Issue Brief 88, August 14, 2003
Threats From The Sea - And Still No Defense
The front page of this morning's Washington
Post revealed again how ballistic missiles, as well as other threatening
cargo, can be transported by ships. Reported is a 1999 discovery by customs
agents in India of a "hidden missile factory" on a North Korean freighter
- apparently on its way to Libya, acording to unnamed U.S. intelligence officials.
Indian technical experts are reported to have concluded that the equipment
was "unimpeachable and irrefutable evidence" of a plan to transfer not just
missiles but missile making capability.
The missiles of concern in this incident could reach only
300-500 miles, not enough to reach the U.S. from Libya. But North Korea has
long been working to build a longer-range missile capability and such North
Korean proliferation bodes ill for future developments that could threaten
us. In 1998, the year before this incident, North Korea launched a three-stage
missile over Japan and almost to U.S. territory, so its commerce in missile
technology with Libya, Iran, Pakistan, Syria etc. is a troubling prolifertaion
Furthermore, if such short-range missiles were clandestinely
transported to near our coasts, they might be launched to attack major American
cities. That shipping assembled ballistic missiles is not novel was demonstrated
last December - so the 1999 Indian incident did not lead North Korea to stop
this class of its proliferation activities. Almost 4 years after the above
incident, Spanish Navy personnel and U.S. Navy Seals boarded, in the Gulf
of Aden, a ship from North Korea carrying 15 Scud missiles to Yemen. Scud
smuggling is a reality.
As Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed out
last year, Scuds were launched from ships forty years ago. launching ballistic
missiles from ships at sea is not a technological challenge. The trick for
the terrorist is getting close to targets of interest - say near the U.S.
coasts, where most of our population lives. In both of the above incidents,
we discovered the clandestine cargo in time to keep it far away from U.S.
coastal areas. However, that may not always be the case.
If such a launch were to occur, we still have no defense
against it. This is an unsettling situation, to say the least. Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld surely understands that this is a possible threat - before either
of the above two mentioned events, his 1998 bipartisan commission on the
ballistic missile threat pointed out that the threat of short-range missile
attack from the sea already existed in 1998 - actually long before 1998.
Yet on Secretary Rumsfeld's watch, the Pentagon has done
nothing to deal with this known threat - doubly unsettling since this absolutely
total vulnerability could be ended within nine months for a very modest investment.
For over two years, High Frontier has been explaining that the U.S. Navy
could modify its existing Standard Missile air defense system to give it
a limited capability againts this existing threat for less than $50 million.
This claim was based on public statements over two years ago by the director
of the Navy's missile defense programs. There have been additional substantive
studies that back up his claims.
To be sure, such a defense capability would be far from
perfect, but it would be better than nothing, which is what we have today.
It could be a meaningful stop-gap measure until we can build truly effective
defenses against such a threat.
High Frontier urges Secretary Rumsfeld to look into the
reasons that this possibility stagnates in the Pentagon bureaucracy.
Issue Brief 87, July 17, 2003
APS Study On Space-Based Interceptors: Garbage In, Garbage Out!
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
“This seems to be one of the many cases in which the admitted accuracy
of mathematical processes is allowed to throw a wholly inadmissible appearance
of authority over the results obtained by them. Mathematics may be
compared to a mill of exquisite workmanship, which grinds you stuff of any
degree of fineness; but nevertheless, what you get out depends on what you
put in; and as the grandest mill in the world will not extract wheat flour
from peascods, so pages of formulas will not get a definite result out of
T. H. Huxley (In a public debate with Lord Kelvin in 1869)
Were he alive today, Huxley might have made these same
comments about the recently published study by the American Physical Society
Study Group, Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense
– especially regarding space-based interceptors. This 400+ page tome is
full of calculations using the equations of orbital mechanics, the rocket
equation and other well known equations of physics – but, with the wrong
input assumptions, they deliver the wrong answers. Or, in the modern vernacular,
“Garbage in; garbage out.”
These same equations were used by the Fletcher Study
, consisting of nationally recognized physicists and engineers, formed in
1984 to provide the initial direction for President Reagan’s Strategic Defense
Initiative. In particular, they identified the critically important objective
to achieve lightweight, very capable hit-to-kill vehicles – and that became
a driving objective of the SDI program – particularly for space-based interceptors.
The heavier the kill vehicle (KV), the bigger the booster required to deliver
the kill vehicle and the greater the system cost.
Working backwards using the well-known rocket equation,
competent engineers can establish weight budgets for sensors, on-board computers,
kill vehicle propulsion, etc., which must be met to have a cost-effective
interceptor – which was determined in the 1980s, by the way, to be an order
of magnitude less than the KV weight assumed by the APS study team. So their
conclusion from their mindless grinding through various formulae was predetermined
to be negative – and should have been well known based on well-known earlier
Indeed, it should have been well known to any group
of informed experts that by the late 1980s, the SDI investments in technology
had produced the technology base for the key components of a light weight,
cost effective space-based interceptor – passing the countermeasure gauntlet
posed by the APS study team. In what the Missile Defense Agency’s Historian,
Dr. Don Baucomb, calls “A Season of Studies,” the Brilliant Pebbles space-based
interceptor concept in 1989 passed the scrutiny of over a dozen internal
and external reviews by well-known science and engineering experts on space-based
interceptor technology .
