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A study on: Exploring U.S. Missile Defense Requirements in 2010: What Are the Policy and Technology Challenges?


Understanding the Problem


Concurrent with the upheaval in the international security system triggered by the end of the Cold War, much of the world is in the process of transitioning from an industrial era to an information age. The techn-ologies and capabilities fueling this transition hold significant implications for future wars – implications that must be understood if the United States is to be prepared to cope with the global military capabilities that will be prevalent in this new era: greater transparency on the battlefield, the pro-liferation of precision-guided munitions, the increasing number of missiles, the spread of weapons of mass destruct-ion, and the related advanced military capabilities that the maturation of the ongoing revolution in military affairs (RMA) will yield.


Although each aspect of the RMA is important, for purposes of this unclassified study the development of missile delivery systems and related capabilities will be the focal point. In short, this study will review the probable conditions that are expected to govern missile developments 7-15 years into the future, determine the implications for U.S. missile defense requirements, examine the capability of U.S. programs to meet those anticipated requirements, and identify possible courses of action for overcoming apparent shortfalls.

When projecting the missile-based technology that the United States and its forces are likely to face by 2010, some basic points need to be made regarding the framework that was used in developing this open-source study. In preparing this report, well over one thousand relevant primary and secondary sources were consulted, which include dozens of studies and books covering various facets of the issue, along with many interviews with subject-matter experts to clarify technical points. Thus, this study is based on a detailed assessment of current facts, observed trends, and the stated/implied objectives of the states that are most likely to exert a major influence on the global security situation 7-15 years in the future.

While the findings detailed in this report reflect a steadily growing level of potential challenges to the United States as advanced technologies and information access continue to expand, thus moving the world toward a state of greater technological equilibrium, it should be kept in mind that "there are no facts concerning the future." A major war, an unanticipated economic catastrophe, or some other unexpected trend-changing event could quickly alter the timetables or outcomes projected by this (or any other) predictive report. As such, it is essential that the U.S. formulate its security policy based on assessed capabilities, not intentions.

As the future spread of advanced-missile systems and weapons of mass destruction depends on a variety of inter-related factors, this study, by necessity, includes some assumptions regarding the anticipated geopolitical and economic dynamics that will bear on the issue.


The projections made in this study are based on a view of the future world in which:

It continues to be in the United States' national interest to maintain the status quo in international affairs (i.e., a global economic system that is open to U.S. trade under equitable and stable conditions, conditions in which U.S. national security is not unduly threatened).

Russia and China continue to be difficult problems for U.S. policy makers. Russia may or may not become more authoritarian but, in either case, will remain slow to establish tighter control over its arms and technology transfers. Any action by a more authoritarian government to slow illegal exports is likely to be offset by a more robust arms sales program. In the case of China, it will remain a growing power and a difficult state with which to deal politically for the foreseeable future. China will continue to be a source of arms proliferation. In the case of both Russia and China, some allowance must be made for periods of instability. Both countries could still experience severe internal disorder. Both are also likely to improve the quality of their weapon systems as Western technology becomes embedded in their economies.

Western Europe continues to be allied with the United States, but does not necessarily follow the United States' lead in all matters of foreign policy and arms control. European states will export arms and technologies based on their own assessment of domestic and international considerations.

Korea begins the process of merging by 2010. The key question is whether or not this reunification will be accomplished peacefully. If the Korean peninsula explodes in conflict, it is impossible to foresee the outcome. The major unknowns include how many countries might be dragged into such a fight and whether or not weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are employed during the conflict (especially if they are employed against states outside the Korean landmass — such as Japan). The use of WMD systems in a future conflict could well change global perceptions regarding issues of deterrence and the warfighting utility of WMD systems. (In addition, the capabilities and performance of U.S. forces in such a conflict would be watched closely by other states. Their observations would play a major factor in the formulation of their future security policy.)

There will remain a group of states that are hostile to the West (and the United States in particular). The countries comprising this group are not immutable. While the U.S. currently lists Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea as "rogue" states, there is no guarantee that this list may not change in composition or grow in size during the next 15 years. Although not an outcome to be desired, a number of states, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Algeria, have significant internal problems that indicate that future governments could emerge which are hostile to the West. Conversely, the current "rogue" states of Iran, Iraq, and Libya have governments that are facing serious internal problems that could result in major political changes which may or may not be favorable to the United States. (As stated previously, it is assumed that North Korea will not survive as a separate state.)

The trend toward the evolution of an information age will continue, along with the globalization of the manufacturing base, the technology base, and the general migration of knowledge. This trend will likely result in expanded indigenous production capabilities that could be used for the production of advanced military systems.

