit Israeli cities were manufactured by Iran.”

To prevent Hezbollah from importing additional arms, UN Security Council Resolution 1701, approved Aug. 11, calls on countries to prevent arms shipments into Lebanon except to the Lebanese government. The resolution also reiterates a demand from Resolution 1559 two years ago that Lebanon disband and disarm all militias inside its borders.

On Sept. 12, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had provided personal assurances that his country, a key conduit for arms into Lebanon, would “undertake all necessary measures” to implement the arms embargo. The Lebanese government also pledged to deploy more troops along its border with Syria to prevent arms flows into Lebanon and requested that the United Nations help step up maritime patrols along the 200 kilometers of Lebanese coastline. France, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom have pledged to provide forces for this mission.

Still, Israel harbors doubts about the potential effectiveness of the embargo, particularly because it blames Lebanon for failing to disarm Hezbollah over the past two years. The group “would never have obtained the missiles and military equipment at its disposal had the Lebanese government not allowed this weaponry to reach Lebanon,” according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hezbollah remains defiant. In a Sept. 22 speech, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah claimed the group still possessed 20,000 rockets and that “no army in the world” could disarm it, according to several press reports.

Consequently, Israel is looking to secure itself, in part, by augmenting its missile defense capabilities to intercept shorter-range rockets. Earlier this year, Israel started moving in this direction by selecting Raytheon Corp. and Israel’s Rafael Corp. to develop the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD). This program is supposed to produce an interceptor missile that is faster and has a greater range than the PAC-2.

Yet, the system will be geared toward destroying projectiles with greater ranges than the Katyushas, leaving Israel vulnerable to attacks by these and similar shorter-range rockets. To address this void, Israel is evaluating a series of weapons concepts, including lasers, with the goal of selecting an option by the end of this year.

The United States and Israel previously explored a joint laser system, the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser, for the Katyusha-type threat, but Washington terminated the program in September 2005. Dan O’Boyle, a spokesman for Army missile defense programs at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, told Arms Control Today Sept. 20 that the program was cancelled because of “higher priority funding requirements and pressing financial obligations to support our deployed soldiers.”

In general, Israel relies on U.S. funding to pursue its anti-missile projects. For example, the United States has provided roughly $1.5 billion since 1988 to the Arrow program. Israel keeps its missile defense funding secret.

With U.S. help, Israel is also aiming to improve the Arrow. Israel wants to expand the interceptor’s range, enable it to conduct intercepts at a higher altitude, and possibly shift it to a kinetic, or hit-to-kill, capability. Current Arrow interceptors employ a conventional explosive warhead.

Israel’s motivation for pursuing these upgrades is to stay ahead of what it views as Iran’s efforts to enhance its ballistic missile arsenal and develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s Shahab-3 is estimated to be capable of striking Israel. (See ACT, November 2004. )

The recent conflict with Hezbollah, which Israel considers an Iranian proxy, appears to have sharpened Israel’s concerns about Iran. “I think the Iranian threat is now also clearer,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters Sept. 13 in Washington.

In a move aimed at bolstering its military capabilities vis-à-vis Iran, Israel in July signed a contract to purchase two Dolphin submarines from Germany. The deal came to light in August.

Israel already has three earlier versions of the diesel-electric-powered vessels, which allegedly have been outfitted to carry nuclear-armed missiles. (See ACT, November 2003. ) Although generally suspected of building up an inventory of nuclear weapons numbering in the tens to low hundreds, Israel adheres to a policy of nuclear ambiguity, only saying that it will not be the first country to “introduce” nuclear arms into the region. The German government has said the submarines are not designed to deliver nuclear weapons.



After absorbing thousands of rocket and missile attacks this summer, Israel is keener than ever to expand its missile defenses. As international tensions with Iran mount, Israel also is moving to boost its offensive military capabilities with the purchase of two new submarines. (Continue)

Missile Defense Funding Soars to New Heights

Wade Boese

President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget re quest reaffirms his administration’s commitment to deploying an array of anti-missile systems, including to Europe , despite continuing uncertainty about whether they work. Submitted to Congress Feb. 6, the roughly $11.2 billion request for missile defenses is the largest ever by the Bush administration.

The proposed anti-missile funding is part of a total Pentagon bud get request of $439 billion, although this does not include military spending for Afghanistan and Iraq.

The largest portion of the missile defense funding request, $9.3 billion, is slated for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Another $899 million would go for perfecting and procuring the Patriot, the Army’s short- and medium-range missile interceptor. Nearly $669 million is tapped for the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System- high, which is a satellite constellation that is supposed to spot missile launches worldwide. The troubled system is years behind schedule, and cost estimates have more than doubled. Most of the rest of the funds are spread out among the Air Force, Army, and Navy for integrating and operating various systems as they are fielded. If approved by Congress, this funding would cover activities between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2007.

Pentagon officials count three systems as deployed or ready for emergency use: Patriot, which had mixed results during the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq invasion (see ACT, November 2003); the fledgling Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) against long-range ballistic missiles; and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System for countering short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. These systems, as well as the nascent Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to intercept ballistic missiles near the end of their flights, are singled out for the largest slices of funding. The GMD is earmarked for almost $2.9 billion of the MDA funds, while Aegis and THAAD will get roughly $1 billion apiece.

GMD funding plans call for adding an unspecified number of long-range interceptors to the eight already deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska. MDA stated last December that it would no longer announce when new interceptors are deployed “in the interest of operational security.” (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Still, in a recent budget document, MDA projects that in 2007 there will be up to 20 ground-based interceptors stationed in Alaska, along with the two already emplaced in California. It further predicts that 24 Aegis system interceptors will be deployed, as well as 534 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors.

By that time, MDA also is envisioning a fuller complement of radars to help interceptors get a better fix on enemy ballistic missiles. Currently, two upgraded early-warning radars are operating in Alaska and California. The additional radars will include a sea- based X-band radar, two mobile land-based radars (one in Japan and another in an undisclosed location), and upgraded early-warning radars based in the United Kingdom and Greenland.

As early as 2010, MDA is also aiming to deploy long-range missile interceptors in Europe. The recent budget proposal includes $56 million to begin exploring interceptor sites on the continent, agency spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Feb. 16. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have all held discussions with the U.S. government about hosting missile defenses. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Although generally taking an expansive approach to its various systems, MDA did scale back plans but not funds for two programs: the Airborne Laser (ABL) and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI). These boost-phase systems are geared toward destroying ballistic missiles during the first few minutes of their flight.

The ABL, which involves arming a modified Boeing 747 with a powerful laser, was supposed to attempt to shoot down its first target in 2003, but that plan has slipped until 2008. Given this delay and the technical challenges still facing the system, MDA has demoted the program to a demonstration project and will postpone plans on producing additional ABL aircraft until after the scheduled 2008 experiment is completed.

Similarly, the deployment schedule for the KEI, a fast-accelerating land-based interceptor, has been pushed back another year to 2014. MDA is aiming to conduct the inaugural KEI flight test in 2008 but has no firm date for when such a system might be tested against a target.

Another longer-term MDA goal is to deploy up to five space-based interceptors for testing purposes by about 2012. MDA Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering told Arms Control Today in September 2005 that funding for this effort would begin in 2008 (see ACT, November 2005). And Lehner confirmed that the recent budget request contains no money toward that end.

Performance Doubts Persist

In its Feb. 3 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon listed the deployment of missile defenses as one of its accomplishments since 2001. It stated that this action provided a “nascent defensive capability.”

Yet, the Pentagon’s own testing office and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) both published less sanguine assessments in January.

Evaluating the overarching complex of anti-missile systems, the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation found “there is insufficient evidence to support a confident assessment of Limited Defensive Operations.” However, the office noted, “[t]here is developmental test data that suggests the system may have some inherent defensive capability.”

In 2005, MDA conducted one THAAD flight test, two Aegis intercept tests, and two GMD interceptor flight tests. The Aegis tests were successful intercepts of targets, while the other three tests did not involve targets.

The GMD system last intercepted a target in October 2002, and at that time it employed a prototype interceptor that is not the same as the current model deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon testing office stated GMD testing was “limited by the immaturity of some components” and lacked “operational realism.”

CRS national defense specialist Steven Hildreth similarly found GMD testing data to be “insufficient” for drawing a conclusion about whether the system could destroy a long-range ballistic missile fired at the United States. In general, Hildreth described missile defense testing as producing “mixed and ambiguous results,” although he reported that testing for systems against short- and medium-range missiles “appears more promising.”


President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget re quest reaffirms his administration’s commitment to deploying an array of anti-missile systems, including to Europe , despite continuing uncertainty about whether they work. Submitted to Congress Feb. 6, the roughly $11.2 billion request for missile defenses is the largest ever by the Bush administration. (Continue)

Army Report Details Patriot Record in Iraq War

Wade Boese

A new Army report reaffirms earlier Pentagon claims that the Patriot missile defense system destroyed all Iraqi missiles that it engaged during the invasion of Iraq, but does not fully account for why the system failed to target several other Iraqi missiles fired at U.S. forces and Kuwait. The report also describes several operational challenges to the system’s performance that emerged in the buildup to and unfolding of the conflict.

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is charged with protecting U.S. ground forces from air and missile attacks, recently released its account of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As part of that history, the command reports that the Patriot missile defense system, which is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, scored a perfect nine for nine in intercepting Iraqi missiles. Colonel Charles Anderson, chief of staff of the command, wrote, “The critics concerns over Patriot lethality should be forever silenced.”

