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US Should Fix Missile Defense, Not Expand It

The next test of the U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) system will occur “very soon,” Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 28. And if that test is a success, he said, the Pentagon plans to add 14 interceptors to the 30 deployed in Alaska and California by 2017, increasing the total by almost 50 percent. This expansion will cost about $1 billion.

But the next test, even if it hits, should not be used as justification to expand the system. As Philip Coyle, former director of operational test and evaluation at the Department of Defense, said in February, “Not another dime should be spent on more bad GBIs at Fort Greely [in Alaska] or anywhere else. Instead, a new GBI/EKV must be designed, built, and successfully tested to replace the old design.”

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) is supposed to collide with an enemy warhead in space. But the kill vehicle to be tested this month, called the CE-II, has been tested only twice before, and missed both times. If it hits in June, the test record would be one-for-three. Batting .333 may be great in baseball, but in missile defense it is simply inadequate.

That’s not all. Last summer the other fielded kill vehicle, the CE-I, also missed its target in a test. This failure came as a surprise, because this interceptor had a better test record. After $40 billion spent and faced with failures of both the CE-I and CE-II, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) decided to make major changes to the kill vehicle. But these changes will not be ready by 2017, so expansion will go ahead without them.

Given the widely accepted need–on both sides of the aisle–to redesign the system, plans to expand it before it is reworked make little sense. It would be like buying a car just after it has been recalled, before the problem is fully corrected.

Why the rush? It is easy to say that “we must stay ahead of the threat,” and yes, the United States needs to be ready in case North Korea or Iran actually tests and deploys a long-range ballistic missile that could reach North America. But neither nation has done this, and if they do there are already 30 GBI interceptors fielded on the West Coast.

Fortunately, these missile programs are not progressing as swiftly as many had feared, and deterrence still plays a role. As Adm. Winnefeld said May 28, neither North Korea nor Iran “yet has a mature [long-range ballistic missile] capability, and both nations know they would face an overwhelming U.S. response to any attack.”

The Pentagon should prioritize upgrading the kill vehicle, a process that will take a few years, and not expand the system beyond the current 30 GBIs until the new interceptor is proven to work.

As a result, the Obama administration should not follow through with plans to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska by 2017, nor should it heed Republican calls to build a new East Coast site.

“Bad Engineering”
There have been serious concerns about the GBI kill vehicle ever since the system was rushed into service by the Bush administration in 2004. Of primary concern is that the system’s test record is getting worse with time, not better. Overall, out of 16 intercept attempts from 1999 to 2013, the system hit 8 times, or 50%. For the first 8 tests, the system had 5 hits, or 62%. But in the last 8 tests, the system has hit only 3 times, or 37%. This is not progress.

In January, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s current director of operational test and evaluation, wrote that recent test failures raise concerns about the system’s reliability and suggested that the missile’s kill vehicle be redesigned to assure it is “robust against failure.”

“We recognize the problems we have had with all the currently fielded interceptors,” Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for procurement, said in February. “The root cause was a desire to field these things very quickly and really cheaply.”

“As we go back and understand the failures we’re having and why we’re having them, we’re seeing a lot of bad engineering, frankly, and it is because there was a rush” to deploy the system, Kendall said. “Just patching the things we’ve got is probably not going to be adequate. So we’re going to have to go beyond that.”

In March, the MDA announced that it would make significant changes to the EKV, and plans to spend $740 million over the next five years to do so. If it works, the new kill vehicle could be fielded around 2020. According to the fiscal 2015 Pentagon budget request, the new kill vehicle “will improve reliability, be more producible and cost-effective, and will eventually replace the [kill vehicles] on the current GBI fleet.”

Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the MDA, said in March about the decision to rush deployment in 2004: “Everybody knew that [the EKVs] were prototype in nature, and that decision was made to field the prototypes because some defense now is better than defense much later.”

But we now know how premature, unreliable and expensive “some defense” turned out to be. Ten years later, the North Korean long-range missile threat is still not imminent. The last three intercept tests of the GBI system have failed–two tests in 2010 and one last year. And efforts to correct these problems will cost MDA more than $1.3 billion, according to an April 30 Government Accountability Office report.

Next Test Will Not Justify Expansion
The next GBI test will not be of a redesigned EKV; that will not occur until 2018 or later. The June test will involve ‘patching’ the CE-II.

Since 10 CE-IIs are already deployed in Alaska, the problems with this EKV need to be addressed. If the next test is successful, the deployed CE-IIs should be modified. But this EKV, according to officials, is inherently flawed and based on a “prototype” design. Why would we want to field additional kill vehicles of a flawed design? We should not.

Therefore, if successful, the next test could help ‘patch’ the CE-IIs that are already in the field, but the numbers should not be increased until an upgraded EKV is ready. It’s bad enough that the United States already has 30 interceptors deployed that are unreliable; we should not rush to add more at the cost of $1 billion.

If the Pentagon succeeds in developing a new kill vehicle that works reliably in ‘cooperative’ tests, which are scripted and unrealistic, the system would still need to prove that it could work in an actual attack, in which the enemy would seek to evade the defense.

In this case, the ability to differentiate real targets from fake ones is critical because an attacker’s warheads would likely come surrounded by debris and decoys. In congressional testimony last year, the Pentagon’s Gilmore said, “If we can’t discriminate what the real threatening objects are, it doesn’t matter how many ground-based interceptors we have; we won’t be able to hit what needs to be hit.”

Throwing good money after bad at missile defenses that may not defend is no solution. “Patching” inherently unreliable interceptors is not the same thing as redesigning them so they will work. The United States should not field additional long-range missile interceptors on either coast until the current system is redesigned and–most importantly–tested rigorously against realistic targets.

The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.

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Should Europe Rebuild Tank Forces?

Russia’s recent adventurism in Europe, most notably the massing of armor and mechanized units along the border with Ukraine, has prompted defense officials in Europe and the United States to do something they haven’t done in nearly twenty years: assess the balance of military power on the continent. While most public discussions of the changing balance of forces between East and West have focused on the shrinkage that has occurred in nuclear capabilities, the most dramatic reduction in military power has been in conventional forces.

Just take the heart of modern land warfare, the main battle tank. At the end of the Cold War, Russia had nearly 60,000 tanks in its fleet. The majority of these were in Eastern Europe and the Western military districts. The Warsaw Pact countries possessed nearly 20,000 more. On the other side of the line that divided Europe down the middle, NATO possessed some 30,000 tanks, although a substantial fraction of these were deployed in Southern Europe and Turkey. Germany alone had 3,000 tanks. The U.S. immediate military commitment to NATO consisted of two heavy corps with several thousand tanks. In addition, the United Kingdom had the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) centered on three armored divisions with some 600 main battle tanks.

Today the armies in Europe are a faint shadow of their Cold War heritage. Russia now deploys around 3,000 tanks, with another 18,000 in storage. Germany’s tank fleet today is a little over 10 percent of its Cold War size. The U.S. ground combat presence in Europe has been reduced to two light brigade combat teams with virtually no tanks. The British Army has a little over 200 tanks total and the number on the continent will drop to zero when the BAOR returns home in 2015. Other NATO allies such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have essentially exited the armored warfare business entirely. The largest tank forces in NATO now reside in some of the former Warsaw Pact countries. Poland has a tank fleet three times that of Germany.

Ironically, despite having gone through the collapse of the Soviet Union and nearly two decades of Spartan defense budgets, the Russian military today compares relatively well to its erstwhile NATO adversary particularly with respect to ground forces. Over the past five years it has reorganized and modernized its ground forces. Virtually all its tanks are more modern T-72s and T-80s.

Without question, NATO still holds the advantage in the quality of its tanks. The M-1 Abrams is the world’s best tank. Enhancements added over the past decade have made it even more capable. The British Army’s Challenger tank and German Leopard are also quite good. The trouble is that most of these are not in Europe.

There is no better symbol of the demilitarization of Europe than the decline in its armored ground forces. Given the long history of warfare on the continent, this seemed like a good thing. However, now that Russia is reverting to old patterns of behavior, the balance of conventional military power on the continent is again important. The West may yet come to regret its decision to disband most of what had been the most capable conventional land force the word had ever seen.

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Russia should be ready for non-contact war

By on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The future of the Russian armed forces lies in developing high-precision ‘smart’ weapons and boosting the capacity to conduct no-contact warfare, a Russian deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry said on Saturday.

“Old-fashioned army and fleet, organized in accordance with 20th century examples, will lose a war before they are face to face with the enemy. The era of high-precision long-range weapons has arrived. The future lies in smart weapons,” Dmitry Rogozin told students in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk.

The deputy prime minister, who oversees Russia’s defense and space industry, said Russia would invest 20 trillion rubles ($561 billion) in the coming years in modernizing its army and fleet.

In addition, 3 trillion rubles ($84 billion) will be invested in modernizing production at Russian defense plants.

