Jeffrey LewisA Sensible Missile Defense for NATO

The Obama Administration has replaced the ground-based missile defense architecture in Europe with a series of theater missile defenses centered on the Aegis system.

I think this makes a lot of sense, as regular readers know, on both technical and political grounds. SECDEF Bob Gates and General Cartwright, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, gave a detailed briefing on the technical rationale for the shift to theater defenses:

Since [2006], two important developments have prompted a reassessment of our approach in Europe. First, a change in our intelligence community’s 2006 view of the Iranian threat: The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected. This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies.

On the other hand, our intelligence assessment also now assesses that the threat of potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities has been slower to develop than was estimated in 2006.

The second development relates to our technology. Over the last few years, we have made great strides with missile defense, particularly in our ability to counter short-and-medium-range missiles. We now have proven capabilities to intercept these ballistic missiles with land-and-sea-based interceptors supported by much-improved sensors.

These capabilities offer a variety of options to detect, track and shoot down enemy missiles. This allows us to deploy a distributive sensor network rather than a single fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic, enabling greater survivability and adaptability.

We have also improved the Standard Missile 3, the SM-3, which has had eight successful flight tests since 2007. These tests have amply demonstrated the SM-3’s capability and have given us greater confidence in the system and its future.

Based on these two factors, we have now the opportunity to deploy new sensors and interceptors, in northern and southern Europe, that near-term can provide missile defense coverage against more immediate threats from Iran or others.

In the initial stage, we will deploy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors, which provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed.

The second phase, about 2015, will involve fielding upgraded, land-based SM-3s. Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system. Basing some interceptors on land will provide additional coverage and save costs compared to a purely sea-based approach.

A lot of “smart” people around town will adopt casual cynicism of saying this decision is really about Russia. Don’t believe them.

Gates described the decision as “driven … almost exclusively by the changed intelligence assessment and the enhanced technology.”

Those who would say the decision was about Russia have it backwards — for exhibits A and B check the quotes in stories by WaPo’s Michael D. Shear and Ann Scott Tyson and the NYT’s Peter Baker and Nicholas Kulish.

The Bush Administration placed a midcourse interceptor site and X-band radar within the former Warsaw Pact precisely to make a political point to the Russia, not because it provided the best defense. Aegis was always a better technical option.

Once the White House was no longer motivated to be churlish toward Moscow, that allowed technical considerations at the front of the debate. The fact that this may also open up a world of possibilities with Moscow (and I stress may) is nice, but is not the reason to put theater missile defenses into Europe. The reason is to give NATO allies a defense that works against a threat that exists.

What the Obama team has done is to take Russia out of the equation, not to put it in.

As regular readers know, I’ve long thought the Aegis-based architecture represented a much better solution to defending NATO allies against Iranian ballistic missiles. (See: How Many Aegis Ships To Defend NATO? June 12, 2007 and 4 Aegis Ships to Defend NATO July 16, 2008 ).

Aegis is “probably the one well-run missile defense program” in the US arsenal. Nice to see I am not alone.

Guess How Many Ships?

One little detail — the new architecture includes 2 or 3 Aegis ships in theater. Here is what Gates said:

But on a day-in, day-out basis, we’re looking probably for what we would call a 2.0 presence, maybe a 3.0 presence, so three ships at any given time in and around the Mediterranean and the North Sea, et cetera, to protect areas of interest, and then we would surge additional ships. And part of what’s in the budget is to get us a sufficient number of ships to allow us to have a global deployment of this capability on a constant basis, with a surge capacity to any one theater at a time.

Some of you may recall that General Obering tried to claim that 40 ships would be required, as a way of making more attractive the interceptor in Poland. I found that, um, hard to believe:

[MDA Director General Trey] Obering was obviously aware of the proposal, because his prepared statement included a long dismissal of the mobile systems that asserted the Navy would need 40 Aegis ships to defend Europe:

[snip]

When I read this, I thought 40?

As in FOUR ZERO? Is this like the biblical 40? As in “We don’t know how many, because we only have eyes for ground-based midcourse”?

