No. 3 - Jun. 1992
Vol. 40 - pp. 27-30
BALLISTIC MISSILE STRIKES.
GPALS COMES UP WITH AN ANSWER
Ambassador Henry F. Cooper,
Director of the US Strategic Defense Initiative Organization,
The collapse of the former Soviet Union coupled
with the recent Gulf War with Iraq provides compelling evidence that defence
against ballistic missile attack is more imperative than ever.
The stark consequences of ballistic missile proliferation
in the Third Whorld were seen by millions of people around the world and
felt by innocent civilians in Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Fortunately, we can
only imagine what would have been the strategic consequences had Saddam
Hussein possessed the ability to threaten with ballistic missile attack
the undefended capitals of the world, including those in the NATO Alliance.
The important question to be asked is what lessons
can be learned from the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
First, the Gulf War. As far as strategic and theatre defences are concerned,
at least five important lessons can be learned from the SCUD - PATRIOT
duel. First, reliance on only deterrence through the threat of retaliation
will not prevent unstable dictators or terrorist nations from acquiring
and using ballistic missiles. Second, it is unlikely that pre-emptive
strikes could destroy all launchers before their missiles were sent on
missions of destruction. Third, the Patriots showed, in combat, that it
is possible to intercept ballistic missiles in flight. Fourth, defences
do not need to work perfectly to be useful. And fifth, defences that cost
more than the attacking weapons can be well worth the price - just ask
the citizens of Tel Aviv and Riyadh.
Clearly, as ballistic missile technology proliferates,
the threat of short, medium, intermediate and intercontinental range ballistic
missile attack grows. As Lt. Gen. Charles Horner, Commander, US Central
Command Tactical Air Forces, said to aviation week and space technology,
"...When very accurate missiles with mass destruction warheads are available
to Third World nations, the US will need a regional, wide-area air defence
force to duplicate on a grand scale the Patriot's pivotal role of defanging
A new focus for SDI
These observations confirm the wisdom of a new direction
for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) programme, which was taken after
almost two years of review of the implications of fundamental developments
in the East-West relationship, and before the Gulf War. Much has changed
in the world since SDI was first introduced nine years ago, particularly
in the last 18 months.
These changes led President Bush, during his 1991
State of the Union Address, to announce that he had "directed that the
SDI programme be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic
missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI programme
that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces
overseas and to our friends and allies."
The refocused programme, which increases SDI's
emphasis on theatre missile defence, is called Global Protection Against
Limited Strikes, or GPALS.
Under the old Phase I SDI programme, the first
objective of strategic defence was to deter a massive Soviet first strike
by destroying a significant percentage of several thousand THOUSAND
attacking nuclear warheads. Under the new GPALS programme, the objective
is to protect the United States,our forces overseas, as well as our allies
and friends, by destroying the warheads of limited ballistic missile strikes
(up to 200 warheads) launched from anywhere on earth.
A GPALS defence would consist of three elements
working in concert to provide the best possible protection against limited
ballistic missile attacks. First, improved theatre missile defences could
protect against ballistic missile attacks on US forces overseas andon
US friends and allies. Second, a ground-based defensive system , at five
to seven sites, could defend the United States against accidental and
unauthorized ballistic missile strikes from any source. And finally, a
global, space-based element (Brilliant Pebbles) could intercept ballistic
missiles with ranges greater than a few hundred miles, destroying the
targets by colliding with them. With the necessary funding, we could begin
fielding an advanced theatre missile defence by the mid-1990s, ground-based
US defences in late 1997 and Brilliant Pebbles around the end of the decade.
With the passage of the Missile Defense Act of
1991, Congress has joined the Administration in pushing for advanced theatre
ballistic missile defence and for US national defences against limited
long-range ballistic missile attack. In particular, the Act states that
we should develop for deployment, as early as technology permits or by
1996, a cost effective ballistic missile defence system which complies
with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This would serve as an initial
step toward deployment of an adequate number of ABM sites and space-based
sensors necessary to provide a highly effective defence of the United
States against limited attacks of ballistic missiles. At the same time,
we are exploring possible opportunities for expanded cooperation with
our Allies on missile defences, and discussing with the former Soviet
Union how we might jointly develop and deploy effective defences that
requires amending the current ABM treaty regime.
