This sure looks like big news, even though it didn’t seem to get much play last week:
BARKING SANDS, Kauai
BARKING SANDS, Kauai
I’m not a fan of the SDI. That said, the goal of it now is not to defend against the Russians or the Chinese. The goal is to defend against second rate nuclear-newbies like Iran and North Korea. They won’t be developing such sophisticated delivery systems any time soon.
I think the advantage goes to the counter-missile in this case.
The mission of the counter-missile is simple. Find the missile and get close enough for the warhead to have an effect.
The missile’s mission is more complex. It must fly to the target, evade any and all counter-measures, and deliver a payload to the target.
At the very least a future generation of counter-missiles will incorporate technology similar to the Russian’s to allow the kill vehicle to maneuver mid-flight.
1: The previous tests, six of which were successful…
But wait, this was the seventh test. That means it would have been just as correct, and more informative, to have said, “The previous six tests, all of which were successful…”.
2: Russia recently conducted a flight test of a new warhead that can change course in midflight…
BFD. Defense puts up three interceptors and triangulates. End of problem.
Of course, it’s not actually the warhead which can change course, but the delivery system. Which has to be discarded sooner or later…
The ultimate question is why the Motherland felt it necessary to develop and test this new design. Apparently, paranoia does indeed strike deep. Very deep.
Interceptors are good (versus perfect) solution against onezie/twosie attacks from nuclear newbies. Once you are up to a .8 probability of kill, then just having the ability to launch and control multiple missiles confers an advantage to the defender against a limited attack. It gets rather interesting once we start using high energy lasers (no longer the stuff of science fiction and exactly the kind of thing to mount on a ship, since ships can make lots of power). Then the fire control solution is trivial- slave the laser to the track and fire. No worries about intercept point and no late course corrections will make a difference. If you can track it, then you can kill it.
Even if Russian was prepared to get into a war with us, it would have to be defensive on their part. As Mark Steyn has said time and again, Russia’s demographic death spiral is more pronounced than the European average. And why would we want to provoke a war with Russia, when time is on our side.
As for China, from what I’ve heard the primary function of the defense system is to protect against rogue states like North Korea. Sometime in the near future, we’ll have to deal with North Korea, unless we can get Japan and South Korea to max out their military capabilities pretty quickly so that they can handle the mission themselves. If we do have to deal with NoKo, China’s reaction would be our primary concern. Even though they’re arming at an alarming rate, they probably wouldn’t have technology of the kind Russia is developing by the time we have to deal with NoKo. So the system will serve its purpose, should nuclear exchange somehow become a possibility with China, even if Russia develops its technology successfully.
Unless of course Russia sells it to them to make some quick cash to stave off its decline…
I remember similar commentary when the F-117 was first rolled out… and critics saying that the Russians were already developing radar that would be sensitive enough to detect it.
The thing they fail to mention is that all the existing radar installations would still be vunerable, and we’ve proven that time and time again in the middle east. The same thing applies here.
While Russia may be developing systems to counter missle defense, plenty of other countries that may attack us (read N. Korea & China) won’t have this (at least for now), and so this anti-missile system would still be valuable.
“It gets rather interesting once we start using high energy lasers (no longer the stuff of science fiction and exactly the kind of thing to mount on a ship, since ships can make lots of power)”
This is what I was going to mention. You can’t move faster than light (at least right now.) Ideally satellites would handle this duty.
I would also like to point out, as quick as the missle is, it will run out of gas eventually, if you send up enough smaller counter missles to make it move. Though, if russia sent missle our way, we would still run out of coutner missle eventually.
Russia recently conducted a flight test of a new warhead that can change course in midflight, which U.S. and Russian officials are calling part of Moscow’s efforts to defeat U.S. missile defenses.
Are the Sov- Russians providing higher security for this warhead development project than the level of security (allegedley) for their weapons-grade nuclear stockpile? The near-non-existent rusty gates and open locks around the plutonium piles stories we keep hearing about?
I mean, it’s not like the US taxpayer is being asked to subsidize Russian strategic weapons research or anything, is it?.
TO: Stephen Green
RE: History Repeats Itself
“Do our strategic defenses count as armor (for the country) or bullets (against missiles)?” — Stephen Green
A la Arms of Krupp.
The trick for US to keep ahead of the power curve in this iteration is NOT to have our Krupps selling/giving/losing the tech we develop to the guys on the other side.
All too often, during the previous administration, I got the distinct impression that Clinton was aiding and abetting our erstwhile ‘friends’ by letting such tech get into their hands.
Sure, as Steven Den Beste said (above) this stuff is NOT specifically for defending ourselves against a Russian onslaught. It’s for defending ourselves against renegades; states, commanders, etc. And maybe the Chinese Communists too. Especially in a Taiwanese scenario.
An excellent question at the end of your post. Clearly, you’ve become familiar with the history of weapons platforms.
My answer is, neither. The armor/bullet analogy doesn’t apply here.
The armor/bullet analogy only applies when the weapons systems are significantly different from one another, such as a tank versus a missile. In such a situation, one of the platforms is slower and easier to hit, making it require armor (the tank). The other is so quick that it cannot be hit, making it not require armor (the missile). Ultimately, the platform requiring armor becomes obsolete.
The armor/bullet analogy would not apply in a demolition derby (automobile versus automobile). Neither does it apply in missile defense (missile versus missile).
It has long been observed that missile defense is like “hitting a bullet with a bullet”. Both missiles live in the same realm of vast supersonic speeds.
Think like the missile: in its point a view, the battlefield is its brief flight, a realm of rapid calulation and supersonic speeds. The battle it fights is not one of hours and days, but minutes and seconds. The attacking missile wins if it reaches its target, the defending missile wins if it intercepts the attacking missile.