The Aegis defended area or footprint is supposed to be much, much bigger than Obering’s remarks would suggest.

I suggested that 4 was a more reasonable number than 40.

MDA later admitted that 4 and even 2 were plausible numbers.

Now, here we are with a planned architecture of 2-3 ships (and some supplemental coverage). No wonder some people found Obering to be less than forthright. And, nice to see that those burnout velocity estimates weren’t so far off.

Comments

  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    Indeed it appears as if the adults may have taken control for a while.

    A couple of comments:

    – They’re heading toward SM-3 Block II (a US/Japan program, let’s remember) in about a decade. Block II will be a much beefier interceptor (http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/images/sm-3-h1.gif), and the folks who think about ASAT problems need to be taking that into consideration.

    – SM-3 BLK I and especially II will be capable of exoatmospheric intercept, which means the discrimination problem remains a problem. If there’s one thing about the post-inauguration BMD changes that’s slightly perplexing, it’s the cancellation of the Multiple Kill Vehicle program, which would have at least moved in the direction of making discrimination unnecessary.

  2. Scott Monje (History)

    It will be interesting to see how the Russians respond to this. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, they rejected Obama’s earlier offer (the US would not deploy if the Russians helped stop Iranian development) because they believed Iran wouldn’t stop. According to some, Putin already tried in late 2007 and got nowhere. Therefore, acceptng the deal would amount to a de facto approval of the GMD deployment. Now that calculation has changed. I also notice that several Republicans have complained about the timing because the Russians have allegedly just rejected further sanctions on Iran, but I believe Medvedev suggested just the other day that the issue was still up in the air.

  3. Gregory Kulacki (History)

    Have you lost your mind? Recognizing the need for a political compromise is one thing. Applauding it as a good decision is quite another.

  4. nick (History)

    Politically it will be a suicide for any country, including Iran, to attack Europe. This is the country that did not even retaliate against Talibans after they slaughtered their diplomats in Afghanistan in the 90’s. After China and UAE, Europe has the most commerce with Iran than any other country. Why should Iran attack Europe that is ostensibly the source of high tech equipment and one of the best customers for oil and potentially gas in the future. OK, I get it, we need a bogeyman to sell Patriot missiles and Aegis systems, and sure as hell Mullahs with their behavior fit the bill.

    As for the technical side of this issue, not getting to the diameter of Sajil 2 and all the other gory details. It is estimated that Iran may have 3 dozen Shahb 3’s and probably much less than that Sajil 2’s. Does it make sense for them to fight the mighty Nato with an unproved missile that will number less than a dozen by the time the first phase is in place?

  5. Andy (History)

    Jeffrey,

    I think it is quite likely there was a quid pro quo with Russia on this issue (probably Afghanistan logistics and maybe something else), so I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say this decision wasn’t about Russia. I think your buying too much into Gate’s line about changed intelligence and technology.

    That’s not to say I disagree at all with the decision since I favor the Naval option for the reasons you mention, it’s just that I think the political aspect (particularly regarding Russia) can’t be so easily dismissed.

  6. MarkoB

    If technical considerations were at the fore there wouldn’t be a BMD system period.

  7. George William Herbert (History)

    Just to get it out there…

    USN deployment coverage for ships is about 3:1 – 3 ships for every one “on station”. Ships spend about 1/3 of their time on station, 1/3 in workups, and 1/3 in post-cruise maintenance and refits and service life extensions and the like. The ratio is more like 3.25 to 3.5:1 when you consider 40 year time periods and the midlife SLEP.

    If you need 3 on station – 1 north sea 2 med, say, then you’re talking 12 or 13 or 14 ships total. Assuming these are Arleigh Burke DDG-51s, that’s $900 million each plus ordnance, or around $12-13 billion in US Navy shipbuild, plus making sure we have enough base facilities in Europe, 4,800 sailors at payroll and support costs of around $400M / yr, fuel for the ships, etc.

