Pro­tect­ing the East Coast from Ira­nian mis­siles

Ex­ist­ing hard­ware can en­hance U.S. se­cu­rity and the ur­gent pri­or­ity is im­proved radar

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Ian Brzezin­ski

In the wake of the gov­ern­ment shut­down’s in­ter­rup­tion of fis­cal 2014 bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions, Congress still faces tough de­ci­sions about na­tional de­fense pri­or­i­ties. One con­tro­ver­sial is­sue that will resur­face shortly is the need to pro­tect the East Coast from the threat of Iran’s grow­ing bal­lis­tic-mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity. When it does so, Wash­ing­ton should avoid re­peat­ing what has been an un­nec­es­sar­ily bipo­lar de­bate over this is­sue.

The cur­rent di­chotomy — whether to build an East Coast ground-based in­ter­cep­tor base — ig­nores other, more im­me­di­ate ac­tions that can be taken to in­crease U.S. de­fenses against in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles. In fact, there are two ex­ist­ing and timely op­tions that would help re­in­force East Coast de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

First, Amer­i­can radars can be up­graded. Our na­tional mis­silede­fense struc­ture in­cor­po­rates a net­work of radars de­ployed at home and abroad. Some of th­ese early-warn­ing radars are lo­cated in Thule, Green­land; Fyling­dales, Eng­land; and the Cape Cod Air Force Sta­tion in Mas­sachusetts. While th­ese radars have been re­cently up­graded and im­proved, they are still pri­mar­ily de­signed to pro­vide early warn­ing on in­com­ing war­heads. More can and should be done to in­crease this net­work’s ca­pac­ity to track and dis­crim­i­nate be­tween war­heads, chaff and de­coys.

A log­i­cal next step to en­hance our na­tion’s bal­lis­ticmis­sile de­fense sys­tem is to de­ploy a high-fre­quency mo­bile X-band radar. The X-band radar’s shorter wave­lengths al­low it to achieve a higher res­o­lu­tion, which supports im­proved iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion of po­ten­tial threats.

Lt. Gen. Trey Ober­ing, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Mis­sile De­fense Agency, and Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can, have ad­vo­cated sta­tion­ing one of th­ese radars on the East Coast. If our al­lies were sup­port­ive, the de­ploy­ment of a X-band radar to North­ern Canada, Ice­land or Green­land would also pro­vide im­proved cov­er­age against an Ira­nian threat. Each of th­ese op­tions would in­crease the abil­ity of the ground-based in­ter­cep­tors lo­cated in Alaska and Cal­i­for­nia to in­ter­cept war­heads tar­geted against the East Coast. One ver­sion of the X-Band radar has al­ready been de­ployed in Tur­key, Ja­pan and Is­rael.

Sec­ond, other avail­able in­ter­cep­tors can be de­ployed. In ad­di­tion to sta­tion­ing the ground­based in­ter­cep­tors on the East Coast, con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to de­ploy­ing in that re­gion the Stan­dard Mis­sile-3 IB and IIA in­ter­cep­tors and a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem.

The Stan­dard Mis­sile-3 line of in­ter­cep­tors is one of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s work­horses in the mis­sile age. Though they are de­ployed pri­mar­ily on naval ves­sels, the IB and IIA ver­sions will be placed in the com­ing years ashore in Ro­ma­nia and Poland. The Pen­tagon should as­sess the pro­pos­als from the for­mer deputy chief of naval op­er­a­tions, Vice Adm. J.D. Wil­liams, and Sen. Thad Cochran, Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­can, to de­ploy th­ese heav­ily tested in­ter­cep­tors ashore or off the East Coast.

De­ploy­ing a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem is another ap­proach to con­sider for East Coast de­fense. This sys­tem, which can be air­lifted, was de­ployed to Guam ear­lier this year when North Korea threat­ened to launch a mis­sile ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the United States. While it is most ef­fec­tive against in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles and very short-range in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, and the area it pro­tects is smaller than the ground­based in­ter­cep­tors, a mod­i­fied sys­tem could sup­ple­ment U.S. con­ti­nen­tal de­fense ef­forts against longer-range threats.

A mix of radar and in­ter­cep­tor up­grades and de­ploy­ments mer­its con­sid­er­a­tion for East Coast mis­sile de­fense. To­gether, they would be more ef­fec­tive against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of an over­lap­ping set of threats by ex­pand­ing the depth of cov­er­age and op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity of our mis­sile-de­fense ar­chi­tec­ture. The mo­bil­ity of the X-Band, the Stan­dard Mis­sile-3 and the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem would add to the U.S. ca­pac­ity to un­der­take ex­pe­di­tionary mis­sile-de­fense op­er­a­tions in sup­port of al­lies and part­ners.

In short, the most ur­gent pri­or­ity of East Coast mis­sile de­fense is to im­prove the range and dis­crim­i­na­tion of our radar cov­er­age. The quick­est means to do so is the de­ploy­ment of an X-band radar in east­ern North Amer­ica. Sec­ond, while the ground-based in­ter­cep­tors have the con­fi­dence of our mil­i­tary lead­ers, it is only pru­dent to ex­am­ine how our other mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors and their po­ten­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tions can serve our na­tional and in­ter­na­tional mis­sile-de­fense re­quire­ments.

A mix of radar and in­ter­cep­tor

up­grades and de­ploy­ments mer­its con­sid­er­a­tion for East

Coast mis­sile de­fense.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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