Government Watch / National Security

Ballistic Missile Defenses – Let’s Get Serious

Few people talk details on nuclear weapons – of the US, Russia, China, North Korea, soon perhaps Iran.  The reason is unspoken unease, recognition by leading experts of hard facts. That said, we should talk about hard facts – what they are, where they lead us, and what can be done to make an uneasy world safer.

Fact one:  America has an anti-ballistic missile – of ballistic missile defense (BMD) program – but it is minimal, underdeveloped, hamstrung by politicians who prefer to avoid it, imagine it might be “provocative.” That perception must change as credible defenses – even if limited – are a deterrent.

Today, the US has a layered system for knocking down a handful of incoming nuclear ballistic missiles.  That system includes a few dozen ground- and sea-based anti-missile systems, with 80 percent success.

Among the top systems is the US Navy’s Aegis BMD system which is also supported by the US Missile Defense Agency. US Navy cruisers and destroyers have this system, quick response to launches from Iran or North Korea, protecting allies in Europe, the Middle and Far East. But Aegis is limited.

While the number of US ships with BMD capability is gradually growing, with roughly 50 capable soon, it is also weakly funded relative to other major DOD programs. The program is supportive of key allies, including “Aegis Ashore” locations in Poland and Romania.

To date, many questions remain unanswered.  These include how and whether Aegis could protect the US Homeland, whether Congress really understands US vulnerability, whether technologies can be accelerated, costs cut, deployments increased to elevate security, and whether lasers may assist.

In short, we have a ship-borne system that is proven, but spotty and would be porous if many missiles were launched by Russia or China. We also have land-based systems, but these too are limited.

Beyond Patriot and short-range missiles, we have “Grand-Based Midcourse Defense” (GMD) missiles.  These aim to pick up a long-range missile midcourse, no matter the warhead. 

The GMD systems are based in Alaska and California and were gradually increased in 2018 (44 new ones), 2019 (20), and more ahead. That said, these too are limited in number and effectiveness, and incomplete.

Nutshell:  We have layers of partial response to a minimal attack, but Congress and Presidents have been slow to make BMD a priority, incremental adds since Reagan. That said, America’s BMD footprint could be improved, prioritized, and made reliable with missing political will, time, and money.

Fact Two:  Fear, indifference, and denial are high among politicians. Many think protecting the country, pushing effectiveness, use of lasers, space-based defenses, and making BMD real – might “trigger” buildups.

That argument, of course, is why countries throughout history soft-shoed defense, hoped for the best, and regretted doing that.  If the point is preparing to win, defense is essential, as is offense. Moreover, deterring war means having both credible offenses and credible defenses.  We can do better than fear.

Fact Three:  Preparing to win – and thus winning by deterring – a war, requires preparation. Experts think we need 15 years to get fully prepared, just about the time China needs for many missiles. Planning would be wise.

Fact Four:  Iran and North Korea, based on the West’s political foot-dragging, lifting of sanctions, ignoring military reality, and indulging a foolhardy, senseless quest for trustless peace, are about to become rogue nuclear powers, as likely as not to be irrational, egotistical, theological, and terrorist.

This means BMD becomes doubly important since they will have few missiles to launch – but one could do a world of damage.  In short, we are moving from idealistic peace-mumbling, prevention, and hoped-for non-proliferation to straight-up deterrence and defense.

Once these nations can hit us, we need to deter and defend against a few missiles – with reliability. No more chasing little white peace rabbits with hundreds of millions in US cash, flown in darkness to Iran by Obama – the way Biden flies illegal aliens to the heartland. Those days will be firmly over.

Finally, we must stop – from China and Russia to Afghanistan, Iran, and other world threats – believing our own nursery rhymes about “good in everyone” and “they will live by peace because they want it” and “if we only give them a little, they will be satisfied” and “they do not want to be terror states.”

Of course they do, and they will push as hard as they can until someone pushes back, using every tool available from cyber and psychological to alliances, material sciences, and kinetic to put them in the box.  To imagine, as Democrats do – and some Republicans too – that peace is about to break out is fiction.

So, as we look hard at the future of nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles, and defense – it is time to move, stop thinking the world will get peaceful because we say so, and resume preparing.  Genuine preparation – leadership, resolve, and consistent commitment – makes things safer. Talk rarely does.

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7 months ago

Excellent article. I also think the last paragraph says it all. How do we get ALL our elected reps to read this common sense.

7 months ago

The USA could easily have a robust missile defense capability if it would remove the self-imposed handcuffs. So far, we have assumed we can’t use nuclear defense capabilities to defend ourselves. Hence, the development and deployment of “hit to kill” systems which require a direct hit by the interceptor of the incoming warhead. Multiple warheads require multiple interceptors. If, instead, we would develop nuclear interceptors, especially for exo-atmospheric engagements, we could robustly handle most envisioned raids. Of course, the uninformed and paranoid citizens and especially congressmen and women, wouldn’t even conceive of fighting fire with fire. After all, they are firing nucs at us, why not defend with nucs?

Charles Nolan
7 months ago
Reply to  DBM

The old Nike Zeus missile systems might still be hidden some where, which used small nuclear warheads against missiles and satellites.