Yet Iraq fired at least 23 ballistic and cruise missiles, according to the report, during the three-week span it took U.S. forces to fight their way to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Of the 14 Iraqi missiles not engaged by Patriots, four were reported as outside the range of any Patriot system and one exploded shortly after launch. No official explanation is given for why the other nine Iraqi missiles were not fired upon, though the report implied that at least three might have been because their trajectories were judged to be non-threatening.

Patriots also did not down any Iraqi cruise missiles, which are powered for their whole flight, can maneuver, and fly at low altitudes. Due to these flight characteristics, a cruise missile can be difficult for radars to track or confused with aircraft.

Although dismissing several Iraqi cruise missile attacks that caused no casualties as ineffective, the report acknowledged, “continued [cruise missile] attacks may have forced us to change our tactics.” The report later added that “the ability of these older cruise missiles to penetrate friendly airspace and reach their targets should serve as a warning…that the emerging cruise missile threat must be addressed.”

The other Iraqi missile that presented a special challenge was the short-range FROG-7 missile. Because of their brief flight times, the missiles must be detected and engaged within roughly 90 seconds, forcing Patriot commanders to make rapid firing decisions. The report recommended that the Army consider putting more senior officers in charge of Patriot batteries in the future to ensure effective decision-making.

Iraq did not launch any Scud missiles, which an earlier version of the Patriot had little success against in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Originally built by the Soviet Union and sold prolifically, Scuds are aging, short-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a several hundred kilogram payload.

The report also pointed out difficulties in getting the Patriot systems up and running. The Iraqis, who waited to fire any missiles at U.S. forces until after the invasion started, might have caught U.S. forces unprepared to use Patriots if they had attacked earlier.

Up until just two days before the U.S. invasion began, Patriot radar systems were regularly malfunctioning due to the harsh environmental conditions. Raytheon, the Patriot manufacturer, sent engineers out to the field to get the systems working properly.

Once hostilities commenced, another problem arose. Due to the enormous amount of electronic equipment involved in the fast-moving battle, there was, in the report’s term, “cluttered cyberspace.” Electronic signals interfered with each other, creating confusion for radars and communication systems. The report said this could have contributed to one Patriot’s mistaken intercept of a U.S. fighter aircraft. Another Patriot destroyed a British jet.

An analysis should be done on battlefield electromagnetic interference and new tactics and techniques should be created to deal with the problem, the report recommended. It further stated that these should be “applicable to the environment in the Korean Theater of Operations.” The United States is currently in a standoff with North Korea over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and roughly 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. These forces are equipped with Patriots.

Although Patriots are mobile and some moved forward with U.S. troops into Iraq, the report stressed that the system should be better designed to operate “cross-country” or off-road. “Since the armed forces of the United States are now an offensive force (as opposed to the Cold War, defense of Europe orientation) it is imperative that Patriot become more mobile and able to sustain maneuver over time,” the report concluded.

U.S. forces possess three versions of Patriot missiles. The newest is the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, which accounted for two of the nine Iraqi missile kills.

The Army Inspector General is also conducting a study on the Patriot’s performance and U.S. Central Command is investigating the two friendly-fire incidents.

A new Army report reaffirms earlier Pentagon claims that the Patriot missile defense system destroyed all Iraqi missiles that it engaged during the invasion of Iraq...

NATO-Russia TMD Cooperation In New Phase

The 19-member NATO alliance and Russia will begin trading technical information on their various systems to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles to see if the defenses could possibly work together or operate side by side in battle. NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson announced the new cooperation at a May 13 meeting in Moscow.

This new “interoperability” study is expected to take months, not years, and will cost approximately one to two million dollars, according to a NATO spokesperson. The objective is not for NATO and Russia to build a joint system, but to assess how their separate systems might function together.

A NATO-Russia Council ad hoc working group on theater missile defenses (TMD) will conduct the study. TMD systems do not include defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. Created in June 2002, the group recently completed a compendium of approximately 250 common terms for air and missile defenses in English, French, and Russian.

Lord Robertson expressed optimism about the new study, predicting that it would be “enormously productive in the future.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin first proposed the creation of a European TMD system in mid-2000. Russia later presented a vague proposal on the subject to NATO in February 2001. Some commentators interpreted Moscow’s efforts as an attempt to undercut the U.S. push to win acceptance of its strategic missile defense plans.

Missile Defense Post-ABM Treaty: No System, No Arms Race

Wade Boese

Last June 13, the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, eliminating the treaty’s limits on the U.S. ability to develop and deploy nationwide defenses against long-range ballistic missiles and dampening three decades of contentious debate over whether the United States should pursue such defenses.

