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

Executive Summary


In determining the policy and technical challenges that will govern missile development 7-15 years in the future, this study effort goes well beyond the missile issue to examine the underlying goals and objectives that are likely to motivate the behavior of the major states during the next decade (Chapters 1-4). Included in the first chapter of this assessment is an explanation of how the migration of knowledge is tending to move technological and manufacturing capabilities towards a position of greater international equilibrium. This equilibrating effect will allow more of the world's states to develop the precision-guided munitions, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles that they saw demonstrated with such good effect during the Gulf War. Chapters 2-4 then examine the national dynamics that are at work in a number of states of concern. This portion of the assessment looks at internal technology transfer environments, non-official actors within the states that influence the flow of sensitive weapons and technology (to include organized crime groups and China's Red Princes), and tries to develop a sense of what types of missile threats are likely to emerge from these actors and how those missile capabilities might affect the United States' ability to defend important national interests in the future.

The assessment then turns to the issue of the technical challenges inherent in mounting a missile defense. Chapter 5 describes the missile defense countermeasures that missile designers are incorporating into their missile systems, the practical difficulties that these countermeasures pose for U.S. missile defenses, and what is or is not being done to solve those challenges. Chapter 6 describes the findings and recommendations, to include the rationale for them. Chapter 6 is wholly devoted to just those aspects of the problem that directly influence the missile defense environment.

Uncertainties in the New Era

In examining the international situation likely to govern future relations, it is clear that most countries want long-range strategic missile systems for their deterrent value. Unfortunately, what is not so clear is whether or not all other countries would be mutually deterred by U.S. nuclear forces if issues involving perceived national sovereignty were involved in some future confrontation.

At the tactical level, cruise and ballistic missiles with battlefield- through theater-level applications are proliferating widely. There is a general consensus in the United States that accepts

Exclusion Area
the requirement for the develop-ment of tactical missile defenses against cruise and ballistic systems. However, much of the current thinking is still oriented toward de-feating Scud missiles. During the next decade, it appears that a number of missile systems with de-tachable warheads and greater penetration sophistication will become common.

Thus, future tactical missile defenses must be able to defend against targets that will be much more capable than Scuds.

Although it is clearly recognized that a significant number of countries will possess tactical missile systems by 2010, the possible threats to the United States are less clear. While the study discusses the expected environment of 2010 in some detail, it is noteworthy to review the potential missile threat to the United States itself in that time frame.

Russia, of course, still poses a threat to the United States, both in terms of its missile forces and as a source of proliferation. As is generally known (and discussed in detail in Chapter 2), Russia's military is in disarray; the control that it exercises over its strategic missile forces is weakening. Thus, the possibility of an unauthorized launch is increasing and must be considered to be a distinct possibility.

Perhaps of equal or greater significance is the problem of proliferation from Russia. Nuclear materials are leaking across Russia's borders, and the transfer of missile technology and components is occurring. Much of this trade is taking place outside of official channels. Unfortunately, what now constitutes official channels is not very clear. The explosion of crime and corruption in Russia is leading to a fusion of government, industrial, and criminal groups into an integrated whole so that it is difficult to distinguish their separate roles.

Consequently, it should be expected that Russia will be a source of proliferation for the foreseeable future. It must also be considered that Russia may help arm potential allies as a means of building a better balance against U.S. power. Iran, India, and China have been specifically cited by Russian strategists as being potential candidates for membership in an alliance with Russia designed to counter the power of the United States, Europe, and Japan. The missile proliferation role which Russia could play will be further examined shortly.

At the same time, China is emerging as a power in its own right. China now has the capability of striking the United States with an acknowledged 17-20 ICBMs, most of which are the DF-5A with a range of over 13,000 kms. As shown in the figure, from an assumed firing location in Southern China, the DF-5A can strike anywhere in the world with the exception of Latin America and the edge of West Africa. China is in the process of developing Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) warheads for this missile (which is also expected to incorporate penetration aids). Open source accounts indicate that by the year 2000, the DF-5As are likely to be equipped with 6-9 RVs per missile.

China also has several missile modernization programs. The DF-31 mobile missile will have 8000 kms range and will be able to strike several states (see figure). This same missile will have a naval version, the JL-2. It will be deployed on China's new Type 094 nuclear submarine by about 2005. A 12,000 km range version of this mobile missile, the DF-41, is expected to be deployed by 2010. In addition, China has a family of tactical missile systems that it values for their ability to strike high-value targets on China's periphery. Chinese strategists are in the process of discussing warfighting strategies for the missile and nuclear forces.