Role of space systems
It should be understood that space systems could play
a very important role in future strategic defences. Even in the recent Gulf
War, space-based sensors provided key initial warning information on the
Scuds and, after analysis in Colorado Springs, key data were provided via
a hot line to wake up the Patriot batteries in Israel
and Saudi Arabia. Future space sensor systems will provide far more effective
support for theatre defences. Similarly, US ground-based defensive systems
would depend upon the timely development and deployment of space-based sensors
such as our Brilliant Eyes system.
Furthermore, the space-based Brilliant Pebbles
could detect and intercept ballistic missiles that fly through space,
above the earth's atmosphere. Thus, Brilliant Pebbles could provide continuous
world-wide protection against ballistic missiles launched from essentially
anywhere, so long as they rise above the atmosphere - a characteristic
associated with normal missiles with ranges greater than about 500 km.
This ever present capability could be very important in maintaining stability
during the mobilization period that could lead to conflicts in possible
future regional crises.
A joint global system?
The proliferation of ballistic missiles throughout
the developing world also is gaining in importance for the former Soviet
Union. And with good reason. By the year 2000, it is estimated that 15 Third
World nations will have the capability for indigenous production of ballistic
missiles, up to 30 will have a chemical weapons capability, 10 may be able
to deploy biological weapons, and as many as eight may have a nuclear capability.
Because of geography, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is more
directly threatened by such missiles than is the United States. As GPALS
addresses a threat of mutual concern, we believe it may facilitate progress
in future arms control talks with them.
A disturbing by-product of the break-up of the
Soviet Union is the prospect that thousands of scientists working in the
nuclear and advanced weapons fields now face the very real possibility
of losing their jobs, coupled with the growing temptation to sell their
services to the highest bidder. As Robert Gates, the Director of the CIA,
said to the House Armed Services Committee, "Most of these emigrants will
prefer to settle in Israel or in the West, but some may find a better
market for their expertise in Third World countries trying to acquire
or improve special nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons capabilities."
The question then arises - as it has for six years
in the Defence and Space Talks - how do we work with the Soviets (and
now the CIS) toward building and deploying defences in the interests of
us all? At least part of the answer is that if the member nations of the
NATO Alliance speak with one voice, as we did throughout the Cold War,
the former Soviet Union will eventually work with us to find a solution
to maintain stability under an appropriate arms control regime while permitting
all of us to deploy defensive systems for our mutual protection.There
are signs that the leadership of the CIS is already thinking along those
lines. In a speech last January to the United Nations, Russian President
Boris Yeltsin said, "I think the time has come to consider creating a
global system for the protection of the world community. It could be based
on a reorientation of the US strategic defence system to make use of high
technologies developed in Russia's defence complex. Russia considers the
United States and the West not as mere partners but rather as allies."
As I stated before the Senate Appropriations Committee
on 9 April, we are very interested in working cooperatively with the Russians.
In fact, it was a position I advocated strongly for some five years in
Geneva during the Defence and Space Talks. We believe there are cooperative
efforts that are mutually beneficial with respect to SDI, and we are anxious
to start working with our Russian counterparts as soon as possible.
Although GPALS was being considered long before
the first Patriot intercepted an Iraqi Scud, the President's decision
to redirect the focus of the SDI programme certainly came at an opportune
moment. One important lesson of the Gulf War is that we need Global Protection
Against Limited Strikes as soon as possible, with improved theatre missile
defences leading the way.
An irony is that many of the same critics who gave
a litany of excuses as to why we shouldn't have a Patriot ballistic missile
defence capability, or why Patriot would never work, are now saying the
very same things about strategic and improved theatre missile defence.
It was said that Patriot would never work because
it was impossible to "hit a bullet with a bullet." But, thanks to CNN,
the whole world saw Patriots close with approaching Scuds at a speed of
more than two miles per second, which is two-and-a-half times faster than
two bullets fired at each other from high-velocity rifles. And, on January
28, 1991, an experimental ground-based interceptor hit a Minuteman warhead
over 100 miles above the earth with a closing velocity three times faster
than that of a Patriot intercepting a Scud.
So, recent events show that we no longer have to
be defenceless against ballistic missiles. And, as Henry Kissinger wrote
in the 2 April 1991 WASHINGTON POST, "limitations on strategic defenses
will have to be reconsidered in light of the Gulf War experience; no responsible
leader can henceforth deliberately leave his civilian population vulnerable."
Thus, we can and must defend ourselves against these most threatening
offensive weapons systems, particularly those that in the future may be
in the hands of irresponsible or terrorist leaders.
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