North Korea Test-Fires ICBM Engine; Russia Launches Missile Said To Defeat U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Shield

By | September 22, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

Report Says Missile Threat Worsens, Outlines Need For American BMD System

Russia successfully launched a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that Moscow claims can defeat U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, North Korea test- fired an engine for its emergent ICBM, and the Heritage Institution think tank in Washington issued a report that the United States faces a worsening threat of ballistic missile attack including a possible nuclear pulse that would paralyze the nation.

These developments came as some lawmakers in Congress, in budget negotiations, are questioning whether the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) needs to develop BMD systems such as those able to take down enemy missiles in their most vulnerable launch and ascent phases of flight.

But the serious import of these events was blurred for many by the cacophony over the U.S. financial meltdown that now is expanding throughout the global monetary system.

The Bulava missile launch continues increasingly belligerent, threatening moves by Russia, including vows to use military force, even nuclear weapons, to obliterate any European Missile Defense system that the United States plans to build in the Czech Republic (radar) and Poland (interceptors in silos).

As well, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin indicated that Russia won’t reverse its invasion of two states in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, stiff-arming Western demands that Russia withdraw from the invaded territories that Moscow has said are independent states, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it launched the Bulava missile that NATO calls the SS-NX-30 from the strategic submarine cruiser Dmitry Donskoi, Itar- Tass reported.

The vessel, while submerged, launched the missile from under the White Sea. The dummy warheads hit their targets at the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula, with Russian officials saying early data showed the test succeeded. In contrast, some Bulava tests last year failed.

Bulava warheads — the missile is nicknamed the Mace — include evasive maneuvering capability, mid-course countermeasures and warheads shielded against physical and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) damage, according to Itar-Tass.

Meanwhile, in North Korea, the isolated rogue regime tested the engine for the Taepo Dong ICBM at a new missile launching site.

North Korea in 2006 launched a salvo of missiles, all of which operated well except for the Taepo Dong. Since then, Pyongyang has worked to remove glitches from the weapon, and the recent engine test is a part of that program.

As well, North Korea said recently it may rebuild a partially demolished nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, although the secretive regime has agreed to dismantle facilities and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Thus far, North Korea hasn’t turned over one of its nuclear weapons to Western inspectors.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said North Korea has been cooperating with Syria, a Middle Eastern nation that was completing a nuclear reactor similar to a North Korean design before Israeli aircraft last year demolished the illicit plant.

Hayden said that North Korea and Syria had been cooperating since the last decade, and "the depth of that relationship was revealed in the spring of last year," according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in South Korea.

Hayden estimates that a plutonium production program produced enough material for at least six nuclear weapons. However, while North Korea admits to that plutonium program, it denies and has not owned up to a highly enriched uranium production program, even though traces of HEU were found on documents that Pyongyang furnished to Westerners.

BMD Needed Urgently: Report

The Heritage Foundation report found that the United States faces a steadily expanding threat from missiles wielded by rogue regimes, and in many instances, the United States thus far has failed to erect defenses against such an attack.

By far the worst and most catastrophic attack could be carried out by a rogue nation such as Iran as soon as it developed even modest nuclear weapons, and mounted them on short- to medium-range missiles, without needing to develop an ICBM, according to Frank J. Gaffney Jr., founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think tank. He is one of 18 authors who each contributed a chapter to the report.

For example, Iran, employing a Scud or Shahab-3 missile spirited onto a merchant ship, could have operatives wait until the ship neared the U.S. East Coast, then fire one or two missiles tipped with nuclear weapons high above U.S. territory and detonate them.

While that wouldn’t cause any immediate physical property damage, it would create an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, a fraction-of-a-second pulse that would destroy electronic equipment over the Eastern half of the United States.

It also would take down the electrical power grid, so that utilities no longer would provide power to millions of consumers. Cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes and more would cease functioning. Soon, there would be no more food for people living in major cities. Millions would die. "America would cease to exist," Gaffney observed in the report.

He noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel soon shall cease to exist, also has said a world without America is both desirable and feasible.

While the cost of missile defense has been estimated to total $100 billion, eventually, less than the damage in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gaffney stated that the cost of an EMP attack "would be literally incalculable." Some have said it could be trillions of dollars.

"Eventually, the costs from the aftermath of an EMP attack would probably approach the costs from a full-scale nuclear attack," Gaffney estimated.

While the United States already possesses the missile defense systems to thwart such an attack, such as the Aegis sea-based system using Standard Missile interceptors, the Department of Defense hasn’t yet deployed BMD systems along the East Coast to form a defensive shield, Gaffney noted, at least not "anything approaching the numbers and configurations required to protect the homeland against attacks that would bring about a world without America," he stated.

He counseled DOD to do the math: "Unless and until we [deploy an effective BMD shield], the costs of failing to defend ourselves will remain unimaginably greater than the costs of defending ourselves."

Gaffney noted in the Heritage panel briefing that Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, may cancel the Airborne Laser (ABL) program.

ABL involves a heavily-modified 747-400 jumbo jet aircraft contributed by prime contractor The Boeing Co. [BA], missile-killing laser systems contributed by Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC], and a beam control/fire control system by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].

While other missile defense systems use interceptor missiles to hit an incoming enemy missile — a bullet hitting a bullet — the ABL uses a laser beam to incinerate the enemy weapon and fry its electronics. And ABL does that when the enemy missile is in its most vulnerable phase, shortly after launch, before it has a chance to spew forth multiple warheads, confusing chaff or decoys.

McCain has taken on Boeing before, most notably by derailing a plan to have Boeing make a new generation of aerial refueling tanker aircraft. Boeing lost its second bid to do that when the Air Force picked Northrop, which offers a European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. plane made by Airbus Industrie. But Boeing protested successfully, so another bidding likely will be held next year.

Gaffney noted that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic presidential nominee, is rumored to wish to abolish a broad array of missile defense programs. "This would be irresponsible," Gaffney said.

He and his fellow authors of the Heritage report detailed other facets of the missile-attack threat facing the United States, and what is required to respond to that threat.

Those authors include think tankers, academicians, members of Congress, missile defense experts, White House and other staffers, and a Washington Post journalist.

To view the Heritage panel briefing on the report titled "The Case for Missile Defense: Protecting America in the New Missile Age" in a video replay, please go to http://www.heritage.org on the Web and click on View Event Archive.

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