The Philosophical Society of Washington
Minutes of the 2157th Meeting
Speaker: Henry F. Cooper, Chairman, High Frontier
Topic SDI – Missile Defense

The 2157th meeting of the Philosophical Society of Washington was held on Friday the 7th of February 2003 in the Powell Auditorium of the Cosmos Club.  President Haapla was in the chair. President Haapla called the meeting to order at 8:19 PM. The recording Secretary read the minutes of the 2156th  meeting and after a question concerning the number of digits in the lower limit of the internationally sanctioned temperature scale (which the speaker had proofed) the minutes were accepted as read.
The president noted that the Society was continuing its long tradition of discussing topics of interest even when controversial. He noted that a previous speaker had questioned the wisdom of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and that tonight we had a speaker who was an advocate for the missile defense program. Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper is Chairman of the Board of High Frontier, a nonprofit educational corporation to examine the defense of America against a missile attack. He served as SDI Director in the previous Bush I administration, and was Ronald Reagan's chief negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks.
Mr. Cooper noted he started his missile defense work at Bell Telephone Laboratories with the Nike Zeus program in the early 1960s. In 1972, the U. S. and Russia signed the ABM Treaty to make even testing of effective ballistic missile defenses illegal.  Mr. Cooper strongly disapproved of the Treaty, from which the current Bush II administration has withdrawn.  Mr. Cooper indicated that the Russians selectively violated the Treaty from the day it was signed. He claimed that the U.S. is currently defenseless against attack by even a single ballistic missile; and that viable SDI technology demonstration programs were stopped in 1993 by the Clinton administration and talented people were dispersed.  Now that the Treaty has been removed as an obstacle, testing of more cost-effective defenses can proceed, including on sea-based and space-based anti-missile systems.  However, Mr. Cooper noted that the Bush II administration had not yet invested significantly in reviving programs to exploit these key technologies.  
On December 17, 2002, President Bush announced a program to field, by 2005, 20 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, in the flight path of an ICBM launched from North Korea, and 20 sea-based interceptors on three ships.  Mr. Cooper indicated that the heavy investment in land-based systems over sea-based or space-based systems was driven by Pentagon bureaucratic inertia from a decade of focusing only on what could be tested under the ABM Treaty, and by collective amnesia of key technology demonstrated under the Reagan and Bush I administrations.  Land-based systems are not as cost-effective as sea-based systems because they are not as mobile and generally can only intercept attacking missiles late in their flight. For example, forward-based ships can intercept attacking missiles in their ascent phase of flight – and ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California cannot.  And the Aegis system already exists and is deployed around the world; so little new infrastructure must be purchased while the existing air defense system is upgraded.  In the speaker’s opinion, space-based systems are the most cost-effective defense options.
As an illustration of 1992 vintage testing that creatively avoided Treaty restrictions, the speaker described how the Wallops Island test facilities were used to launch 2 probes from a single ground-based rocket, which could be tested under the terms of the Treaty. After separation from the booster, the 2 probes followed different trajectories – the first in a “lofted” trajectory simulating a “space-based” platform to track and intercept from outside the Earth’s atmosphere the lower trajectory second probe while it boosted upward, simulating a boosting target rocket.  This kind of test provided valuable information on the concept of tracking and intercepting ballistic missiles from space, but it was a contrived demonstration to satisfy Treaty lawyers.  No serious engineer would ever conduct such tests – he would put an interceptor in orbit, launch a target rocket and intercept it.  Such contrived experiments added significant cost, complexity and risk to important SDI demonstrations.  With the Treaty constraints removed, simpler lower risk experiments now can be done, but there is no indication that Bush II plans to implement such a serious program.  
Mr. Cooper discussed the vulnerabilities of ballistic missiles to interception. The most effective time to intercept is the boost-phase, when the target rocket has not reached terminal velocity, the engines are producing maximum trackable signals, the rocket is extremely vulnerable and has not released its payload weapons and decoys, and a destroyed object could, if attacked soon enough, fall back into enemy territory. The second best time is the reentry phase when light-weight decoys are stripped away by atmospheric drag, leaving the warhead exposed. The most difficult phase to intercept is the sub-orbital exo-atmospheric phase, while the space objects are not subject to atmospheric slowing and decoys are most effectively deployed – and the Pentagon is spending most of its money on this most difficult problem.
Two important areas where the Treaty inhibited testing of important Navy technology were the limits on upward looking ship-based radar and using ship-based radar in tandem with other sensors to track long-range missiles.  Furthermore, exploitation of the inherent capability of the Navy’s deployed air defense system was precluded by the Treaty. The kill vehicle now being tested by the Navy is a kinetic energy projectile, which was slowed down under the Clinton Administration from the 4.5 Km/sec Bush I design to ~3 Km/sec – significantly reducing the area that can be defended. Still, if Bush I technology were revived, lighter weight front ends on the interceptor being tested could produce ~7 Km/sec intercept vehicle velocities.  
This interceptor could provide a very good capability for Aegis cruisers in the Sea of Japan to shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles in their ascent phase.  Mr. Cooper noted that Japan now has 4 Aegis cruisers and is interested in upgrading them to defend against ballistic missiles.  Giving the Navy’s Aegis system a forward-based defense capability against North Korean ICBMs would cost 10% of the Alaska ground-based system now being tested – and be able to shoot to shoot down attacking missiles in their ascent phase as the first layer of a layered defense.  
