JULY 2000



Whenever the United States undertakes an action that could lead to protecting Americans from ballistic missile attack, the opposition mobilizes its cadres of professors, activist professionals for ``social responsibility,'' and 50 Nobel laureates.

The opposition hasn't changed much since President Reagan's 1983 call for a Strategic Defense Initiative, but the threat has proliferated and evolved. Dr. Lowell Wood of the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory presented an updated overview at the recent DDP meeting. (His presentation and remarks by Edward Teller were videotaped and cablecast by CSPAN: video is available for $45 from

The current threat comes from a number of sources: North Korea could weaponize Taepo Dong-2 as an ICBM. Iran and Iraq could test ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. during the next few years. Libya, Syria, and others could acquire the capability of threatening the U.S. by purchasing ICBMs or SLVs, which could be converted quickly with little or no warning. China has two dozen Titan-class launchers, each throwing a 5-MT warhead. ``By 2015, China is likely to have tens of missiles capable of targeting the United States, including a few tens of more survivable, land- and sea-based mobile missiles with smaller nuclear warheads.'' Russia has several hundred launchers and several thousand warheads. For the foreseeable future, Russia remains ``the only force on Earth that can kill the U.S.-moreover, in 30 minutes,'' observed Dr. Wood.

A number of defensive architectures are feasible. The most robust is nuclear, with a 1-10 km miss-distance. This is the type deployed by Russia and planned for the initial, now-defunct, U.S. system. A fragmentation system, used in the ARROW and Patriot, has a 3-10 meter miss-distance. The generic U.S. anti-ballistic missile system is hit-to-kill, with a miss-distance of less than 0.3 m.

Interceptor missiles can be based on land or sea, or in the air. Lasers with a heat-to-kill capability can be air- or space-based. Space-based interceptors include the Soviet ASAT and the proposed U.S. Brilliant Pebbles system.

There are now two defensive systems in existence. The ``Moscow'' ABM system, with 100 nuclear-tipped interceptors, has been deployed for more than three decades. It is probably a highly effective defense of all of European Russia against light, low-sophistication attacks. The Israeli ARROW ``theater missile defense'' system is now commencing its second battalion deployment.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration cancelled the prime contract award for the Bush Administration's planned 80-warhead NMD/GPALS system, which was to be deployed by 2000 at six sites at a cost of $35 billion. Clinton proposed a $30 billion National Missile Defense system of substantially lower capability to be deployed in Alaska, to defend Alaska and the ``lower 48'' from Eastern Asia. By around 2005, this was supposed to be able to stop a few (<<20) warheads having light, unsophisticated penetration aids (penaids).

The Brilliant Pebbles system, estimated to cost $11 billion to bring to full operational capability (FOC), had been scheduled to reach initial operating capability (IOC) in 1996 and FOC in 1998.

It is considered crucial that the unit cost of defense be much less than the unit cost of offense in order to discourage offensive missile building (i.e. for ``arms race stability''). This is Nitze Criterion #3, which was implemented by Reagan Executive Order and statutory policy, and grossly violated by the Clinton NMD (which costs more than $1 billion to defeat a single warhead costing less than $15 million).

Dr. Wood notes the possibility of strategic surprise or military tactical surprise, as previously experienced in the Cuban missile crisis (``we had no idea that they had taken delivery on a squadron of SS-27s, so of course we have no defensive coverage from that direction'') and Tel Aviv in 1991 (``we weren't warned that [they'd attack/they might attack] with SCUDs, so of course we didn't have any theater BMD in place'').

Testability is critical to establish objective (vs. analytic) reliability. Can an interceptor really close on and then hit an accelerating, jinking missile, before the payload fractionates, under combat- likely conditions? [To get to this point, the U.S. must apparently reacquire the ability to get the stages of a rocket to separate reliably-the recent failed test reminded the editor of the 1950s.] A ``classical lesson-for-the-learning'' is that ``doing the defensive job in boost-phase is qualitatively more effective than trying to do it later.'' At this point,, targets are slow, fragile, and very brightly self-illuminated. Because getting one booster drags down as many as 12 warheads, it is highly cost-effective. All targets are of high value, as submunitions and penetration aids have not yet been deployed. Shattered junk may fall back on the attacker's territory, thus increasing the ``opportunity cost'' to the attacker. These lessons are ``keenly appreciated by all serious students of the subject,'' such as M.S. Gorbachev, V.V. Putin, and Co.

Midcourse/high-endoatmospheric defenses, such as the Clinton NMD, are intrinsically the most challenging. A full panoply of penaids may be deployed; the ``target-rich environment'' may ``exhaust the defense's magazine.'' If the offense imposes a nuclear environment, radars and other sensors will be degraded. There is no opportunity for retargeting a missed object; multiple interceptors must be fired at each target, needed or not. Realistic practice is impossible. The defense ``sees'' the offense for the first time in combat. ``Unpracticed `goal-line' stands-e.g. Clinton NMD-are all too often the immediate preludes to opponents' touchdowns.''

In the historical offense-defense ``game,'' the offense's advantages include choice of the attack's time and place; its disadvantages are a long logistics train and attacking established defensive positions only for ``territory and booty.'' The defense's advantages are preparation, prepositioning of assets, short lines of communications, and fighting on familiar territory for ``ashes of fathers, temples of gods.'' The defense is ``doomed to win''-unless it is grossly overmatched (an attacker typically requires a 2:1 numerical advantage to prevail), it forgoes its inherent advantages, or it fails to answer technological gains by the offense.

In the ballistic missile era, Dr. Wood notes that the ``seesawing of offense-defense dominance'' has been impeded by ``political arrangements (ABM Treaty).''

A successful ballistic missile defense requires space basing of defensive assets; a layered defense that engages the attack continuously from early boost to the upper endoatmospheric course, with an emphasis on ``boost-phase attack negation''; practice, practice, practice; and eternal vigilance.

The fallback position after failing to learn the classical lessons described above appears to be faith in Hitler's 1938 statement that ``God looks after idiots, drunkards, and the United States of America.'' [To date, no politician has openly acknowledged holding this position.]


Edward Teller conferred the Edward Teller Award for the defense of freedom on William Nierenberg for his ``outstanding and courageous contributions to American science.'' This year's winner of the Petr Beckmann award for defending scientific truth was S. Fred Singer, a brilliant and indefatigable warrior against global climate change disinformation and the Kyoto global energy rationing protocol.

TAPES AND CD-ROMS: In addition to tapes from the 2000 DDP meeting, the updated, user-friendly CD-ROM for 1992-1999 is available. This includes complete audiotapes, plus many slides and articles. Order one new CD-ROM, and we'll also send as many copies of the 1992-1997 version as you request-while supplies last. Give them away to students, teachers, preachers, writers, or public officials.

DDP, 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson, AZ 85716, (520)325-2680,