7 months ago

An actually very good article documenting the gaps in our anti-missile defense system and why those gaps have been allowed to persist for so long. Yes, the United States is woefully unprepared to intercept and destroy a significant amount of in-bound nuclear warheads fired at the United States. Maybe we can realistically handle a total of 5 to 10 tops from every report I’ve ever read on our anti-nuclear capabilities. Beyond that, the system we have in place would be overwhelmed or incapable of accurrately intercepting a higher number of in-bound targets.

As we dither over desperately trying to re-enter ludicrous deals like the Iran Nuclear Deal, which doesn’t actually accomplish anything but hand off large sums of U.S. dollars to Iran for the “promise” of not building a viable nuclear weapon, other adversaries such as China are building 250 new nuclear missile lauch silos to complement the already significant number of active silos they already have. I’ll leave the whole issue of the Biden administration continuing to renew nuclear weapons treaties with Russia on the table, as Russia has consistently played the United States for fools by violating them left and right while we hamstring ourselves.

Unlike conventional warfare, the first country to hit their opponent with more than one or two warheads wins. Which means we must have the capability to intercept and destroy 100 percent of any in-bound missile array long before it ever reaches American air space. We don’t have that capability today and as your article points out, no one on the political side in Washington seems very interested in addressing this vital issue in the current administration. If anything, most Democrats think defense is an unnecessary item that they can cut from the federal budget completely. They share the view that most European governments have had for decades: If you slash the defense budget to the bone and outright do away with large amounts of defense capability, that frees up billions upon billions of dollars annually that can then be spent on expanding the social welfare state. Essentailly handing out money to buy votes. It worked for Europe, because the U.S. stepped up and acted as the real defense for most of western Europe since the 1970s. We picked up the cost of everything. From supplying troops to all sorts of arms. The problem with adopting that approach here is there is no other coountry that has the financial means or the military capability to do that for us. Of course that is a detail the Democrats don’t want to acknowledge, because it would invalidate their entire argument to gut defense spending across the board.

Anyway good article on an important subject. There are of course practical solutions to address the gap, but there seems to be little political will in Washington to pursue them.

7 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

As usual, last paragraph says it all.

Charles Nolan
7 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Will some angry person suggest a massive nuclear first strike against all of our enemies to end their threats and reverse global warming at the same time with nuclear winter? Will NSA pass on this post to Sleepy Joe?

james michalicek
7 months ago

In other words, “Pour me another tequila, Sheila.”

7 months ago

Close the Department of Justice with all federal law enforcement, reduce the intel agencies to just DIA, eliminate DHS, EPA, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Human Services, IRS, Department of Energy, leave only Department of Defense, U.S. Border and Customs Service, and a largely restructured State Department and you have what our Constitution describes and there will be plenty of money to pay down our national debt, and finance missile defense because as the facts have shown our enemies don’t abide by international treaties that are not enforceable with real teeth, and treaties, like the Iran deal, that depend on hope and goodwill are delusional fiction. The states are more than capable to handle themselves what will be cut from the federal executive. Our federal government has become an overwhelming overgrowth with a will of its own, time to get out the heavy pruning shears and don’t stop cutting until we can see the original plant again, can channel and shape its focused limited growth, and lop off all un-, or counterproductive growth. Term limit all civil servant bureaucrats to one 4 year term just like all our politicians, it will eliminate an “elite” government class, and together with other actions drain and prevent a re-constituting of “the swamp.” The time for business as usual, and go along to get along has come and gone, time for a Convention of States and a drastic “Great Reset”, but not the one Biden, Sock puppets & Co. are dreaming of but a “Great Reset to what our Constitution prescribed” with power to the people not the few and delusional. The fable that we can’t discern the founders’ intent is just that they left us the Federalist, and the Anti-Federalist Papers in which they described their reasoning to help get our Constitution passed by the states. Back then this was read in churches and taverns, it’s time the American public today reads it to get the true meaning of our Constitution and that it is the manual for freedom.

7 months ago
Reply to  Veteran

Nice thought.

7 months ago

This is disgraceful at best, disgusting to be honest with anyone who knows how strong this country was at one time. We have two administrations to blame and I know I do not have to name either one of the two.

Patriot Bill
7 months ago

Since the cancellation many years ago of military project “vision 2020” we have no defences capable of taking out hypersonic ballistic missiles. Aegis is aged.

Richard C..
7 months ago
Reply to  Patriot Bill

I agree Bill, and with the mambi pamby leader that now occupy the White House, and all of his advisors that have their panties in a twist…nothing will change.

7 months ago

For what was needed at the time, we had a pretty good missile defense system up till about 1980 when it was shut down using Nike Hercules missiles planted over the entire country. I was part of that system. Need another better system now with the added dangers.

Charles Nolan
7 months ago

I was once briefed at the time of Panama that Nike Zeus lives in remote locations. F-35s have anit-missile capabilities, which could be vectored by Aegis and other phased array radars.

Stephen Russell
7 months ago

CUT waste in DoD & fund BMD:
Sea, Land bases

BMD bases:

anna hubert
7 months ago

that would make sense it’ll never do

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