The speaker noted that the threat also included low tech ways to attack coastal cities with warheads in any of numerous shipping containers, most of which are not inspected before arrival at U.S. ports, and that other agencies are addressing this important problem.  The speaker reminded the audience of the 15 SCUD missiles shipped from North Korea to Yemen this past December – and intercepted by the Spanish Navy based on U.S. intelligence.   Mr. Cooper also reminded the audience that Yemen backed Iraq in the last Gulf War; yet, the SCUDs went on to Yemen after they protested the interception on the high seas – White House authorities said we had no authority to detain the shipment.  So in this case, even though we had the necessary intelligence, we were unable to keep the SCUDs from reaching their intended destination.  If such SCUDs are erected and launched at sea – as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has indicated is a known threat, they could threaten our coastal cities from a hundred miles out.  A defense against such threats is very desirable.
There are no plans for missile defense deployment or even tests of a ground-based defense on the Atlantic Coast, only in Alaska and California. And the planned sea-based system is being tested only in the Pacific – and cannot protect the Eastern Seaboard from its test area.  Mr. Cooper observed that the Aegis system could instead be tested along the East Coast and begin defending the Eastern Seaboard by 2005, if the  government provided the right funding. He noted that the Virginia House of Delegates recently passed a resolution urging the Bush administration and U.S. congress to provide such an East Coast Test Range and early defense.
Space-based systems can provide intercept opportunities against either short or long-range missiles. The Clinton administration killed the Bush I program demonstrating this capability, and Congress may resist restarting it under Bush II. However, Mr. Cooper asserted that the Bush I Brilliant Pebbles project could be quickly revived, deployed within 5-years, and operated for 20 years for ~$10 billion. That the technology for Brilliant Pebbles is mature was demonstrated on in the 1994 Clementine mission, which mapped the Moon’s surface in 1.8 million frames of data in 15 spectral bands and discovered water at the South Pole. It won awards from both the National Academy of Science and NASA, while space qualifying all the basic technology required for an effective space-based interceptor, except for miniature propulsion – and that was accomplished on a 1994 ASTRID experiment.
The command and control system for Brilliant Pebbles was demonstrated by Iridium, an operational 66-satellite global communications system that was not a viable business venture but which the Pentagon purchased for pennies on the dollar and now operates quite effectively with fewer that a half-dozen personnel.  Thus, all needed technology for a space-based interceptor system has been space-qualified.  The Brilliant Pebbles system is a network of orbiting autonomous interceptors, which could identify a launch, track the missile and intercept it with a kinetic energy weapon from space. The speaker noted that they were called “brilliant” because, even in 1990, each “pebble” carried enough computing power to operate autonomously, using a CRAY 1 the size of a palm pilot.  Today’s technology is smaller and more capable.
Light-weight interceptors based on Brilliant Pebbles technology could do also boost-phase intercept from long-endurance high-flying drones lurking over hostile territory – within 3-5 years for only a few hundred million dollars per year.  Such a program was in-being in 1993 and killed by the Clinton administration – the ABM Treaty also blocked the testing of air-based defenses if they could protect the United States.  SDI-developed high-flying high altitude drones were transferred to NASA in the early 1990s – and the solar-powered one has been setting high-altitude records.
Of course, missile defense programs will have to be integrated with other programs to protect the U.S. homeland under the new Department of Homeland Security and the new Northern Command in Colorado Springs, which provides homeland defense support from the Department of Defense.  
The speaker kindly answered questions from the audience, including:
Q. How can defense keep ahead of threat when threat can be adapted quickly and cheaply to new modes of delivery?
A. Brilliant Pebbles interceptors can be mass-produced for about $1 million each, which is much less than attacking warheads, so such a defense can stay ahead.  Other basing modes are less cost-effective.
Q. What is the time frame from detection to intercept during the boost-phase?
A. The decision to intercept must be made in ~1-minute after the attacking missile is launched. There would be no time for seeking authorization from higher authority. The Brilliant Pebbles, authorized in advance, would communicate with each other to avoid multiple kill vehicles homing in on any one launch vehicle.  The associated algorithms have not been tested, but numerous simulations in 1989-92 gave confidence this capability could be achieved. Every appropriate missile launch is pre-announced, so Brilliant Pebbles could be notified not to shoot down duly authorized launches – but would shoot down any launches that were not pre-announced and authorized.  This protocol could be put in terms of an international agreement.
Q. What are the main obstacles to restarting space-based defenses?
A. First is getting the right, bright people to work on the project; second is money. Most important is a religion of considerable note that space should not be militarized.  
Q. How capable is the Patriot technology?
A.  The Patriot was designed to protect itself from attacking missiles, it was not designed to intercept missiles aimed at nearby civilians.   It performed brilliantly as a psychological weapon during the 1991 Gulf War, but not as an effective military one. The Israelis saw the effort to protect them and went about their daily lives.  But it is doubtful that Patriot actually destroyed a single SCUD.  It may have diverted the path of incoming SCUDs, which the Army judged would protect Patriot – but not nearby personnel. Also, it should be noted that none of the many aircraft launched to find and destroy mobile SCUD launchers proved successful during the Gulf War.
The President thanked the speaker for the Society, presented him with a copy of the lecture announcement and one year of free membership in the Society. The President then made the usual announcements concerning parking and beverage control. He then adjourned the 2157th meeting at 9:46 PM to the social hour.  (Attendance 33/Temperature 2.2o C/Weather: Clearing after snow/Respectfully submitted, David F. Bleil Recording Secretary)