Jeffrey LewisKadish and Space-Based Missile Defense, Redux

Air Force General Ronald Kadish, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, did it again. When asked about the relationship between space-based missile defenses and the “weaponization of space,” Kadish gave incorrect answers that might, as a result, appear misleading. For example, Kadish said:

[R]ight now our focus in building this integrated missile defense is terrestrial and will continue to be because that/’s where we can reduce the risk in the overall performance of the system, understand the technology better and deal with it in the environment that is on the ground and at sea. So all except for the $10 million that you pointed out in this next year budget goes to that effort. So that/’s our focus.

Just $10 million, huh? Well, it is actually $11 million ($ 10,550,000 to be precise), but that isn/’t the real problem: Kadish left out another $68 million. Compare that Kadish statement, with this Kadish statement:

In 2005, we will begin conducting Near-Field Infrared Experiments to get a close-up view from space of rocket plumes to support the development of the terrestrial-based interceptor seeker and provide additional data needed for the development of a space test bed. [emphasis added]

How does the $68 million for a satellite that will simulate a space-based boost intercept somehow get ommitted from a discussion of funding for space-based missile defense?

Kadish offered another answer that was incorrect:

Well, the definition of weaponizing space has always been troubling to me in terms of discussing it. So let me just, from a philosophical standpoint, point out that this is a defensive system with no offensive capability from a weapons standpoint. So if somebody uses space — and all our engagements are in space, by the way — to attack us, they have weaponized space and we are defending ourselves against it.

The system has “no offensive capability from a weapons standpoint”? Just a few years ago, the then-program manager at Boeing had a different opinion, noting that the ASAT and missile defenses missions are interchangeable:

For the record, [hit-to-kill] has been done three times at these speeds successfully. So it/’s not that we can/’t do it, we did in /’84 and /’90. And we also had a kinetic energy, or we had an ASAT, anti-satellite intercept, one time and that/’s the same type of vehicle, same type of intercept velocities. So, it/’s been done three times. [emphasis added]

A Boeing program brief for KE ASAT suggested that ABM interceptors could intercept satellites with “technical modifications”, although such modifcations might result in “excessive cost & schedule delays.” Laura Grego and David Wright, at the Union of Concerned Scientists, have an excellent paper on the ASAT capabilities of ABM systems.