In the days and months leading up to the withdrawal, two sharply contrasting forecasts of the potential consequences had clashed. Missile defense proponents, who vilified the ABM Treaty as jeopardizing U.S. security by shackling efforts to protect the country against growing ballistic missile threats, suggested that rapid progress toward the deployment of effective defenses could be achieved once the treaty was abolished. Critics and skeptics of missile defense argued otherwise, warning that the treaty’s demise might make the United States less safe by provoking a new arms race. They asserted Russia might halt or reverse cuts to its nuclear forces and China could respond by expanding its arsenal, which would likely spur India and then Pakistan to follow suit. Those dubious of missile defense also added that the largest impediment to making missile defense work was not the ABM Treaty but the limits of technology.

To date, neither side’s prediction has proven prescient. The United States has not made great strides toward having an operationally reliable nationwide missile defense. The limited missile defense deployment plan for 2004 and 2005 that President George W. Bush announced last December is essentially the same as that proposed by the Clinton administration. Two of the three systems to be fielded under the Bush plan would have been permitted under the ABM Treaty, which barred Washington and Moscow from deploying nationwide defenses against long-range or strategic ballistic missiles but allowed limited defenses against short- and medium-range missiles. The third system to be deployed was originally designated as part of a new test site and possibly could have been legal under the treaty. On the other hand, negative repercussions from the treaty withdrawal appear minimal. Russia criticized the move as a mistake, but no country is known to have launched or expanded a weapons buildup in response to the U.S. withdrawal.

It is still too soon to draw definitive conclusions about whether the United States will derive any significant advantage from abrogating the ABM Treaty or reap more benefits than costs. Missile defense programs initiated in the withdrawal’s wake could take years to show results. Likewise, another country’s arms buildup or hostile attitude in response to the treaty’s end might take some time to become apparent. Nevertheless, preliminary assessments can be made about both sides’ claims.

Assessing the Case for Withdrawal

Since Bush’s December 13, 2001, announcement of his intention to withdraw the United States from the ABM Treaty, as well as the subsequent withdrawal, Bush administration officials have identified three main benefits of exiting the treaty. First and foremost, the United States secured the freedom to deploy any and all strategic missile defense systems that it wants, anywhere it wants. Under the treaty, the United States could deploy no more than 100 ground-based interceptors in North Dakota to protect against long-range ballistic missiles. Second, the Pentagon gained a freer hand to explore and test technologies and basing modes, such as sea- or space-based systems, that were proscribed against long-range ballistic missiles. Third, the Pentagon received greater license to pursue foreign cooperation on missile defense. Though the rhetoric has soared with the treaty’s end—J. D. Crouch, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, described the United States as being “liberated” in a March 2003 address—measurable results have been modest.

Deploying a Test Bed

The most visible move by the Bush administration since the ABM Treaty withdrawal has been Bush’s December 17, 2002, missile defense deployment announcement. Under the plan, the Pentagon will seek to deploy a total of 10 ground-based strategic missile interceptors in 2004. Six of the interceptors are to be located at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The Pentagon also aims to field another 10 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely in 2005, up to 20 sea-based interceptors on three ships, and an undisclosed number of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors.

With the exception of the second wave of ground-based interceptors in 2005, the administration’s deployment plan might have been permissible under the ABM Treaty. Both the PAC-3 and the sea-based missile interceptors are designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which is a mission known as theater missile defense (TMD). The ABM Treaty did not prohibit TMD systems. And prior to the treaty withdrawal, the Pentagon had unveiled a plan to station six ground-based strategic missile interceptors at Fort Greely as elements of a new test site. The ABM Treaty permitted the addition of new test sites, although there was uncertainty within the State Department over whether the United States simply needed to notify Russia of a new test site or gain Moscow’s approval to establish it. Pentagon statements that the test site could possibly be used in an emergency situation, blurring its status as an operational or test site, complicated the matter. Ultimately, what had been conceptualized and first described as a test site before the decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty then became a deployment following the treaty’s end. Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has been frank about Fort Greely’s dual nature. He testified before a Senate subcommittee April 9 that “[i]n other words, instead of building a test bed that might be used operationally, we are fielding an initial defensive capability that we will continue to test.”

Although the ground-based interceptors scheduled for deployment at Fort Greely were a key element of the Clinton administration’s National Missile Defense (NMD) program and have been under development for years, they have not been tested in their final form yet. The interceptor’s booster, which carries the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) that is to collide with a warhead in space, has not been flight-tested or selected. A surrogate booster has been used in all eight intercept tests to date. Originally, the Pentagon was supposed to have a new booster for intercept testing by early 2001. However, the booster’s development has been significantly delayed. Two competing models are each to be flight-tested twice this summer. Depending on their performance, the Pentagon will choose one or keep both for future intercept testing and deployment.

In general, the strategic ground-based system to be deployed beginning in 2004 is unproven. Thomas Christie, who heads the Pentagon’s office of operational test and evaluation, reported to Congress in a February report that the proposed defense “has yet to demonstrate significant operational capability.”