    If you look at the current USN build rates for destroyers and cruisers, and the class plans, this is a huge impact:

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/images/scn-2000.gif

  8. George William Herbert (History)

    Update to my previous… I was using obsolete cost estimates for DDG-51s.

    According to:

    http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL32109_20090723.pdf

    The estimated FY11 and beyond average procurement cost for DDG-51s is $1.9 billion, not $900 million, with $70M / yr for payroll and fuel costs at $100/bbl oil cost per ship. So the fleet of notionally 14 ships is $26 billion in shipbuilding and $980 million/yr operations costs, plus or minus. And 5-7 years of additional DDG-51 build beyond the currently planned build.

  9. Mark Gubrud

    I totally agree with Greg on this. I would not be such a cheerleader for proliferating ships and roles for the Aegis SM-3 system, which has already been proven ASAT-capable and whose Block II upgrade will be a capable ASAT, but which as a missile defense has not been proven any more capable than the GMD it replaces of defeating aggressive countermeasures (such countermeasures have simply been assumed not to exist for mostly endoatmospheric missiles).

    What is the purpose for these Aegis deployments, “defending” Europe? Against what? Random ballistic missile attacks launched by mullahs gone nuts? Could Europe not absorb a few of these while we immediately pulverize the Iranian military by all means necessary (short of nukes)? Or is this about Iranian nukes – as if they couldn’t be countermeasured to defeat the SM-3, as if the likely leakage rate even against dumb missiles would be acceptable in a nuclear context.

    No, excuse me, this isn’t wise at all, it’s just more political gamesmanship from an administration not afraid of “change” but still too timid to change the game. [How would they do that? By standing up and telling the American people that missile defense is a boondoggle and a fraud sold to them by fools and liars. They have the facts and the authority to make the case, but they won’t because it wouldn’t look like what people have come to expect from their presidents and politicos.]

  10. Josh (History)

    Nick:

    I share your doubts that the Iranians would suddenly attack targets in Europe with ballistic missiles one fine day. But in the extremely unfortunate event of an armed conflict with Iran sometime in the future—regardless of how it might come about—it would do no harm to have defensive measures in place.

    Even if Iran’s conventional missile arsenal does not expand enough in the future to pose a serious threat to European cities as a terror weapon, it could be useful against NATO military facilities. That seems like reason enough.

  11. Georgetown Student

    Actually, there is a problem with the switch to SM-3IIs. The current SM-3 is sufficient against IRBMs, however, it lacks the dynamic capability to form a reliable defense against IRBMs or ICBMs. What Obama’s decision is, in effect, is to delay the positioning of an adequate missile defense in Europe until the development of SM-3IIs are complete. This does make sense from one viewpoint, the military wants to shift development money towards the Tactical systems away from the current GDI system. By unifying European defense with their new framework, this will ease development.

    There are several problems with this plan, however. First, GDIs were included to provide the US with ICBM defense against Iran. Because GDI already exists, the development time would be shorter, and missiles could be deployed sooner. But, European and US complete defense will have to wait until the SM-3IIs have been finished, that will take time, probably longer than was envisioned for the original plan.

    And, therein lies the problem. The missile defense in Europe was intended for two reasons. 1, as outlined above, to give an assurance of US support to Baltic states. That is somewhat lessened unless the Patriot plan moves forwards. 2. To prevent Iran from achieving MAD with Europe. If Iran gets ICBM capability before those sites have been developed, in the new longer time span, Iran will be able to demand that those missiles not be put in Europe.

    Finally, this system will put a high demand on the Navy’s AEGIS warships, essentially shifting some to strategic duties and away from their needed role as a guardian of the carriers. If the Navy is forced, due to political pressure, to deploy too many warships to guard Europe, they may be unable to escort the Carrier Battle Groups that will attack the missile launchers (this is in a wartime scenario). Even not in a full scale war, the absence of AEGIS ships from the Med or Black Sea will make Europe ‘vulnerable’ to ballistic missiles. As policy will be made that reflects their must vulnerable time, that will make missile defense pointless because Europeans will politically act as if there wasn’t a missile defense. Naval deployment may, because ships cannot be on station all of the time, undermine the reason for European missile defense, namely preventing Iranian blackmail of Europe.

