Thursday, July 19, 2012

EMP risk should make US assess its missile defenses -- "Star Wars"

I’ll be reviewing William R. Forstchen’s novel “One Second After” (with the introduction by Newt Gingrich) pretty soon, but I thought it was a good idea to think about the ability of the US to defend itself against any missile lobbed at it from offshore.

Back in 1971, I had a computer programming job with the Navy Department (NAVCOSSACT) dealing with coding the intercept formulas for missiles.  If software to accomplish this was already deployed in 1971 (of course, classified, and I cannot remember many details anyway), it’s obvious that it should be quite capable of detecting any stopping many inbound missiles today.

Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars”?  A lot of it needs to be closer to the ground, able to detect objects launched from relatively short distances.

Can the US detect such weapons on every conceivable cargo ship?  Probably not. But it would appear to take some real hardware to launch a scud 20 miles into the stratosphere. 

Can the US detect all possible subs that might be off any coast?  During the debate on gays in the military (back around 1994), PO Keith Meinhold (“The best submarine hunter in the Navy”) described how he had flown Orions during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s to detect submarines in the Straits of Hormuz.  So we know that Iran has some submarines.  Probably not too many. If they are nuclear (rather than diesel) powered, that could suggest that Iran already has usable fissionable materials.  Could these "U-boats" make it all the way to the US without detection?  That sounds unlikely, but the Navy would need automated tools beyond flying 1980s-style search planes.  Presumably this detection technology is much more advanced than it was in 1994.

Then there was George Tenet’s speculation around 2003 that North Korea was capable of lobbing a missile (with a nuclear weapon or EMP device) toward the US West Coast.  So it must be capable today.

The Clinton Administration, back in the 1990s, considered North Korea a more dangerous threat than Al Qaeda.  We know what happened. 

Still – the motive for an asymmetric attack like this more to do with moral indignation or moral layering than conventional international issues.  I’ll visit that again in the book review.
This issue needs to be taken seriously.

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