Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Missile Defense II

Reading over Arms Control Wonk (which is certainly as advertised; it really is rocket science), I came across this. Apparently Russia's Early Warning system is very poor. (Not surprisingly.) What is frightening is just where the patches of coverage are. Apparently, Russia has fairly good coverage of missiles from the United States, but has abysmal coverage of the area from which a missile from North Korea would come.

Now consider the cries from some conservatives (most notably Sarah Palin) to continue funding missile defense to defend against a North Korean attack. Another piece of the puzzle is this interview with a Russian Defense Analyst. The notable section is as follows:
The Russian military has been telling its political leaders that this missile plan is actually not what the Americans say it is. The Russian military says that these missiles will be nuclear-armed because the Russian military doesn't believe that non-nuclear defensive missiles are possible. At least most of them don't.
He goes on to explain in detail, but basically, the idea is that with a nuclear-tipped interceptor, you have a much larger explosion, and therefore, it's much easier to hit an ICBM that is moving at up to 4 kilometers/second. The Russians don't believe that a conventional warhead would have the accuracy to hit something moving that fast.

So, with the whole puzzle put together, say North Korea launches a missile (whether its a "satellite" or a potential ICBM), and the U.S. decides to try to shoot it down with ground-based missile from Alaska. Put aside any debate as to whether or not these systems work. The first thing the Russians will see on their Early Warning system is a missile (which they think is nuclear) headed from Alaska towards Eastern Russia. That seems like quite a dangerous situation to me.

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