All posts in “Missile Defense”

Flightdeck Friday: A BMD Primer

Every now and then I get a chance to reach escape velocity from my day job and do something really fun or different.  Recently that entailed presenting a BMD overview to a couple of classes that were part of the Naval War College’s Non-Resident Seminar program (of which YHS is a graduate).  And like any good presenter these days, one needs a brief – so, ecce:
…actually, I’d planned on part II of the Atlas story, but got re-tasked this week, so – Plan B(MD).
Oh, and yes, I do my own graphics – here’s a sample from Part II of the Atlas story:

What We’re Reading – And Why

The Current "Stack of Shame"

A quick look at the sidebar will reveal a variety and number of books read over the course of the past year, oft times engendering discussions off-site as to selections and purpose.  Looking at the current working stack on my desk, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk to why these particular selections.

My first read of Kissinger’s book got me thinking about deterrence theories that emerged during the Cold War, how they were put on the shelf 20 years ago when the Soviet Union disappeared and now, how some folks think we can just pull them off the shelf and apply them to China.  Problem is, not only do I think those theories may not apply, they may in fact, carry us down avenues with results quite different than we intended.  Part of my studies and work on theater nuclear forces was grounded in a better understanding of Russian culture as applied to Soviet deterrence practices across a range of operations, theaters and levels of war.  That I ended up disagreeing with the prevailing (at the time) school of thought shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers here – and neither should my initial thoughts laid out above vis-a-vis China.  This isn’t just in the nuclear arena, but even more so conventional as we look at the array of advanced anti-access/area denial forces being fielded by China, employable outside of a conflict over Taiwan.  So – I’m taking a historical perspective/approach looking at China’s actions in a conventional realm versus near peer (conventional) powers and major nuclear power.  There is a pattern that points to an offensive deterrence that, during a confrontation, has led to fairly aggressive actions that incurred substantive losses on the other party’s account, followed by a rapid withdrawal from overrun territory by Chinese forces to show occupation wasn’t their intent.  A noteworthy element of these actions though, and one that must be factored into the analysis is that these case histories stem from Mao’s reign and a PLA that was short on technology and long on manpower (ground forces) which runs counter to the decade-long modernization and overhaul in doctrine and operations (epitomized, for example, by the development and wide deployment of a range of conventional ballistic missiles).  Additionally, while most of the Party leadership were veterans of the Long March and Korea and as such, had experience with military operations, today’s Party leadership has at best, passing acquaintance with military operations and requirements.  In such a scenario, will there be more deference given plan and COAs sourced from the military — IOW, a tendency to accept at face value n the part of Party leadership?  As I delve into this issue, these are some of the questions I am asking myself and which form the entering argument with the publications above.

  • Russia, NATO BMD and the INF Treaty:
Nervov, RSVN (Strategic Missile Troops) Missile Complexes Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty; Text and Annexes National Defense University, Case Studies: U.S. Withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty Podvig, Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Stav, The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East

When the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, there was a varied response from Russia, ranging from Putin’s non-committal “do what you must” to statements from the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff that Russia would investigate dropping out of the INF Treaty.  In the intervening years since, this threat was rolled out on various occasions when the Russians wanted to highlight their concern over various aspects of the US efforts to develop and deploy ballistic missile defense.  Since the initial announcement of the European Initiative in 2007  (basing 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, supported by an X-band radar in the Czech Republic) it has become a recurring theme, in concert with “other military-technical means.”  This begs a couple of questions – namely, what are the real motivations behind the rhetoric, what real benefits would Russia accrue in stepping away from the first bi-lateral nuclear treaty that banned an entire class of weapons and set the stage for the START treaties on strategic nuclear forces and, in an age of growing numbers of ballistic missiles, nuclear and conventional, inhabiting the 500-5500km range (essentially longer ranged SRBM, MRBM and IRBMs as well as ground-launched cruise missiles), is the INF Treaty still relevant?  Part of the investigation includes a deep dive into the developmental history of Russian ballistic missiles with particular attention being paid to one of my old haunts — the period 1976-1987 and the impetus behind the development and deployment behind the SS-20/Pioneer IRBM.  As noteworthy as the political, military and engineering decision-making behind Pioneer’s development and controversial deployment was, there were two other programs – Skorost (“Speed”) and Kuryer (“Courier”) which bear investigation.  Each program was the result of a deliberate decision to respond to the Pershing II/GLCM deployment (itself a response to the SS-20 deployment) with new ballistic missile systems (or in the Russian vernacular, missile complexes), derived from (then) new mobile strategic systems like the SS-25 and aimed specifically at the systems the US was deploying to strengthen the nuclear guarantee to NATO.  The impetus behind this is to see if there are parallels between then and now that may predict or explain certain behaviors and statements from Russian leadership in the current dispute over the US-led European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense against the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