Nations continue to seek advanced technology weapon systems (i.e., the lessons of Desert Storm and the ongoing revolution in military affairs will continue to influence national military procurement programs).

The spread of advanced weapon-related technologies will allow lesser powers and non-governmental groups to develop greater capabilities to disrupt regional affairs and inject instability into both intrastate affairs and the international system. In essence, the ability of more players to field advanced weapon systems will add more complexity to future security calculations.

As these general assumptions regarding the global geopolitical and economic environment portend some specific issues for future U.S. security requirements, a few points require amplification.

The Migration of Knowledge and the Spread of Manu-facturing Infrastructure

Processes are currently in motion whereby the next century is likely to see a great leveling effect so that the technological advantages currently concentrated in just a few of the world's states become more widely distributed throughout the international system. This leveling effect is being generated by a number of factors:

Many of the world's leading technological and scientific talent do graduate training at commonly selected universities (e.g., MIT and the University of California, Berkeley). This means that the human resources that each state draws upon are being equalized in terms of education and common training. For example, over half of the science- and technology-based doctoral degrees awarded in the United States are earned by foreign nationals. As a result of this global leveling of educational access, the United States is gradually losing some of the enormous human-resources advantage that it has enjoyed in the past. As industrial leaders point out, the best of the foreign scientists are on par with the best of America's scientists.1

The demise of Cold War era restrictions on personal travel now facilitates the movement of scientific talent and technological innovations. For example, Russia and Israel recently signed a deal to jointly develop a helicopter. Few coordination problems are expected since 6-7 of the technologists on Israel's team are Russian emigrants who had been part of the 20 or so key people in Russia working the helicopter's design.2 In private conversations with Russian officials, it is not unusual for them to admit that some of their best and brightest scientists are now in Israel.3

The internationalization of technology as international corporations increasingly treat technology as a commodity that can be purchased on the world market. For example, General Electric now conducts a global search for technology before it commits funds for in-house research and development. This type of policy requires the development of a global network of "scouts" who ferret out leads for promising innovations, a network which, in its own right, helps develop a scientific community without borders.4 The exodus of scientific talent returning to their countries of origin. A significant number of foreign graduates from U.S. universities who subsequently accepted employment in U.S. laboratories and high-technology industries are being enticed to return to their native lands to lead indigenous technology and/or manufacturing projects.5 Many countries realize that advances in technology are a major engine for economic growth. Economists have fundamentally come to realize that technology advances are responsible for at least 50 percent of the economic growth of the United States.6 Other states also want that advantage. Fortunately for them, the United States contains the skilled manpower they need. Layoffs resulting from U.S. corporate downsizing, foreign experts stuck in upper-middle-management/research positions, and other resident aliens who have become alarmed at U.S. crime rates or are unhappy with the U.S. public school system are among those who are returning to their countries of origin.

Manufacturing facilities are being established around the globe as corporations seek to move production to locations offering maximum competitive advantage. Although the dispersion of the global technology base is credited with spawning widespread economic growth, it also establishes the means for developing weapon systems that have been heretofore beyond many states' capability to produce. As a result of this drive, increasingly, multinational corporations truly have a global presence. For example, in 1982, U.S. multinational corporations earned about 20 percent of their net income from overseas operations; 10 years later, this figure was close to 60 percent.7

Corporations are treating engineering skills as a commodity to be purchased based on price and quality considerations. Thus, engineering services for U.S. firms may be obtained from foreign sources, while at the same time foreign corporations fund and receive about 15 percent of the engineering effort that occurs in the United States.8 Moreover, engineering efforts are increasingly linked via internet or wide area networks to allow engineers from sites scattered around the globe to cooperate on product development. This offshore engineering trend is facilitated by a growing communications infrastructure that permits rapid transmission of computer-aided design (CAD) data and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) information (coupled with emerging system integration software). The result is that missile engineering and/or manufacturing specifications can be moved around the world in a matter of hours.

CAD and CAM specifications and data are being applied directly to the production process. For example, using current computer-aided design (CAD) technology, engineers can use a computer to develop 3-D drawings of a part or component, then turn that drawing into a plastic prototype by linking the CAD graphics file to a laser which is focused in a pool of liquid plastic or powdered particles. The plastic or particle medium will bind together when exposed to the laser's heat. The CAD software controls a laser-traced pattern of light in the pool of plastic or powder which solidifies the material and produces an exact plastic prototype of the part designed on the computer. Engineers can then check the fit of the plastic part within its component assembly and use the prototype as a template for forming the tool and die required for production.9 CAD also makes it possible to transmit designs directly to cutting and forming machines which can follow digital directions precisely.10

CAD and CAM codes and specifications are very portable.11 While these technologies are still maturing, it is clear that they are well on their way to becoming the standard international engineering tools. Thus, national technological advantages will become increasingly a fleeting edge as communication and digitalization capabilities facilitate both sanctioned and unauthorized transfers of technological data.

When this advanced engineering system is fused with the manufacturing centers that are being developed in many heretofore underdeveloped regions, it becomes clear that the indigenous capacity to produce precision weapons and missile systems will likely spread rapidly early in the next century. This spread of knowledge and technological capabilities means that traditional export control mechanisms will likely become less effective in limiting the spread of advanced weapon systems.

The Leakage of Armaments and Advanced Technologies

Future control of advanced armaments, missiles, and their related technologies will be difficult due both to the pressures most arms-producing countries are under to export armaments to preserve their domestic arms industries and to the unofficial exports that are brokered by unscrupulous or desperate industrial leaders, organized crime rings, or state officials acting contrary to national policy. While a majority of the smuggled transfers are believed to originate in Russia and China and will be covered more extensively in sections dealing with those countries, all arms-producing states are under pressure to export or perish with respect to their arms industries.

Even in cases where national governments are committed to controlling the export of sensitive technologies, these efforts can be thwarted by the international nature of modern business corporations. Thus, it is not uncommon for corporations that are prohibited from exporting a technology from a factory located in one country to simply suggest to the client that they place the order with a subsidiary company located in a country likely to approve the transfer.12 Thus, unilateral national export control regimes become increasingly ineffective as an arms control tool.

As a complicating factor, the nature of the international arms market is changing in several ways. First, the measured dollar volume of arms exports is declining. Between 1985 and 1994, the annual value of international arms exports declined from $70 billion to about $22-$24 billion.13 However, these numbers are "soft" numbers in that they may not reflect much of the black-market trade, nor do they reflect most component transfers that are used for domestic assembly of weapons or used in co-production arrangements. This means, for example, that the development of the South Korean K-1 tank, which is system-integrated in Korea using major components from several different countries, is not reflected in the published export figures. Thus, as states increasingly turn to co-production, licensed production, and indigenous production for their military procurement needs, the arms export figures are not likely to provide an accurate perspective of the changing international military situation. In short, the international arms market is changing in ways neither fully recognized nor well measured.

Second, as a consequence of Desert Storm, states suddenly realized that conventional weaponry of the type held by Iraq only served to provide expensive targets for advanced weapon systems. At the same time, it has become clear that the international arms market has shifted to become a "buyers' market." Purchasing countries could make demands for special deals or weapon systems and selling states would compete to fulfill those demands without regard to any factors other than those that were economically related.

As a result of these new realities, current arms purchases are focusing on offset agreements, which are a type of economic barter arrangement and often include requirements for substantial amounts of technology transfer and co-production arrangements as a condition of sale. Thus, for example, in 1994, the amount of technology transfers required by contract rose to $463 million, a 150 percent increase over 1993.14 In addition, the weapons being purchased are often state-of-the-art systems that provide significant advantages in capabilities over past systems. In some cases, purchasing nations are receiving selected weapon systems before the producing state equips its own forces with that system.

Lastly, a number of nations have shifted their focus to using their limited defense dollars to upgrading existing platforms at reasonable costs (rather than purchase new delivery platforms) and then equipping the upgraded delivery platforms with highly effective advanced weapon systems that can be stand-off delivered by missile for maximum effectiveness at minimum risk. This approach allows weaker states to leverage their defense dollars. Thus, the selected use of microsystems of advanced technologies may create pockets of capabilities that will allow smaller states to hold off the megasystems of the larger states.15 In many cases, this improved capability is being protected through the construction of underground shelters and military facilities, a trend that has boomed in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. In any event, the current pattern of international arms transfers contributes to the proliferation of advanced weapon systems and production capabilities, while minimizing the costs associated with developing advanced military capabilities in specific areas of interest.16

The Future Strategic Environment

In the absence of an effective deterrent to such actions, some states develop nationalistic aspirations of dominating their respective regions or otherwise flexing national might to intimidate surrounding states into acceding to economic or political demands, demands that may be counter to U.S. interests. Thus, to maintain international leverage, the United States must be perceived by the world community as being able and willing to defend its national interests and shield allied and friendly states from military pressure. (As about two-thirds of U.S. exports consist of common goods and services that can be supplied by a number of states, it is clear that it is not in the United States' interest to allow regional trade patterns to be artificially skewed by would-be regional hegemonic powers.)

