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The global concerns over americas national missile defense system

By the middle of the 1960s the United States was actively developing the Sentinel missile defense system. After China detonated its first nuclear weapon in June 1967, Sentinel was reoriented towards a small scale Chinese attack. The system was planned to provide both a short- and long-range defense using nuclear-tipped interceptor missiles. Once the interceptor got within range of the offensive missiles, it would detonate a nuclear explosion, releasing X-rays that would destroy the attacking warheads.

  • In practice, the system struggles to reliably destroy target missiles during test runs, and is not equipped to manage countermeasures;
  • Additionally, there are political concerns regarding possible alternative delivery methods, the effect on nonproliferation regimes, and the diplomatic consequences of fielding an NMD system;
  • Roughly three dozen of these missiles are operational at Fort Greely in Alaska;
  • The possibility of a space-based anti-missile layer is also enticing;
  • Hereafter GAO report [27] Ibid;
  • In the case of China, for example, it could force China to develop larger missile forces and better countermeasures to maintain its perceived threat to the United States.

This program was postponed in January 1969 by the Nixon administration, which advocated Safeguard, a new variation on missile defense. Safeguard differed from Sentinel in that it was designed not to protect U.

The Senate approved construction of the first Safeguard site in August 1969. On October 1, 1975, Safeguard became the first operationally deployed missile defense system in the United States, but it was deemed militarily ineffective by Congress the following day. One issue contributing to the decommissioning by Congress was the altered security environment in which the United States and Soviet Union found themselves at the time.

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In an effort to guarantee that both countries would experience an unimaginable level of destruction in a nuclear exchange and to prevent an arms race in anti-ballistic missile systems that might jeopardize their nuclear deterrents, the Anti-Ballistic Missile ABM Treaty was concluded between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1972.

However, these two sites had to be sufficiently distant from each other to prohibit the possibility of a regional missile defense system. The ABM Treaty further prohibited deployment of the infrastructure for a regional defense system, including a nationwide system, and testing, development, and deployment of a sea- air- space, or mobile land-based system.

Recognizing that the security climate could continue to change, the ABM Treaty contained a clause that would allow withdrawal from the treaty if "extraordinary events" related to ABM systems and their deployment jeopardized the greater interests of the The global concerns over americas national missile defense system Union or the United States. The Strategic Defense Initiative SDI was established in the early 1980s and researched the viability of a non-nuclear missile defense system.

SDI, also known as the Star Wars program, was intended to shift the nuclear strategic security focus from a retaliatory attack to a defensive deterrent. This program laid much of the technological foundation for the current missile defense development.

However, it was necessarily limited in scope because of the restrictions found in the ABM Treaty. As relations with Washington improved, Russia was no longer considered the nuclear threat that the Soviet Union presented, arguably making the ABM Treaty no longer relevant.

Starting in the early 1990s, the political climate in Washington steadily warmed to a regional missile defense system, which would protect a large area of the United States, but was prohibited by the ABM Treaty.

This interest led to increased studies on the feasibility of a regional defense and steps to develop relevant technologies. Based on its performance, a decision could then be made regarding whether or not NMD would be deployed. This decision was to be based on four criteria: Based on questions of its technical capabilities, in September 2000 the Clinton administration chose to postpone the final decision on NMD deployment, leaving it to the Bush administration.

The Bush administration gave notice of its planned withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in December 2001, effective June 2002, due to a "profoundly different" atmosphere of security. Despite the name changes the organization continues its oversight of a variety of missile defense programs with the goal of developing a non-nuclear missile defense. Greely, Alaska, interceptor site took place in June 2002 and the first interceptor was installed July 22, 2004.

Missile defense is based on the idea that ICBMs can be intercepted and destroyed along the trajectory to their target.

  1. One thing is certain, the political challenges presented by GMD, one of the most sophisticated projects ever, are no less daunting than the technological challenges.
  2. This interest led to increased studies on the feasibility of a regional defense and steps to develop relevant technologies.
  3. In practice, the system struggles to reliably destroy target missiles during test runs, and is not equipped to manage countermeasures.
  4. UAE has also used the Patriot to swat down incoming missiles.

There are three distinct stages of ICBMs--the boost, midcourse, and terminal phases. The boost phase consists of liftoff and powered flight of the rocket out of the atmosphere. The warhead then separates from the booster and continues on an exoatmospheric trajectory, where atmospheric drag is minimal, towards its target during the midcourse phase.

