Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brief Education on East Coast Missile Threat

Our nation prospers when we all have a solid grasp of strategic threats.  DOD is beefing up the Alaskan missile interceptors while one elected official calls for a similar site on the U.S. east coast.  It would help if we describe the threat to the east coast before we decide whether another interceptor site is necessary.

The Alaskan interceptors are specifically intended to counter a potential ballistic missile launch from North Korea.  The National Research Council published a report in September 2012 that explored options for strengthening U.S. ballistic missile defense.  I know that most of my readers don't have as much time to read as I do.  The report's summary press release restates its conclusions.  The report advocates an east coast interceptor site to counter missile threats from countries other than North Korea.

Most previous tests of North Korea's ballistic missiles, specifically the Unha and Taepodong-2, have been spectacular failures, although the Unha-3 did successfully orbit an object in December 2012.  That's something their Paektusan launch vehicle could not accomplish.  The DPRK just can't seem to get those second and third stages more than halfway across the Pacific Ocean, which is unsurprising for a country that can't feed itself.  North Korean missiles are not yet a serious threat to the U.S. west coast, let alone the east coast, because the country needs several years between single launches.  The existing interceptor sites at Fort Greely and Vandenberg AFB are sufficient to take down a single launch of a North Korean ICBM.

Iran may be a similar story.  It has a large arsenal of ballistic missiles but none of them have sufficient range to reach the U.S.  Iran has a very limited space program unless they really are monkeying around with with astro-monkeys.  Maybe sending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into space isn't such a bad idea if it keeps him out of earthly affairs.

There is little point in deploying missile interceptors to counter a nonexistent Iranian threat.  A proposed east coast site would probably be a waste of money in an era when the U.S. needs to reduce its fiscal profligacy.