Obviously, many states would like to find ways of checkmating U.S. military capabilities. Logically, attempts to prevent U.S. use of military force could involve the capability of inflicting unacceptable levels of casualties on deployed forces or of being able to threaten retaliation against U.S. territory or the territory of its key allies.

Looking toward 2010, the spectrum of threat is likely to include a wide array of precision weapons, cruise missiles, and ballistic missile systems that can be employed against battlefield-deployed forces and regionally-located target arrays, plus some intercontinental ballistic missile systems (ICBMs) and cruise missile systems capable of hitting the United States' homeland (the cruise systems could be air- or sea-launched). Figure 1-1 (see next page) reflects a hypothetical scale in which the number of systems that will be available on the left side of the wedge will vastly exceed the number of ICBMs that are likely to be fielded (right side of the scale).

Both ends of the scale represent the potential for inflicting major casualties on U.S. citizens. While the weapon systems on the left side largely would be conventional systems, the thousands of these weapons available collectively represent a major casualty-infliction capability. Considering that most countries also learned the value of U.S. AirLand Battle tactics from observing Desert Storm, it is likely that foreign forces would attempt to emulate the United States and target their smart weapons against vulnerable points, such as ports, communications infrastructure, airfields, command centers, logistical support bases, etc. As for ICBMs and long-range cruise missile systems, most countries that develop these types of systems are also likely to develop WMD warheads. The developmental cost of ICBMs is sufficiently great so that only WMD capabilities can justify the expense. Thus, while there are fewer long-range systems, the casualties produced by each warhead are likely to measure in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

Most countries enter the spectrum with the development of short-range rocket and missile systems (left-center area of figure 1-1). Currently, there are some 2,000 theater ballistic missiles deployed in the non-NATO/non-Russian militaries of the world, with some analysts predicting a doubling of today's inventory by 2001.17 Once these systems are mastered, the states then have the option of expanding their indigenous production capabilities toward the left or right side of the scale. They also have the option of purchasing some of these capabilities.

Spectrum of the Threat

Moreover, countries currently have easy access to precision-guided munitions, and when these advanced munitions are procured, they are generally purchased in fairly large quantities. Considering the competition that currently exists for foreign military sales among most of the developed countries, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, South Africa, and Russia, the export of these systems is likely to increase in volume in future years.18

For example, in 1995, Russia granted a number of defense manufacturers the right to market their products internationally without going through the central state arms export agency. Included in the group of industries granted this authority was the Instrument-Making Design Bureau in Tulsa which makes guided artillery rounds, anti-tank missile systems, air-defense systems, etc. In addition, the Antei concern which makes the S-300V (SA-10 missile defense system) was also granted this status.19 Furthermore, if a July 1996 report is true, the Russian government has now granted its arms export corporation permission to sell armaments to any country in the world.20 As a result, Russian arms exports are likely to increase in sophistication and include countries that the United States considers to be rogue states.

As for the development of indigenous production capabilities, countries that can master the production of short-range missile systems could also apply their skills to learn to build the required miniature circuitry that is capable of withstanding the high G-forces inherent in gun-delivery or high-velocity precision-guided weapon systems (i.e., the systems shown on the left side of Figure 1-1). Many of the skills learned at major engineering universities (e.g., MIT) that are useful for developing missile systems are also applicable to the pursuit of precision weapon technologies. One of the major challenges associated with the proliferation of advanced precision-guided weapon systems is how to protect U.S. deployed forces. In the past, dumb munitions had to be delivered in great volume to inflict significant levels of casualties against dug-in static troop positions or moving armored forces. For example, the left side of Figure 1-2 shows the typical effects of a strike against a protected target using dumb munitions. As long as the target is sufficiently protected, it is almost a case of "dumb luck" if the target is actually hit and destroyed using this type of technology. Thus, a passive defense is acceptable against this type of threat. However, the right side of Figure 1-2 shows the effects that smart munitions typically yield. The bomb damage assessments for Bosnia reflected this type of pattern: a destroyed fortification with one crater directly in the center. In short, future precision-guided munitions employed against targets located within the weapon's search footprint are likely to produce casualties in at least 60 percent of the engagements. Dug-in positions and force movement are unlikely to be very effective in protecting U.S. forces. Thus, without active defenses, U.S. intervention forces are likely to suffer high casualty rates if employed against a force equipped with precision weapon systems.

