04/30/2008 - 09:23

Press briefing on missile defense: Follow-up

Yesterday, George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol addressed the technical deficiencies in the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe during a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists phone press briefing. (Press briefing audio is now available.) Highlights included:

  • On the capabilities of the system's centerpiece radar, the European midcourse radar: "The European midcourse radar is much less powerful than you would expect for a radar of its size," said Lewis, a coauthor of the May/June 2008 Bulletin article, "The European Missile Defense Folly." "So when you look at trying to detect, track, and discriminate real warhead targets, you find that this radar is hopelessly inadequate. In most trajectories, it will never be able to detect the warhead."
  • On the system's ability to combat Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles: "The Missile Defense Agency claims that the system's interceptors are too slow to catch up with Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles," Lewis said. "But the characteristics of the stages of these missiles and the characteristics of the homing kill vehicle motor are well-known. It's fairly straightforward then to show that these interceptors should be much faster than the Missile Defense Agency says."
  • On the likelihood that the United States will limit its missile defense deployment in Poland to 10 interceptors: "If Iran does eventually develop the technology and industrial infrastructure to build intercontinental missiles, why would they produce only one missile and not just keep producing them on this production line?" asked Postol, a coauthor of the May/June 2008 Bulletin article, "The European Missile Defense Folly." "So the Polish deployment of only 10 interceptors must be designed to be expandable."

Listen to the press briefing in its entirety:
European Missile Defense Press Briefing: 29 April 2008

Participants

George N. Lewis: A physicist, Lewis is associate director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University. His expertise is in missile defense technology, the proliferation of ballistic missiles, and nuclear arms control.

Theodore A. Postol: A professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT, Postol is a leading authority on missile defense, who previously served as scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations.

Follow-up Interviews

To arrange a follow-up interview with either Lewis or Postol, please contact:

Josh Schollmeyer
Deputy Editor
312-364-9710 ext. 16
jschollmeyer@thebulletin.org

Background Material

"Why U.S. National Intelligence Estimates Predict that the European Missile Defense System Will Fail: Technological Issues Relevant to Policy,"
February 2008 plenary lecture delivered by Postol before the German Physical Society

Related Material

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For many in the GOP, the true test of their commitment to former President Ronald Reagan is how strongly they support national missile defense.

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BY HUGH GUSTERSON Washington is either misleading the public about the purpose of its European missile defense installations or uninformed about the program's capabilities. Whatever the case, productive dialogue suffers.

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