The Russian armed forces are expected to become one of the world’s best by 2020, Rogozin said.

++ Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon – Dmitriy Rogozin

Russia plans to organize a permanent base on the moon rather than leave it after several successful missions, the Russian deputy defense minister in charge of defense and space industries said. “The moon is not an intermediate point in the [space] race, it is a separate, even a self-contained goal. It would hardly be rational to make some ten or twenty flights to the moon, and then wind it all up and fly to the Mars or some asteroids.

This process has the beginning, but has no end: we are going to come to the moon forever,” Dmitry Rogozin said in an article to be published by the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday. A mission to the Moon has become one of Russia’s top space priorities.

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos said earlier this week it had launched a project to design a spacecraft suitable for moon missions and a super-heavy carrier rocket to deliver it there.

Russia plans to launch three lunar spacecraft – two to surface and one to orbit – by the end of the decade.

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US Navy Should Invest In Game Changing Capabilities

The realization is setting in that the military superiority the U.S. enjoyed over the two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War is eroding. In part this is a consequence of the realization by potential adversaries that they were unlikely to prevail in a conventional conflict with the United States. Hence, these nations chose to pursue asymmetric strategies.

Adversaries of all types have “gone to school” on the so-called American Way of War in order to identify weaknesses that could be exploited. In some instances this meant selective investment in advanced capabilities. In other cases, prospective adversaries sought to create leverage by deploying large numbers of relatively simple and low-cost platforms and systems in order to overwhelm their more technologically-sophisticated opponents or just create an unfavorable cost-exchange ratio.

China is deploying a wide variety of long-range weapons including one ship-killing, precision-guided ballistic missile. Iran has a mixed array of conventional aircraft, ships, and tanks along with sea-skimming cruise missiles, long-range ballistic missiles, advanced sea mines and swarms of small boats. Many countries are deploying hundreds of surface-to-air missiles and other capabilities intended to deny the U.S. its long-held advantage in airpower.

Hezbollah, Iran’s surrogate, now deploys a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, anti-armor guided missiles and mines, and squad-level automatic weapons to complement traditional systems such as snipers and suicide bombers. The same proliferation will likely occur in man-portable anti-aircraft weapons, thereby challenging U.S. dominance in close air support.

Recent analyses have pointed out that the United States is losing its monopoly in advanced military capabilities to state and non-state actors alike. This has already taken place in communications and even intelligence thanks to sources such as Google Earth. It is rapidly becoming the case with a wide range of advanced weapons and the training that goes with them. Both China and Russia have programs underway to develop their own fifth-generation fighters, advanced offensive and defensive missile systems and even weapons in space. Allies, friends and adversaries alike are investing heavily in unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare and cyber weapons.

While prospective adversaries have been searching for advantages and acquiring a wide range of new systems and weapons, the United States lost a decade or more of time during which it should have been modernizing its conventional forces and, arguably, investing in transformational capabilities. Many critical modernization programs such as the F-22 and F-35 fighters, new long-range strike system, air- and sea-based missile defenses and DDG-1000 guided missile destroyers were either truncated, delayed or reduced in scope or capability.

It is not enough simply to modernize existing capabilities with the next-generation platform, system or weapons. Defense decisionmakers need to focus on what can be done to change strategic and operational trajectories that appear increasingly unfavorable to the United States. Consideration needs to be given to “game changing” investments that undermine those areas where prospective adversaries enjoy comparative advantages, thereby forcing a change in their strategies, negating their investments in costly capabilities and even bending to our advantage the cost exchange ratio between our systems and theirs. In particular, the U.S. needs to invest in capabilities that undermine prospective adversaries’ quantitative superiority in ballistic and cruise missiles and long-range rockets at relatively low cost.

Lasers have been said to offer the potential to transform warfare for decades with the combination of deep magazines, long range, precision engagement at the speed of light and relatively low cost per shot. Past efforts to develop a militarily-effective and affordable laser weapon system had limited success. Over the past several years, however, R&D on solid state lasers has proceeded to a point that suggests a maritime laser capability could have a significant impact on future naval operations. The potential for laser weapons needs to be considered in the context of advances in power generation capabilities of newer Navy ships, notably the Ford-class aircraft carriers and Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers.

Now the combination of a changing threat, advances in laser technologies and the opportunities provided by new power sources suggests that it is time for a reconsideration of the role of this potential game-changing capability and, in particular, for the Navy to consider a serious commitment to a maritime laser program.

