US likely to downgrade Euro missile-interceptor plans

Rogue-state ICBMs 'haven't arrived on schedule'


The Pentagon has signalled that US plans for missile defences in eastern Europe are likely to be scaled back, according to reports. Smaller, cheaper interceptors - able to stop a possible shorter-range attack on Europe, but not a full-blown intercontinental strike against the USA - may now be proposed.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates inspects a GBI in its Alaskan silo

They don't like it up 'em, sir

US intelligence has long suggested that Iran and/or North Korea would by now have intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability, able to target the USA with nuclear or other "WMD" warheads. In response, the Bush administration sought to emplace powerful Ground Based Interceptor (GBI*) rockets in Poland and an X-band tracking radar in the Czech republic. GBIs are designed to intercept ICBM warheads during the middle part of their journey, at the highest point of their ballistic arc outside the atmosphere.

However it now seems to be the Pentagon's view that no credible rogue-state ICBM threat has in fact materialised, as yet.

“The reality is it did not come as fast as we thought it’d come,” according to General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at a missile-defence conference in Alabama last week. The general's remarks were quoted in Aviation Week.

It would appear that the plan to emplace GBIs in eastern Europe is now in abeyance. Boeing, maker of the GBI, has touted the idea of putting the big rockets on mobile trailers; but it would seem that in fact the likeliest course for the Obama administration is to deploy a land-based version of the Standard SM-3 naval interceptor.

The SM-3, at present carried aboard US and allied Aegis air-defence warships, isn't powerful enough to reach the high middle section of an ICBM's arc. As such it couldn't defend the US against long-haul warheads passing above or near Europe. But it could offer a defence against shorter-ranged missiles targeted at US forces or allies in the region.

Not only would landbased SM-3 offer protection against the most likely threat, it would be of no use against Russian ICBMs targeted at the States. The Polish GBI plans have seen massive protests and sabre-rattling from Moscow, but SM-3s should be more acceptable to Russia. SM-3 would also be cheaper than GBI, which is important given the recession and the Obama administration's determination to shift military funding to tackle more plausible contingencies. The lighter interceptor could also be in the field and ready much more quickly than new GBIs, most probably operated by the US Army.

The SM-3 is also seen in Washington as a more reliable piece of kit than GBI, if less capable. In particular, the successful shootdown of a duff US spy sat by a US cruiser in the Pacific last year has added much to the naval interceptor's reputation.

Meanwhile the US already has GBIs covering its western and northern approaches in Alaska and at Vandenberg air force base in California, which Cartwright said could easily cope with a "rogue" launch - for instance a single warhead or handful of warheads lobbed by North Korean Taepodong-2 rockets, in the event that working nuclear-tipped Taepodong-2s are produced. (The Nork rocket potentially has ICBM-type capability, but tests thus far have been failures and North Korea isn't thought able to produce missile-sized nukes yet.)

The Av Week report from Alabama is here. ®

Bootnote

*AKA "Ground based Mid-course Defence" (GMD, GMDI etc).

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • NASA delays SLS rollback due to concerns over rocky path to launchpad
    The road to the Moon is paved with... river rock?

    NASA's Moon rocket is to trundle back into its shed today after a delay caused by concerns over the crawlerway.

    The massive transporter used to move the Space Launch System between Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launchpad requires a level pathway and teams have been working on the inclined pathway leading to the launchpad where the rocket currently resides to ensure there is an even distribution of rocks to support the mobile launcher and rocket.

    The latest wet dress rehearsal was completed on June 20 after engineers "masked" data from sensors that would have called a halt to proceedings. Once back in the VAB, engineers plan to replace a seal on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical. The stack will then roll back to the launchpad for what NASA fervently hopes is the last time before a long hoped-for launch in late August.

    Continue reading
  • Datacenter operator Switch hit with claims it misled investors over $11b buyout
    Complainants say financial projections were not disclosed, rendering SEC filing false and misleading

    Datacenter operator Switch Inc is being sued by investors over claims that it did not disclose key financial details when pursuing an $11 billion deal with DigitalBridge Group and IFM Investors that will see the company taken into private ownership if it goes ahead.

    Two separate cases have been filed this week by shareholders Marc Waterman and Denise Redfield in the Federal Court in New York. The filings contain very similar claims that a proxy statement filed by Switch with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in regard to the proposed deal omitted material information regarding Switch's financial projections.

    Both Redfield and Waterman have asked the Federal Court to put the deal on hold, or to undo it in the event that Switch manages in the meantime to close the transaction, and to order Switch to issue a new proxy statement that sets out all the relevant material information.

    Continue reading
  • Google to pay $90m to settle lawsuit over anti-competitive behavior on the Play Store
    US developers that qualify could receive more than $200,000

    Google is to pay $90 million to settle a class-action lawsuit with US developers over alleged anti-competitive behavior regarding the Google Play Store.

    Eligible for a share in the $90 million fund are US developers who earned two million dollars or less in annual revenue through Google Play between 2016 and 2021. "A vast majority of US developers who earned revenue through Google Play will be eligible to receive money from this fund," said Google.

    Law firm Hagens Berman announced the settlement this morning, having been one of the first to file a class case. The legal firm was one of four that secured a $100 million settlement from Apple in 2021 for US iOS developers.

    Continue reading
  • Devops tool Jenkins now requires Java 11: This might sting a bit
    Final shift set for version 2.357 of developer automation platform

    It has taken a while, but the Jenkins project confirmed this week that Java 11 will be required from this week's Jenkins 2.357 and for the upcoming September LTS release.

    Jenkins, originally authored by Kohsuke Kawaguchi, recently passed its 10th anniversary. Originally known as Hudson, before the Oracle / Sun deal resulted in a fork, the platform is a veteran of the continuous integration and continuous delivery world. It is also written in Java.

    It's going to be a bit of a wrench. Java 11 itself was released in 2018 as a long-term support version, and the Jenkins LTS core has been Java 11-capable for a while now. The June LTS also supports Java 17 (the latest LTS of Java SE.)

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022