Category Archives: Missiles

An Aside on the Third Site and STSS

From a “Statement of Administration Policy” on the DoD Appropriations Act, as it appeared in this evening’s _Nelson Report_:

bq. Missile Defense Agency Rescissions. The Administration opposes the rescission of 2009 funds for the European Interceptor Site because this would remove the Administration’s flexibility to arrive at a future decision on ballistic missile defense in Europe. The Administration also objects to the rescission of 2009 funds for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, which would result in immediate cessation of work and deobligation of funds.

There is still a “Ballistic Missile Defense Review”: going on, after all.

If you’re curious about that subject, you can read the prepared testimonies and a transcript from a “June 12 SASC hearing on missile defense”:

Publishing the Unpublishable

*Update.* I’ve posted a “revised version of this post at ACW”: It’s shorter, too, so go read that instead.

* * *

Among many vague motives for blogging, I can count a pretty specific feeling of aggravation at the frequently poor quality of public discussion of national security affairs, especially in the charged realm of “Doubleyou Em Dee”: Anything that helps improve that picture, even a small bit, ought to count as the Lord’s work.

What that makes the contribution of the Washington Post’s opinion editors, you can judge for yourself. The Post is by no means the sole “offender”: But it’s past time to say something about the “July 6 op-ed”: by two former Pentagon officials, Trey Obering and Eric Edelman. To that end, I’m taking this momentary break from the blog break.

The op-ed attacked the May 2009 “U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment on Iran”: sponsored by the EastWest Institute. If you haven’t read it yet, let’s just say that the EWI JTA isn’t too gentle in its treatment of the Euro-GMD proposal, something obviously close to the hearts of former MDA chief Obering and former OSD Policy boss Edelman.

Unfortunately, their critique of this serious (if imperfect) contribution came across as dismissive and misleading. This is not an unfamiliar experience for “outside experts who have examined missile defense systems”: After all, “GMD is a political program”: (You could look it up.) But one would hope that it could get a more respectful hearing in an independent newspaper. -To my knowledge, though, the news side of the Post did not cover the EWI report, so- This bristling, blistering op-ed is the only coverage that _the editorial page of_ the paper has provided.

(See the “earlier news coverage”:

That’s really a shame. The mission of the paper is presumably to inform the public, not merely to provoke. (Otherwise, it could be a cable channel.) By that standard, this op-ed really should not have appeared in its current form. At a minimum, the authors of the EWI report should have had an opportunity to avail themselves of the Post’s healthy practice of running an occasional column-length reply to seriously unbalanced opinion pieces. (One of these “Taking Exception” features appeared “just this past Friday”: And lo, two of the EWI study members — the formidable experts Richard Garwin and Ted Postol — did submit a reply at about that length. Jeff “ran it here”:, with maybe a little more color than I would have applied.

As Jeff points out, the Post instead ran a “shorter reply by Garwin”: in the July 9 letters. But it is really not sufficient to address the distortions. I won’t recite them here; see instead the fuller Garwin-Postol reply.

By no means is the EWI report beyond criticism. Uzi Rubin, who once led Israel’s equivalent to MDA and has crossed swords with Postol in the recent past, has already “called attention”: to its clearest shortcoming, the lack of any serious discussion of Iran’s solid-fueled ballistic missile program. This is — what’s that word? — reasonable. Discussions of anything related to missile defense “often aren’t reasonable”: The Post shouldn’t be perpetuating that trend.

*Update.* “ACW commenter”: Yousaf observes that Obering may have a “vested interest”: not disclosed to readers by the Post.

Where’s The Musudan?

I assume that the U.S., South Korea, and Japan all have a pretty good idea of what kind of missiles North Korea is shooting into the Sea of Japan at any given time, what with all the radars and imaging systems available to them and the information shared between the U.S. and each of its treaty allies. So we can probably trust the claims in the South Korean press about the “types of theater ballistic missiles fired on July 4”:

That raises the question in the title of this post. Why is North Korea test-firing more or less the same batch of missiles that it did three years ago? Why not flight-test the “SS-N-6 clone”: for the first time?