China has a real concern regarding the survivability of a second-strike missile force. Lacking a comprehensive early warning system, China has long worried about the possibility of a preemptive strike. In an effort to ensure the security of its deterrent force, there are some suspicions that China may have created extensive tunnel complexes (perhaps as much as 5000 kms) in which to hide its missile forces. The massive 12 year effort was called the Great Wall project. If these suspicions prove correct, China has a strategic strike force that might be protected by more than one-km of overhead earth. Considering China's evolving thinking on nuclear warfighting doctrine, coupled with its general sensitivity to sovereignty issues, the possibility should be considered that in the event the United States finds itself in a major confrontation with China (similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis), China might not back down if it, in fact, has an assured retaliatory missile force deep underground. (Note: the Soviet missile forces were vulnerable to preemption during the Cuban Missile Crisis.)

India also has nuclear devices and a growing missile capability. Its polar space launch vehicle (PSLV) uses a solid booster with a reported one million pounds of thrust. The PSLV could now be adopted as an 8000-km range ICBM if India decided to do so. It is expected that parts of the PSLV are being incorporated into the rumored Surya ICBM. The Surya is believed to have begun development in 1994 and could be ready for testing within the next year or two. As can be seen in the figure, if the Surya does achieve its expected range of 12,000 kms, from New Delhi it would be able to strike targets in the United States north of a line extending from Raleigh, NC, to Eugene, OR.

Trajectory Ground Range
New Delhi to U.S. Cities
Color Map

Start Point Latitude Longitude
New Delhi 77.22 28.62
End Point Latitude Longitude Ground Range (KM)
Non-Rotating Earth
Rotating Earth*
2500s TOF
2000s TOF
Bangor ME 44.79 -68.77 11107 10648
10748 change=3.2%
Miami FL 25.78 -80.20 13539 13047 change=3.6% 13158 change=2.8%
Omaha NE 41.27 -95.97 12198 11997 change=1.6% 12043 change=1.3%
Seattle WA 47.60 -122.33 11299 11465 change=1.5% 11441 change=1.3%
Los Angeles CA


-118.23 12823 12989 change=1.3% 12969 change=1.1%

Range difference between Rotating and Non-Rotating Earth is a function of the direction of flight (E->W or W->E) and time-of-flight. Other factors such as reentry angle and booster performance affect TOF.

North Korea Site

North Korea is, of course, working on the development of Taepodong 2 (TD-2) missile that is expected to have a range of 4000-6000 kms (see figure above). North Korea wants to develop an ICBM as a means of deterring the United States. Its TD-2 missile is believed to be a part of that program. However, the missile is reportedly experiencing problems. The amount of delay these problems will cause in fielding the system is unknown. Current estimates look for the TD-2 to be fielded between 2000-2005.

Unfortunately, indigenously produced missiles may not be the only threat to the United States. One of the more serious possibilities raised by the study is that the long-held idea that nations will not transfer ICBMs to other states may no longer prove true as the next decade unfolds.

As noted earlier, with respect to control in Russia and, to a certain extent, Ukraine, sensitive technologies are flowing out of these countries at an increasing rate. Central control over Russia's mobile ICBM systems, such as the SS-25, is becoming tenuous as living conditions and discipline in those units decline. There is also no guarantee that this system or some other model of ICBM could not be transferred to another country directly from factory representatives as knock-down kits for assembly. As discussed in the report, it is relatively easy to bribe materials out of Russia.

Many officials, factory managers, military officers, law enforcement personnel, and organized crime groups are willing to engage in illegal activities for a price. This willingness apparently includes the transfer of MTCR restricted long-range missiles and missile technology. For example, one SS-25 may have already been sold to China, and there are unconfirmed reports that 45 of the SS-25's replacement, the Topol M, may have been offered for sale to India by Russian military officials. If so, the taboo on transfer of long-range ballistic missiles may already be weakening. The recent reports of a suspected transfer of Russian SS-4 missile technology and components to Iran further underlines this concern.

It should be kept in mind that the view of the ICBM as a strategic system is a perspective held most strongly by the United States. That thinking is heavily influenced by the existence of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and friendly neighbors. To Russia and China, shorter-range missile systems on their borders are strategic systems. As medium-range missiles proliferate on the peripheries of these two countries, it could well be that the decision makers involved will no longer see a reason for withholding ICBM technology to the states along the Eurasian rimland. From their perspective, since they will already be threatened, there will be no reason to protect the United States from being subjected to the same type of situation rather than lose potential missile sales that could benefit their own economic well-being.

One of the more serious scenarios might involve the transfer of ICBMs to North Korea. If North Korea made a decision to reunify the Korean peninsula by military conquest, it might first make a major effort to acquire some number of ICBMs as a deterrent against U.S. intervention in defense of South Korea. Although the missiles could be mobile SS-25s moved across the border from Russia, they could just as well be missile component assemblies acquired from Russian factories for final assembly in North Korean facilities. Since North Korea has hundreds of underground fortified sites, it could easily hide this missile force undetected until needed to force the United States to leave South Korea to its fate.

track graph

Such a development would pose a major quandary for U.S. decision makers. If they decide the U.S. will fight in the defense of South Korea, several U.S. cities might well be destroyed. If they decided the risks are too great, and the U.S. sat on the sidelines of the subsequent fight, U.S. credibility as a reliable strategic partner would be destroyed, current allies would move to make alternative security arrangements, and many existing trading patterns would change (to the detriment of the United States) as countries sought to develop and strengthen new security relationships. The United States' global position of leadership would be weakened.