The system’s eight intercept tests to date—five of which have proven successful—have not been very challenging or representative of a real-world scenario. Citing range limitations and safety considerations, the Pentagon has essentially been repeating the same test at a lower altitude and slower speeds than what a real intercept is likely to demand. The target in all the tests has been equipped with a C-band transponder, and data from that transponder is used to calculate the intercept plan guiding the interceptor into space toward the target. MDA justifies this practice as necessary due to the lack of a radar in the testing area to track the target in its early stages of flight. Information on the target is also fed into the EKV before the intercept attempt so that it can identify the mock warhead from among the other objects, including decoys, in the target cluster. The decoys used in the testing, balloons that are not vaguely similar to the mock warhead, are also largely considered unrepresentative of the foils a potential enemy might employ.

The Pentagon does not refute these criticisms but argues that such limitations and artificialities are the norm in early weapons testing. Kadish recently described the tests as “very scripted,” and Christie suggested the tests have been “relatively unrealistic.” Both officials say more complicated and stressful testing is soon to come. At the same time, documents submitted with the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2004 budget request reveal that MDA has cut several intercept tests previously planned prior to 2009. Between eight to 10 intercept tests are now planned over the next six years. One Senate Democratic staffer remarked in a May 14 interview that MDA’s testing plans have gone from “impossible to execute to anemic.” The staffer was referring to the fact that in recent years the Pentagon suggested it hoped to conduct up to four or even five intercept tests per year. A MDA spokesperson defended the schedule changes May 20, contending that a test schedule is “always notional, as it is for all weapon systems, and is adjusted to meet program needs.”

Despite the system’s acknowledged rudimentary and relatively untested nature, the Bush administration sees no reason not to deploy it. The underlying rationale is that something is better than nothing and can always be improved. In a May 20 document explaining its missile defense approach, the White House described the 2004 deployment as a “starting point” upon which it will add new systems when they become ready. The White House further contended that it is pursuing an “evolutionary approach” to missile defense and that there will be no “final, fixed missile defense architecture.” Democratic lawmakers have criticized this approach, claiming it results in systems being fielded prematurely.

New Tests, Same Uncertainty

The ABM Treaty specifically ruled out the testing, development, and deployment of strategic missile defense systems or components that were air-, sea-, space-, and mobile land-based. Recognizing that neither Washington nor Moscow would be able to verify what went on behind closed doors, the treaty’s negotiators did not bar research. Moreover, the treaty did not prohibit work on TMD systems, such as the PAC-3 that saw action in Iraq. Under the treaty, however, TMD systems and their components could not be tested or used against long-range targets.

In addition to the NMD program designed to counter strategic ballistic missiles, the Bush administration inherited several TMD programs from the Clinton administration. Many missile defense advocates inside and outside government were keen to see if some of these systems could contribute to or perform strategic intercepts. The ABM Treaty withdrawal provided the Pentagon with the opportunity to test such possibilities.

Since the treaty withdrawal, the Pentagon has conducted only two strategic missile defense intercept tests; one succeeded and one failed. In both, the Pentagon involved radars and sensors from various TMD systems to check whether they might be able to play a role in future strategic missile defenses. A ship-based radar, the Aegis system’s AN/SPY-1, was incorporated into both tests. A ground-based radar for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and a sensor on the Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft—a modified Boeing 747 that is to be outfitted with a powerful laser—were part of the second test. All three systems participated in “shadow mode,” meaning they were used to observe the target, but the data they acquired was not used to aid the intercept attempt. All the sensors performed well, according to the Pentagon, although there has yet to be a determination whether they worked well enough to support a strategic intercept. The MDA spokesperson said May 20, however, that the ship-based radar could provide targeting data to “help” the ground-based interceptor system “develop a better firing solution.”

Some missile defense supporters have suggested that THAAD, ABL, and the ship-based system, which has been renamed twice by the Bush administration and is now known as Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), might be able to do more than just track long-range targets—that they could also shoot them down. Yet, the Pentagon has not tested this proposition largely because the three systems have not proven themselves against the missiles they were initially designed to defend against. Long-range missile warheads travel at least seven to eight kilometers per second, which is nearly twice as fast as a medium-range missile, making strategic targets more elusive. The current Aegis BMD interceptor missile is deemed too slow by half to intercept a long-range missile warhead, and it has only been tested three times against relatively big targets moving slower than a medium-range ballistic missile warhead. The THAAD system has not been tested since the summer of 1999, when it destroyed two nonstrategic targets after failing in six straight tests, and is not to be flight-tested again until late 2004. The ABL aircraft has not been equipped with its laser, and the program’s future is clouded. Kadish noted at the April hearing, “[W]e are right on the edge of making this very revolutionary technology either prove itself or fail. And we just don’t know the answer to that question yet.” If the program continues, Kadish is predicting the first ABL test against a nonstrategic target no earlier than the end of 2004. None of the three systems is scheduled to be fired against a strategic target within the next few years.

The U.S. treaty withdrawal sent the Pentagon back to the drawing board for radars and sensors in general. In his April testimony, Kadish said, “I know we’re rethinking the combination of sensors…without the treaty now.” But instead of clarifying plans, the treaty withdrawal appears to have jumbled them, at least in the short term. Kadish admitted as much. “And there is a major debate inside the community…based on affordability reasons and a whole host of other technical issues. In my view, that debate is not resolved yet,” Kadish explained.

During the Clinton administration, Pentagon plans called for the construction of an advanced X-band radar on Alaska’s Shemya Island, a desolate island at the western tip of the Aleutians, and the deployment of two satellite constellations (Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-low and SBIRS-high) to track and discriminate among incoming ballistic missile warheads. Now, the Pentagon is planning to put the X-band radar on a sea-based platform. It has also significantly scaled back SBIRS-low and renamed it the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, while SBIRS-high has experienced a series of delays and cost overruns, pushing back its potential availability.

The near-term implication is that the ground-based interceptors to be deployed in 2004 and 2005 will not be supported by sensors that were previously assessed as being important elements for any future strategic missile defense. An upgraded early-warning radar and older model sensor satellites are intended to support the interceptors, but they are less capable than the envisioned systems. The X-band radar and new satellites were not to be available until 2005 or later under the Clinton administration as well, but the nascent and troubled state of the programs has raised greater concern about when they might really be ready. One of the staunchest Senate supporters of missile defense, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), even expressed doubts about the direction of sensor programs, critically questioning Kadish in April about MDA’s plans to put the X-band radar on a sea-based platform.

In addition to re-evaluating what sensors might do the best job of supporting a strategic missile intercept, the Pentagon is also considering new interceptor systems as well. MDA is exploring conceptual designs for miniature kill vehicles to enable multiple ones to be put on a single interceptor so it can engage several targets or decoys. A kill vehicle is the part of the interceptor that separates from the booster lifting it into space and then homes in on a target for a destructive collision. MDA also intends to soon begin evaluating designs for satellites armed with interceptors to shoot down ballistic missiles within the first few minutes after their launch. MDA intends to deploy up to three or five such satellites for testing purposes as early as 2008. Both of these concepts would have eventually run afoul of the ABM Treaty. At the same time, they are both in the preliminary stages and could have been investigated under the treaty for some time, perhaps years, before running up against the accord’s prohibition against testing and development.

A Little Help From Our Friends

The White House also advocated withdrawing from the ABM Treaty so international cooperation on missile defenses could be expanded. Other countries might be invited to participate in joint research, or they could also potentially permit U.S. missile defense assets to be deployed on their territories. Although the United States has sent delegations far and wide to discuss potential missile defense cooperation, the Pentagon has few results to show for its efforts.

The most tangible accomplishment has been the British government’s February decision to permit the United States to upgrade the Fylingdales early-warning radar on British territory. A similar request to the Danish government to do the same to a radar located at Thule, Greenland, has not been answered. The Pentagon’s aim is to improve the two radars’ tracking ability against missiles fired from the Middle East and enable them to guide interceptors to potential targets. Currently, the radars are limited to spotting missile launches and tracking missiles during their first few minutes of flight.

State Department and Pentagon officials said they could not name any other new programs initiated with foreign governments, but they said discussions were underway. While claiming that there has been “a good deal of progress” on international cooperation, one Pentagon official interviewed May 13 remarked, “[B]ut in the terms of getting into the details of specific countries, specific programs, specific discussions, the status of programs and discussions, we’re not ready to do that.” A State Department official interviewed May 19 reported that no “blueprint-type data” has been shared with foreign governments—an action Kadish frequently cites as one of the key benefits of the treaty withdrawal. The official added that some European countries have volunteered their territory for the deployment of missile defense assets.

Although only London has publicly signed up for new cooperation, Washington’s treaty withdrawal has quieted most overseas criticism of its missile defense plans. The State Department official interviewed May 19 characterized the change in tone as “remarkable,” noting that vehement opposition no longer exists and countries are more interested in exploring and discussing operational aspects of missile defenses, such as command and control issues. Reflecting this attitude shift, NATO agreed last November to undertake a study of missile defenses to protect allied territories and population against all ranges of ballistic missiles. Two NATO members, France and Germany, were leading missile defense opponents prior to the U.S. treaty withdrawal.

In its May 20 missile defense paper, the Bush administration said that, in order to pursue foreign missile defense cooperation, it would review existing U.S. export regulations that could hinder joint work or the transfer of missile defense technologies abroad. The White House declared it would “seek to eliminate impediments to such cooperation.” It also stated that the United States would implement the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)—an informal regime of 33 countries that aims to restrict the transfer of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers or more—in a manner so that it would not interfere with international missile defense cooperation. A State Department official interviewed May 22 said how that would be done has not been decided yet. Last summer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Vann Van Diepen warned in congressional testimony that the United States should be cognizant of the potential precedent it could set if it chose to allow transfers of missile systems that might fall under MTCR controls. Washington might undercut its ability to persuade other countries to abide by their MTCR commitments if the United States is also pursuing deals at odds with the regime, he suggested.

The ABM Treaty did not rule out all U.S. cooperation on missile defenses with foreign governments. Israel, Japan, Italy, and Germany had programs for jointly researching or developing TMD systems underway with the United States when Bush took office. Washington and Moscow also agreed to work together in 1992 on designing two satellites for use in spotting ballistic missile launches. All of these programs are still ongoing, although some, particularly the Russian project, have been troubled.


U.S. Missile Defense: Protection
Against a North Korean Threat?

As the Bush administration seeks to maintain political support for its missile defense plans, it is using the potential threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program as a key element in its sales pitch. President George W. Bush argued during an April 24 interview that a U.S. missile defense “will make it less likely that a nuclear country could blackmail us or Japan or any one of our friends.”

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer added during an April 25 briefing that North Korea’s recent “announcement” that it possesses nuclear weapons “is an important reminder of why missile defense is an important part of our strategy to defend our country.”

A May 20 White House fact sheet on U.S. missile defense policy states that the United States is pursuing such a defense to augment its deterrence capability against states “aggressively pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles as a means of coercing the United States and our allies”—a possible reference to North Korea.

Although North Korea’s long-range missile programs have been a source of concern, both administration officials and other experts have expressed concern that a nuclear-armed North Korea could present security threats that a U.S. missile defense system could not counter, such as selling fissile material to other governments or inspiring other regional powers to acquire nuclear weapons.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet sounded a new alarm about North Korea’s missile program when he testified during a February congressional hearing that Pyongyang currently possesses a missile capable of reaching the United States.

A CIA spokesperson interviewed in February cited a December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate as the agency’s most recent public assessment of North Korea’s missile program. The estimate says North Korea’s Taepo Dong-2 missile could hit parts of the continental United States in a two-stage configuration and all of North America in a three-stage configuration. North Korea has not tested these missiles, the spokesman said.

The longest-range missile North Korea has flight-tested is the Taepo Dong-1, which it launched into the Sea of Japan in 1998. As configured, that missile cannot reach the United States. Pyongyang announced in September that it would extend indefinitely a 1999 moratorium on long-range missile testing.

What About Costs?

Although the scorecard appears relatively bare for those who advocated dumping the ABM Treaty, no serious negative repercussions have accumulated either.

Russia and China condemned the U.S. withdrawal and still grumble occasionally about U.S. missile defense plans, but neither has announced new armament plans. There has not been an unraveling of arms control treaties as Russia threatened could happen. In fact, Moscow negotiated a new nuclear arms reduction agreement, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), with Washington after Bush announced his intention to scrap the ABM Treaty. Both Moscow and Beijing seem to have concluded that the technical complexity of missile defenses will hamper the United States from fielding anything in the short term that could threaten their security and therefore have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. To be sure, both countries are strongly pushing for negotiation of a treaty essentially devoted to preventing the deployment of space-based missile defenses. Any U.S. move to test or deploy such systems would generate significant anxiety and ill will, and not just from Russia and China.

Harder to assess is whether the treaty withdrawal impacted other countries’ willingness to cooperate with the United States on other international security issues, such as confronting and disarming Iraq. Many countries have expressed dismay with what they perceive as the Bush administration’s unilateralist style, but the ABM Treaty withdrawal is just one of a series of actions that have elicited foreign consternation. One European diplomat based in Washington and interviewed May 16 speculated that Washington’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol regarding global warming ranked as the U.S. act that most upset other countries. The diplomat went on to say that, politically, the withdrawal would seem to have been largely positive so far, taking into account the shift in tone surrounding missile defense globally.

What Has Not Happened

Nearly a year after the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, it is as easy to identify what has not happened as what has. The United States appears no closer to deploying a working defense against strategic ballistic missiles than it was before withdrawing from the treaty. The sole system on the horizon is the same one inherited from the Clinton administration, and it still remains unproven. The possible deployment of sensors and radars for tracking long-range ballistic missiles has slipped further. Despite concerted attempts to sell other countries on the merits of missile defenses, few have bought in, although that could change. But no countries have also taken up arms against the United States for its move, and none have copied the U.S. action. North Korea’s announced withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty earlier this year cannot be attributed to the U.S. ABM Treaty withdrawal, and Russia’s June 2002 declaration that it would no longer be bound by the START II nuclear arms reduction accord, which had not entered into force and was effectively superseded by SORT, was more symbolic than substantive.

