The U.S. is “gently prompting” the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to integrate their air- and missile-defense systems, according to American strategic defense consultant Ian Brzezinski.
National missile defense
Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 X-band mobile radar is one of the United States’ most powerful assets in the defense against ballistic missiles. That threat is an increasingly worrisome one: according to unclassified U.S. Missile Defense Agency data the number of such missiles outside the control of the U.S., NATO, Russia and China is around 6,300. That figure is forecast to grow to nearly 8,000 in the next decade.
On May 16, at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, a Raytheon SM-3 Block IB hit-to-kill interceptor was successfully fired by the Aegis-equipped cruiser U.S.S. Lake Erie at a separating short-range ballistic missile target. The FTM-19 test was not only the 23rd successful intercept for the SM-3 weapon, but the third consecutive success for the latest Block IB version. Having achieved three successful strikes in a row, the Block IB is now authorized for production.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a “phased adaptive approach” (PAA) for the missile defense of Europe to be deployed in four phases with a mix of sea- and land-based assets. A critical element is the Raytheon Standard Missile 3 interceptor, which in its Block 1A configuration forms the basis of PAA Phase I capability, which has now been implemented.
Late last month Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing officials gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their partnership developing the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system. At the same time, they announced an extension to the partnership, which at present is working on the Arrow 3 two-stage interceptor.
Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system successfully undertook a sophisticated “two versus two” trial-firing last month, and the air defense system has just completed a final review regarding the possible sale to the United Arab Emirates, which could be announced imminently.
Raytheon has proposed that 10 European warships be equipped with the company’s standard SM-3 missile, so that the burden of providing a missile defense shield over Europe can be shared more equally among the NATO countries. The alliance has crafted a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to extending the shield, so that it covers the entire European continent. But the U.S.
The Arrow BMD (ballistic missile defense) system that now protects Israel was co-developed and produced by Boeing and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI), but funded mostly by the U.S. MDA. Designed to offer better protection than the Patriot PAC-3, development began in the late 1980s with Israeli industry providing the L-band radar and the command and control system.
It was always an ambitious plan: Develop the world’s most powerful airborne laser, integrate it on a large airliner and use it to shoot down ballistic missiles at the most opportune time–during the boost phase. Go operational in 2007. But after spending almost $5 billion on the airborne laser (ABL) in 15 years, the MDA redesignated it as the airborne laser test bed (ALTB).
Are the nations of Europe serious about comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD)? Or are they happy to let America provide the only effective shield over their cities and populations? Despite a ringing declaration of intent at the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last November, these questions remain unanswered.
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