[FPSPACE] FPSpacer in the news re missile defense in Europe

robot at esper.com robot at esper.com
Thu Sep 27 10:09:17 EDT 2007

Congratulations to our own Pavel Podvig, who is quoted in this
morning's issue of USA Today regarding the proposed ballistic missile
interceptors in Eastern Europe. See article below.

Before skipping down, I have to weigh in here.

For one thing, folks like Ted Postel and Dick Garwin are perennial
missile defense opponents, so it's no surprise their analysis of this
system differs from the Establishment's. For another, MIT has long
hosted a number of anti-nuclear and anti-BMD scholars, and the MIT
Press is the publisher which printed Dr. Podvig's (excellent) book.
This is not an /ad hominem/ attack, I'm just reminding readers of
some relationships. I further remind you all that Garwin is the one
who criticized nuclear-tipped BMD back in April 2002 by
disingenuously suggesting that the warhead would be the ridiculously
oversized 5-Mt job in the Spartan system. That was a total strawman,
and a red herring.

Of the guys who are cited here, the one whose scholarship I respect
the most is our own Dr. Podvig, and if he weren't mentioned, the
article would carry a lot less weight with me.

I have stated before that I think the Russian government's argument
in this matter is hooey (works in English and Russian).

It is difficult to criticize the article as is, because there aren't
enough numbers (like GLOW, warhead mass, mass ratio, Isp, etc.) and
the editors of USA Today chose not to provide a URL to the original
work. That's really annoying.

The one number that is cited -- Postel's claim that the burnout
velocity could top 5.6 mi/sec (9 km/sec converted to SI units) -- I
do not find credible at all. May I remind you all that the "first
space velocity" is 7.9 km/sec? That the velocity which makes an
object an ICBM and not a satellite is typically 5 km/sec? That
factoring is a loss budget of 2-3 km/sec, say, would give the
interceptor-booster an impressive space capability (remember Earth
escape is 11.2 km/sec)? I've done a few back o' the envelope
calculations on this subject myself, as you all know. 

I also dispute the claim that there are better locations for the
antimissile base(s). Grab a cheap globe from walmart for 10 bucks and
see for yourself. Trace the great circle route from the eastern
seaboard of the USA to say, Iran. It goes over Central Europe. If the
base is not sited in Poland or the Czech Republic, the only
candidates on land are in the Balkans (all of which have political
reliability concerns except maybe Slovenia) and Turkey (they didn't
cooperate with the US in the Iraq invasion, and overtly religious
parties have won power). The Russian offer to site the base on the
Caspian littoral is interesting, and the US should build extra
interceptors and take them up on that. But we should also change the
definite article to an indefinite one - that is, the Caspian base
should be *a* base (one of several), not just *the* base.

Note also that the criticism below does not dispute another important
argument in support of the bases -- that a small system of 10s of
interceptors cannot possibly threaten a retaliatory capability as
huge as Russia's (1000s of launchers). Either argument is sufficient
by itself, so even if one of them is wrong, the Establishment's
overall argument that BMD in Europe cannot threaten Russia is still
true. (I ought to make one assumption of mine explicit - that the
only legitimate purpose of strategic nuclear weapons is deterrence
against same, not warfighting. If Russian follows that doctrine also,
then the BMD bases pose no significant threat to them. However, if
Russia thinks these things should be used for warfighting and threats
against Europe, as Putin's recent announcements suggest, then BMD
bases in Central Europe would tend to blunt that tactical threat to
some degree. But tactical isn't legitimate.)


Robert G Kennedy III, PE

***fwd news***

Physicists challenge U.S. missile claims
Posted 3h 24m ago []

WASHINGTON (AP) — A number of top U.S-based physicists have concluded
that the Bush administration used inaccurate claims to reassure NATO
allies about U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

They say the planned Polish-based interceptors and a radar system in
the Czech Republic could target and catch Russian missiles, thus
threatening Russia's nuclear deterrent.

That view supports Russia's criticism of the system. Russia adamantly
opposes the plan, and the dispute has helped escalate U.S.-Russian
tensions to the highest point since the Cold War.

The Pentagon agency overseeing the missile program, the Missile
Defense Agency, rejects the scientists' claims, saying their analyses
are flawed. The United States says the missile system is intended to
counter a threat from Iran and could not take out Russian missiles.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has dismissed Russia's concerns
as "ludicrous."

But the six scientists, whose backgrounds include elite American
universities, research labs and high levels of government, said in
interviews that Russia's concerns were justified.

"The claim by the Missile Defense Agency is not correct," said
Theodore Postol, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and a longtime missile defense critic. "And it is hard to
understand how they could get something so basic wrong."

The scientists have not disputed another argument used by U.S.
officials that the 10 interceptors planned for Poland would be easily
overwhelmed by Russia's vast missile arsenal, leading one supporter
of missile defense to conclude that even if the scientists are
correct, the U.S. argument holds up.

"I don't think it changes the basic assertion of the administration
that this does not pose a threat to Russia," said Baker Spring, a
national security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative
think tank.

The Missile Defense Agency's claims were made as part of an intensive
U.S. diplomatic push early this year. President Bush and senior U.S.
officials traveled to Europe to persuade allies that Russian worries
about U.S. missile capabilities were unfounded.

The trips followed threats by Russia to retarget its missiles on
Europe. Some European officials had expressed skepticism about the
plans and recommended further consultations with Russia. Public
opinion in some countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic,
ran against the U.S. plans.

To reassure the foreign governments and the public, Lt. Gen. Henry
"Trey" Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, presented
slideshows intended to demonstrate that the Europe-based system was
designed only to counteract missiles from Iran. The allies have not
challenged the agency's claims.

The physicists told The Associated Press that Obering's presentations
were misleading and inconsistent on key points. Postol, a former
scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations, and George
Lewis, associate director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell
University, have written a study of the MDA claims.

Congressional testimony by Postol in 1992 helped counter U.S.
government claims that Patriot missiles were highly successful in
shooting down Iraqi scud missiles during the Gulf War.

Pavel Podvig, a researcher at Stanford University's Center for
International Security and Cooperation, made his own estimates and
confirmed Postol and Lewis' findings. Podvig, a Russian physicist,
has been critical of both U.S. and Russian missile defense claims.

Three other physicists also reviewed Postol's findings and said they
found them accurate:

•Richard Garwin, a National Science Award winner who is credited with
the design of the first hydrogen bomb. Garwin served on the Rumsfeld
Commission, an independent panel appointed by Congress in the 1990s
to assess the threat to the United States from ballistic missiles.

•Philip Coyle, a former associate director of the National Nuclear
Security Administration's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Coyle was assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton
administration in charge of testing weapons systems.

•David Wright, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a
nuclear non-proliferation and environmental advocacy group.

The Missile Defense Agency has stood by its claims that the
interceptors could not catch Russian intercontinental ballistic

"The basic fact of the matter is that we would never make a statement
like that unless we knew it was true," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said.

In one of Obering's slide presentations, labeled "Missile Defense for
U.S. allies and Friends," an image illustrates the trajectory of a
Russian ICBM from a point east of Moscow toward Washington. The
slide, which also illustrates the Polish interceptors, says in bold
script "Interceptors Cannot Catch Russian Missiles."

"The reason we selected Poland and the Czech Republic for the
potential positions of these assets is because it was optimum for the
Iranian threat," Obering said after a meeting with German officials
in Berlin on March 15. "They are not positioned to where we can even
catch the Russian missiles with these interceptors."

The dissenting scientists say that both those claims were incorrect.
The interceptors could catch Russian ICBMs, they said, and the
interceptors and the radar would be better positioned closer to Iran
to counter a threat from its missiles.

Postol concluded that the Pentagon significantly understated the
speed that U.S. interceptors could reach when their boosters burned
out and overstated how long it would need to track a missile by
launching the interceptors.

While all six scientists are skeptical that the U.S. missile defense
system can work, they believe that in terms of raw speed, U.S.
interceptors in Poland could catch a Russian ICBM launched from
western Russia at any part of the continental United States. In
Postol's model, the intercept would occur at a point over the North

The Missile Defense Agency says the Polish-based rockets would reach
a burnout speed of 3.9 miles per second, roughly the speed of the
Russian missiles depicted in Obering's slides. At that speed, the
interceptors could not catch the Russian missiles.

But Postol says the interceptors could top 5.6 miles per second.

Responding to Postol's criticism, the MDA said Postol made
assumptions about the interceptors that are based on theory, but in
the real world they do not work as well. Not only are the
interceptors one-third slower, their rocket motors' thrust is not as
efficient when tested, and to get to Russian missiles they would be
going through various stresses that exceed what would be considered
normal design.

The MDA presented a chart of rocket motor efficiency from tests and
noted that Postol's estimates did not reflect what happens in the
real world.

But Garwin countered that at least one rocket motor was more
efficient than a Postol estimate.

Obering claimed in slides that the European system would expand
protection from a U.S.-based system to parts of East Asia. Postol
said that could not be true if the European interceptors were moving
as slowly as the MDA is claiming.

The scientists have not disputed another argument used by U.S.
officials that the 10 interceptors planned for Poland would be easily
overwhelmed by Russia's vast missile arsenal, leading one supporter
of missile defense to conclude that even if the scientists are
correct, the U.S. argument holds up.

"I don't think it changes the basic assertion of the administration
that this does not pose a threat to Russia," said Baker Spring, a
national security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative
think tank.


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