While not agreeing on much, some missile defense proponents and critics have contended that the U.S. ABM Treaty withdrawal, coupled with Bush’s December 2002 deployment announcement, has ended the long debate over missile defenses. Until missile defenses are proven to work, however, the expenditure of several billions of dollars per year on their research and development will surely stimulate debate. Furthermore, if the United States ultimately proves successful in fielding effective defenses, the response from other countries could make the original motivation leading to the negotiation of the ABM Treaty—the desire to avoid an offensive-defensive arms race—relevant again.

Whether the United States can deploy effective defenses remains unknown. Notwithstanding the Patriot systems’ purported success in the latest Iraq conflict, technical challenges and obstacles did not disappear with the ABM Treaty. The objective of hitting a relatively slow-moving short-range ballistic missile warhead differs significantly from destroying a long-range ballistic missile warhead potentially accompanied by sophisticated countermeasures speeding through space. Philip Coyle, who reviewed all Pentagon weapons testing for six years during the Clinton administration, describes missile defense as the hardest thing the Pentagon has ever tried to do. One person who probably understands this better than anybody else is Kadish, who noted at a March 2003 missile defense conference that, with the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, the Bush administration “has taken our excuses away.”


Last June 13, the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, eliminating the treaty’s limits on the U.S. ability to develop...

Pentagon Claims PAC-3 Success Against Iraqi Missiles

Wade Boese

Initial military reports from the Iraq war say that the small stockpile of U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) anti-ballistic missiles is performing well, but one destroyed a British fighter jet and another targeted a U.S. combat aircraft. The Pentagon deployed a predecessor of the PAC-3 in the 1991 Persian Gulf War that was also credited initially with working almost flawlessly, but those claims were later significantly revised.

The number of PAC-3 interceptors available for action is limited. Just more than 50 had been purchased and delivered to the U.S. Army for deployment by the end of last year. Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said March 18 that the Pentagon planned to have as many as 348 PAC-3 missiles by the end of 2005.

In a nearly $75 billion fiscal year 2003 supplemental budget request unveiled March 25, the Bush administration is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to replenish expended munitions, or at least munitions that are expected to be expended, including the Patriot.

As of March 27, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that Patriot interceptors, some specifically PAC-3s, have destroyed eight Iraqi missiles since the start of the conflict. CENTCOM did not respond to questions on exactly how many Patriot interceptors have been fired, which specific Patriot systems were involved in the intercepts, and the total number and type of Iraqi missiles launched at Kuwait and U.S.-led forces.

The loss of a British Tornado combat aircraft and its two crewmen returning from a March 23 mission over Iraq was also attributed to a PAC-3 interceptor. U.S. military officials are not certain why the PAC-3 fired on the jet, and they are conducting an investigation.

Although early developmental testing of the PAC-3 went very well, the system failed to meet expectations in tougher testing last year. In four tests between February and May involving multiple targets and multiple interceptors, PAC-3s destroyed only two of the five targets assigned them. Of the seven PAC-3s to be fired in those tests, two destroyed their targets, one hit but did not destroy its target, one missed its target, and three did not launch.

PAC-3 is an updated version of the Patriot system deployed during the 1991 Gulf War. Designed to counter aircraft and not missiles, the earlier version employed a warhead that exploded when it was in close proximity to its target. The PAC-3, however, does not have an explosive warhead but destroys targets by colliding with them.

Shortly after the 1991 conflict, the Army claimed that the Patriot system successfully intercepted 45 of 47 Iraqi Scud missiles that the system engaged. Although the Pentagon would gradually lower its estimate, the General Accounting Office, which conducts investigations for Congress, reported in September 1992 that the “strongest evidence” suggested that Patriot succeeded in only nine percent of its intercept attempts. Israel has contended that the Patriot system might have shot down just one Iraqi missile.

Initial military reports from the Iraq war say that the small stockpile of U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) anti-ballistic missiles is performing well, but one destroyed...

U.S., Japan Extend Missile Defense Cooperation

The United States and Japan finalized an agreement in late February to continue joint research on a sea-based missile defense system designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Details of the agreement are scarce because its contents are to be kept confidential, according to a U.S. Defense Department official.

Joint U.S.-Japanese cooperation on missile defense began in 1999. The two countries agreed to work together on creating a new nose cone, a second-stage propulsion system, an infrared seeker, and a hit-to-kill warhead for the Standard Missile-3. The Standard Missile-3 is the missile used in the U.S. sea-based missile defense system, which successfully destroyed targets in three intercept tests in 2002, although a recent Pentagon report described the tests as “simplistic.” (See ACT, March 2003.)

Under the new agreement, this past cooperation will continue and include future flight tests. The Japanese government, however, has not yet decided whether it will continue cooperation beyond the research phase to actual development and deployment.


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