Pentagon: Short-Range Iran Missile Threat Is Rising, and That’s Why We Should Scrap Euro Missile Shield
According to a Pentagon fact sheet on the now-scrapped plans for a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff “unanimously” agreed to get rid of the shield in favor of “technology that is proven, cost-effective, and adaptable to an evolving security environment.”
Among their baseline judgments is precisely what former undersecretary of defense Eric Edelman cautioned — that the “threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles is developing more rapidly than previously projected.” But Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities are still immature, and are proceeding slower than previously projected. Meanwhile, “U.S. missile defense capabilities and technologies have advanced significantly,” a trend expected to continue, and so the administration plans a four-phased for theater missile defense between now and 2020 based around those advances. Gates noted that those emergent technologies don’t rely on a “single, large, fixed European radar” that was supposed to be built in the Czech Republic; nor do they require the technology underlying the planned interceptor field in Poland. So out it goes.
It’s some good jujitsu: accepting the technological premises of missile defense advocates to argue that the planned Poland/Czech Republic-based system is a relic before it’s built.
Here’s full fact sheet.
President Obama has approved the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a phased, adaptive approach for missile defense in Europe. This approach is based on an assessment of the Iranian missile threat, and a commitment to deploy technology that is proven, cost-effective, and adaptable to an evolving security environment.
Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.
The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to the President that he revise the previous Administration’s 2007 plan for missile defense in Europe as part of an ongoing comprehensive review of our missile defenses mandated by Congress. Two major developments led to this unanimous recommended change:
- New Threat Assessment: The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles is developing more rapidly than previously projected, while the threat of potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities has been slower to develop than previously estimated. In the near-term, the greatest missile threats from Iran will be to U.S. Allies and partners, as well as to U.S. deployed personnel – military and civilian –and their accompanying families in the Middle East and in Europe.
- Advances in Capabilities and Technologies: Over the past several years, U.S. missile defense capabilities and technologies have advanced significantly. We expect this trend to continue. Improved interceptor capabilities, such as advanced versions of the SM-3, offer a more flexible, capable, and cost-effective architecture. Improved sensor technologies offer a variety of options to detect and track enemy missiles.
These changes in the threat as well as our capabilities and technologies underscore the need for an adaptable architecture. This architecture is responsive to the current threat, but could also incorporate relevant technologies quickly and cost-effectively to respond to evolving threats. Accordingly, the Department of Defense has developed a four-phased, adaptive approach for missile defense in Europe. While further advances of technology or future changes in the threat could modify the details or timing of later phases, current plans call for the following:
- Phase One (in the 2011 timeframe) – Deploy current and proven missile defense systems available in the next two years, including the sea-based Aegis Weapon System, the SM-3 interceptor (Block IA), and sensors such as the forward-based Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance system (AN/TPY-2), to address regional ballistic missile threats to Europe and our deployed personnel and their families;
- Phase Two (in the 2015 timeframe) – After appropriate testing, deploy a more capable version of the SM-3 interceptor (Block IB) in both sea- and land-based configurations, and more advanced sensors, to expand the defended area against short- and medium-range missile threats;
- Phase Three (in the 2018 timeframe) – After development and testing are complete, deploy the more advanced SM-3 Block IIA variant currently under development, to counter short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missile threats; and
- Phase Four (in the 2020 timeframe) – After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM threat to the United States.
Throughout all four phases, the United States also will be testing and updating a range of approaches for improving our sensors for missile defense. The new distributed interceptor and sensor architecture also does not require a single, large, fixed European radar that was to be located in the Czech Republic; this approach also uses different interceptor technology than the previous program, removing the need for a single field of 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense recommended that the United States no longer plan to move forward with that architecture.
The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat.