- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Now that the U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty is dead and buried, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are free to confront cooperatively the post-Cold War ballistic-missile threat. Coincidentally, Israel wants to sell India the Arrow ABM system we have cooperatively developed. Perhaps the Arrow is the sort of ABM system Messrs. Bush and Putin should now develop for all our allies.

In the near term, the ballistic-missile threat we all face is approximately what Israel faced during the Gulf War: dozens, but not thousands, of relatively short-range "theater" ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

During the Gulf War, Iraq launched about 50 such missiles (Scuds) at Israel. Saddam didn't have nukes, but he did have chemical and biological warheads. We had to assume that he might use them. So, we rapidly positioned in Israel the best terminal defense system the ABM Treaty allowed us: the Patriot.

We were able to detect within seconds via sensors in our early-warning satellites the launch of Iraqi Scuds. Within minutes, our North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was able to provide our Patriot batteries in Israel with trajectory analysis needed to intercept the missiles.

Even though our Patriots had been deliberately "dumbed down" made incapable of intercepting fast-moving "strategic" warheads by the ABM treaty, we did manage to intercept almost all the slow-moving Scuds in their terminal dives.

But what about next time? What if Saddam has faster missiles?

Fortunately, the U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty didn't prohibit our upgrading the Patriot for use by the Israelis. So, after the Gulf War, we instituted a cooperative program that resulted in the Arrow ABM system the Israelis now want to sell India.

In addition to terminal defense, we and the Israelis also cooperatively developed a boost-phase ballistic-missile intercept (BPI) capability. A ballistic missile is especially vulnerable in the boost phase, shortly after launch. It ascends rather slowly for several minutes, its intensely hot rocket exhaust making it a big fat target for infrared homing missiles.

The Patriot-Arrow BPI capability involves: (1) detecting the ballistic missile, either before launch or within seconds after launch, and (2) having unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) armed with heat-seeking missiles within range of the launch point at launch time.

The BPI capability utilizes "stealthy" UAVs, much akin to those we have used to great effect in Afghanistan: the low-flying Predator and the high-flying Global Hawk.

The missile-armed Predator-like UAV, cued by our space-based assets, would attack stationary and mobile ballistic-missile launchers. It would use much the same all-weather sensor package and satellite command-and-control system our Predators used in Afghanistan. The Predator-like UAV needs to carry a missile with a bit more range than the Hellfire it carried in Afghanistan.

What happens if the rogue missile gets launched and the low-flying Predator isn't close enough to destroy it?

That's where the Hawk-like UAV comes in. Cued by our space-based assets, it will patrol a much larger area for days at a time, flying above 65,000 feet, high above the weather and anti-aircraft defenses.

The Hawk-like UAV needs to carry a hypervelocity interceptor with as much slant range as possible. We developed for terminal defense such interceptors for the Arrow and Patriot. The Patriot PAC-3 interceptor weighs only 700 lbs., and has a range straight-up of about 12 miles. The Hawk-like UAV can carry one, perhaps even two.

So, how does Russia (and Israel) get into the UAV-based ABM act?

Well, in order to employ a UAV-based BPI system effectively, you need certain space-based assets that Israel doesn't have. We and the Russians do, and have already agreed to develop a U.S.-Russian space-based ABM early-warning system. Furthermore, Mr. Putin has offered to cooperatively develop an ABM system with NATO members that emphasizes BPI.

Finally, Mr. Bush declares we are going to take the war on terrorism to the enemy. That means pre-emptive strikes. The UAV-BPI ABM system is pre-emptive. Once your BPI assets have found a roguish-looking missile, you don't wait to find out what kind of warhead it's carrying. Nor do you wait to find out where it's headed. You just shoot first and ask questions later. That apparently appeals to Texans and, of course, to Israelis.

Wait a minute. The Israelis have recently sold UAVs to India. And doesn't arch-enemy Pakistan have ballistic missiles? And doesn't Pakistan have a few dozen nukes? You don't suppose the Israelis intend to sell the entire ABM system including the UAV-BPI part to India, do you? Nah.

Gordon Prather is a former national security adviser with several federal agencies, including the Defense Department. He also worked as a nuclear weapons specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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