America needs a global missile defense plan

October 1, 2015

The Hill:

The Iran deal marks a new phase in the nuclear age: the advent of new nuclear states. It dramatically increases the probability of Iran joining nuclear weapons to its substantial ballistic missile inventory — either when the agreement ends or sooner, should Iran decide to “break-out” of the deal. At the same time, there are nuclear developments in Russia, China and North Korea with serious implications for U.S. defense requirements.

Russia has a broad modernization of its nuclear weapons and delivery systems underway, China is expanding its ballistic and cruise missile programs in number and type, and North Korea has announced a resumption of nuclear testing and has deployed a mobile ICBM.

Despite the rapidly changing and increasing threat, the main elements of U.S. missile defense have remained mostly static over the past decade and funding, especially of advanced programs, has been reduced significantly since 2008. Notably, the administration has chosen to deploy a more limited defense system in Poland than originally planned, abandon plans to deploy a powerful radar in the Czech Republic, and cancel the Airborne Laser (ABL), developed to destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

The US must address this threat urgently with a comprehensive missile defense plan focused on development, deployment and diplomacy.

On the development front, the U.S. should develop alternatives for low-cost interceptors and lower cost sensors. Given that U.S. interceptors cost upwards of $12 million, radars more than $200 million, it is not surprising that few of our allies are investing in missile defenses. By comparison, the Israeli Arrow Weapon System is highly capable, and its components cost a fraction of U.S. interceptors and land-based radars. A natural expansion of the current arrangement — where U.S. Defense Department funds support Israeli missile defense systems development — would be to license these systems for production in the United States and export to friends and allies.

The next step would be to develop small satellites for missile tracking and surveillance. The advances in small satellite technology make this an attractive option, providing needed coverage from space, replacing the defunct Precision Tracking and Surveillance System program, and lessening American vulnerability to Chinese and Russian anti-satellite systems…

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