UNITED STATES NEEDS A RELIABLE SPACE-BASED BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE

Washington Times on September 19, 2018, published a commentary by Henry F. Cooper, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Defense and Space Talks during the Reagan administration and director of the Strategic Defense Initiative during the George H.W. Bush administration and Rowland H. Worrell, a retired Air Force colonel, who was Brilliant Pebbles Task Force director, National Test Facility director and USAF Space Warfare Center vice commander. They call for a cost-effective ballistic missile defense (BMD). Excerpts below:

…the United States needs a credible, practical, cost-effective ballistic missile defense (BMD). A space-based interceptor (SBI) system would best achieve this objective,…

The Pentagon’s top engineer Michael Griffin says he doesn’t understand why, since 1,000 SBIs would cost less than $20 billion — for a global defense capability.

SDI proved otherwise before Brilliant Pebbles (BP) was scuttled in 1993 for political reasons, even though it promised more than 90 percent probability of killing all of up to 200 attacking re-entry vehicles — the number then controlled by a Russian submarine commander. Its fully validated cost estimate was $10 billion in 1988 dollars (about $20 billion in 2018 dollars) for concept definition and validation, development, deployment and 20 years operation of 1,000 Brilliant Pebbles — consistent with Mr. Griffin’s assertion.

BP was designed to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase while their rockets still burn, before they can release their decoys and other countermeasures — and throughout their flight, including when re-entering the atmosphere. That’s better than anything we have today and could have been built for much less than we have spent on all basing modes other than in space.

USAF Lt. Gen. George Monahan, the second SDI director, led 1989-90 reviews enabling BP to become the first SDI system formally approved by the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities for concept definition and validation. In 1989, Roland Worrell, the BP Task Force program manager, shepherded BP through those technical and costing reviews.

General James A. Abrahamson’s 1989 end-of-tour report endorsed LNLL’s BP model as key to an effective, affordable SBI architecture. He concluded that ”This concept should be tested within the next two years and, if aggressively pursued, could be ready for initial deployment within 5 years.” [General Abrahamson was SDI Director from 1984 to 1989].

[In] 1991, Assistant Secretary of Defense Steve Hadley and Henry Cooper briefed the press that BP was expected to cost $10 billion in 1988 dollars, including 20 years operations — about $20 billion today — as estimated by Mike Griffins.

Comment: Since the beginning of the 1990s there has been little progress on what has been termed limited ballistic missile defense. It was not until December 2016 Congress at last scrapped the 1999 Missile Defense Act language and removed the modifier “limited” from the missile defense mandate. Thus the door was opened to building missile defenses intended to defend not only against the anticipated limited missile capabilities of North Korea and Iran, but those of the peer and near-peer forces of Russia and China. Congress also called for a beginning of research and development, and to test and evaluate space-based missile defense programs.

Congress is in 2018 intensifying the push for the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to focus money and near-term efforts to create a space-based sensor architecture and intercept layer for ballistic missile defense — all this after the agency came out with a fiscal 2019 budget request almost virtually absent of plans and programs to move ahead on such capabilities.

A space-based sensor layer’s persistent vantage point would provide hostile missile tracking all the way from the missile b0ost phase. Missile defense experts believe a space-based missile defense architecture would dramatically improve the lethality of both homeland and regional missile defense, especially against emerging threats.

In the Fiscal Year 2019 national defense authorization conference report, lawmakers wanted to see a more concerted effort from the MDA to make space-based missile defense a reality by authorizing additional funds and development during 2019.

The Senate bill required the MDA to begin development of the architecture unless the Missile Defense Review stated otherwise. The review is expected to be unveiled in the fall of 2018. The Senate’s version also required the defense secretary to submit a report on progress and coordination of efforts on such a capability among MDA, the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The growing ballistic missile threat of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea to the United States calls for a space based ballistic missile defense. At 20 billion US dollars (as suggested by Cooper and Worrell in the Washington Times article) a space based interceptor system seems to be a financially sound solution.

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