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The U.S. Defense Department claims that its Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) systems make the U.S. homeland invicible from ballistic missile attack. These claims are insane, say two of the nation's top security experts.  (Source: Nato Source/Atlantic Council)

The security researchers claim drone-based interception over the enemy nation is the only reliable way to shoot down ballistic missiles.  (Source: DARPA/Boeing)

Iran is reportedly designing fin-less ballistic missiles that could outwit current U.S. interceptors. Iranian defense officials are pictured here unveiling their new drone bomber, which they nicknamed "the messenger of death".  (Source: Reuters)
They suggest a drone based solution would fix the flaws presented by a ground-based system, using only existing tech

The United States recently followed Israel's claims that it was ready to shoot down any nuclear missile aimed its way, with similar claims of its own.  The U.S. has begun reexamining space-based defenses and has also been quietly upgrading its ground-based missile-defense shield, even as U.S. President Barack Obama pushes his vision of global nuclear disarmament.

A new study, though, published in the 
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, insists that the U.S.'s claims of security are very flawed.  Authored by two top American security authorities, the study argues that despite recent upgrades and breakthroughs, America assertion that its homeland is safe from any airborne nuclear threat is a "dangerous fantasy".

George N. Lewis, a physicist and associate director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University, and Theodore A. Postal, a physicist and professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT, authored the new report.

The report specifically targets an April 2010 U.S. government resolution that declared the U.S. to be safe from ballistic missile threats from hostile nations such as Iran and North Korea, thanks to its US Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) systems.  According to Professors Lewis and Postal, though, this new declaration is based on a "technical myth" as Iran is thought to be developing countermeasures to make its ballistic devices harder to shoot down.  Other hostile nations may be working on similar countermeasures.

But the pair of professors isn't just griping about what they view as an ineffective strategy -- they're proposing what seems like a sensible solution.  They advise that rather than rely on what they call a "ineffective, untested, and unworkable" GMD system, that funding instead be put into developing a constantly airborne fleet of stealth drones over the airspace of hostile nations.

That way, rather than trying to shoot down missiles that have already reached the United States, Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia -- and likely are deploying countermeasures -- the drones would instead launch fast interceptors taking out the missiles over the hostile country's own airspace, preventing them from deploying effective countermeasures.

The plan would also be kosher with the New START arms reduction treaty, recently signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.  That treaty set a limit of 1,550 ready-to-use ballistic warheads (each) on the U.S. and Russia's respective arsenals.  It also contained language limiting certain missile defense strategies.

The current systems, according to the pair of researchers, are ineffective for two reason.  The first is simple physics.  Interceptors, in their current form, can only accurately predict and target regular trajectories from finned missile designs.  Iran is reportedly designing fin-less designs that would likely cause interceptors to miss.  They could also employ tumbling missile designs, similar to those used to defeat the Patriot Missile Defense in the Gulf War of 1991.

Secondly, decoys can also hinder proper shoot-down.  U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles are equipped with decoy warheads, so that once in space, the real warhead launches amid a swarm of identical dummy warheads, making interception an increasingly impossible task. There's no reason why Iran, North Korea, or others would be unable to develop similar technology.

The authors take special issue with the U.S. Defense Department's claims that the U.S. is already defended from nuclear threats, pointing out that they have no evidence supporting that the system would work in combat.  Professor Lewis comments, "These claims are fantastical, audacious, and dangerous."

A drone solution they say would provide a full answer to the problem and would not require new technology.  Further, shot down warheads would fall on enemy territory should they still manage to activate after being hit by an interceptor.

Professor Lewis concludes, "The situation is urgent, as Iran is already demonstrating countermeasures in flight tests that would render both the GMD and SM-3 long-range missile defense systems ineffective.  If we, as a nation, refuse to confront the fact that our chosen defense system is not reliable, and if we fail to build a robust and reliable alternative system using existing technology, we will have only ourselves to blame if the continental United States suffers a catastrophe as a result of the successful delivery of a nuclear weapon by long-range ballistic missile."

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RE: We need...
By quiksilvr on 11/1/2010 4:20:22 PM , Rating: 3
Well that doesn't sound horrendous and dehumanizing in any way.

How would you feel if someone did that to your country just because your government had an itchy trigger finger and other countries didn't even attempt a realistic diplomatic approach?

RE: We need...
By nolisi on 11/1/2010 4:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'll give you both a practical reason why it's a bad idea- you'll have every other country wondering who's next. Not only does China have a larger military, who knows when/if they might create their own "coalition of the willing" and paint America as another Iraq that needs to be dealt with...

RE: We need...
By Master Kenobi on 11/1/10, Rating: -1
RE: We need...
By OUits on 11/1/2010 6:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. They'd need something that at least resembles a modern navy. I'd be more worried about China's response to US aggression towards Iran.

RE: We need...
By bh192012 on 11/1/10, Rating: 0
RE: We need...
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 11/2/2010 7:26:38 AM , Rating: 1
Okay, let me get this straight:

Laugh, adverbial clause is signaled, question is raised, 3rd person plural subject, then "it's bitch?" Perhaps without the contraction: "then why are we it is bitch?" Nope, I still don't get it. Who is "it?" and why is "it" a bitch? Am I getting closer. Perhaps you meant, "then why are we its bitch?"

RE: We need...
By Redwin on 11/2/2010 9:10:55 AM , Rating: 2
So many viable ways to ridicule his statement, and you chose to go with improper contraction use?

RE: We need...
By bh192012 on 11/2/2010 7:00:24 PM , Rating: 1
You're ok with how I used capital letters though? Glad we cleared that up. What I really meant was, in my best Russian accent, "Why are we? It's bitch." Lamenting the fact that you and I have to exist together in the same world.

RE: We need...
By ekv on 11/1/2010 8:09:38 PM , Rating: 2
Don't know about you, but I consider China's ability to limit shipments of rare-earth metals to US as rather biting.

RE: We need...
By OUits on 11/1/2010 8:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
Right, but that doesn't really have anything to do with projecting military power outside it's borders.

"Projecting power" has to do with things like air superiority, etc.

RE: We need...
By ekv on 11/2/2010 12:09:06 AM , Rating: 3
I understand he was talking about projecting military power. However, "projecting power", as you say, has more nuances than mere military capability.

Keep in mind, two colonels in the PRC wrote, "Unrestricted Warfare: China's Master Plan to Destroy America". See also

I'm not saying this is their master strategy. But, it would be in character for them to NOT confront us necessarily head-on. I think you would agree with me that an oblique approach makes more sense, especially considering US military strength today. [Maybe less so in a year, but that is then, not now].

RE: We need...
By fteoath64 on 11/2/2010 5:55:02 AM , Rating: 1
Militarily yes. But economically,they already control most of the world due to their cheap exports since they are able to hold their currency low. Hence, they are the cheapest bar none. They have gamed the monetary system.
With all the money earned, they are building huge infrastructure while most developed nations have no money to do so. Hence, in time, they will also dominate technology. It might take generations but they can wait.

RE: We need...
By clovell on 11/2/2010 2:59:54 PM , Rating: 3
What is an American IOU worth to the Chinese when we're at war?

RE: We need...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/1/10, Rating: -1
RE: We need...
By bh192012 on 11/1/2010 7:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
Well that's the basic tennent of not being evil. It's kinda like how we don't go around murdering and raping each other, ya know, cuz it makes others feel bad. Perhaps you're a robot? :>

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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