In short, missile-versus-missile is demolition derby at supersonic speeds.
Ask yourself: in missile-versus-missile, would you put armor on either missile? Not really, no.
(Missile versus particle beam is a yet another situation; in that case, the “armor/bullet” analogy is apt.)
No doubt you could argue that we should consider the entire country being protected by a missile defense as the slow (unmovable) “weapons platform” requiring armor, but the same could be said about the attacking country, and again we have a “like versus like” situation, and the “armor/bullet” analogy remains unhelpful.
If you insist on thinking of the entire countries as weapons platforms, even tanks become “bullets”, and given enough firepower (thermonuclear war), it is the country that becomes obsolete… Mutual Assured Destruction. Nothing new about that situation. If countrys become obsolete, we’d better all disperse to a thousand different asteroids or something…
As defense against a large attack:
Given that the BMD gambit was always an _economic_ strategy, the interceptor still wins.
The BMD doesn’t need to shoot down many missiles to be strategically effective, it only needs to increase the cost of an offensive posture beyond its opponents’ capacity.
Given the US’s enormous, and growing, economic superiority over other nations, we can spend far more on defense than the forced increase in offense expense, and still win this race…
As defense against a small attack:
No sweat; use more interceptors.
In the long run, armor, definitely. The marginal difficulty of making the next missile countermeasure is far lower than the difficulty of making the next missile shield.
But so what. The doctrine of non-proliferation has failed miserably and we
There are a lot of arguments mushed up in this topic.
1. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system using the SM-3 missile a kinetic-hit-to-kill warhead is a defense against medium range ballistic missiles. The Japanese are partners on this program, and will deploy it aboard their own Kongo-class Aegis destroyers. It would defend against short- and medium-range missiles from North Korea and China with targets in the region.
2. The Topol-M with the maneuvering warhead is an ICBM, not a medium range missile. The Aegis-based system is not intended to counter it, and could not. The fact that the Topol-M has the ability to maneuver is problematic, but the real challenge it poses is its ability to deploy up to three decoy warheads that are essentially actual reentry vehicles without the nuclear weapon, with the same radar cross-section and IR signature. The decoys can maneuver, too, and are not stripped away on reentry as ballon and relfector decoys are.
3. The US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system (satellites for launch detection, Aegis for ascent tracking (only), land-based phased-array radars for ascent and midcourse early warning and tracking, Sea-Based X-Band radar for mid-course tracking and targeting, interceptor missiles in Alaska and California for engagement) is currently intended only to defeat a basic ICBM from North Korea that employs rudimentary if any countermeasures. As time goes on, the GBD will become more capable, but will remain unable to counter Russian ICBM capability, nor is it intended to, at least according to the Pentagon and the US Missile Defense Agency. The Russians and to a lesser extent the Chinese are supposed to remain unconcerned about the US NMD system being able to counter their deterrent capability.
4. Other programs such as the Airborne Laser and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (a land- and ship-based sprint missile) are being developed to engage ballistic missiles of all types in their boost phase. You need to be fairly close to make this work, so again, North Korea and shore-based missiles in China targeted at Taiwan and Japan are likely candidates.
5. Philosophically, the question of missile defense is not so much to build a better mousetrap for a post deterrence world, but to be able to counter situations that may not be subject to deterrence, such as the death throes of a failing regime in North Korea or Iran. It’s a $100-billion insurance policy against the one (or six or 12) that get away.
6. The “bullet-on-bullet” kinetic kill technology being developed for NMD has applications in battlefield defense against tactical rockets and artillery weapons. So to the electrooptical sensors, battle management systems, and other elements. Then there are the lasers. Unlike other defensive systems in the past, such as the Maginot Line and the Soviet integrated air-defense system, the NMD capability has offensive applications as well.
MMDeuce, you say that the incoming missile’s mission is more complex. I completely disagree. The incoming missile simply has to hit a target that is likely fixed. The counter-missile has to hit a moving target that may be travelling at hypersonic speeds (depending on which phase you’re trying to hit the incoming missile – much better to strike in boost phase if you can.) “Getting close enough to the warhead” is a very non-trivial problem.
A few thoughts
1)The original missile has an easier job. ICBMs were developed long before intercepters, because it’s easier to hit a fixed target.
2)Any maneuvering stage comes as a direct tradeoff with payload. Also, trajectories can’t vary too much without missing the target.
3)Any technologically feasible missile defense system will be possible to saturate by launching more missiles for the conceivable future.
4)Conventional nuclear deterrence works much better against large scale attacks than against one or two bombs.
Conclusion: if we could build one, an interceptor system that could stop single-missile attacks would be an awfully nice thing to have.
Given the lifespan of ballistic misiles and the large physical constraints on maneuvering, I wouldn’t be too concerned about technological advancement. It seems like this would end up as an arms race between hardware and software — maneuvering vs targeting.
Good question. Bullets, I guess. Now here’s one for you – do you think we’re nearing a new phase in the arms race, where the offense/defense model (in terms of a moving object striking an inert one) may become obsolete?
Just as in football, the best defense is a good offense. And Patton had some rather useful things to say about the folly of static defenses.
One assumption in several of the posts above is that the incoming missile is targeted at something in particular.
If you just want to hit somewhere, anywhere above California, the incoming missile gains a lot of manueverability.
The movie Hollywood won’t make: An ICBM is launched from the Middle East. We detect the launch. We track the missile over the pole. It’s live on all the channels – this takes a while since it’s a long flight. There’s panic. People are killed fleeing Chicago. Chicago becomes a radioactive hell hole.
In the aftermath, citizens demand to know why the military didn’t “do something” to stop the incoming missile. The movie closes with a President Kerry speech denouncing the evil Bush/Hitler years and re-signing the ABM treaty.