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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: This can be solved diplomatically
By myhipsi on 11/2/2010 9:48:58 AM , Rating: 5
It's no wonder people refer to America as the United States of Amnesia. Take five minutes to actually look at the history of your own foreign policy. It would be wise to check out the History Channel doc called "Iran and the west". Since the days of British Petroleum, Britain and the U.S. have been meddling in the internal affairs of Iran. From the CIA coup and overthrow of democratically elected Iranian leader Mossadegh, to the installation of the Shah.

And how about Iraq? In the 80's, the U.S. government propped up Saddam Hussein and supported his war of terror on Iran with chemical weapons, etc. and how about Afghanistan, where the U.S. supported the Mujahideen with cash and weapons.

Every time the U.S. meddles in the affairs of other nations, it comes back to bite you in the ass (CIA refers to it as blow-back), then you complain that they're a threat and that these "rogue nations" need to be dealt with with pre-emptive attacks (aka. aggressive offensive warfare), when your governments historical support of these nations have caused the very trouble your dealing with today.

You wonder why people criticize U.S. foreign policy? The rest of the world remembers, while you guys seem to forget. You've created half of your enemies. Maybe you should take a look at what Eisenhower warned about, your military industrial complex, which has grown to dominate your foreign policy, and spend you into a hole, while you sit around saying, "they hate us for our freedoms".

Don't get me wrong, as a citizen of your northern neighbor, I've visited the U.S. many times. I love your country, and I absolutely love and respect the principles it was founded on. Unfortunately, you've drifted far from those principles in recent decades, and it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of people while a lot of you guys seem to be oblivious to your own recent history.

RE: This can be solved diplomatically
By Nutzo on 11/2/2010 11:37:51 AM , Rating: 2
Most these are a case of dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. If we hadn't helped Saddam, then Iran would have become an even bigger threat, much sooner.

If we hadn't bogged down the Russia in Afghanistan, how far would they have spread?

Of course you seem to forget our medaling in Germany and Japan after WWII. That seems to have turned out ok.

However, I think we should pull back most our troops (including in Korea, Germany, etc) and eliminate most our foreign aid. And if a country attacks us or American interest (like the pirates attacking US ships off the coast of Somolia) we should just go in and wipe them out. I.E. leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.

RE: This can be solved diplomatically
By myhipsi on 11/2/2010 11:54:50 AM , Rating: 2
Interference into Iranian internal affairs goes all the way back to 1953, long before the Iran/Iraq war. So the argument can be made that Iran would have be a different country in the 1970's and 80's, had the U.S. not been involved to protect oil interests.

As far as the Soviets in Afghanistan, well, we'll never know, either way, you probably wouldn't have the Taliban today if it weren't for U.S. support in the 80's.

Germany and Japan are entirely different. Those were defensive in nature.

"Leave us alone, and we'll leave you alone." - I couldn't agree with you more. The founding fathers advocated this kind of thinking.

RE: This can be solved diplomatically
By bug77 on 11/2/10, Rating: 0
"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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