  • Given the end of the Cold War and the proliferation of missile and weapons of mass destruction WMD technology since that time, the United States is confronted with the fact that these programs are a political outgrowth of the fundamental interest some states have in acquiring these technologies;
  • So once again we come back to the reality that diplomacy and even compromise is a far better counter for an existential threat like an ICBM armed North Korea than endlessly trying to perfect a missile shield that will feature diminishing returns as North Korea's capabilities rapidly evolve.

This is the terminal phase. The midcourse phase is by far the longest in duration, lasting approximately 20 minutes. The ballistic missile defense system, which addresses all of these phases, is referred to as a layered defense. This type of defense is able to provide distinct layers, or systems, that address the specific problems encountered in each phase of ICBM flight. The concept underlying this approach is that multiplicity of the systems should provide more chances for a successful kill of the warhead.

The United States is currently developing systems for each stage of flight, such as the Airborne Laser for the boost phase, and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 PAC-3 system as a terminal phase defense.

The mid-course phase intercept program, which included the GBI system, and NMD were used interchangeably by the Clinton administration. During the midcourse phase of its flight, a warhead is not powered, but falls through space along a predetermined path.

What is NMD?

GMD attempts to counter this type of attack with the launch of interceptor missiles, which include a kill vehicle as their payload. Once set on a general intercept trajectory for the warhead, the exoatmospheric kill vehicle EKVwhich is able to provide powered corrections to its flight path, drives itself into the offensive warhead. The resulting collision is supposed to destroy both the warhead and the EKV. This interception process has proven to be a technological challenge involving a large amount of interaction and coordination between radar systems, control systems, the interceptor rocket, and the EKV.

There are several reasons for developing a midcourse defense. Perhaps the most commonly cited is the threat of rogue states. A commission assessing the ballistic missile threat to the United States chaired by Donald Rumsfeld and therefore referred to as the Rumsfeld Commission reported to Congress in July 1998 that ballistic missiles could be deployed with virtually no advanced warning for the United States.

The Rumsfeld Commission recommended that U. Another concern raised by the Rumsfeld Commission is that the political decision-making of rogue states cannot be predicted, nor can a development pattern be identified for these missile programs.

It is possible, and indeed has happened because of the international exchange of the global concerns over americas national missile defense system, for a country to develop and deploy a ballistic missile system after a single successful test flight.

According to NMD proponents, the United States would be left vulnerable to a missile threat while playing catch-up on a defense against such a risk. While it is generally acknowledged that there is no longer an immediate threat from a massive intentional ICBM launch by Russia, there remains great concern about the possibility of an unintentional or accidental launch. Possibilities could include mistaking a U. In theory, NMD would have the capability to protect against most, if not all, of the incoming missiles, thereby eliminating, or at least mitigating, the devastation that would otherwise fall on the United States.

As China continues to develop, increase its regional influence, and expand its nuclear arsenal, it could present a more substantial ICBM threat to the United States than it has in the past.

NMD diminishes the threat these missiles would pose to the United States if China were to become hostile. Uncertainty about the future of China and the situation with Taiwan make it prudent, according to some advocates, for the United States to develop the technologies necessary for its own protection. The United States has long supported autonomy for Taiwan and has planned to protect it in case of aggression from mainland China.

If a rogue state developed an ICBM capability from which the United States has no defense, advocates fear the political repercussions that could result.

A Look at National Missile Defense and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System

These can be summarized in three words: If the United States was not intimidated and did decide to become involved in a regional conflict, ICBMs could present a viable means to exploit the U. This introduces even more uncertainty into U. Advocates argue that without an NMD capability, U. Given the end of the Cold War and the proliferation of missile and weapons of mass destruction WMD technology since that time, the United States is confronted with the fact that these programs are a political outgrowth of the fundamental interest some states have in acquiring these technologies.

The Rumsfeld Commission notes that these tests are not a singular failure, but could be considered the future norm.

Any NMD capability that the United States can put into operation, whether it has a "better-than-zero" or "much, much better than zero" chance at intercepting an ICBM, is an improvement over the alternative. Technological Inabilities The issue of NMD remains a point of contention and there are several concerns expressed by those who oppose the current NMD system.

Frequently, NMD is criticized as being ineffective due to technological reasons, which include the inability to overcome countermeasures, inability to defend against a chemical or biological weapon delivered by ballistic missile, uncertainty due to lack of testing for interceptors, and uncertainty due to testing that is considered biased. Also, the warhead could be covered in a liquid nitrogen-cooled metal shroud, which would make it more difficult for the EKV to find the warhead in time to maneuver into its path.

Missile Defense Madness: Myth Of Perfect Patriots, Magic THAAD, And The ICBM Shield

These two types of countermeasures require the EKV to be highly proficient at not only detecting a warhead, which may be disguised or hidden, but also distinguishing it from decoys that are specifically designed to fool it. It becomes a question of whether the United States can feasibly develop a system that must be deployed prior to an attack, therefore leaving it vulnerable to countermeasures that are specifically designed to overcome it.

Similarly, China is assumed to have many countermeasures available that would decrease the effectiveness of GMD. Whereas a nuclear warhead is a single unit, biological and chemical weapons would more effectively be distributed in the form of tens or hundreds of bomblets, a possibility recognized by the Rumsfeld Commission.

Each bomblet would have a separate trajectory ensuring that the agent would be spread over a greater area. The likelihood NMD could intercept all of them would be very low. Even if only one ICBM was launched with this configuration, there are only enough interceptors available to destroy a small fraction of the bomblets. Five of 10 total tests since 1999 have resulted in successful intercepts according to the MDA, though the final two failures were a result of the booster failing to launch.

The global concerns over americas national missile defense system GAO report points out that while these five tests were successful, they used artificial means, such as the use of GPS on the reentry vehicle and hardware and software that are not the same as those used in the deployed NMD system. Greely will perform successfully with the EKV since these two systems have never been tested together. The report concludes that while components have met their individual testing requirements, this is no guarantee that the complete system will perform effectively.

According to General Obering, the boosters failed to launch due to a software problem and a corroded hinge, respectively. The more complex the system, the more difficult it becomes to anticipate all potential problems, major and minor, that could result in a failure of the system.

Political Realities Critics of NMD often point out that the United States is much more likely to face a threat from much simpler delivery methods, a threat that is not addressed by NMD, and advocate directing funds to thwart these attacks rather than a potential ICBM attack.

There are several alternative threats acknowledged by the NIC report, which admittedly lack the prestige and coercive diplomacy concurrent with recognized ICBM capabilities.

The fielding of an NMD system, it is feared by opponents, will lead to another arms race. In the case of China, for example, it could force China to develop larger missile forces and better countermeasures to maintain its perceived threat to the United States. Just as the United States and Russia relied on their nuclear arsenals to temper each other's international ambitions, China has an incentive to maintain U.

Fielding NMD would alter not just the way other countries relate to the United States, but it undoubtedly would have effects on how the United States relates to the rest of the world. This could cause the United States to treat a rogue state or regional crisis with less tact than is due the situation. The United States may react much more belligerently if it believes it has a credible defense against ICBMs than it would if it had no defense. As discussed earlier, those in favor of NMD argue that the United States should have protection from being constrained or deterred in its policy goals.

How Does Missile Defense Work?

Rather than treating the crisis with the consideration it would require, the United States may actually aggravate the situation by ignoring the core issues and choose instead to rely on its perceived ability to defend against an ICBM attack. Conclusion Debate over GMD remains even as the system is being deployed. Advocates view it as a legitimate and effective defense against missile attacks from rogue states, as well as ensuring that the United States will not be deterred, harmed, or constrained by an ICBM threat.

Even if it were assumed that GMD will continue to develop and pass the tests designed for it, there remain many issues of concern for opponents.

GMD as a defensive weapon must overcome much more complex problems than any attacking force would have to overcome. Countermeasures designed specifically to penetrate GMD, questions of test design, reliability of the entire NMD system, and inherent difficulties with complex systems present continuous and evolving technological challenges. Additionally, there are political concerns regarding possible alternative delivery methods, the effect on nonproliferation regimes, and the diplomatic consequences of fielding an NMD system.

One thing is certain, the political challenges presented by GMD, one of the most sophisticated projects ever, are no less daunting than the technological challenges. Ballistic Missile Defense, www. Pomper, "Defending Missile Defense: