February 17, 2013

USA's missile defense system in Europe takes U-turn


The Pentagon cast doubts on the effectiveness of the European missile defense system, which is currently being developed to eliminate the potential Iranian threat. U.S. military experts believe that it is still possible to change the situation for the better, but one has to completely revise Obama's plans from 2009 both in terms of the territorial aspect, as well as scientific developments. The fourth part of the plan, which is dangerous for Russia, is expected to be replaced with the strengthening of the American missile defense on the East Coast and in California.

The Associated Press gained the access to the confidential briefing of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the U.S. Congress on conditions of anonymity. The agency said that the GAO informed congressmen of the Pentagon's skepticism about the plans to deploy missile defense in Europe (EPAA), which the Obama administration adopted in 2009.

The plan consists of four stages. The first one involves the use of the sea-based multifunctional combat information control system Aegis in the Mediterranean Sea. The system is equipped with a radar with the range of up to 400 kilometers (SPY-1) and SM-3 (Block I) interceptor missiles. This system has already been put into service; it interacts with the early-warning radar system in Turkey, according to the information unveiled at NATO's summit in Chicago in May 2012.

During the following stages, Washington intends t deploy interceptors in Romania (Block II A), and then in Poland (Block IIB), while building up the Aegis group in the Mediterranean. SM-3 missiles, according to experts' estimates, will not be able to reach Russia. Their destruction zone is 250 kilometers, and their prime goal is to compensation threats from Iran. During the fourth stage, however, after 2018, the system will be modified according to the plan (Block IIB). The destruction zone will thus include Russia's intercontinental missiles Topol and heavy missiles Sotka, deployed between Moscow and the Urals.

Criticism from the Pentagon touched upon the second and subsequent stages. It turned out that Romania was not the best location for the deployment of U.S. interceptor missiles. It would be a lot better to redeploy them to the North Sea. In this case however, they will be located on the path of the potential movement of Russian intercontinental missiles. Moreover, the U.S. missiles will be able to destroy the Russian ones at early stages of flight.

An anonymous military source told the AP that such a decision would cause strong diplomatic protests in Moscow, as would strengthen the Kremlin's opinion about the direction of the U.S. missile defense against Russia. Will it be a good argument for the U.S. authorities not to follow the advice of the Pentagon? This is not likely, for we have been often convinced of the opposite.

As for the third stage of the plan, the Pentagon believes that the deployment of U.S. missiles in Poland will make sense only if they are modified to intercept enemy missiles during the boost phase of flight. Meanwhile, the works on the development of these missiles are in their initial stage, and their final performance have not been defined yet. Another source told the AP that the U.S. government allegedly does not work on the creation of such interceptors. Allegedly, the U.S. government considers this idea unfeasible. However, such statements could be made to mislead Russia.

In addition, one should understand that Obama's plans to create a mobile missile defense receives a lot of criticism from Republicans - his opponents in the Congress. The criticism itself does not constitute an intention to refuse from the deployment of missiles. The billions will most likely be redistributed, partly in favor of deterrence of a much more aggressive "partner" - China - under the pretext of protecting allies from North Korean missiles, which announced a creation of long-range missile late last year.

China also conducted a successful test of Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching any point in the U.S.. Steven Hildreth, an expert on missile defense with the Congressional Research Service said that the U.S. was focused on North Korea's rhetoric. According to him, the U.S. expects "an elephant in the room" - China that is. The U.S. has already announced the creation of missile defense in Asia Pacific Region.

The Pentagon came to the conclusions that were nearly identical to those made by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (NRC) in September 2012.

The most importantly factor indicated in both studies is the one that the U.S. missile defense in Europe will not be effective if it has problems with sensors (if they are unable to distinguish between enemy missiles and false targets). According to scientists, there are problems even with Block I. For instance, Aegis SPY-1 radar "does not meet the requirements of the objective needs of the EPAA, while the ground-based TPY-2 radar deployed in Turkey, "has been deployed in the wrong place, should be twice as large and it should be mounted on a turntable platform to be able to see more than in one direction."

NRC also urged the U.S. government to refuse from the implementation of the fourth phase of missile defense, the goal of which is to intercept Iranian long-range missiles (which do not exist yet). To solve these problems, it is recommended to use the existing THAAD interceptors, and a new location for their deployment on the East Coast, such as Fort Drum (New York), or in the state of Maine. Noteworthy, the Pentagon's financial plan for 2013 includes the construction of the third base of interceptor missiles on the East Coast and an expansion of bases in Alaska and California. This shows that the Americans have started to move in the recommended direction.

Can Moscow breathe a sigh of relief now? In a way, it can. However, a lot can change before 2018. In the meantime, the measures taken in Russia's Kaliningrad enclave - the deployment of Iskander tactical nuclear missiles, the launch of Voronezh radar system, which simultaneously monitors up to 500 airborne targets at up to 6,000 kilometers, and the deployment of S-400 systems in the enclave - all of that gives Russia nuclear parity guarantees with the U.S. and NATO.

Lyuba Lulko


No comments: