Centre Franco-Russe d’Intelligence Economique et Stratégique

13 février 2007

Weapons of Alliance

Since the beginning of the year, the United States has been in negotiations for an advance missile deployment area in Poland and the Czech Republic for its national missile defense system. That was a perceived as the latest in a series of unfriendly steps. Vlast analytical weekly has attempted to ascertain exactly whom the U.S. missile defense system is a threat to.
Why in Eastern Europe

The Americans say that North Korea and Iran pose the greatest missile threat to them. Missile defense system bases already existing in Alaska and California protest only against solitary North Korean rocket launches. It has been calculated that four interceptor missiles are needed to guarantee defeat of a single-warhead missile and, if the missile has been rigged with deception targets, it may take up to 20.

Now the American military is covering itself against Iran. From the military point of view, placing interceptor missiles in Poland and radar facilities in the Czech Republic is a sound idea. The trajectory of middle-range or intercontinental missiles, if they are created, and aimed at targets in Europe or North America, is such that Poland looks like the optimal location for interceptors.

The opinion has been expressed in the media that Turkey is a more appropriate location for interceptors of Iranian missiles. But that is forgetting that the minimum distance for effective interceptor missile functions is 1000 km. Therefore, the placement of a base in Turkey would be senseless because it is too close to Iran.

The political aspects of the question are fairly obvious. First, The deployment of interceptor missiles in Europe would allow the U.S. to play the role of protector of the Europeans from the Iranian threat, which means a change in the rather cold attitude of most European countries toward American missile defense activities. Also, the emphatic loyalty of the Czech and Polish elite to the U.S. and there readiness to do anything that would spite Moscow makes those countries ideal partners for the American military in Eastern Europe.

It is unsurprising that the American proposals were met with full approval in Warsaw and Prague. The signing of an agreement on the missile defense system this year is being assumed by all. Official negotiations are to begin in the middle of this month. Surveying is already being carried out in Poland. According to Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, full-scale construction work will begin on missile defense facilities at the beginning of next year and they will be operable in 2011 or 2012. The U.S. plans to allocate $3.5 billion for the deployment of the missile defense system in those countries, $1 billion of which will go for construction.

Both the Polish and the Czech governments are trying to get as much for the placements of the bases as they can. The Poles have gone the farthest, demanding PAC-3 Patriot Advanced Capability missile systems from the Americans and even the new THAAD (theater high-altitude area defense) strategic system, saying that the missile defense bases need to be defended themselves. It is understood that the protection is from tactical missiles from Russia. But the U.S. so far is unwilling to provide the Poles with those systems.

What American Missile Defense Is

The U.S. national missile defense program and the Congressional act that created it envisage a missile defense system that will cover the entire territory of the United States “as soon as it becomes technically feasible.” The system, which will cost $87 billion by 2012, is intended to protect against limited strikes, whether accidental or intentional. The system is to be made up of successive parts and capable of overtaking an enemy missile at any point in its trajectory.

As American scientists intend it, hostile missiles will be destroyed by airborne lasers and mobile small interceptors immediately after launch. In the mid-stretch of its flight, enemy missiles are to be brought down by missiles of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system and ship equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system and Standard SM-3 defense missiles. If missiles heading toward the U.S. make it through those two levels of defense, they are to be destroyed by THAAD at the final section of their flight.

The GMD system is the best thought out element in the system so far. Boeing is the main contractor in its development. The airborne lasers and THAAD system are still under development, but ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles have been placed in Alaska (14) and California (2). By 2010, those numbers are to increase to 40 and 20, respectively.

Those are also the missiles they plan to place in Eastern Europe. A GBI base with ten launch silos (to begin with) is being proposed in Poland. The facility would occupy about 243 ha. and have a staff of about 200, not including security. Three sites for it are being considered for it in the area of former airbases near the Baltic Sea shore not far from the towns of Koszalin, Czluchow and Slupsk.

An XBR radar system in the Czech Republic for guidance control over the missiles in Poland is also being proposed. It will also be functional by 2011. The military city of Jince, 60 km. southwest of Prague, has been chosen for its location. Service personnel at the installation will include 30-60 people, counting American security, there will be up to 200 people at the facility.

What Russia Has to Be Afraid Of

It is highly likely that the missile threat from “problem” states is not the genuine reason for the creation of the missile defense system by the Americans. The real motivation of the multibillion-dollar undertaking is the desire to expand U.S. military and strategic capacities and constrict those of other states that have nuclear missiles, Russia and China most of all. Even a limited missile defense system injects a high degree of indeterminacy into the strategic plans of other countries and undermines the principle of mutual nuclear deterrence. With Russia continuing to reduce its nuclear arsenal significantly and China maintaining a low missile potential, the Americans' ability to down even a few dozen warheads could deprive the other side of guaranteed ability to cause the U.S. unacceptable damage in a nuclear war.

If current tendencies continue, Russia will be unlikely to have the capacity to maintain more than 400-500 nuclear warheads by 2020. Russian experts have estimated that the U.S. could down half of that quantity with its missile defense system. That would be an especially heavy blow if the Americans delivered a disarming nuclear missile first strike and the remaining Russian missiles could be eliminated almost completely.

Of course, the first ten U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland will not make a serious dent in Russian nuclear potential for the first few years. But the Russian Army is buying six or seven Topol-M ballistic missiles per year. The destruction of just one of two of them by the American missile defense system would have a high price for Russia. And the placement of a strategic weapons system in Poland, even a defensive one, is a challenge to Moscow by Washington.

Practically the only way to prevent a slow growth of the American strategic advantage is a significant increase in the purchase of new ballistic missiles by Russia. But the current Russian leadership is not prepared for that, mainly for political reasons. Therefore, Russia's reaction to the news of the possible placement of American interceptor missiles by the Russian border was loud and disorderly, both in political circles and in the press. Officials, as usual, made a number of contradictory statements that amounted to the usual vague threats to “take adequate measures,” boasting ad unconvincing justification for their helplessness. The Russian leadership had the same initial reaction to the expansion of NATO and the U.S. withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Everything possible has been done to convince the West that there is no need to pay attention to Russia and Moscow's loud objections. For an “energy superpower,” it is more important to be able to pump its energy resources westward than to maintain any strategic balances.

What Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Is

Ground-based midcourse defense uses exoatmospheric-range ground-based interceptor missiles. The three-stage solid-fuel missile with a mass of 19.5 metric tons is placed in underground silos. It has a range of 5000 km. After launch, it reaches a speed of 8.3 km./sec. and ejects an EKV (exoatmospheric kill vehicle) into space. That small artificial satellite consists of an infrared telescope for guidance and a miniature engine. Striking the warhead at speeds of up to 15 km./sec., the 64-km. EKV is guaranteed to destroy it.

The multifunctional Raytheon X-Band Radar (XBR) will be used to home in on the target. It has a gigantic active phased antenna array, with an area of 384 sp. km., made up of 70,000 modules rolled up inside a spherical dome with a diameter of 36.6 m. The XBR is capable of a spotting target “the size of a baseball” at distances of up to 5000 km. The space missile system has to be able to differentiate between missiles and false targets and deliver the interceptor to 600-800 km. away from the missile, where the telescope of the EKV will lock onto the missile.

Mikhail Barabanov, scientific editor of Arms Export magazine

Posté par CFRIES à 13:58 - Armement & Defence - Permalien [#]