It is popular to talk about the “global economy” in referential terms as if it is a late-20th Century/21st Century phenomena.  In actuality, beginning with the return of Columbus from the 1492 expedition, profound ecological and economic wheels were put into motion – almost all of which had unforeseen consequences.  Mann’s work is a masterful, scientific review of the “Colombian Exchange” and later, the impact the founding of Manila some 80 years later by the Spanish explorer Legazpi would have on not only Europe, but the American and African continents that stretch into today.  Economist Miller (author of “War Plan Orange”) turns to recently declassified documents to take another look at attempts by the US to dissuade Japan from its aggression in China in the run-up to Pearl Harbor.  Building on his experience in international trade while working for a major mining company, he brings new perspectives on the role international finance had in influencing Japanese decision-making and actions — and in the process spurred a branches & sequels process that led to the Pacific war.  While far from finished with Bankrupting the Enemy, I think those who would argue for a trade war/currency war today with China would be well advised to consider Miller’s work and a look at the unintended consequences (as well as what a bureaucracy can do to thwart Presidential initiatives) that may result.  Both authors have a compelling writing style that addresses head on, complex ideas and concepts, placing them in a thoroughly comprehensible context – something, unfortunately, that cannot be said about some the preceding texts which can verge on the turgidly pedagogical….

And finally, there is reading just for the simple pleasure of a story well told, even if it is of an event that has been as widely dissected and told as that of Midway.  One of the vehicles used under such conditions is historical fiction and a new entry in that genre is Vengeance Strikes the Blow, written by G. Alvin Simons and published by Cripple Creek Press:

 Excerpt from the book:

    Kusaka staggered a few steps as Akagi turned toward the approaching enemy aircraft presenting a smaller target. He watched as three of the battered, tattered medium bombers continued winging toward the carriers intent on launching their torpedoes. Frantic Zeroes, having retreated earlier from the tremendous volume of friendly gunfire belching forth from the screening vessels, now ignored the threat. They dove in, blasting away at the deadly intruders.

    The deep Pacific waters already littered with destroyed enemy aircraft, Kusaka wondered at the Americans’ tenacity. We slaughter them with ease, yet still they come, he thought. Seemingly oblivious to the certain death awaiting them. Almost contemptuous in their disregard for our defense. Are they arrogant? Stubborn? Fools? What kind of men are these?

The lead aircraft closed to within a thousand meters before releasing its torpedo. It splashed down and disappeared from view, running toward its intended target. The unburdened plane skittered away across the wave tops with enraged Zeroes hounding its tail. Kusaka’s eyesight remained locked in place, waiting for the weapon to reappear when it neared Akagi.
    The huge ship made another hard turn, veering away from the oncoming torpedo. Kusaka lurched sideways into Genda, releasing a groan of pain from the young officer. The torpedo chugged past, missing the carrier and leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake. Cheers and clapping drifted on the combat-torn wind, falling silent as the second enemy plane bore in. The defensive gunfire increased in volume. A mountain of shot and steel sought to destroy the attacking aircraft. Amidst the panicked frenzy and close quarters, friendly fire struck neighboring vessels. Kusaka winced at the number of stray rounds zipping between the ships. This is utter madness, he thought. We could be wounded or killed at the hands of our fellow countrymen.

Haven’t had much of a chance to get too far in, but what I have read so far I like and it is getting good reviews in important venues like the Battle of Midway Roundtable; definitely a recommended buy (available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions).

So that’s were the end of 2011 and the (near) start to 2012 finds us — some of the research will find its way here, but the bulk is for other venues.  I will be interested to see what is in the offering for the new year (book-wise) and am interested in what you are reading as well as why – let’s hear what’s on your Stack of Shame!

w/r, SJS

Sea-Based BMD — Another Successful Test

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source:


Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2).  The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol.  Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via

Let’s Talk Integrated Air and Missile Defense

Come join us this Sunday, 13 Jun 2010 @ 1700 EDT as we talk about a variety of topics under that subject line via ‘Phib’s and Eagle1’s invitation to discuss the same on this week’s edition of blog talk radio. What will we discuss?  It’s a pretty wide-open field, covering such topics as the threat posed by cruise missile proliferation, BMD, the near-term arrival of the E-2D (and somewhat later arrival of the F-35C), to name but a few.

Here’s the link for tomorrow’s broadcast:

See you then!

New START Treaty: Text and Missile Defense

Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev sign the treaty cutting their nations' nuclear arsenals Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The new START Treaty was signed in Prague today and the text for both the Treaty (17 pages) and the Protocols (165 pages) are available.

On reading the text of the Treaty (still wading through the Protocols) am finding nothing untoward or diverging from what has been said here and elsewhere these past few days. Overall, it is a modest effort at reduction — nothing on the order of the original START reductions. It does re-establish an atmosphere of verification and compliance, though not as intrusive as the previous Treaty and includes use of “national technical means,” on-site visits and exchanges of telemetry data.

In the final months of negotiation there was a lot said on the Russian side about missile defense and linkages to the new Treaty – much more than reported in the Western press, by the way. Of relevance to this part of the discussion is Article III 7(a) which states:

“A missile of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the Earth shall not be considered to be a ballistic missile to which the provisions of this Treaty apply.”

In other words, ABM and ASAT missiles that have been exclusively developed and tested for those purposes (e.g., SM-3 family) are exempt from the Treaty.

Note also that there is a withdrawal clause for “extraordinary circumstances” (Article XIV Section 3) which is a common clause for treaties of this nature and is not extraordinary for this treaty. In light of the Russian’s unilateral statement on missile defense, it may be highlighted in subsequent discussions. The text of the declaration follow:

“April 8, 2010

Statement by the Russian Federation on Missile Defence

The Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed in Prague on April 8, 2010, can operate and be viable only if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile defence capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively.

Consequently, the exceptional circumstances referred to in Article 14 of the Treaty include increasing the capabilities of the United States of America’s missile defence system in such a way that threatens the potential of the strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Federation.”


Worth keeping an eye on as we move down the pike on the European PAA is the “qualitatively” part of the first sentence. Earlier (March 18) statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov singled out improved capabilities of the EPAA “by 2020” which coincides with introduction of the SM-3 BlkIIB.

Finally, at the signing ceremony, the President stated:

“President Medvedev and I have also agreed to expand our discussions on missile defense. This will include regular exchanges of information about our threat assessments, as well as the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles. And as these assessments are completed, I look forward to launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defense.”

How much this was intended to allay or soften the Russian unilateral statement and the substance of those future talks 9as well as the direction they will take the European PAA and other bi- and multi-lateral missile defense initiatives in various theaters and regions, remains to be seen.

