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Iran Gaining Greater Capability To Launch Missile Attack Against Israeli Defense Systems

By | July 14, 2008

      U.S. Sea-Based Missile Defense Required: U.S. Navy Officer

      Iran is gaining increased capability to launch an overwhelming ballistic missile attack that would overwhelm Israel, Vice Adm. James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr. warned.

      "Perhaps most worrisome of the threats in the [Middle East] region is Iran’s increasing ability to quickly launch ballistic missiles in an attempt to overwhelm Israel’s organic defensive systems," Winnefeld stated.

      "This is, in my opinion, by far the most likely employment of ballistic missiles in the world today, and it demands our immediate attention in the event of a need for a U.S. or NATO response."

      Winnefeld wrote his cautionary note in the current issue of Proceedings , the magazine of the U.S. Naval Institute. He is commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet; commander of the Allied Joint Command Lisbon; deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe; the Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander, Europe, and also commander of the Striking and Support Forces NATO.

      Iran is dangerous not only because it is developing new missile capabilities, but also because it is an erratic potential foe, Winnefeld stated.

      "This unpredictable adversary could be provoked by an isolated, and perhaps seemingly unimportant, event," Wiunefeld warned.

      The answer, he said, lies not just in the planned future land-based European Missile Defense (EMD) system, but rather in the already-deployed U.S. sea-based missile defense capabilities, he argued.

      "Deploying land-based defensive assets is a necessary option, but it is costly and time-consuming," he said. The Czech Republic and Poland each need to provide legislative approval before the EMD system can be installed. (Please see separate stories in this issue.)

      "Meanwhile, sea-based missile defense has proved its capability, flexibility, and responsiveness in this arena," he wrote. "While U.S. Navy missile-defense capability need not be on-station all the time, it needs to be present in the theater conducting other missions, ready to respond quickly as needed."

      The EMD system would be a modified version of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system now installed in Alaska and California, a program led by The Boeing Co. [BA].

      As for the sea-based missile defense shield, it involves the Aegis weapons control system by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] and the Standard Missile interceptor by Raytheon Co. [RTN].

      In addition to the U.S. Navy placing the Aegis/SM sea-based system on its ships (about 18 are being fitted currently), Winnefeld said European nations should consider acquiring the Aegis system for their navies.

      " It would be wise for several of our very capable European partners to consider achieving this capability as well for their own defense against this threat," Winnefeld wrote.

      "Interdicting illegal or terrorist activity in this complex environment not only requires the presence of forces; it is utterly dependent on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) — a comprehensive understanding of the vessels, people, and cargo that occupy the maritime commons and the ability to detect what is going wrong," he asserted. "Substantial progress in this area is aligned around several key elements, including:

      Unclassified data and information sharing, which is widespread and growing

      Development of regional, cross-regional, and interagency partnerships

      Building [missile defense] capability and capacity among our partners

      Agility and economy in development of linked software tools

      Fusion of data and information across security domains

      Forceful integration of intelligence and operations in the headquarters

      Winnefeld offered advice on that last item.

      "Wherever we integrate operations and intelligence we get an enormous payoff in improved effectiveness. We should acknowledge that locating theater maritime intelligence efforts away from the center of gravity of maritime operations does not work. "Rather, these disciplines should be fully integrated at the maritime component commander’s headquarters, while at the same time we continue to strengthen our reach back to national centers in the continental United States.

      "While our capable and highly valued maritime partners are present in the Mediterranean on a daily basis, there is a broad disparity among them regarding the threshold for action before or during a crisis. However, farther south lies an area with great promise for coalition maritime action."

      Winnefeld’s full paper entitled "Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief" can be read in full by going to on the Web.

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