Missile Defense Becomes Part of Great Power Competition

July 29, 2020

Department of Defense

”China and Russia are developing increasingly capable and numerous missile defense systems, and integrating them into their defense strategies as they compete with the United States,” a DOD official said.

The United States pioneered missile defense systems. Then-President Ronald Reagan proposed missile defense systems in the early 1980s. His ”Strategic Defense Initiative” was dubbed the ”Star Wars Initiative” — sometimes derisively.

The laughing stopped during Operation Desert Storm, when Patriot missile defense batteries based in Saudi Arabia and Israel stopped Iraqi Scud missile attacks.

Russia is a long-time player. The former Soviet Union created a ring of anti-ballistic missile batteries around Moscow during the Cold War. These nuclear-tipped missiles still exist as part of Russia’s A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. The system consists of 68 nuclear-armed interceptors. As part of President Vladimir Putin’s military buildup, the system has received new radars and updated electronics. The beauty of this system is that the Russians have only to be close to an incoming threat. The downside is radiation from an intercept would contaminate thousands of acres of countryside.

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