Aegis BMD: “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot”

Rear Admiral Meyer’s philosophy of “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot” drove the testing and milestones of the Aegis system. Having witnessed problems with existing missile systems related to a lack of testing, tests that incorporated too many objectives, and failed system integration efforts requiring massive “get well” programs, he drove the project to conduct numerous tests in development and in delivery of production gear prior to ship installation.
That philosophy carried over into the sea-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, using the Aegis weapons system at its core. The following are scenes from the development of Aegis BMD — from the designing board to sea.  A clear example of the results of following that philosophy may be seen in the sequence of test shots over the final two minutes of the film — the early intercepts aimed for the center of mass of the target.  As the tests progressed, watch how the aim point is walked forward towards the harder to hit but more important (simulated) warhead section of the target:

Wednesday’s Roll-up of Missile Defense News

Two items of note for today’s summary — France may be seriously studying missile defense and Russia’s at it again (re. European Phase Adaptive Approach – PAA).

Parlez-vous la Défense de Missile Balistique ?

A recent 65-page study on BMD, written by three members of Parliament at a think tank linked to the National Assembly (“Defense et Strategie”) argues for France committing to building, or at least contributing to a BMD system to counter the growing threat from nations hostile to Europe (in general) and France (in particular). The authors, members of leading centrist parties, assert that the threat will grow over the next 15 years, especially from the likes of Iran, and (and this is a new argument) that a BMD is necessary to strengthen France’s nuclear deterrent. In doing so, they also acknowledge that the political will to move forward is lacking in France and Europe (surprise!) and is an attitudede that they seek to change.

It is also perhaps worth noting that it was the Obama Administration’s decision to press with the PAA over the former GBI-centric system the Bush Administration had planned that pushed the authors into the study. The reason? Their view that an American-led system and architecture establishes American industry as a threat, or ‘double risk’ for Europe — double since the Europeans and NATO have yet to devise a comprehensive BMD policy in line with 21st Century threats and if one country equips itself with an American C2 system, it must, perforce, equip itself entirely with compatible US parts.” Note that the Japanese don’t seem to mind with the incorporation of Aegis BMD into their cruisers and establishing joint development for elements of the SM-3 system. The rub, of course, is as the report goes on to say, that the lack of a BMD system would leave European companies blocked from accessing certain export markets. Sort of like the ones cruise missiles like the EXOCET have been pitched to. That worked out well for all involved (cf. USS Stark).

Obligatory snark about export sales and French aspirations to industrial prominence aside, the study is significant in that it acts as both another venue voicing concern over Iran’s long-range missile progress (no one but the most ardent partisan would argue the French are sock puppets for the US, especially where maters of intelligence are concerned) and it may well be a bellwether signal that Europe proper may be moving off the dime in terms of serious consideration of ballistic missile defense on the Continent. One method suggested would be the formation of industrial partnerships to develop a European BMD based on France’s current highly advanced technology and cited the ASTER missile system as an example.

This will be a most interesting topic to follow for any one of a number of reasons. As anyone who has worked with/in NATO will attest, gaining consensus for action is the key for success, be it in planning or operations. But in the world of missile defense, one of the hardest things to accomplish is establishing a sound architecture for command and control of the system. Hard enough when only one or two countries or AORs are in play, and almost Stygian where the defended area encompasses many borders and nations. Seams abound and where seams and gaps reside, ballistic missiles readily fill. In no small degree this is one of the major challenges Navy faces as it moves down the four-phase PAA for the defense of Europe with sea- ad shore-based Aegis BMD/SM-3 integrated with TPY-2 and THAAD batteries. Perhaps in the interest of integration and economy, France ought to look closer at what the US has already accomplished with international partners like Japan, Israel, Britain, Spain and the Dutch across a variety of programs and capabilities.

(note: the study may be found here:

In the meantime, Russia continues to work a campaignof disinformation, hoping to disrupt and thwart the deployment of BMD in Europe…

Iran No Threat to USA, Europe ‘In Foreseeable Future’ – Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a press conference in Moscow Photo: AFP/GETTY

In an article in today’s Ria Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a direct shot at the US’s proposed missile defense plan for Europe and the US:

“It is evident that Iran currently poses no threat to the U.S. and European countries… At the moment, Iran has no missiles capable of striking Europe, let alone the U.S., and is unlikely to develop [such missiles] in the foreseeable future,” Lavrov said.

Pressing the point, in another article he surfaced a concern that the US has repeatedly, since the days of the GBI deployment, detailed to the Russians is not the case:

U.S. officials admit that the missile defense system in Europe might be able to hit Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles by 2020.

“The U.S. administration says its global missile shield program is not directed against Russia. However, our conclusions on the true potential of the future missile defense system should be based on specific military and technical factors, not on words,” Lavrov said.

“We will not accept a state of affairs when a missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” he went on.

The question one must ask — is Lavrov playing a “bad cop” to Medvedev’s “good cop” (and that is stretching it given Medvedev’s comments re. linking missile defense with the follow-on START treaty) where his rhetoric is merely used to address the home audience’s concerns, or, are we seeing a glimpse of Putin’s approach when he ceases being the power behind the throne and assumes the full mantle of national leadership as many expect when he is eligible once again? If the latter, then this Administration is going to have its hands full. Caution in dealing with our European allies, especially with Poland and the like, is the watchword. After unilaterally changing direction on one missile defense plan for Europe and the US by the switch from GBI’s to the PAA (and, for the record, I thought this was a proper shift) – another such shift that reduces or places additional limits in any way on the planned system will have negative consequences for perceived US leadership on the Continent.

We can expect that the Russians will continue to press this issue relentlessly – and our leadership, especially State and DoD had better be ready to just as relentlessly push-back.

Airborne Laser Testbed Successful in Lethal Intercept Experiment

From an MDA press release earlier today:

The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile. The experiment, conducted at Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off the central California coast, serves as a proof-of-concept demonstration for directed energy technology. The ALTB is a pathfinder for the nation’s directed energy program and its potential application for missile defense technology.

At 8:44 p.m. (PST), February 11, 2010, a short-range threat-representative ballistic missile was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the ALTB used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile

Target launch from Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) for another test (Aegis BMD)

and used a low-energy laser to track the target. The ALTB then fired a second low-energy laser to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure. The entire engagement occurred within two minutes of the target missile launch, while its rocket motors were still thrusting.

This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform. The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers, and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies.

Less than one hour later, a second solid fuel short-range missile was launched from a ground location on San Nicolas Island, Calif. and the ALTB successfully engaged the boosting target with its High Energy Laser, met all its test criteria, and terminated lasing prior to destroying the second target. The ALTB destroyed a solid fuel missile, identical to the second target, in flight on February 3, 2010.

Congrats are in order to all involved in a major milestone for the future of missile defense.

BMDR Release and BMD Deployments to the Gulf

Gulf BMD Deployments

Lots in the news today – let’s start in the Gulf:

US officials have let it be known that it now has Patriot batteries in four Gulf states – Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. US anti-missile ships are also being stationed in the Gulf.  All this comes as the impasse over Iran’s nuclear activities continues and amid efforts by the US and other Western countries to increase sanctions on Iran. (BBC)

The outreached hand has obviously been slapped away once too often.  Iran’s continued intransigence on the nuclear issue combined with its growing inventory of ballistic missiles poses an implicit threat to the region.  PAC-3 battery’s deployed to the four GCC states provide a tangible, visible presence on the ground with regional friends and partners.  BMD configured cruisers and destroyers, armed with SM-3s extend that reassurance with a measure of deterrence for the region with their ability to intercept longer range MRBMs in the Iranian inventory.

