No early-in­ter­cept de­fense

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

A forth­com­ing study by the Pen­tagon’s De­fense Science Board con­cludes that an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion plan to shoot down long-range Ira­nian mis­siles shortly af­ter launch will not work.

Por­tions of the clas­si­fied study were dis­closed re­cently dur­ing a hear­ing of the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions de­fense sub­com­mit­tee by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Repub­li­can.

“The re­port’s un­clas­si­fied con­clu­sion is that [Mis­sile De­fense Agency] plans to achieve an early in­ter­cept ca­pa­bil­ity as part of the Phased-Adap­tive Ap­proach are sim­ply not cred­i­ble,” Mr. Shelby said June 15.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s four­phase plan for Euro­pean-based de­fenses calls for us­ing three ver­sions of the Navy SM-3 in­ter­cep­tor mis­sile in­stead of more ca­pa­ble and faster Ground­Based In­ter­cep­tor (GBI) mis­siles, like those cur­rently de­ployed in Alaska and Cal­i­for­nia.

The phased ap­proach calls for ul­ti­mately field­ing a soupedup vari­ant of the SM-3 called Block IIB by 2020. The in­ter­cep­tor would be used against Iran’s arse­nal of medium-range, in­ter­me­di­ate-range and per­haps con­ti­nen­tal range mis­siles. In the fu­ture, the Pen­tagon has said it plans to use to Block IIB for so-called “early in­ter­cept”, be­fore a mis­sile re­leases its war­head and de­coys.

A con­gres­sional aide said the con­clu­sions of the re­port were “very shock­ing” when ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials dis­closed them dur­ing a re­cent brief­ing to staff mem­bers.

Mis­sile speeds and the short times mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have to make a de­ci­sion to fire in­ter­cep­tors at an en­emy mis­sile means “early in­ter­cept wasn’t fea­si­ble for mis­sile de­fense,” the aide said.

Boost-phase in­ter­cept is pos­si­ble but only for ex­tremely nar­row tar­get-area near-mis­sile launch lo­ca­tions.

De­fense sub­com­mit­tee sen­a­tors will be look­ing at ways to mod­ify fund­ing plans for mis­sile de­fense pro­grams this year in re­sponse to the re­port, the aide said.

Mr. Shelby said the re­port was dis­turb­ing be­cause the Pen­tagon promised to de­velop an early in­ter­cept ca­pa­bil­ity for the SM-3 Block IIB mis­sile by 2020 that “was the cen­tral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, as I un­der­stood it, to can­cel the third site in Europe and to kill the [Ki­netic En­ergy In­ter­cep­tor] boost phase de­fense pro­gram.”

The third site would have de­ployed Ground-Based In­ter­cep­tors in Poland and a radar in Czech Repub­lic, af­ter the two cur­rent sites in Alaska and Cal­i­for­nia. That plan was re­jected by Pres­i­dent Obama, amid op­po­si­tion from Rus­sia, as part of the plan to re­set ties with Moscow.

“Now it looks like the nation may be left with an in­ad­e­quate de­fense in Europe and no boost­phase in­ter­cept ca­pa­bil­ity,” Mr. Shelby said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the hear­ing of the early-in­ter­cept pro­gram that “the whole is­sue of boost-phase in­ter­cept is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult tech­ni­cal chal­lenge.”

“And at least if some­one’s bro­ken through on that, I haven’t seen that,” Adm. Mullen said.

Crit­ics of the Phased Adap­tive Ap­proach have said that with­out larger in­ter­cep­tors, Europe-based mis­sile de­fenses will be un­able to de­fend the east­ern United States from a fu­ture dur­ing this phase of the mis­sile’s tra­jec­tory could pro­vide some ad­van­tages lead­ing to sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased cost ef­fec­tive­ness of mis­sile de­fense,” Mr. Carter stated in a mem­o­ran­dum.

Types of at­tacks to be stud­ied in­cluded in­ter­me­di­ate-range mis­siles as well as a “clan­des­tine sea-launched” mis­siles fired from a freighter, some­thing Iran has prac­ticed, the memo said.

De­fense of­fi­cials said the re­port is a fi­nal draft and still un­der­go­ing se­cu­rity re­view.

“Ap­par­ently the re­port is now be­ing fi­nal­ized and only an in­terim re­port was briefed to Congress,” said a Mis­sile De­fense Agency of­fi­cial.

“It is our un­der­stand­ing that the fi­nal re­port will un­der­score the value and fea­si­bil­ity of early in­ter­cept tech­nol­ogy and the need for the Pre­ci­sion Track­ing Space Sys­tem satel­lite ar­chi­tec­ture to op­ti­mize early in­ter­cept ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Repub­li­can: ”Now it looks like the nation may be left with an in­ad­e­quate de­fense in Europe and no boost-phase in­ter­cept ca­pa­bil­ity.”

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