It’s certainly curious. David Wright and Ted Postol see the “second stage of recently flown Iranian and North Korean SLVs”: as derived from the SS-N-6. If that’s correct, why hasn’t it been flight-tested separately?

The allies just don’t have their story straight on this one:

* The “2009 edition of NASIC’s glossy missile threat report”: states that “North Korea has an IRBM in development.”

* On “March 19 of this year”:, General Walter Sharp, the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), went further, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that “North Korea is now fielding a new intermediate range ballistic missile capable of striking Okinawa, Guam and Alaska.”

* In February, according to _Chosun Ilbo,_ the newly released South Korean Defense White paper stated outright that the new IRBMs had been “deployed in 2007”:

(As of this writing, the website of the “South Korean Ministry of National Defense”: is down. Must be those pesky DDOS attacks.)

Perhaps it’s a matter of interpretation, and some analysts are waiting for a flight test before calling the missile deployed. If so, they must have been disappointed on July 4.

*Update.* X-posted, with cosmetic adjustments, to “ACW”:

Can GMD Stop Russian Missiles?

That was our “topic of discussion”: the other day. And the answer, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, is “nope.”

I don’t mean the argument about whether European-based interceptors could fly out in time to engage Russian ICBMs. I’m talking about countermeasures.

CDI has what I was looking for earlier — the “Missile Defense Agency FY 2009 Budget Estimates”: Here’s what it says about enemies:

bq. Our program is focused on the threat from North Korea and Iran but remains flexible to address emerging threats given the wide and dangerous proliferation of ballistic missile technologies.

The key excerpt explains how the development and fielding of capabilities are planned in a “block structure,” including a block (already largely complete) with North Korea’s name on it, and a couple of blocks with Iran’s name on them:

bq.. * Blocks will be based on fielded BMDS capabilities—not, as before, on biennial time periods—that address particular threats. Each block will represent a discrete program of work.
* When MDA believes a firm commitment can be made to the Congress, the Agency will establish schedule, budget, and performance baselines for a block. Schedule delays, budget increases, and performance shortfalls will be explained as variances.
* Once baselines are defined, work cannot be moved from one block to another.

Based on the above tenets, MDA has currently defined five blocks.
* Block 1.0: Defend the United States from Limited North Korean Long-Range Threats
* Block 2.0: Defend Allies and Deployed Forces from Short- to Medium-Range Threats in One Region/Theater
* Block 3.0: Expand Defense of the United States to Include Limited Iranian Long-Range Threats
* Block 4.0: Defend Allies and Deployed Forces in Europe from Limited Iranian Long-Range Threats and Expand Protection of U.S. Homeland
* Block 5.0: Expand Defense of Allies and Deployed Forces from Short- to Intermediate-Range Threats in Two Regions/Theaters

Future blocks (Block 6.0, etc.) will be added when significant new capabilities are expected to be fielded based on a consideration of technological maturity, affordability, and need. For example, a new Block 6.0 might include enhanced defense of the United States against complex countermeasures, drawing on multiple kill capabilities from the multiple kill vehicle (MKV) program and discrimination and system tracking capabilities through upgraded hardware and software on weapon systems, sensors, and C2BMC.

p. So, back in 2008, when this document was prepared, MDA’s plans for the foreseeable future included only fielding 1) theater defenses and 2) “long-range” systems oriented specifically to North Korea and Iran. The MKV program and other future initiatives would have to bear fruit before “complex countermeasures” could be tackled.

This could mean that 1) the North Koreans and Iranians would be expected to upgrade their countermeasures with time, or it could mean that 2) MDA had its sights set on still tougher challenges in the future, like Russia or China. Or, if you are skeptical, the MKV program could have simply been 3) a backhanded concession that current technologies were already inadequate. And it could have been a bit of all three.

Regardless, the point is, until progress could be made on these new technologies, more capable defenses weren’t even scheduled.

Back in April, Secretary of Defense Gates hinted broadly that the correct answer was #2, telling Congress:

bq. * We will restructure the program to focus on the rogue state and theater missile threat.

That, of course, is also when he moved to “axe the MKV program”:

bq. * We will terminate the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program because of its significant technical challenges and the need to take a fresh look at the requirement.

