Posted tagged ‘U.S. Missile defense’

U.S. and Guam Shielded From North Korean Missiles by High-Tech Defenses

August 10, 2017

U.S. and Guam Shielded From North Korean Missiles by High-Tech Defenses, Washington Free Beacon, August 10, 2017

Kim Jong Un / Getty Images

Amid growing missile threats from North Korea, American missile defenses based in Alaska, California, and Guam, as well as on Navy ships, are capable of knocking out North Korean nuclear missiles, according to military leaders and experts.

Missile Defense Agency Director Air Force Lt. General Samuel Greaves said Wednesday he is confident current defenses would be effective against Pyongyang’s missiles.

“Yes, we believe that the currently deployed ballistic missile defense system can meet today’s threat, and we’ve demonstrated that capability through testing,” Greaves told a conference in Alabama.

Contrary to critics who say ground-based interceptors and naval anti-missile systems are unreliable, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, a former MDA director, says the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) provides the best protection from a long-range North Korean strike.

Yet other shorter-range defenses such as the land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, and the Navy’s ship-based Aegis SM-3 missiles can knock out medium and intermediate-range North Korean missiles, and if given enough satellite warning could attack North Korea’s ICBM warheads, he said.

“Any interceptor can intercept any missile, given the right parameters,” Obering said in an interview.

“I have high confidence that if we were attacked by North Korea we would be able to defend ourselves.”

President Trump has declared North Korea will not be allowed to develop a nuclear missile capable of striking the United States. On Tuesday he warned that continued North Korean threats against the United States would result in “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea responded by announcing that an attack on the American Pacific island of Guam is being considered.

On Wednesday, the official KCNA news agency dismissed Trump’s warning as a “load of nonsense.”

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the state media organ said.

The heated rhetoric prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reiterate U.S. military capabilities, including missile defenses, in a statement Wednesday.

“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack,” Mattis said.

Noting the unified vote condemning North Korea at the United Nations on Saturday, Mattis said “Kim Jong Un should take heed” of those who agree North Korea poses a threat to global security and stability.

North Korea “must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that Pyongyang “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Mattis said Trump was notified of the growing missile threat and his first orders were to emphasize the readiness of both missile defenses and nuclear deterrent forces.

The defense secretary added that the “combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth,” and noted that the Kim Jong Un regime’s actions “will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said recently that he is concerned about growing missile threats from both North Korea and Iran and wants better sensors and interceptors for missile defenses.

“I’m concerned about any missile threat that is growing and can either range our allies or the United States,” he said in Omaha last month.

“But when I look at where we need to invest in future missile defenses, I see the most important thing that we have to invest in right now would be increased sensor capabilities because we need to be able to characterize the threat wherever it is on the globe in order to be able to effectively respond to it with defenses.”

Hyten also favors adding sensors in space “because you can’t have access to enough land points in the world to have a full sensor capability, so we need to go to space.”

Next is the need for improved interceptors.

“We have interceptors right now that are good enough to deal with the basic North Korean threat that is out there right now,” Hyten said. “But the threat is maturing fast and we have to improve our interceptor capability fast enough to stay with them.”

The Pentagon is developing an advanced kill vehicle that will be added current interceptors in Alaska and California. New technology is also available to deal with maneuvering warheads.

Hyten said he would favor building space sensors and better interceptors before setting up a third based on the East Coast for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense.

The Pentagon is currently conducting a major review of ballistic missile defense policy that will set the course of current and future defenses.

“There’s a ballistic missile defense review underway right now that will say where we have to go in terms of capacity, whether it’s more in the West, more in the East,” Hyten said.

“But I continue to advocate to make sure we don’t in the discussion on capacity miss the need for improved sensors and improved interceptors that will really enable decisions we have coming out of the review.”

The ground based missile defenses that would be used against a North Korean ICBM include 36 interceptors mainly based at Fort Greely, Alaska with a smaller number located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California.

The interceptors are equipped with kinetic kill vehicles that travel at very high speeds and ram into enemy warheads in space.

Command centers are located in Colorado Springs and Fort Greely.

Obering said the command and control for missile defense is highly automated because of the need to respond very quickly to a missile launch by North Korea that would be spotted by special military satellites focused on North Korea.

Once detected the system predicts an “impact fan” of potential target areas and if the track indicates it is going to hit the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii.

“If that fan touches any of the defended area that is programed into the Ground Based Midcourse system, the system automatically alerts,” Obering said.

The alert notifies commanders that a missile is inbound heading for a specific area. Then electronic sensors around the world, including radar, begin searching for the missile.

The sensor information is then fed into the fire control system that assesses which data is more reliable and selects an interceptor to attack the warhead.

“The system then determines what would be the most optimum shot, either from Vandenberg or Alaska,” Obering said. “The human has to enable it. It has to say, ‘Ok, you’re authorized to launch.’ But everything else is done automatically.”

For Guam, currently a THAAD battery is deployed to the island and Aegis missile defenses ships also are likely being deployed near the island in the event North Korea would attempt to strike the island.

North Korea has three ICBMs, the Taepodong-2, Hwasong-13, and Hwasong-14. Those would not be used for strikes on Guam. Other medium-range or intermediate range missiles such as the Musudan or Hwasong-12 could be used.

Those missiles can be countered by THAAD and Aegis ships.

Obering said current defenses are capable against North Korean missiles today but need to be upgraded. “We certainly need to add more interceptors, we need to add more sensors and we need to do much more in terms of fielding advanced capabilities to stay ahead of the North Korean threat and the Iranian threat as well,” he said.

The MDA budget should be increased to $10 billion to $12 billion annually, he said.

For example, in addition to using space satellites for warning, satellites should be used for tracking in order to provide more precision for missile defenses.

“When you do that, you get dramatically improved sensor coverage,” Obering said. Space based sensors would bolster the three most effective missile defenses: GMD, THAAD and Aegis.

Another step to increase the lethality of missile defenses would be to use what is called cooperative engagement capabilities—the ability to use multiple tracking and guidance sensors on various missile defense systems.

For example, the Navy’s SM-3 missile has a range greater than the Aegis radar and thus could be extended by using data from other longer-range radar.

“That’s what we mean by an integrated system—the ability to take any sensor and marry it with any interceptor,” Obering said.

Cooperative engagement has been tested several times and more are scheduled.

Obering said missile defenses are proving opponents wrong. Many arm control advocates for decades opposed all missile defenses by arguing the defenses undermined arms control agreements.

“Just imagine where we would have been in the late 1990s and early 2000s if we would have listened to the critics and listened to those who said we don’t need to field missile defenses,” he said.

Without missile defenses, there would be only two options for military commanders: preemptive attacks or retaliation after being attacked.

“And now we have another option and that’s very critical,” Obering said.

Modernizing America’s Nuclear Capabilities Is a Must

July 27, 2017

Modernizing America’s Nuclear Capabilities Is a Must, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, July 27, 2017

(Russia is not our only nuclear or nuclear-capable enemy. What about Iranian, Chinese and North Korean nukes and delivery systems, now and in the future? — DM)

In 1989, America had 1,000 nuclear missile silos, and a small number of additional bomber and submarine bases and submarines at sea, facing 13,500 Soviet warheads. Today, the U.S. has 450 such silos facing 1,750 Russian warheads. That is a switch from a ratio of 13 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo, to a ratio of 4 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. Getting rid of Minuteman ICBMs would reverse that progress and make the ratio even worse, with 175 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. How is that an improvement?

The U.S. “cannot afford to delay modernization initiatives” while the “American people and our allies are counting on congressional action to fund our nuclear enterprise modernization efforts.” — General Robin Rand, the commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command.

America’s ability to defend itself is at stake.

In April 2017, the Pentagon launched the U.S. Defense Department’s legislatively mandated quadrennial Nuclear Posture Review to determine American policy, strategy and capabilities. The process now underway involves testimony from experts arguing over how the estimated $27 billion spent annually (growing over the next decade by an additional $10 billion a year) on America’s nuclear arsenal should be allocated.

One claim, made by a number of experts, is that investing in the effort to upgrade America’s exiting nuclear arsenal — the land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) — would be destabilizing and wasteful. They are, it is claimed, highly vulnerable to enemy attack and therefore do not provide deterrence. Among the 40 House members who suggest killing the land-based missiles is the ranking Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The opposite position was expressed recently by General Robin Rand, the commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). He persuasively argued that, far from being either destabilizing or unnecessary, “Our bomber and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) forces, and our nuclear command, control, and communications systems defend our national interests, assure our allies and partners, and deter potential adversaries.”

Addressing the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on June 7, Rand said, “ICBMs are the sole weapon system capable of rapid global response and impose a time-proven and unpalatable cost to attack by peer, near-peer and aspiring nuclear nations.”

The discrepancy in viewpoints stems from the difference in perception about American nuclear power and deterrence. Those who disagree with Rand are stuck in Cold War thinking, which has become largely irrelevant in today’s world. To understand this better, a review of the history of the U.S.-Soviet arms race is necessary.

In January 1967, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson announced that the USSR had greatly expanded its powerful multiple-warhead land-based missiles, as well as having begun to build an anti-ballistic-missile defense system (ABM) around Moscow — which would enable it to launch a first strike against the U.S. without fear of an effective retaliation against Soviet leadership bunkers — and called for strategic arms limitations talks (SALT).

Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, continued with the process, formally launching the negotiations in November 1969 that led to the signing of the SALT I executive agreement in May 1972. When Gerald Ford became president, he agreed with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev on a general framework for a second agreement — SALT II — marginally to limit the deployment capabilities of each side, but still allow major increases in warheads, especially powerful, multi-warhead land-based Soviet missiles.

Although SALT II was signed in June 1979 by Ford’s successor, President Jimmy Carter, it was never ratified by the Senate, members of which, on both sides of the aisle, argued that it would not “reverse trends in the military balance adverse to the United States.” A week after 19 senators expressed this warning in a letter to Carter, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Carter withdrew the treaty from further consideration.

Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan — who had been vehemently opposed SALT II before his election — knew its upward limits would readily accommodate his proposed modernization efforts and thus agreed to abide by it in principle. But here, he switched gears while pursuing a markedly different military and diplomatic avenue, in the form of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Reagan proposed that the U.S. simultaneously modernize while seeking reductions, instead of merely allowing huge increases in warheads under the SALT process. This also challenged the Soviet idea of a nuclear freeze — especially in that the Soviets were well through their nuclear modernization and the United States had not even begun.

Early in the Reagan administration, the U.S. still continued seeking to make its land-based silo missiles better able to withstand a massive Soviet strike. Many plans were examined, but all were expensive and required the use of a great deal of land on which to move the missiles on trains, trucks or mobile launchers.

Ultimately, in 1983, Reagan reached a simple, but elegant, solution: a three-step program. First, deep reductions in nuclear weapons; second, putting the new, modern, large 10-warhead Peacekeeper land-based missiles in existing Minuteman silos, and third, simultaneously developing a much smaller mobile missile with only one warhead, to be built later. This was essentially accomplished during the three successive administrations after the end of the Cold War, but with one key change. Given that the number of Russian and American strategic warheads eventually were reduced by more than 90% under the START I, Moscow and New START Treaties, American silo-based missiles — all with only a single warhead — became fundamentally survivable, even deployed in silos where they remain today.

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in its silo in Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, circa 1980. (Image source: U.S. Department of Defense)

The situation is therefore now the opposite of what it was during the 1970s and 1980s. At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. — with 1,000 American missile silos — faced more than 13,000 Soviet (subsequently Russian) warheads, or a 13-to-1 ratio. Today, we face roughly 1,750 Russian warheads but have 450 silos, a 4-to-1 ratio. In other words, the strategic environment became more stable, not less, and eliminating the very nuclear triad responsible for this stability makes no sense.

Although the nuclear triad was conceptualized and developed during the Cold War, maintaining it is just as imperative today. ICBMs are as highly stabilizing now as they were highly destabilizing prior to the dramatic reduction in the number of warheads from 1981-2017.

Why is that?

In 1989, America had 1,000 nuclear missile silos, and a small number of additional bomber and submarine bases and submarines at sea, facing 13,500 Soviet warheads. Today, the U.S. has 450 such silos facing 1,750 Russian warheads. That is a switch from a ratio of 13 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo, to a ratio of 4 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. Getting rid of Minuteman ICBMs would reverse that progress and make the ratio even worse, with 175 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. How is that an improvement?

It is crucial, therefore, to continue to invest in modernizing the ICBMs. As for the suggestion — among some of the less extreme anti-ICBM analysts — that the current ICBM force be extended for a few more years and modernization be reassessed later — is not a viable option, according to General Rand. He says that the U.S. “cannot afford to delay modernization initiatives” while the “American people and our allies are counting on congressional action to fund our nuclear enterprise modernization efforts.”

Let us hope that those who do not grasp how necessary it is for the United States to go forward with the ground-based strategic deterrent have little influence over the Nuclear Posture Review that is currently underway. America’s ability to defend itself is at stake.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, as well as Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. He was also for 20 years, the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.

U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System

July 18, 2017

U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System, Washington Free Beacon, July 18, 2017

(Can it be deployed by ground-based troops? — DM)

The U.S. Navy recently tested the world’s first-ever active laser weapons system, which is now deployed and ready for war.

The Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, is now deployed aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, where CNN was able to witness the system destroy a drone in flight and moving targets on the Persian Gulf.

The system has special materials that release photons, and, at the speed of light, it silently hits an object, burning it to a temperature of thousands of degrees. Each strike travels 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM.

In one test, a drone’s wing caught fire after being hit by the LaWS, leading it to crash into the sea.

“We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else. We’re able to engage the targets at the speed of light,” Lt. Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer, told CNN.