  12. Ryan Crierie

    Actually, you need between 6 and 9 ships. Remember, the rule of thumb for operationally deployed warships at sea — three ships equal one at sea at any one time, due to one being in port undergoing post deployment repairs and upgrades, the second working up for deployment, and the third actually at sea.

    Also, can someone explain how a 3,000 lb missile that’s dimensionally limited to being 21” in diameter and 257” in length can have the same kinetic performance as a 28,000 lb missile? It’s not for nothing all the operationally deployed strategic ABM systems like the Moscow ABM system, the old SAFEGUARD system, and Fort Greely all centered around a missile in the 20-30,000 lb weight class…

  13. bradley laing (History)

    Iran experts at the U.N nuclear monitoring agency believe Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and worked on developing a missile system that can carry an atomic warhead, according to a confidential report seen by The Associated Press.

    The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that those officials share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities and missile technology _ even if they have not made those views public.

  14. SW

    Gregory: quite so. The sound of violins: triumph of reason, a bold strike by a young, courageous President, clean break, obstacle removed, major $ saving, new dawn, reset button, yada, yada, yada… Perhaps, maybe. All players in this know the system as proposed posed nil threat to Russia. Zip, zero, nada. Ten interceptors with kinetic kill vehicles would not have shifted the MAD one iota. Either the Russians are irrational paranoiacs and persuaded themselves this was a dark plot to lay the groundwork for a strike at the heart of the Motherland. Or the Russians are wholly rational, and use a well tested strategy of manufacturing a crisis to obtain benefits from its resolution. Appeasing irrational paranoiacs always ends badly. Appeasing Russians acting ractionally, but with the highest contempt for everyone else, ends badly for everyone, as demonstrated many times since 1945. For the Poles, the Czechs, the Ukrainians, the Georgians etc. this may be demostrated again this time, sooner rather than later.

  15. Jochen Schischka (History)

    And once again, the USA turns out to be an unreliable ally that will sell you out to the highest bidder at the first opportunity (at least, that’s the impression created by this change in priorities – especially considering Poland and the Czech Republic)…

    There’s one question that springs to my mind:
    How well will the SM-3 protect Europe against chinese ICBMs (since they, unlike the Russians, can not afford, at least not yet, to launch enough missiles to definitely saturate a missile-defense-system with only 10 interceptors)?

    BTW, assuming that the Iranians would not shoot at Europe, since “that would not be in their best interest” sounds to me exactly like “Why should Germany attack Poland? That would not be in their best interest…” (but nonetheless happened, almost to the day, 70 years ago – I think it’s not advisable to bet on fanatics to always act according to common logic…they typically tend to have their own one).
    However, the existence of corresponding missiles alone will have a large impact on european political decision-making in the future anyway: Neither have the Iranians (or any other country with only a limited number of missiles) to actually shoot at Europe to have an effect (see cold war), nor has a missile defense to properly work for the Iranians (or anybody else) to reconsider ‘blackmailing’ Europe (since they can’t exclude the possibility that the interceptor missiles actually work)…and all this without threatening the opponent with total thermonuclear annihilation (MAD may have worked in the past, but it’s nonetheless MADness)!

    The Europeans should have built their own missile defense from the beginning (instead of e.g. wasting time and money on a GPS-clone with highly questionable profitability…) – they sure have the technical capabilities and, if funded multi-nationally, also the money!

  16. anon

    Regardless of how you view this decision it does seem this young & inexperienced administration has a poor sense of history by announcing the decision on the anniversary of the Soviet attach on Poland in 1939 & Obama calling the Czech prime minister in the middle of the night to tell his the good news 🙂

  17. Weiguo

    I see it as a political comprise for gaining Russia’s cooperation on other issues.
    1. to get Russia to agree on verification and transparency provisions in negotiation of START-replacing treaty. Russia had expressed its strong opposition to missile defense in Europe, and had expressed firmly that missile defense be connected to strategic weapons in the new treaty. So it’s very likely that Obama administration made this “change” to get Russia agree on verification provisions in the new treaty. After all, US need the verification provisions more urgently than Russia does.
    2. to get Russia’s “support” on Iran issues as an exchange. Russia has been perceived as somehow “standing on Iran’s side”, and doing things in its own way, which in many cases, is in US’ way. Replacing long range interceptors with shorter ones would certainly ease Russia’s concerns and getting its cooperation on Iran’s nuclear issue, at least not standing in US’ way anymore.
    Besides, shorter range system is much more realistic and rational than the longer range one. The planned long range system aims at “Iranian long range missiles” that does not exist with a handful of interceptors, and let the more realist threats from Iranian shorter range missiles, which could easily overwhelm the longer range system with numbers, untreated. And I agree with Jeffery that Aegis system (or its land version) is a better choice for defending Europe from Iran’s missile threat, either by its defending foot print or by its mobility and flexibility.

  18. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Nick:

    “Why should Iran attack Europe that is ostensibly the source of high tech equipment and one of the best customers for oil and potentially gas in the future.”

    Let me turn that around. Why should Iran be developing theater-range missiles that can put NATO members at risk, then?

    Why should Iran complain if NATO deploys defenses against the missiles you don’t think Iran plans to use?

    I’d prefer Iran, and other countries, not develop ballistic missiles. In that environment, I would see theater missile defense as an expensive folly.

    But Iran is developing such missiles. It makes perfect sense for NATO to deploy the most capable systems at its disposal.

    Say whatever you want about the SM-3, it is the most capable missile defense system in the arsenal.

  19. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Ryan Crierie:

    I know the rule of thumb, but there is no reason to provide for continuous at sea defense.

    As I discussed in a previous post, even the midcourse system would not by “up” 24/7.

    The goal would be to have the capability to stand up a defense in a crisis (2-3 ships) until more ships from the inventory surge into theater. That’s how I read the description by Cartwright:

    But on a day-in, day-out basis, we’re looking probably for what we would call a 2.0 presence, maybe a 3.0 presence, so three ships at any given time in and around the Mediterranean and the North Sea, et cetera, to protect areas of interest, and then we would surge additional ships. And part of what’s in the budget is to get us a sufficient number of ships to allow us to have a global deployment of this capability on a constant basis, with a surge capacity to any one theater at a time.

    There is nothing wrong with the way you want to do it, other than the fact that it would be expensive and there hasn’t been enough Aegis money to go around.

  20. Carey Sublette

    Indeed it would be suicide for any Iranian regime to attack any part of NATO with nuclear weapons. But this isn’t why they want them.

    I see two motivations for Iran to acquire nuclear arms.

    One is insurance against invasion – as they have seen occur in the neighboring nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Here the possibility of use in the event of attack is a deterrent for the prospective aggressor. This role is not nullified by counter-deterrence (the aggressor has nukes and also threatens to use them) since the possibility of Iranian nukes getting fired due to collapse of command and control in an invasion needs to be considered.

    The second is to have leverage in more routine games of power politics. Here it is implicit, potential threats that provide advantage not explicit threats or actual use.

    A BMD system that is seen as being effective (whether it is or not in truth) helps nullify Iranian leverage in the routine power politics scenario and so has value even if we agree that an Iranian attack would be suicide, and have doubts about whether it would work well in practice.

    To provide greater freedom of action in the former situation (contemplating going to war with Iran) requires the U.S. to have confidence that the BMD system will actually work well. Even here it hardly allows the U.S. to strike with impunity, given the possibility that leakage will occur even with a good defense system. It improves the situation if an attack is felt essential anyway, but seems unlikely to be an enabler of aggression of the Bush II “attack Iraq because we can” ilk.

    So – a BMD system in Europe has value to the U.S. even if we acknowledge that

  21. MIIS Student (History)

    anon —

    From that perspective, the timing does indeed look poor. But I think Gates et al. have been sitting on this for awhile, and it could not have been a more well calculated move.

    I agree with Jeffrey on this point, this is not about Russia, at least not entirely. However, it does put Moscow in a tough spot. Given some time, I don’t doubt the some in the Duma will be crying foul — pointing out that the new Aegis system will every bit and more capable of timely interception — to keep the issue alive because it’s politically quite healthy. (Indeed, Moscow loved the Bush proposal.)

    However, with the Security Council meeting a week away, and the new deployment plans less clear than those of the MD, Moscow has no choice but to accept this development warmly.

    Yes, NATO will be perturbed. But not for the reasons you might expect. NATO was hesitant to accept the Bush proposal to begin with. It took a lot of arm-wringing. Now, the US has pulled out of the plans, and some in NATO — I’m looking at you, Germany — are undoubtedly thinking that a lot of time and effort has been wasted.

    However, this assuages some of Russia’s concerns, and could prove conducive to bettered NATO-Russia relations. Am I being optimistic in hoping for more meaningful progress on the Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI) that’s been only half-heartedly pursued since its introduction at the 2002 NATO-Russia Council?

  22. RAJ47

    Probably the ABL tests have been extremely successful. They are easier to manufacture, cheaper and can be deployed by US at will.

  23. Allen Thomson (History)

    > Probably the ABL tests have been extremely successful. They are easier to manufacture, cheaper and can be deployed by US at will.

    I would not put a lot of my 401k money into ABL stock, at least not in the present context.

    However, talking about THAAD a bit might be worthwhile. Gen. Cartwright said a THAAD experimental deployment to Europe is planned this year, and the THAAD fire control radar is the AN/TPY-2, aka the FBX-T that he also said might be deployed to the Caucasus as part of the New Model EuroBMD system.

  24. nick (History)

    A few clarifications:

    Iran has the most antiquated air force in that neighborhood, except for Afghanistan and Iraq, thanks to our sanctions. F5s and F4s they are flying are not even used for training in US. The remaining F14s are being cannibalized for military parades, and a few Mig 29s of course exist. As Uzi Rubin mentioned recently, they focused on missile development. Because logically that is what they could get for deterrence against the F15i and F16i of Israel and potentially F35s that are going to Israel and Turkey. With all the weapon systems that we have sold to the Persian Gulf states, they would be a sitting duck. Mind you, the dubious precision of Shahab 3 is not even close to the GPS guided payload of Israeli air force. So yes, from their point of view it is a matter of survival, but not an offensive posture to work on these missiles.

    And that brings us to the second point I was making. Yes, if EU initiates a war with Iran, all bets are off. But Iran is not in a position to initiate a missile attack against EU, or for that matter anyone, they just don’t have the depth to sustain that situation.

    Finally, as to why Obama decided on a change, in my opinion, they have realized that the focus should be mostly in that neighborhood, namely Arabs and Israel. What this suggests perhaps is that a military confrontation with Iran is more probable than earlier this year, once the hydrocarbon sanctions pass late this year. Then, Iran is a lot more ferocious fighting closer to home with Shahab 1-3, and others.

  25. Andy (History)

    Interesting comments over at Ink Spots where they provide some quotes from Gate’s April 6th news briefing:

    Fourth, to better protect our forces and those of our allies in theater from ballistic missile attack, we will add $700 million to field more of our most capable theater missile defense systems; specifically, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD, and the Standard Missile 3 programs.
    Fifth, we will add $200 million to fund the conversion of six additional Aegis ships to provide ballistic-missile-defense capabilities.

    And:

    […] in the area of missile defense, we will restructure the program to focus on the rogue state and theater missile threat. We will not increase the number of current ground-based interceptors in Alaska, as had been planned, but we will continue to robustly fund continued research and development to improve the capability we already have to defend against long-range rogue missile threats, a threat North Korea’s missile launch this past weekend reminds us is real.

    To those who insist that Iranian missiles could never be a threat because to use them would be irrational or “suicide,” I would suggest reading some more history, which is filled with people(s), tribes and nations making decisions that turned out to be suicidal, irrational and against their national interest. At the time those decisions were made, the decisionmakers did not think they were acting against their own interest, or thought they had no other choice. It is naive to make the assumption that Iran, or any other nation, is somehow incapable of similar miscalculation.

    One should also consider that missile defense is about more than Iran despite the fact that Iran (and North Korea) are the current poster-children used as justification. Ballistic missiles are proliferating around the world and they are going to be used in most future state-on-state conflict. Consider the recent RAND analysis on a conflict between China and the US over Taiwan. It estimates that China would win through (in part) ballistic missile strikes on US airbases to cripple US air defense.

  26. Mark Gubrud

    Iran would attack Europe because Germany attacked Poland? I’m sorry, I do not see the homology there.

    SM-3 is “the most capable missile defense in the arsenal”? How capable is that, and based on what, the USA-193 shootdown? Ellen Tauscher’s patronage? How well does it perform against countermeasures?

    If for some reason Iran developed IRBMs threatening Europe and nuke warheads to top them off, they would have their deterrent, wouldn’t they? Or are we preparing for some inevitable clash here? All this talk about protecting troops and allies against short-range conventional ballistic missiles. The Aegis missiles would provide only a fractional attrition rate, rather meaningless in whatever apocalyptic scenario of war with Iran you are projecting.

    Meanwhile, SM-3 has indeed been shown capable of hitting a satellite, and the planned deployment leans toward the Block II upgrades which will have the burnout velocity to make them capable KE ASATs for LEO use. There is no good reason to support or applaud this further sacrifice to the idol of futility that is missile defense, and insult to the goal of prohibiting KE ASATs and other space weapons.

  27. Mark Gubrud

    Iran would attack Europe because Germany attacked Poland? I’m sorry, I do not see the homology there.

    SM-3 is “the most capable missile defense in the arsenal”? How capable is that, and based on what, the USA-193 shootdown? Ellen Tauscher’s patronage? How well does it perform against countermeasures?

    If for some reason Iran developed IRBMs threatening Europe and nuke warheads to top them off, they would have their deterrent, wouldn’t they? Or are we preparing for some inevitable clash here? All this talk about protecting troops and allies against short-range conventional ballistic missiles. The Aegis missiles would provide only a fractional attrition rate, rather meaningless in whatever apocalyptic scenario of war with Iran you are projecting.

    Meanwhile, SM-3 has indeed been shown capable of hitting a satellite, and the planned deployment leans toward the Block II upgrades which will have the burnout velocity to make them capable KE ASATs for LEO use. There is no good reason to support or applaud this further sacrifice to the idol of futility that is missile defense, and insult to the goal of prohibiting KE ASATs and other space weapons.

  28. raghar (History)

    It looks like someone is trying to make scarecrow from Iran just as they did it with Russia and China.

    The problem is Iran policy is concerned with India, Paki, Iraq, Syria, not a country north of Saudi Arabia, and about Saudi Arabia. Did I miss someone? As long as EU will not bomb, or invade Iran, Iran would have very little reason to do something (military) against EU. (Thought they can apply pressure on theirs gas recipients to apply pressure on EU.) Basically any ballistic missiles used against EU would mean less ballistic missiles ready in case not a country north of the Saudi Arabia would do something very foolish. (for example attack against Iran nuclear facilities)

    When Iran would like to do something nasty to US, or EU, they would simply develop heavy launcher, send recon satellite on the orbit, and give detailed images to everyone for free. Of course any request of sensitive info removal would be out of question.

    Master assassin Wilhemina the Heartless observed how suddenly situation changed. Just a half minute ago she was on a school party with a clear sunny sky. Now her best friend is fighting with the girl she raised from when she was young, and woman next to her grew blue hair on her body and claws, and is trying to kill boyfriend of her girl. The tiara on her head repeats “Must face the reality. Must face the reality.”

    The above text is more believable, and realistic than BMD in EU. The whole idea of selling BMD to EU is just a cover up attempt. Withdrawing entirely from that BMD idea would make them look too stupid.