All of this falls into two of the four priority objectives outlined in the 2010 QDR, released today:

  • Prevail in Today’s Conflicts
  • Prevent and Deter Conflict
  • Prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies
  • Preserve and enhance the All-Volunteer Force

Still, there are some who think that such a response will only strengthen the hand of extremists in Iran, emboldening them to crack down even harder on dissidents in general and the Green revolution in particular.  The line of thought is that the hardliners believe that the absence of a viable alternative to the current rulers will prevent the West (and the US in particular) from effecting regime change as it did in Iraq.  To wit, having observed Saddam survive the West’s repulsion of Iraqi forces in Kuwait (and suffering substantial damage at home to boot), only to be overthrown later in OIF the lesson they took away was Saddam survived the first encounter because the West believed there was no viable alternative government to take his place.  Now, with a hardening of the US stance (ref: President Obama’s mention of growing consequences if Iran did not comply with UN resolutions) and apparent increase of forces in the region (“missiles are missiles and warships are warships whether their intent is defensive or not”) this might be the time to come down even harder, scattering those who would support Moussavi and thus insulate themselves from a US-led invasion.

Bit of a stretch, to be sure.  But then, the survival instinct is a dominant feature not only in nature, but in politics too – especially in regimes characterized by tyrannical rule.

In the meantime, the deployment of BMD ships to the Gulf also offers us the opportunity to look at the BMDR —

2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review

The stated intent of the BMDR is to align U.S. missile defense posture with near-term regional missile threats, and sustain the ability to defend the homeland against limited long-range missile attack.  In essence, this formalizes the change in direction announced last September by the Obama Administration and categorized under the so-called Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) for Europe.  The PAA (or EPAA as it is known in some circles) stepped away from a GBI system deployed in Europe (mid-course radar in the Czech Republic and 10 2-stage GBIs based in Poland) to one more focused on meeting the extant threat presented by MR- and IRBMs to our European friends and allies using tested and proven systems, like Aegis BMD.  That shift however, did not place the current BMDS providing protection to the homeland in a decommissioned state.  In fact, under the BMDR’s terms, that system can and will continue – with some provisos.

Supporting that change are six precepts that will serve to guide and direct US policy for development and deployment of missile defenses.  Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, today described those six major priorities  at a Pentagon news conference:

The first goes to the heart of defense and that is to defend the United States from a limited ballistic missile attack. The second is to defend against growing regional threats. A third priority is “to test new systems under realistic conditions before they’re deployed to ensure their effectiveness,” Flournoy said. The fourth priority is to develop new fiscally sustainable capabilities, while the fifth is to develop flexible capabilities that can adapt as threats evolve. Finally, the United States wants to lead expanded international cooperation on missile defense, she said.

“We believe this approach will provide reassurance to our allies that the United States will stand by our security commitments to them,” Flournoy said, “and will help to negate the coercive potential of regional actors attempting to limit U.S. influence and actions in key regions.”

It’s been said before on these pages that ballistic missiles have been a growth industry this past decade and the trend line has a positive slope to it.  Not only are numbers increasing, but so too are ranges and sophistication.  The old SCUDs of Gulf War I are rapidly being supplanted by solid propellant, mobile long-range missiles that have the payload and throw-weight for a variety of WMD, not least of which could be nuclear.  Kinetic kill missile defenses remain but one (albeit an important one) way to defeat that threat.  The BMDR looks to guide and direct efforts in that direction too as well as bringing others onboard in a a cooperative approach to defense.  According to Flournoy, Russia and China (the latter one of the more egregious proliferators of missile technologies) factored into the review with an eye towards engaging them on a strategic level.

For now, color me skeptical on that point…

BMDR as of 26JAN10 0630_for Web

Looking Into the New Year (II) – What Does Russia Want Now?

Part I here.

29 December 2009.  In the US, the games of the season are underway, whether it be the NCAA college football bowls or the intramural finger-pointing inside the beltway over the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner.  Parts of the US were buried under a new winter storm while other parts continued digging out from the last. Slipped in amongst those bits of news and other stories typical for the time of year was this missive, originating from Vladivostok:

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said Tuesday that the main obstacle to replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or Start, is Washington’s plan to build a missile defense system, which he said endangered the cold war-era balance of power.

