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U.S. Must Form Shield Against Cruise Missiles, And Soon, Report Finds

By | December 3, 2007

      The United States must move swiftly to form a shield against rapidly-proliferating enemy cruise missiles, a shield that would include an advanced sensor system and U.S. interceptor missiles such as those already deployed against conventional missiles.

      That is the finding of a 54-page report of the George C. Marshall Institute, a scientific-academic think tank in Washington focusing on public policy and defense issues, including missile defense and space security.

      At issue is an enormous proliferation of cruise missiles and their technology, missiles affordable and available to terrorists and rogue nations, the report noted.

      Worse, these weapons in many instances are capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction, the report continued.

      The threat scenarios are daunting.

      For example, the report shows nine types of Chinese cruise missiles that could be hidden inside a standard 40-foot cargo container and spirited onto a commercial ship bound for a U.S. port. Then, upon nearing that port, the container could be opened and the missile fired at the city or nearby target.

      True, attempting to contain the spread of cruise missiles through nonproliferation programs is a noble effort, well and good. But the unhappy fact is that such efforts won’t eliminate cruise missiles or prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, the report states.

      The nonproliferation effort "is not without flaws and imperfections, particularly as it concerns cruise missile technology," with the number and variety of such weapons spreading rapidly across the planet, the report observes.

      Cruise missiles "are available and they have been and will be used against the" United States, the report warns.

      While the United States could attempt to mount pre-emptive strikes against any rogue nation planning a cruise missile attack against the United States, that presupposes that the U.S. intelligence community apprehends the danger, sufficiently in advance of any attack. As well, pre-emptive strikes often arouse strong political opposition.

      Therefore, the United States requires a strong and effective, active cruise missile shield, the report states.

      "Only the construction of an active defense ensures the ability to intercept and destroy cruise missiles after they have been launched," the report asserted. "Only an active defense deployed on a wide-area scale can defend the U.S. homeland, U.S. troops abroad, and the cities of friends and allies."

      For that to succeed, the United States must work on a two-fold path, to develop both capable and reliable sensors to comprehend just when the nation or its interests are being attacked, and to develop a reliable anti-missile system.

      "Such a defense requires the ability to detect cruise missiles as soon as they are launched and at far distances to provide the greatest amount of time for the interceptors, whether they are missiles fired by a PAC-3 battery, off an Aegis warship, or from a combat aircraft, to reach and destroy the attacking cruise missile," the report recommended.

      "Such a defense also demands a highly capable information backbone to connect all these systems and ensure they communicate seamlessly with each other," the report continues. "In the future, other capabilities may be developed to further refine or improve the capacity and reliability of a cruise missile defense."

      Importantly, the report notes that none of this would require the investment of huge sums or risky strategies to develop new technologies. Rather, the technologies exist currently, and have but to be utilized against cruise missiles.

      "These capabilities lie within our grasp today," the report states, and development of a cruise missile shield shouldn’t be delayed while some more advanced technology is developed.

      "We must not allow the pursuit of the perfect to become the enemy of the good," the report cautioned. "Instead, the [president], Congress and the public must come to recognize the need to invest time and resources into the design and deployment of effective, wide-area cruise missile defenses," so that a finished system can be completed "in several years’ time," the report advises.

      "One hopes that the decision is made before another cruise missile is fired at the U.S. in anger," as occurred during the invasion of Iraq, the report concludes.

      The full report titled "The Cruise Missile Challenge: Designing a Defense Against Asymmetric Threats" by Marshall Institute President Jeff Kueter and research analyst Howard Kleinberg can be obtained through on the Web.

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