One possible interpretation of the above is, We don’t think it is feasible to tackle bigger fish than Iran and North Korea, and actually are not interested in trying anyhow.

The “FY 2010 Budget Estimates”: document is available on the MDA site. It no longer features the block structure, but the section on threats names two countries: Iran and North Korea. It echoes Gates’s earlier comments about MKV, while indicating intent to pursue some new “ascent phase” defense technology — apparently something that could shoot down a missile after boosting but before deployment of countermeasures. But that’s a topic for another day.

What Missile Defense Is Supposed To Do

It’s possible to envision the world — either the physical world or the social and political world — as being like either “a clock or a cloud”: Either it’s deterministic and ultimately knowable — you know, like clockwork — or it’s chaotic, irreducibly complex, and elusive. Like a cloud.

Me, I don’t subscribe to either a “clock theory” of politics or a “cloud theory.” I subscribe to a “stopped clock” theory. But that’s only because I’ve been following missile defense issues for so very long. Few people who have an opinion in the first place ever really change their mind about missile defenses. For altogether too many devotees of the subject, the hands of their mental clocks are always pointing in a “fixed direction”:

To be clear, it’s possible to have reasoned discussions about this subject, even across the divide of instinctively held viewpoints. But not with anyone and everyone.

All of this is by way of justifying a narrow focus on one little snippet of “Charles Krauthammer’s extensively flawed column”: of late last week:

bq. [An offense-defense linkage] is important for Russia because of the huge American technological advantage in defensive weaponry. We can reliably shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile. They cannot.

Just two points.

First, GMD — America’s existing strategic BMD system — has no known or anticipated capability against Russian missiles. According to MDA, current and planned capabilities are oriented to North Korea and Iran. According to this “fact sheet”:, for example,

bq. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense element is now deployed in Alaska and California to defend the U.S. homeland against a limited attack from countries like North Korea and Iran and is also being developed for deployment in Europe to defend against an attack from Iran.

(There are even more explicit statements to this effect in older MDA budget documents, but they don’t seem to be online anymore. I’ll see if I can’t dig one up. *Update:* “Found it”:!)

There is a longstanding dispute in expert circles — one of those disputes that never gets resolved — about whether GMD is actually capable of coping with North Korean or Iranian “countermeasures”: So far as I’m aware, there is no dispute in the United States — none — about the system’s ability to cope with Russian countermeasures. It hasn’t any.

Second, against a North Korea-type threat, Russian missile defense may be ahead of U.S. missile defense. The “A-135 defensive system around Moscow”:, so far as I know, is still nuclear-armed, which should provide it with certain advantages over the hit-to-kill systems now favored by the United States. “Richard Garwin’s presentation”:,%206-03-2009,%200715-SHARE%20YES.pdf for a missile defense conference last month happened to address this point:

bq.. [Since the 1950s,] Our Strategic Military Panel tried its hardest to help make U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs effective and to give them the ability to penetrate potential Soviet missile defenses, whether armed with nuclear warheads or conventional. On the other hand, we tried our best to devise and to evaluate systems for defending the United States against nuclear-armed Soviet missiles. So we early-on analyzed such techniques and technologies as multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs), various other countermeasures and tactics, such as attacking and blinding the defense, and antisimulation.

In the 1960s, the technology was not available to have homing intercept against warheads in space, so that the only feasible BMD systems used nuclear-armed interceptors. Even for the nuclear BMD, mid-course intercept is problematical because of the availability of countermeasures, together with the ability of the offense readily to stretch out the string of warheads and decoys for many hundreds of km along the trajectory even to a specific point target. …

Countermeasures become a lot simpler against the small kinetic-energy intercept (KEI) kill vehicles that form the core of current U.S. BMD efforts. The homing kill vehicle (HKV) either collides with the warhead or it doesn’t.

p. Bottom line: Don’t go looking for deep insights into strategic systems on the op-ed page of the _Post_.

Fireworks Rundown

So you were wondering what it was the North Koreans fired off on July 4 this year. Yeah, me too. Here’s what the South Korean press has been reporting.