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US, South Korea and Allies Should Prepare for Eventual Collapse of North Korea

By on Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Like the collapse of East Germany, the collapse of North Korea could occur suddenly and with little warning. But a North Korean collapse could be far more dangerous and disastrous than the actual collapse of East Germany, especially given the inadequate preparations for it, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

The current North Korean government, led by Kim Jong Un, has showed signs of instability for some time and most experts agree that a collapse is likely. It is more a matter of “when” than “if” it will occur, says Bruce Bennett, the study’s author and a senior defense analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

The study describes many of the possible consequences of a North Korean government collapse, including civil war in the North, a humanitarian crisis, the potential use and proliferation of the nation’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and even war with China.

Failure to establish stability in North Korea could disrupt the political and economic conditions in Northeast Asia and leave a serious power vacuum for a decade or longer, Bennett said.

The study examines ways of controlling and mitigating the consequences of a North Korean government collapse, recognizing that the Republic of Korea and the United States almost certainly will need to intervene in the North, even if only to deliver humanitarian aid. They will likely seek Korean unification as the ultimate outcome.

Preparation is required because the situation in North Korean could deteriorate rapidly. Food and medicine already are in short supply, and a collapse would lead to hoarding that would leave many people starving. A simultaneous deterioration in internal security could force people to leave their homes, making it even more difficult to deliver humanitarian aid.

The Republic of Korea and the United States must be prepared to rapidly deliver food supplies throughout all of North Korea, Bennett said. Prompt delivery requires preparing stockpiles of food and practicing delivery methods.

The nations also must also be prepared to quickly achieve a degree of stability and security in the North. This requires co-opting North Korea military and security service personnel. A failure to do so would lead to military battles with North Korean forces and a defection of some of those forces to insurgency or criminal activities, which could disrupt local security for years and perhaps even frustrate unification.

The North Korean personnel must be convinced that they will be treated well and can achieve better lives after unification. Already, information is leaking into North Korea that challenges the regime’s propaganda claiming that people in the Republic of Korea lead lives that are even worse than people in the North.

North Korean troops also pose a serious threat in the potential use of weapons of mass destruction. These weapons appear to be dispersed among a large number of facilities, at least some of which have not been identified, making it difficult to quickly eliminate the threat. Prompt, prepared action is more likely to secure much of the weapons of mass destruction, especially with Chinese help.

Potential Chinese intervention also must be addressed, ideally leading to cooperation with forces from the Republic of Korea and the United States. A North Korea collapse would heighten Chinese fears of both a massive influx of North Korean refugees and U.S. intervention into an area directly adjoining China’s border.

China recognizes that the United States will want to promptly reach the North Korean weapons of mass destruction sites north of Pyongyang to prevent their use or proliferation. This U.S. interest could force China to seek to secure these facilities before the United States does.

China also may try to create a buffer zone inside North Korea to contain the refugees and prevent them from reaching China, where there are large pockets of ethnic Koreans. North Korean ports on the East Sea and North Korea’s mineral wealth are other economic targets China will want to secure. The Republic of Korea also has concerns that if China intervenes in North Korea, it might not be reversible, and China may end up annexing some significant portion of the North.

China has been reluctant to discuss the possibility of a North Korean collapse, for fear of appearing disloyal to its ally and adding to the stability problems in North Korea. But some Chinese attitudes are changing, opening new opportunities for dialogue, according to the RAND report.

A final concern is the military capabilities of the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea’s army will be reduced from its current size of 22 active-duty divisions to approximately 12 by 2022 because of very low birthrates. Action must be taken to curb these reductions and compensate for the loss through measures such as building the capabilities of the reserve forces.

Full Report in PDF format: U.S., Republic of Korea and Allies Should Prepare for Eventual Collapse of North Korean Government (107)

Research for the report was sponsored by the Smith Richardson Foundation and was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division. The National Security Research Division conducts research and analysis on defense and national security topics for the U.S. and allied defense, foreign policy, homeland security and intelligence communities and foundations and other nongovernmental organizations that support defense and national security analysis.

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F-35 flights should resume soon: Pentagon

By on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The Pentagon’s director of the F-35 program said Monday the next-generation US fighter jet could be back in the air within a fortnight after an engine crack forced the grounding of test flights.

Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, in Australia for talks on the jet, also dismissed any talk of foreign customers backing out of the costly project to build the F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, because of its delays.

If the crack’s cause was as straightforward as a foreign object striking the turbine, or a basic manufacturing defect, “I could foresee the airplane back in the air in the next week or two”, Bogdan told reporters in Melbourne.