ICBM Developmental Challenges

Turning toward the right end of the scale in Figure 1-1, there are several developmental "walls" that must be overcome before a state can develop an indigenous ICBM capability (see exoatmospheric trajectory shown in Figure 1-3, pg. 1.10)

Countries must overcome the problems of re-entry. When a missile travels a course that is longer than 300 to 350 km, the warhead leaves the earth's atmosphere, travels through the vacuum of space (exoatmospheric) and experiences heating and shock as the re-entry vehicle (RV) penetrates the atmosphere. (Some sensible atmospheric heating begins to occur at about 105 kms altitude, but the real heating occurs as the atmosphere thickens in the 90-75 km band.) At 21 kms altitude (70,000 feet), the atmospheric density increases greatly and exerts stress on the re-entry vehicles, similar to "hitting a wall". It is not unusual for the initial payloads flown by a country to shake apart when this first dense "wall" of air is encountered.21 The second point where RVs experience difficulty with shock action is at cloud level. Essentially, the heat and shock of re-entry requires more effort to overcome than is generally recognized when countries first embark on the development of longer-range ballistic missiles (the longer the range the higher the velocity, which increases the degree of heat and shock that will be experienced during re-entry). To scale this wall, some countries have used recoverable satellites as part of their space-launch programs to learn how to overcome the shock and the heating problems associated with re-entry.

Missile Track

A limited precision manufacturing capability is a prerequisite for long-range exoatmospheric missile systems. Although it is now easier than it was 10-20 years ago to produce liquid-propelled rocket motors (due to the greater availability of information), it still requires fairly sophisticated manufacturing skills and careful attention to detail, especially for the production of the rocket nozzles and guidance systems. The temperatures inside an ignited missile may exceed 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and the components must function under conditions of severe temperature, vibration, and stress.22 A slight manufacturing flaw can result in the loss of the missile. In the case of solid propellants, the requirement for manufacturing precision increases, and the casting requirements are demanding. However, once the practical aspects of solid propellant manufacturing are mastered, far fewer components are required for production than is the case for liquid-fueled systems.23

"A traditional ballistic missile must be placed very precisely at a given point in space, angled exactly so as to enter a specific orbit, and travel at a precise velocity."24 For example, in the case of the U.S. MX missile, it has a velocity of nearly 23,000 feet per second at burnout. A velocity error of just one foot per second would result in a miss of one statute mile.25 However, new guidance-system technologies allow terminal-phase maneuvering of the re-entry vehicle to correct the inaccuracies of the delivery trajectory. Thus, single warhead missiles can now be maneuvered to target.

The final wall is being able to properly stage a multistage missile system. Given the degree of accuracy that must go into a missile's flight, the ability to ensure that the various stages ignite and burn precisely is another difficulty that must be mastered. Moreover, "once the missile leaves the atmosphere, the missile can easily begin to tumble at the stage transition, because aerodynamic forces cannot be utilized to stabilize it."26

As a general rule, IRBMs and ICBMs are staged missile systems.27

The degree of precision required for guidance systems and for precision in manufacturing makes the development of ICBMs difficult. While the development of a commercial space industry can be used to camouflage the development of an ICBM force, a commercial space-launch vehicle (SLV) does not necessarily mean that a country has an effective ICBM capability. When lofting a commercial satellite, the satellites position in space can be corrected by firing on-board thrusters that gradually change the orbit. In the past, the ability to correct an ICBM's trajectory has been minimal. Thus, an ICBM had to be more accurate than an SLV. However, other than the issue of accuracy, ICBMs and SLVs share identical technologies.

It should also be noted that an increased availability of information is helping countries overcome some of the "walls" that have hindered ballistic missile development in the past. For example, rocket-society papers on staging problems, discussions on guidance systems, and detailed instructions on how to feed Global Positioning System (GPS) data into a rocket's guidance system can now all be downloaded from the Internet or located in open-source literature. Moreover, much U.S. declassified information is available to states seeking indigenous production capabilities. For instance, a lot of information on managing staging problems has been declassified. Radio guidance system navigation (now obsolete by U.S. standards) also has been declassified. Similarly, data on the entire Lance missile system is now available in unclassified format. As an enabler, today's precision-milling machines facilitate the automated manufacturing of components that are so well machined that it makes past nuclear and missile production efforts seem crude by comparison.28 As a result, the "walls" to future long-range missile production are rapidly diminishing in size.

The Cruise Issue

As for cruise missile threats, while cruise systems may be employed against similar targets as ballistic missiles, essentially the cruise missile is more closely related to airplane technology than it is to ballistic missile technology.