“If we don’t develop a missile defense system, a danger arises for us that with an umbrella protecting our partners from offensive weapons, they will feel completely safe,” Mr. Putin told journalists during a working visit to Vladivostok. “The balance will be disrupted, and then they will do whatever they want, and aggressiveness will immediately arise both in real politics and economics.”

To preserve the balance, he said, Russia must develop new offensive weapons to counter the missile shield — or the United States must provide Russia with data on its missile defense plans in exchange for data on Russian weapons development. (NY Times, 29 Dec 2009)

To most Americans, this item registered little if any concern. To those concerned with matters of foreign policy and security planning, those few words signaled a troubling portent regarding the forthcoming sessions on negotiating a follow-on to the now expired START I Treaty (ed: The treaty expired 5 December 2009, but currently remains in force indefinitely pending agreement on a successor, since Russia and the United States failed to reach agreement on a new pact until the deadline. – SJS).  With negotiations set to resume mid-month, Putin’s comments appear to throw a wrench into expectations of progress at those talks.  How so?

Russia and the US are on very different paths insofar as their strategic systems are concerned (more so for the US, one expects, after release of the new NPR).  At present, with about 2500 deployable nuclear warheads today, Russia is carrying out a modernization program of its land- and sea-based forces, with the bulk going to sea-based forces, most notably construction of the Project 955/Dolgorukiy-class SSBN and development of the Bulava SLBM to replace the Delta III and Typhoon SSBNs.  On land, retirement of the 30 year old SS-19 is underway (current silo-based missiles were extended to a 33-year life) while a MIRVed version of the SS-27/Topol-M is believed to be ready for deployment.  Modernization of the Long Range Aviation involves upgrades to Tu-160 Blackjack’s and Tu-95ms Bear’s produced during the 1980’s.  The actual pace of modernization has been quite problematic however – the very public failures of the Bulava being the most visible.  As a result, plans have to be made to continue overhaul of the Delta IV SSBNs to enable an extension of the SS-N-18 Sineva, which the Bulava was supposed to be replacing (the Project 955 subs can only carry the Bulava).  Despite this program (or perhaps because of), Russia appears to be on a glide path to around 1500-1700 deployable warheads by 2015 (Pavel).  Under the provisions of START I all parties need to share information about new strategic offensive missiles under development.  Currently, the US only plans safety and longevity upgrades to the Minuteman ICBM and Trident SLBM, though there has been discussion of a follow-on SLBM, subject to the directives of the NPR.  Under this regime then, the Russians would be the only ones sharing information on missile development, which when viewed with a domestic lens, be construed to be a one-way condition.  Indeed, the launch of a SS-25/Topol from Kapustin Yar was the first that Russia was under no obligation to share telemetry from with the US.  One supposition then regarding Putin’s remarks might be an attempt at a quid-pro-quo where the US would be compelled to share information on its defensive missiles where Russia shares that of its offensive missiles.

While nice for domestic haymaking, that point fails on two accords — the US under the Treaty and the extension is not compelled to do so and secondly, it has already voluntarily shared much directly with Russia and Putin in particular.  In the course of a Q and A session this past October at the Atlantic Council, Lieutenant General O’Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, had occasion to comment on this subject directly regarding the European site, which Russia has objected to since its unveiling under the Bush Administration:

MR. KEMPE:  Questions?  Let me throw out one of my own.  Will Russia view this ICBM capability as more or less threatening to its deterrent than the nuclear deterrent than the Bush administration’s?  On the one hand, it seems – we have heard that this doesn’t have anything to do with Russia.  But on the other hand, certainly Russia has not looked at it that way.  And I am just wondering how they will view this.