    “Why should Iran be developing theater-range missiles that can put NATO members at risk, then?”
    A profesional would ask: How many missiles are they planning to deploy, and what are theirs maintenance costs? Are they planing a research for decreasing maintenance costs? A mere ownership of few missiles means nothing.

  29. FSB

    Jeffrey,
    It is a better decision than the stupid 10 interceptors in Europe, but it is far from “sensible”.

    It is still technically flawed in that SM3’s cannot counter counter-measures any better than the GBIs.

    And Iran can easily decide not to deliver the warhead by missile any time it chooses. Your enemy has a vote too, as Cartwright says in a OpEd by Gates in NYT today. Well, yeah.

    The only “sensible” solution is to scrap and disband MDA.

    A political compromise to appease many of the idiot Republicans is far from sensible, but it is better than pissing off Russia in addition to being ineffective and expensive.

  30. Chris Taylor (History)

    George William Herbert, I think your numbers are off regarding the number of ships required to maintain a presence in the AOR.

    The CBO estimated that, under the current single-crew manning system for CGs/DDGs, 4.5 vessels are required to maintain one on-station as a constant presence in EUCOM/PACOM, and 6 are required to maintain 1 on-station in CENTCOM. (See the Congressional Budget Office document “Crew Rotation in the Navy: The Long-Term Effect on Forward Presence“, October 2007.)

    Given that there are only 18 Aegis BMD platforms, with plans for upgrading 3 more (of the 77 total Aegis ships), then if we use CBO’s numbers we can see that with a fleet of 21 there will be a grand total of 4 BMD vessels on-station worldwide at any given time; the rest will be homeported for workups and maintenance, or in transit to or from their patrol AOs.

    I’d be surprised if USN deployed 3 of 4 assets to EUCOM, I would expect maybe 1 to EUCOM, 1 to CENTCOM, and 2 to PACOM, taking into account how many missiles are available to be lobbed by the OPFOR in each AOR.

    That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of BMD available at a moment’s notice, does it? Perhaps USN would be better off going to a multi-crew rotation as it does for SSBNs/SSGNs/LCSes, or converting a few more CGs/DDGs for the BMD mission.

  31. sj

    But Iran is developing such missiles. It makes perfect sense for NATO to deploy the most capable systems at its disposal.

    “At its disposal” being operative words: this is not a given, but endogenous to US and NATO choices, budgets, will-power etc. Taking your statement to its logical conclusion, why not thousands of ships? Obviously because the returns to the ship diminish. But if we introduce this utilitarian logic here, then why is it not incumbent on us to think seriously whether employing missile defense of genuinely questionable reliability is a better use of funds than, say, bribes to Iran or sea-based air power, or something else?

    What constitutes the “most capable system” can only be defined in the context of a certain budget, and a host of other priorities and foreign policy goals.

    As for all these comments about Iranian irrationality and Germany, well, surely there’s a better argument than to say ‘worst-case it’.

  32. Bob Reed (History)

    I don’t see why the deployment of AEGIS ships couldn’t simply be a stopgap measure until bround based systems could be installed as agreed to by treaty with our allies.

    While the AEGIS system is currently very capable, it will lack the ability to counter ICBM threats until at least 2015; notwithstanding modified terminal phase interceptors.

    As mentioned by others, perhaps a more long view needs to be taken, one that acounts for Chinese and even Pakinstani threats. And, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to retain the leverage with the Russians who are facing the expense of modernizing an aging fleet of missiles and warheads.

    The Russians, like the North Koreans, Iranians, and Chinese, will do nothing but pocket the concessions we’ve yielded, and begin considering what demands they will make next of an adversary they view as weak…

  33. FSB

    Yes, Bob, we should also start to worry about the not too distant threat from Martians and the denizens of Uranus.

    We…must..be..paranoid…can…never..have..enough…missiles….

    Question is who is going to pay for this? The tax-and-spend republican hawks are really getting annoying. I am sick of their big government.

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