Furthermore, the cruise missile is easy to design and manufacture. It has a low radar cross section and a low infrared (IR) signature. It is also maneuverable, hard to intercept, and can carry a wide variety of warheads, to include conventional, nuclear, chemical, and biological. As of 1995, some 130 models of cruise missiles, manufactured by 19 countries, are held in the inventories of 75 countries.29 About 70 percent of the current inventory of approximately 75,000 cruise missiles are anti-ship systems.30 As for the future, there are some 72 new models of cruise missiles under development. About 53 percent of the new systems are designed for land-attack missions; the remainder will be anti-ship systems.31

Summary of Potential Challenges

In essence, the United States, its forces, and its allies will be faced with a combination of threat systems (precision weapons, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles) against which they will have to defend in the future. Obviously, any country contemplating the acquisition or development of any of these systems will tend to put its limited resources into those systems which appear to hold the greatest potential for successful deterrence or employment. At the same time, countries also seek to maximize their national prestige in the international community. Consequently, countries capable of so doing will attempt to develop capabilities in all areas. Thus, if the United States focuses its active defense efforts in only one area of the threat spectrum depicted in Figure 1-1, it will tend to encourage proliferating states to expend their resources developing systems designed to exploit those areas in which there is no effective counter, while, at the same time, remaining vulnerable to those states that have developed offensive capabilities across the entire threat spectrum. As a result, the United States will be forced to focus any defensive efforts on developing an integrated system of active defenses against the entire threat spectrum — battlefield-precision-guided weapons through ICBMs.

Countermeasures to Anticipated U.S. Missile Defenses

Just fielding a missile defense system will not be enough. As has occurred throughout the course of human history, every defensive measure generates a countermeasure. For the foreseeable future, it is clear that a struggle is emerging that will pit the ingenuity of those building or developing offensive missile systems against those who must develop the defenses against those capabilities. 32

In the near term, as this study will show, countries such as Russia, China, India, and others are anticipating that the United States, Israel, and eventually other states will develop missile defenses. To protect their attack options, they are acting to ensure that their future missile systems will be able to penetrate the anticipated defenses. Moreover, as it is the offensive weapon systems that determine the nature of the threat and control the initiative in determining the characteristics and the pace of threat development, the defensive systems always run the risk of being continually one step behind the offensive systems, and thus incapable of stopping the threat. The bottom line is that any missile defense system that is fielded must be able to be upgraded very quickly as offensive systems are modified to improve their penetration capabilities.

The United States is currently developing a first-generation missile-defense system that uses a ground-based radar for tracking the target (painting a 3-D picture), then passing that targeting information to the intercepting missile that mounts an infrared (IR) seeker that "sees" a 2-D picture (a picture created by detecting a heat source and determining the angle to that source). The interceptor then vectors toward the target (but without any on-board ability to determine range to target. It is dependent upon receipt of range data from ground control).

This type of missile-defense system can be degraded or countered by the following actions:

Stealth. All countries are working on reducing the radar cross section of their missiles and warheads. This is being done by use of radar absorbing paints/materials and use of radar non-reflecting designs. In addition, there is some possibility that future efforts could include such actions as putting re-entry vehicles (RVs) inside of plastic balloons filled with radar absorbing foam (available on the commercial market) to camouflage the RVs from the ground-based radar systems.

Decoys. Decoys are already deployed by some other countries, such as Russia and the U.K. These are designed to look like RVs and provide defenses with a higher number of targets to interdict. Decoys also provide potential platforms for radar jammers.

Maneuver. Almost all countries are working on maneuvering their missiles and warheads to make them more difficult to intercept. At this time, only Russia is believed to be working on an exoatmospheric maneuvering missile system (maneuvering outside the atmosphere consumes large quantities of fuel and is limited to gentle turns measuring 2-3 Gs). Most other countries with ballistic missile capabilities are currently limiting their efforts to maneuver their missiles to the endoatmospheric segment of the trajectory (once the missile leaves the vacuum of space and regains aerodynamic maneuverability from the earth's atmosphere). Maneuvering can cause the intercepting missile to deplete its fuel as it constantly readjusts its intercept vector (burning fuel) or to be unable to make the vector correction fast enough to make a successful intercept.

Coning (also called corkscrewing). Coning is an example of a maneuvering warhead. If a RV or warhead wobbles as it reenters the atmosphere (accidentally or deliberately caused) a spiraling maneuver can be introduced consisting of 10-15 G turns which corkscrews the RV in a 30-40 meter diameter circuit. An interceptor would need a vector and range to target (and on-board computational capability) to plot a successful intercept against a warhead engaged in this type of maneuver.

MIRVs and Submunitions. By placing multiple warheads or submunitions on each offensive missile, the offense can overwhelm the defense unless the defense develops a cost-effective way of dealing with multiple munitions from a single missile. Complicating the problem for national missile defense is the limitation in the ABM Treaty against putting multiple intercept capabilities on defensive missiles. (That limitation would not apply to theater missile defenses.) It should also be noted that the Chinese, for example, reportedly plan to salvo fire their offensive missile attacks in order to saturate missile defenses.