GEN. O’REILLY:  I can tell you in all the deliberations I was in that wasn’t one of the issues – criteria that was used.  However, if you want a verifiable capability, as we go back to START and others, the more readily verify and transparent it is, the better the system is as far as providing confidence and assurance to the other party.  And in the case of Russia, they would look at the size of this interceptor.  They are very good at developing missiles.  They have the capability to understand that a one-ton missile with less than a 30-kilogram payload – much less than that – they can calculate the range of that missile.  And that range of that missile, even the more advanced missile that we said at the end is nowhere near the range necessary to even get close to any of their missile fields.  So on very first principles of physics, it becomes obvious. This is a capability that if you are within a range of that missile and that is what we are developing, it is highly capable to destroy missiles of all ranges.  But there is literally a zone that if you are outside that zone, we have no capability. (Atlantic Council transcript)

Additionally, Lt. Gen. O’Reilly and his predecessor as MDA Director, LtGen Obering had occasion for discussions with Russia re. the BMD system, particularly during their cooperative tour of the Gabala radar and discussions about the use of the Armavir radar as well. (NPR and 16 June 2009 Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee).  The more one peels back the layers on the Russian protestations, the less credible it becomes.  The BMD system supporting the missiles in Alaska and California was never intended to counter Russian ICBMs.  With the planned final version of the system having somewhere between 18-25 operational GBIs, each with a single, non-nuclear kinetic interceptor per GBI, a single SS-18 could overwhelm the system with its 10 warheads supported by up to forty penetration aids.  As for the Phase Adaptive Approach for European defense, the SM-3 Blk1A and -1B has no capability against an ICBM, nor will they be positioned near Russian ICBM fields.  Additionally, should a unit be placed in Poland as part of the next phase of development (Aegis BMD Ashore), it will still employ the SM-3 Blk-1B and still have no capability against Russian ICBMs.

So what is it that Russia, or more particularly, Putin, hope to gain by this sudden intransigence?

The new treaty will contain a provision regarding the relationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms (8 July 09 Joint Understanding).  Is it instead a reflection of his (Putin’s) views that anti-Russian (nee’ -Soviet) elements are too deeply entrenched in Washington to expect to see long term changes that benefit Russia?  If so, paradoxically, then must a harder line must be taken up front to take advantage of an Administration seen to be anxious to hit the “reset” button on relations with Russia?

The answer, as is the case with most things dealing with Russia, is more complex than that.  It begins with the complicated relationship between what appears to be a hard-line Putin who steps into the public discourse when a more conciliatory Medvedev approaches points that are difficult to reconcile.  Fold in the reaction to expansion of NATO (and by extension, the US in particular) into former WTO members, US bases in former Soviet Republics and statements from legislators, analysts and policy makers, about Russia’s demographic decline (GPO for Library of Congress; counterveiling view here) or the ‘natural decline‘ of Russia’s strategic forces.  There may be an additional dynamic at work here – namely an early signal of an intent to step away from the INF Treaty.

The INF Treaty eliminated an entire category of missiles (ranged 500-5500 km) – between the US and Russia.  Unfortunately, it does not apply nor hold say over China, North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan or other nations and as such, the just passed decade saw an aggressive expansion of MR/IRBM development and proliferation.  It is, indeed, a growth industry.  Russia would very much like to get in on the action, but because of the INF Treaty, can only offer up its Iskandar SRBM while the likes of China can shop the likes of the CSS-6 Mod 2 (550+ km) and CSS-5 (1100+ km), Iran the Shahab 3 (800 – 1200+ km) and North Korea the No Dong (800 km).  Russia’s reputation for rocket design and rugged, mobile systems would be a major force to be reckoned with in the international sales front, MTCR limits notwithstanding.

For now, the real import of Putin’s remarks probably won’t be fully evident until the talks resume in mid-January.  Hopefully, the above has provided some context to view that setting and the discussions that follow.

Next – Iran: Nuclearization or Implosion in 2010?