“If it’s more than that then we have to look at what the risk is to the fleet,” he said, adding than a verdict on the cracking cause was expected “by the end of this week”.

“My opinion is that the airplane will be back flying within a reasonable period of time if this is not a serious problem.”

The Pentagon plans to make 2,443 F-35s for the US military and several hundred others for eight international partners including Australia who have invested in the project, as well as at least two customers, Japan and Israel.

Turkey has followed an Italian decision to delay purchase of the JSF, which has labored under soaring costs and delays.

But Bogdan stressed: “I have no indication whatsoever that any partner is thinking about pulling out of the program at all.

“I have communicated with all our partners and all the (armed) services about what occurred with the grounding,” he said.

“They all understand that, while unfortunate, that it is not an unusual thing to find (that) an engine blade on a newer engine has a crack in it.”

Bogdan said the small crack had been noticed during a routine 50-hour ground inspection and the entire engine had been shipped back to manufacturer Pratt & Whitney for examination.

“One thing we are grateful for is that we found the problem on the ground during a routine inspection and not in the air where it could have been catastrophic, where it could have damaged the airplane,” he said.

All 51 test jets in the US F-35 fleet were grounded and further flights were suspended as a “precautionary measure” Friday after discovery of the crack on a turbine blade in one F-35 engine at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“I do not anticipate whatsoever that this problem will delay any of the major milestones of the program at all, I just don’t see that happening even in the worst-case scenario,” Bogdan said, describing the project as “on course and on schedule”.

He warned that further teething problems were likely, with only 35-40 percent of the test flight program completed. “But we have enough money and enough time in development to take care of those things.”

The Pentagon has high hopes for the radar-evading F-35 fighter, which is supposed to replace most of the combat aircraft fleet of the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps by the end of the decade.

Australia has so far committed to delivery of two Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) in 2014 and a further 12 in 2019-2020. It originally indicated it would buy 100 of the jets, but budgetary constraints last year saw it trim back and delay the order.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government remained committed to the initial order for two jets, but would “continue to monitor and be in discussions about issues that have arisen and need to be addressed”.

A defence ministry spokesman said the engines for Australia’s first two aircraft were yet to be manufactured and “if any design changes are required to the engine blades then those changes would be incorporated”.

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Soldiers should check tuition assistance status for their schools

By on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Effective March 1, Soldiers will no longer receive tuition assistance if their college or university has not signed the Defense Department’s “Voluntary Education Partnership” Memorandum of Understanding.

Soldiers who already received tuition assistance, or TA, funding for courses can complete those courses even if they extend beyond March 1. They just can’t sign up for new courses after March 1 if the school has not signed the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, according to Pamela Raymer, Ph.D., chief of the Army Continuing Education Division.

As of Feb. 14, of the 3,000 schools in GoArmyEd, the Army’s enterprise system for accessing TA and other educational services, 2,153 schools have signed the MOU, Raymer said.

About nine percent of Soldiers using TA are enrolled in schools that are not signatories to the MOU. Many of those nine percent are National Guard Soldiers and candidates in ROTC programs, she said.

Soldiers should, as soon as possible, visit http://www.dodmou.com, to see if their school has signed the memorandum, Raymer urged. If the school has not signed, then Soldiers should make arrangements to transfer to another educational institution that has signed the MOU.

Also, Soldiers are encouraged to speak with their unit education counselor, she said. Counselors can be found at 89 active Army education centers, 16 Army Reserve Readiness Command education offices and 54 National Guard education offices.

Soldiers might wish to check with their school administrators to see if the school intends to sign the MOU, but Raymer said that is not something a Soldier would be required to do, as the Army and DOD have been working hard to reach out to those schools.

While the new requirement could negatively impact Soldiers attending a school that is not a signatory to the MOU, the intent of the memorandum is to protect the Soldier, Raymer said.

Examples of the protections that schools in the program must provide are adherence to the Service members Opportunity College, or SOC, principles, which include:

  • maximizing transfer credits
  • greater consideration of college credit for military experience and academic testing
  • minimizing residency requirements
  • adopting policies banning inducements for enrollment
  • refraining from high-pressure recruitment tactics to eliminate aggressive marketing to Soldiers.

The MOU does not impact the Montgomery G.I. Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill, so Soldiers attending a school that does not sign the MOU can still use those options if they choose.

According to the Army’s Continuing Education Division, in fiscal year 2012, 201,000 Soldiers used TA, which disbursed $373 million to them. Of those Soldiers using TA, 2,831 earned associate degrees, 4,495 earned baccalaureates and 1,946 received graduate degrees.

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