Reducing Infrared Signature. Infrared warhead signatures might be nearly eliminated by the addition of a double shroud (inter-shroud insulated), since much of the heat signature will be eliminated by simply jettisoning the hot shroud(s) since the frigid temperature of space would soon cool the outer skin of the warhead or RVs to near ambient temperature. (The discarded shroud would also act as a decoy.) In addition, IR altering paints can be applied to the exterior of the warhead to change the nature of the IR signature. These counter measures could make it very difficult for the IR seeker on the intercepting missile to find the target against the background coldness of space.

Radar Jammers. Small microwave antennas can be mounted on the RVs and decoys and equipped to receive frequency-hopping radar signals, amplify them, and rebroadcast them, and, in the process, elongate the radar signal in a way that creates a dead space in the coverage (i.e., a volume masker). In addition, simple chaff clouds and metallic balloons can also be released with the RVs and used to scatter the radar signal or to hide the RVs. In the vacuum of space, these simple devices would continue to travel with the warheads until stripped off by the atmosphere during re-entry.

Simple Masking. Warheads can be difficult for an infrared seeker to identify due to simple masking. For example, when China's Dong Feng 15 is launched (the type fired near Taiwan in March 1996), the warhead trajectory is trailed by the missile body. The missile body is a hot object and creates a large infrared signature that helps mask the signature of the much smaller warhead. In addition, in the case where a missile breaks up as Iraq's Scuds were prone to do, the resulting hot metal may give off an IR signal larger than that of the warhead, making it difficult to pick out the target. Similarly, in the case where a missile tumbles (easily triggered when staging occurs exoatmospheric where there are no aerodynamic forces to help stabilize the missile's flight), there is no way that the current sensor technology can determine which end of the missile should be targeted to hit the warhead.


Due to technology leveling and the spread of manufacturing facilities, the trend line that measures the speed with which countries develop advanced weapon capabilities is expected to make a rapid climb early in the twenty-first century. As a result, any projection of future capabilities that is made by a continuation of past trends could fall well short of tomorrow's reality.

In the area of offensive military weapon systems, it is clear that the world is moving toward precision-guided weapons, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. The walls that have in the past made it difficult for countries to develop these systems are diminishing as information becomes more accessible, new materials allow technical hurtles to be jumped, and computer-controlled precision machine tools make the manufacturing processes easier.

As a result of the changing technological environment, the United States will be forced to develop defenses against the weapon systems it pioneered. These defenses should cover the full spectrum of the threat.

Currently, the United States is developing first-generation missile defense systems. Although these systems will incorporate some impressive capabilities, they will have some difficulty dealing with the more advanced penetration aids. Thus, any missile defense system developed must lend itself to being upgraded quickly and at a reasonable cost. In short, U.S. missile defense initiatives must be planned and programmatically balanced so as to be sustainable over time.


1 This claim has been made by many. For an example, see Robert M. White, "The Migration of Know-How," Technology Review, August/September 1995, p. 81.

2 Private conversation between the author and an aerospace expert on a nonattribution basis, June 12, 1996. For additional insights into the migration of Russian scientific talent see R. Adam Moody, "Armageddon For Hire," Janes International Defense Review, February 1997, pp. 21-23.

3 Ibid.

4 In tracing current corporate R&D practices, the author talked to representatives from Ford, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and other similar corporations to determine how they approach their R&D requirements. Ford conducts advanced R&D, puts it "on the shelf," and limits its product engineers from going elsewhere for technology without strong justification. GE has adopted a policy of first trying to find the technology elsewhere prior to funding R&D efforts. This approach does increase the travel budget, but can produce enormous cost savings. The GE representative was very excited about a catalyst found in India that will allow some new coatings to be bonded to metal (especially for auto finishes). HP does almost no advanced technology research. It specializes in finding innovative ways to apply new developments as it improves its product line. In all cases, the commercial firms stressed engineering-to-cost constraints and the innovations that can come out of those restrictions and the need for concurrent engineering approaches to product design.

5 Ashley Dunn, "Skilled Asians Leaving U.S. for High-tech Jobs at Home," The New York Times, February 21,1995, pp. A1 & B5. The article claims that 195,000 foreign-born Americans are leaving the U.S. each year.

6 Graham R. Mitchell, Presentation at Symposium on Exploring U.S. Missile Defense Requirements in 2010, hosted by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Inc., Washington, DC, June 7, 1996.

7 Ibid. Dr. Mitchell also noted that 1992 was a very poor year for U.S. industry [1982 was also a weak year], thus the figure slightly exaggerates the situation, but still reflects the trend.

8 Ibid.

9 Gadi Kaplan, "Manufacturing A' La Carte," IEEE Spectrum (Special Edition), September 1993, p. 12.

10 "The Mind's Eye," The Economist: A Survey of Manufacturing Technology, March 5, 1994, p. 7.

11 For insight into the world of industrial espionage see, Calvin Sims, "The Strange Case of a Computer Spy," International Herald Tribune, July 11, 1996, p. 2.

12 For example, Iraq gained access to precision milling machines when a U.S. company suggested that Iraq purchase the machines from the company's German subsidiary. David Kay, Presentation to the George C. Marshall Institute's Technical Panel On Missile Defense, July 29, 1996. Likewise, Raytheon Corporation was approached by Iran for a purchase of air-traffic control radar and equipment. The U.S. refused an export license. Iran subsequently purchased the equipment from Raytheon Canada. Edward Woolen, Conference on Arms and Technology Transfers: Security and Economic Considerations, organized by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, February 14-15, 1994.

13 U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Wide Military Expenditure and Arms Transfers, 1995, March 1996, p. 9. cites $22 billion; other sources use slightly higher figures.

14 "Technology Seepage is Offset Concern," Arms Trade News, June 1996, p. 1. Also cited is a report that McDonnell Douglas offered to sell Poland F-18 attack aircraft and the opportunity to produce 60 percent of the parts in Poland. This type of deal helps support indigenous arms production capabilities.

15 Eliot A. Cohen, "A Revolution in Warfare," Foreign Affairs, March/April 1996, p. 53.

16 For an insightful examination of the changing conditions of the international arms market, see Andrew W. Hull and David R. Markov, The Changing Nature of the International Arms Market, Institute for Defense Analysis paper P-3122, March 1996. According to a nonattributable report based on a contact with a Western European construction firm at the Abu Dhabi international arms show in March 1997, there is "cut throat" competition ongoing for the construction of underground military facilities throughout the Middle East. Advances in controlled explosion techniques and tunneling machinery technology allows 30-100 workers to construct a 1-half km square facility in about three months.

17 Dennis M. Gormley and K. Scott McMahon, "Who's Guarding the Back Door?" Jane's International Defense Review, May 1996, p. 21.

18 For a good overview of smart munitions development efforts, see Mark Hewish, "Smart Munitions: Brains Plus Brawn," Jane's International Defense Review, February 1996, pp. 34-40. By the year 2010, many of the systems described in this article will likely be widely distributed throughout the world.

19 Interview with Gennady G. Yanpolsky, "A New Era for Russian Defense Export," Military Technology, December 1995, p. 33.

20 Vago Muradian, "Russia Wants Cooperation to Secure Overseas Sales," Defense Daily, July 10, 1996, p. 46. In this report, Victor Kuzine, the chief of international marketing for Rosvoorouzhenie, Russia's state-owned arms corporation, claimed that his firm had received permission from the Russian government to conduct business with any nation in the world.

21 Information on re-entry problems based on a conversation with Pat Duggan, Office of the Project Manager, National Missile Defense, Huntsville, AL, February 12, 1996.

22 Kathleen C. Bailey, Doomsday Weapons in the Hands of Many, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp. 100-101.

23 For a detailed discussion of missile technology issues, see U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, OTA-BP-ISC-115 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 1993), pp. 197-255.

24 Ibid., p. 101.

25 Ibid., pp. 101-102.

26 U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, op. cit., p. 226.

27 While staging is the key for efficient missile development, it should be remembered that both the U.S. Atlas and the Soviet SS-6 missile systems were single-stage missiles that used brute force to reach target. For example, the SS-6 had a range of 10,000 kms and was boosted into orbit using 32 rocket engines, all firing together.

28 David A. Kay, Presentation to the George C. Marshall Institute's Technical Panel On Missile Defense, July 29, 1996. Dr. Kay related the results of his efforts to find open source data on the internet and in declassified files on missile and nuclear-related technology challenges.

29 Lieutenant General James Clapper, USAF, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, January 17, 1995.

30 Ibid., and Gormley and McMahon, op. cit.

31 Ibid. For some insights into Russian development efforts of anti-ship cruise missile systems, see "Russia Presses Ahead With Supersonic Designs," International Defense Review, May 1. 1994, p. 58.

32 Andrew Hull, David Markov, Reuben Johnson, "Implications of Third World Acquisition and Employment of Ballistic Missiles and Space Launch Vehicles for SDIO/POET, "Institute for Defense Analyses", IDA D-1274, October 1992, pp.VI-1 to VI-8.

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