Unfortunately, if North Korea should obtain either the SS-25 or its replacement, the Topol M, the envisioned first generation U.S. national missile defense capability that could be established by 2003 may have some difficulty making an intercept against the SS-25. However, the new Topol M, with its advanced penaid capabilities could prove to be extremely challenging. Although the United States' efforts to build a limited national missile defense system prior to 2010 is clearly warranted and should proceed, it should do so with the understanding that the initial systems deployed are not end products. They will require frequent upgrades as technology matures.

As reflected by the findings and recommendations, there is insufficient effort being devoted to developing the technology that will be required for future insertion. The U.S. Congress is oriented on funding hardware, not technology. The Administration claims it wants to wait until the technology matures, yet funds technology as a last priority.

Major Findings

Export control regimes are expected to become increasingly ineffective as nonproliferation tools. The evolving international political and technological environment will continue to erode the utility of this approach to security.

Missiles, both ballistic and cruise, will likely proliferate at an accelerating rate, along with warhead technology. Within the overall proliferation trend, it is becoming more difficult to predict the rate at which a specified country will emerge as a holder of ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities since the foreign assistance aspect is an incalculable variable.

The probability is increasing that ICBM missiles (either assembled as systems or as part of "knock-down kits" for assembly) could be transferred to other states prior to 2010.

Currently, four states can target the United States with either ICBMs or SLBMs: Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. Prior to 2010, India and North Korea will likely join this group. Ukraine, Japan, Israel, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and South Korea (or a unified Korea) could join this group if they decided to do so. More problematic are the states of the Middle East. Iran and Iraq will likely be able to target London and Moscow by 2010. The unknown variable is the foreign assistance factor.

EX0 Defense
By 2010, penetration aids, maneuvering warheads, low radar cross sections, and similar technologies will become increas-ingly common in ballistic missiles. Most newer versions of cruise missiles will also incorporate some level of stealth tech-nology.  Tactical missile defenses must be able to defeat an array of warhead types: unitary, submunition, and bomb-let. National missile defenses should be able to defend against MIRVed nuclear warheads. There is a limited possibility that BW agents might be packaged in submunitions for ICBM delivery. The initial missile defense systems deployed by the United States will have some difficulties defending against the more advanced classes of missiles discussed in the foregoing findings.

The developmental process and related funding allocations are not well balanced for long-term technological growth and system sustainment.

The technology community and the program management organizations are not well integrated; their respective operations are too independent from each other so that the flow of techn-ology from conception through pro-curement is not a smooth process. Since offensive missile developments will control the speed with which U.S. missile defenses will have to be upgraded, the efforts of the technologists and PM organizations need more unity of effort if the United States is to maintain an ef-fective missile defense capable of main-taining its effectiveness in the face of rapid change.

Low Tech


Develop and deploy a robust system of tactical defenses against ballistic and cruise missile systems; field a first-generation national missile defense in the near-term, one capable of incorporating frequent upgrades without major system rework. Begin now to develop the upgrades needed to increase the capability of these initial systems.

Balance the missile defense programs for indefinite sustainment. The program focus should be on the delivery of capabilities that can grow and develop over the decades ahead. Let the funding levels appropriated determine system deployment dates.

The technology community and the program management organizations should be better integrated to facilitate an improved flow of technology from conception through procurement. Require PMs to first conduct a review of already developed or ongoing technology programs before contracting for new technology development. Likewise, hold technologists responsible for the delivery to the PMs of insertion-ready products.

Require all future missile defense systems to be designed for easy upgrade and technology insertion. To the extent possible, avoid proprietary architectures that would be expensive to replace as new technologies are developed.


The security structure and political alignment in the international community may well change in significant ways prior to 2010. The common perceptions that developed during the Cold War, under conditions of bipolarity, may no longer prove valid under conditions of multipolarity. One perception that may prove false is the idea that it is in no country's national interest to transfer ICBM systems. The second is that nuclear weapons are unusable. As was discussed in Chapter 3, there are at least some in the Chinese military establishment who think otherwise.

The United States' missile defense program is going in the right direction in that it is working toward the deployment of hardware. Unfortunately, the systems being developed are first generation developments with some limitations against newer-generation missile systems. Unless the United States develops a balanced program that sustains the missile defense effort indefinitely, the missile defense systems deployed could always be one generation behind the offensive systems they were intended to defend against.

Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA), Inc., all rights reserved.