According to “Joongang Ilbo”:, it was all in a day’s work:

bq. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed Saturday that North Korea launched two missiles between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., with a third following at 10:45 a.m. and a fourth at noon. The North then launched one each at 2:50 p.m., 4:10 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.

That makes seven.

Citing _Chosun Ilbo,_ the Associated Press “breaks out the types”: as follows:

bq.. On Monday, South Korea’s mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported the launches were believed to have included three Scud-ER missiles with a range of up to 620 miles (1,000 kilometers).

The paper said the Scud-ER has a longer range and better accuracy compared with previous Scud series so is “particularly a threat to Japan.”


The Chosun Ilbo, citing a government source it did not name, said the other four missiles were two Scud-C missiles with a range of 310 miles (500 kilometers) and two medium-range Rodong missiles that can travel up to 810 miles (1,300 kilometers).

Five of the seven missiles flew about 260 miles (420 kilometers) from an eastern coastal launch site [Kittaeryong] and landed in one area, meaning their accuracy has improved, the paper said.

p. Now, for comparison, let’s roll back the clock to July 5, 2006. According to the July 2006 issue of _IISS Strategic Comments_, on that occasion, they launched the following items (as “assessed” by someone) from the Kittaeryong base (with one exception):

  1. 0333: Scud-D
  2. 0404: No-dong
  3. 0501: Taepo-dong 2 (from Musudan-ri)
  4. 0712: Scud-C
  5. 0731: No-dong
  6. 0732: Scud-ER / No-dong
  7. 1720: No-dong
All times are local.

(What’s a Scud-D, you ask, if it’s not a Scud-ER or a Nodong? I’m not sure. The naming conventions are very messy.)

So once again, seven launches, and setting aside the TD-2, the types were similar. But in 2009, the DPRK missile crews were allowed to sleep in for awhile. No pre-dawn launches.

One final note. The “Korea Times”: has an estimate of how many theater missiles North Korea has:

bq. The North is believed to have about 1,000 ballistic missiles alone — including nearly 700 Scud missiles of various types and 320 Rodong missiles.

It sounds like the DPRK has plenty of provocations in its quiver.

Joint Statement on Missile Defense Issues

Since “Jeff”: and “Pavel”: already have done such a nice job explicating the “Joint Understanding for the START Follow-On Treaty,” I’d thought I’d chime in with a couple of thoughts about its poor cousin, the “Joint Statement by Dmitry A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, on Missile Defense Issues.”

The first thing to notice about the “Joint Statement”: is that it’s not part of the Joint Understanding. In fact, it doesn’t represent any kind of real understanding, in the sense of an arrangement, agreement, pact, or even a common perspective. As President Obama explained in an “interview with Novaya Gazeta”:, defenses aren’t part of the workplan:

bq. In our meeting in London on April 1st, President Medvedev and I issued a joint statement on instructions for our negotiators for this new treaty. These instructions very explicitly did not mention missile defense as a topic of discussion for these negotiations.

p. Indeed, the “April 1 text”: says that the “subject of the new agreement will be the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.” There’s no mention of defenses. President Medvedev seems to have preferred otherwise, but had to settle, both in April and now again in July. As Pavel has “pointed out”:, there’s no good reason to let disputes over the “third site” undermine the renewal of START.

The second thing to notice about the Joint Statement is that it doesn’t deal with missile defense issues. After the title, it doesn’t mention them at all. Here’s how the substantive paragraph starts:

bq. We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods.

p. In the “press conference Q&A”:, Obama referred to this as “a joint threat assessment of the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century, including those posed by Iran and North Korea.” When that assessment comes due — assuming there’s a public version — it will be interesting to compare it with the “EWI Iran missile threat report”:

Then there’s this:

bq. At the same time they plan to conduct a joint review of the entire spectrum of means at our disposal that allow us to cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world. Our experts are intensifying dialogue on establishing the Joint Data Exchange Center, which is to become the basis for a multilateral missile-launch notification regime.