In particular, JASON, a group of eminent physicists
from academia – not known as advocates for missile defense – reported there
were “no show-stoppers” for this important program, which became SDI’s first
fully approved Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) in 1990. This formal
status meant that the concept passed formal cost screens and passed muster
with the Joint Chiefs in meeting necessary decision timelines to achieve
boost-phase intercept capability.
In spite of the political headwinds against the space-based
interceptor program, scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory and in two contractor teams (TRW, now part of Northrop Grumman,
and Martin Marietta, now part of Lockheed-Martin) made considerable progress
in developing and demonstrating the essential technology for a viable space-based
interceptor system. But the Clinton administration scuttled this important
program in early 1993 – and, at least as important, most of the important
technology demonstration programs geared toward meeting the goals established
by the Fletcher Study and pursued for the better part of a decade. Lost
were the achievements not only to space-based defenses, but also for other
basing modes – such was the price of political correctness of an administration
more concerned with strengthening the ABM Treaty than building cost-effective
Now there seems to be collective amnesia about the state
of technology. The APS says the technology for space-based defenses is a
decade away. Partially right, but they got the sign wrong. It
was available a decade ago.
Issue Brief 86, July 9, 2003
Needed: A New Home For Developing Space-Based Defenses
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
The current issue of Space News reports
that Terry Little, Director of the Pentagon’s Kinetic Energy Interceptor
program, said that “technical problems with miniaturization and weight proved
severely limiting” in recent reviews by industry of the possibility of demonstrating
space-based interceptors by 2005 . He also reportedly argued, “You need
a lot of satellites and they need to be affordable to buy and launch – they’re
Consequently, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has delayed
its space-based testbed program until 2008 until “research” provides answers
to these critical problems. According to Space News, Little justified
this delay by noting, “If you enter development with major technical problems,
you’re going to end up in trouble.”
These views are so ludicrous it is hard to figure out
where to begin in dismissing them.
Perhaps it is first worth noting that the program to
examine the potential for space-based interceptors was not a serious effort
– the cuts heralded in the Space News article were to a $14 million effort,
mostly to produce viewgraphs.
Apparently forgotten is the work accomplished a decade
ago, e.g., when $300 million was “appropriated” in 1993 to support two contractors
– Martin Marietta (now included in Lockheed-Martin) and TRW (now subsumed
by Northrop Grumman) – before the Clinton administration scuttled this competitive
space-demonstration effort of the most advanced technology produced for
the $30 billion SDI investment during the Reagan-Bush I years. Perhaps,
Mr. Little might get a clue or two by reading “The Rise and Fall of Brilliant
Pebbles” written by MDA’s historian, Dr. Don Baucomb .
A little checking should educate Mr. Little to the fact
that the key first generation Brilliant Pebbles technology except for miniature
propulsion was space-qualified by the 1994 Clementine mission, which mapped
the Moon’s surface in 13 spectral bands and discovered water at its South
Pole. (A replica of the award-winning Clementine spacecraft hangs in an
honored place at the Smithsonian.) The miniature propulsion was demonstrated
on an Astrid flight later in 1994.
Second, I’d call Mr. Little’s attention to the fact
that how to build inexpensive small satellites is reasonably well known
– though perhaps the United States has forgotten how after the Clinton purge
of the SDI space defense programs and personnel in 1993. The two contractor
teams mentioned above were working on fully approved Major Defense Acquisition
Programs which had withstood the scrutiny of numerous Defense Science Board
and other critical technical reviews, the Pentagon’s independent cost analyses
and other Defense Acquisition Board reviews – and their objective was to
develop and deploy 1000 Brilliant Pebbles and operate them for 20 years for
$11 billion in FY1989 dollars. (Included was replacing each Pebble once,
so that 2000 were purchased.)
To persuade himself that building relatively inexpensive
lightweight satellites is still possible today – even if the contractors
with whom he has consulted have forgotten how, Mr. Little might visit the
webpage of Surrey Satellite Technology, LTD (http://www.sstl.co.uk/) – which
claims with some justification to be the world’s pioneer of small satellite
applications and technology. They have for years been building small (under
10 kg) satellites, which they construct in very short periods of time (1-2
years) at very low cost ($2-3 million each). This technology is being
transferred to others, including China. China’s official news agency (Xinhua)
has reported on “parasitic” satellites intended to attach themselves to target
satellites and wreck them upon subsequent radio command. Thus, miniature
military satellites already exist, though MDA personnel and their contractors
– who do what they are told, of course – appear to be uninformed. As
to operating large constellations of satellites, I’d suggest Mr. Little consult
with Motorola, which applied SDI technology and methods to build and operate
Iridium with a handful of qualified people.
Finally, the appalling mindset betrayed by Mr. Little’s
suggestion that all major technical problems must be solved before entering
development illustrates why the development of space-based defenses should
be removed from the Missile Defense Agency. Needed is a small, competent,
informed technical team in government and industry to develop space defense
systems – a time proven way to innovative development. For example,
long before we knew how to solve all “major technical problems,” such teams
built our first land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles in around 4
In the 1950s, these Air Force and Navy teams were specially
formed outside of the existing bureaucratic order to conduct the innovative
development and deliver for the Nation. If the Bush administration is at
all serious about developing space-based defenses, such a dedicated team
is again needed – away from the Missile Defense Agency, which clearly has
no interest in innovative development.
Issue Brief 85, March 2003
On The Legacy of Ronald Reagan's SDI Vision
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper