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Stanford scholar raises doubts about feasibility of Euro BMD

19.5.2009 - Dean Wilkening, The InsideDefense NewsStand
Another renowned expert challenges the Pentagon's plan
to place interceptor missiles and radar in Poland and Czech republic. Because if the so-called third pillar of American missile defense is really meant to protect Europe, components of this system should be built closer to Middle East, for example in Bulgaria or Turkey. In this location, moreover, the U.S. military installations could not pose any threat to Russia
and its ICBMs. 

                                   •                 •                 •

A Stanford University researcher has joined the ranks of experts who argue Bush-era plans to station ballistic missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic offer European nations less protection from Iranian missiles than defense officials have claimed publicly.

Dean Wilkening offered his conclusions in a series of briefing slides, titled "Technical Effectiveness of European Ballistic Missile Defense Options," that have begun circulating on Capitol Hill and among NATO officials in Brussels. obtained a copy of the 61-page briefing, which appears to be the only written record of his assessments.


According to Wilkening's slides, the two sites in Poland and the Czech Republic would offer "reasonable coverage" for European nations against a "non-stressing" missile attack from Iran. The term is military jargon for a relatively primitive attack. It typically assumes only one missile is fired and no countermeasures, like decoys, are employed to throw off defensive systems.

But the proposed configuration "fails" against low-flying ballistic missiles and those with small radar cross-sections, the briefing slides read. "Alternate [ballistic missile defense] architectures that move the EMR and interceptor close to the Middle East work better for the defense of Europe," Wilkening wrote.

For example, EMRs stationed in Bulgaria or Turkey, when coupled with an Aegis missile defense cruiser deployed in the Black Sea, would provide coverage for all of Europe against non-stressing threats, according to the slides. However, such wide coverage could only be achieved with the Standard Missile-3 Block II on Aegis ships, which has yet to be fielded, the slides state.

In addition, the constellation would offer better coverage against "depressed-trajectory" -- or low-flying -- missiles and those with a small radar cross-section than the Poland-Czech Republic system, Wilkening wrote.

But these options would be of limited use against Iranian ICBMs headed toward the United States, according to the slides.

In the past, U.S. defense officials have made the protection of Europe from an Iranian missile attack a centerpiece in their campaign to solicit the support of European leaders for ballistic missile defense assets stationed on the continent. Washington officials also were eyeing a "shoot-look-shoot" capability against Iranian missiles aimed at America, affording the military a second shoot-down attempt with U.S.-based interceptors should the European system miss its target.

In that context, the proposed Poland-Czech Republic system provides "best coverage" against Iranian ICBMs headed to the United States, the briefing reads. In addition, the capabilities and location of the two sites make it possible to "barely intercept" Russian ICBMs on their way to the northeastern United States, although this would depend on interceptor burn-out speed, Wilkening wrote.


Source (American): Stanford Scholar Raises Doubts About Feasibility of Euro BMD. The InsideDefense NewsStand, 11.02.2009

Prof. Dean Wilkening is the director of the Science Program at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University in the United States of America. He holds a Ph.D. in physics and worked at the RAND Corporation prior to coming to campus.

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