“We’re doing that engagement at the speed of light so it really is a point and shoot—we see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target,” he added.

Its cost per use is also quite impressive for such a revolutionary new weapon: approximately $1 per shot. The $40 million system requires electrical power and a three-man team.

The LaWS is also extremely accurate. The system can target a single component of an enemy target, such as a boat’s engine, and make it catch fire so that the entire vessel does not have to be destroyed and the Navy can avoid collateral damage.

“I can aim that at any particular spot on a target, and disable and destroy as necessary,” said Christopher Wells, captain of the USS Ponce. “It reduces collateral damage—I no longer have to worry about rounds that may go beyond the target and potentially hurt or damage things that I don’t want to hurt or damage.”

The system, whose strikes are silent and invisible, is currently active at sea, ready on the USS Ponce for an enemy. It is primarily intended to take on drones, aircraft, and small vessels that could be used in an attack from countries such as Iran and North Korea.

One of the weapon’s biggest strengths is its versatility.

“It’s not a niche weapon system like some other weapons that we have throughout the military where it’s only good against air contacts, or it’s only good against surface targets, or it’s only good against, you know, ground-based targets,” Wells said. “In this case this is a very versatile weapon, it can be used against a variety of targets.”

A second generation LaWS system is currently in development, CNN reported. The newer system is believed to be intended to take on faster targets such as incoming missiles.

Missile defense damns Obama ‘flexibility’

May 31, 2017

Missile defense damns Obama ‘flexibility’, American Thinker, Daniel John Sobieski, May 31, 2017

Tuesday’s missile defense test, in which a ground-based interceptor successfully intercepted an ICBM over the Pacific, was both a warning to North Korea and another indication that America is back.  The test was in the works before Trump took office, but it comes on an administration welcoming improvements in missile defense versus the prior Obama administration that used back channels to give it away to Putin and the Russians.

As the Washington Examiner reported:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully shot down a dummy warhead in space over the Pacific Ocean Tuesday during a test of a missile defense system that would protect the country from intercontinental ballistic missiles like the ones being developed by North Korea.

“During the test, an ICBM-class target was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” said a statement from the agency. “A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision.”

The irony of the interceptor being launched from a facility with Ronald Reagan’s name on it should escape no one.  President Reagan dreamed of a multi-layered missile defense most derided as “Star Wars.”  He dreamed of preventing or deterring a nuclear attack, not merely avenging one.  Perhaps he might have also had in mind the danger posed from rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran.

We see Reagan’s legacy in the Aegis missile cruisers and destroyers that can be deployed in troubled waters around the globe.  We see it in the THAAD theater missile defense recently deployed to South Korea.  All of this President Barack Hussein Obama opposed.

Missile defense systems are systems President Obama has long opposed as “Cold War” weapons.  When President Obama took office in January 2009, sitting on his desk were President George W. Bush’s plans for the deployment of ground-based missile interceptors, such as are deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, in Poland, as well as missile defense radars in the Czech Republic.

As Investor’s Business Daily noted over a year ago, President Obama had other plans.  His betrayal of our allies was ironically exquisite:

Yet within hours of Medvedev’s election as president in 2008, the Russian announced that Moscow would deploy SS-26 missiles in his country’s enclave of Kaliningrad situated between our NATO allies Poland and Lithuania.

He wanted the U.S. to abandon plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland and warning radars in the Czech Republic designed to counter a future threat from Iran.

What did President Obama do? He caved in and notified the Poles in a midnight phone call on Sept. 17, 2009 – the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland – that we were pulling the plug on that system due to Russian objections.

Putin then watched in 2012 as Obama promised Medvedev at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, that after his re-election he would have more “flexibility” to weaken missile defense, which would help him fulfill his dream of U.S. disarmament.

Putin know full well Obama’s weakness in responding to any foreign threat to U.S. interests and security.  President Obama was our Neville Chamberlain, promising “peace in our time” as he invited war with weakness, apologies, and appeasement.  It was he who colluded with the Russians to threaten American national security in the “back channel” conversation with Medvedev that fell victim to an open mic.

Thanks largely to President George W. Bush and his push to fulfill President Ronald Reagan’s dream, the continental United States and overseas allies are protected against missile attack by 30 deployed long-range ground-based interceptors (GBI), 32 Navy ships armed with over 100 SM-3 IA interceptors and two dozen advanced SM-3 IB interceptors, dozens of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors, and eight X-band missile defense radars deployed abroad.

It was Obama who proved to be Russia’s and Putin’s lapdog.  Trump may have the chance to fire a second shot heard around the world, securing America’s freedom and very existence.  When that pudgy little man-child gets his latest toy, just shoot that North Korean ICBM test down.