p. Some of you may recall JDEC, an undertaking of the Clinton-Yeltsin era that never quite materialized. (“Fact sheet”:–joint-warning-center.html and “Memorandum”:–joint-warning-center.html.) Intended to “strengthen strategic stability by further reducing the danger that ballistic missiles might be launched on the basis of false warning of attack,” it has languished. Reviving JDEC is a welcome development, and the multilateralization idea is interesting, but neither has much to do with missile defense. [Correction: Indirectly but significantly, “JDEC does relate to missile defense”:]

The Joint Statement is not the end of the story. Obama also mentioned to “Novaya Gazeta”: that the U.S. side will be conducting a review of its missile defense programs, and would like Russia to participate in whatever defenses are built in Europe. While this idea originated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it remains to be seen whether it will satisfy the Russian side. The details will count.

“X-posted to ACW”: See the “comments at ACW”:

For NK’s Next Act: A Two-Fer?

There are “reports”: that North Korea may be getting set for not one but two long-range missile tests. We may be in for some impressive fireworks.

Discussion of further nuclear tests in the near future still seems a bit speculative.

Il Piccolo Principe

“Antoine de Saint Exupéry”:, meet “Niccolò Machiavelli”:

Word has been leaking out of South Korea for awhile now that KJI’s presumed successor is his third son, Kim Jong Un, aged 26. The Swiss magazine _L’Hebdo_ carries an account (en français) of the “apprentice dictator’s” “schooling in Berne”: The _Washington Post_ hits “some of the high points”:

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bq. Kim attended the school under the false name of Pak Chol, the weekly said, and school officials and his classmates “thought they were dealing with the son of the driver of the embassy.” Friends and staff at the school remembered a shy boy who enjoyed skiing, loved the National Basketball Association and spoke highly of action-movie actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. He reportedly left the school at age 15 to return to North Korea, and little about his life there is known to the outside world.

Bill Powell of _Time_ has a “profile with details from his Pyongyang days”:,8599,1901758,00.html:

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bq.. In his memoir recounting the days he spent as Kim Jong Il’s personal chef in Pyongyang, Kenji Fujimoto calls Kim Jong Un, the third son of the North Korea dictator, the “Prince.” “When Jong Un shook hands with me,” Fujimoto writes, “he stared at me with a vicious look. I cannot forget the look in the Prince’s eyes: it’s as if he was thinking, ‘This guy is a despicable Japanese.'” Jong Un, Fujimoto also writes, is “a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality.”


Jong Un, Fujimoto writes, is different. He and his brother Jong Chul enjoyed playing basketball — but after the games, Jong Chul would just say goodbye to their friends and leave. Jong Un would then gather up his teammates and, like a coach, analyze the game they just played: “You should have passed the ball to this guy, you should have shot it then.” According to various, usually unsourced South Korean press reports since Fujimoto’s book came out, Jong Un is said to be “ambitious” and a “take-no-prisoners” type — again, in contrast to his older brothers.

p. Notice what connects these accounts: basketball. Soon, perhaps, KCNA will start accusing the brigandish puppet flunkeys of conducting a madcap full-court press.

Meanwhile, it appears that North Korea is “preparing a long-range missile”:,0,4799191.story at its new launch facility at Dongchang-ni.

Really, Really Ready

If your memories extend way back to the summer of ’06, by gum, then you might recall “”:, the Federation of American Scientists’ effort to improve on a certain U.S. Department of Homeland Security “website with a similar name”: All built by a summer intern.

The _Washington Post_ wrote it up “here”: The momentarily most famous summer intern in America wrote “her own, fuller version”: of the story, too.

You remember all this, right? Good.

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Well, there’s another entrant in the race for most compelling online source of emergency information: the website of Israel’s “Home Front Command”:, conveniently available in four languages. Drop-down boxes (on the left side of the page in the “English version”: lead to straightforward explanations of what to do in case of earthquake, fire, flood, terrorist attack, or ballistic missile warning. Not necessarily in that order.

Also very handy is this “map”: indicating how much time there is to reach a protected space after a missile warning, depending on locality. There’s even a version with “cheery little clip-art figures”: that you can print out, carry around, or perhaps “stick on the fridge”: All very practical.