05/30/2013 - 16:17

How US strategic antimissile defense could be made to work 1

George N. Lewis

Lewis is a physicist and a senior research associate at the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell University.

Theodore A. Postol

A physicist, Postol is professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. His expertise is in ballistic...

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The authors show that the United States has the ability to defend itself from long-range nuclear armed ballistic missiles if it builds the right systems—defenses based on stealthy drones that could shoot down ballistic missiles in powered flight after they have been launched from fixed known sites. This same system could defend Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia from large and cumbersome long-range ballistic missiles that Iran might build in the future. The defense system would have too few interceptors to pose any realistic operational threat to the strategic nuclear forces of Russia. Because of this, it would not create concerns that could cause Russia to withdraw from New START, or preclude the implementation of further arms reductions with Russia beyond those in New START. At the same time, the defense would be highly intimidating, robust, effective, and reliable against the adversaries of concern and would require no new technologies or science to build. It would replace the current Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) system and the future variants of the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) designed to deal with long-range (not short-range) ballistic missiles, which do not have the capacity to work in real combat conditions. The situation is urgent, as Iran is already demonstrating countermeasures in flight tests that would render both the GMD and SM-3 long-range missile defense systems ineffective.