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  • A Good Step for NATO Missile Defense—from France

    The French Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces recently released a report called “Ballistic Missile Defense: Military Shield or Strategic Challenge?” This report urges France to take a strong role in the NATO missile defense program and to develop a space-based (exoatmospheric) ballistic missile defense interceptor. This would be a great step in the right direction for NATO and the French defense industry—one the United States should learn from.

    Space-based interceptors present the best option for a boost-phase missile defense. In the boost phase, ballistic missiles are the most vulnerable to counterattack, because they are slow and have not deployed countermeasures yet. Low speed and absence of countermeasures make it easier to track the missile; if the U.S. and its allies are able to track a missile, they can kill the missile. The United States advanced the concept of a space-based intercept in its Brilliant Pebbles (later known as Global Protection Against Limited Strikes) program in late 1980s and early 1990s, but the Clinton Administration decided to terminate the program. Despite significant successes of the program, it has never been reconstituted; however, as findings of the Independent Working Group indicate, interceptors in space would allow the United States and its allies to obtain a truly effective missile defense capability. An estimated cost of a space-based test bed for missile defense interceptors is $3 billion to $5 billion over three years.

    The French see the missile defense program as a way to protect the country from being outdistanced by the United States in missile technology and a means to protect France from a ballistic missile threat. For the United States, concerns are somewhat different. The primary task of the ballistic missile defense system is to protect the U.S. homeland from North Korean and eventually Iranian ballistic missiles as well as accidental launches. The ballistic missile threat to the United States, its forward-deployed troops, and allies is growing, as more than 30 countries around the world have the technology and capabilities to deliver lethal payloads.

    For the United States, maintaining a healthy defense industrial base is essential to “provide for the common defense”—the primary constitutional obligation of the government. The missile defense industry needs clear guidance and sustained support from the leadership in government to meet the task. Yet since the Obama Administration took office, it has made massive cuts in missile defense programs, cancelled promising programs (e.g. the Kinetic Energy Interceptor or the Multiple Kill Vehicle), pulled out of joint programs (e.g. the Medium Extended Air Defense System with Italy and Germany), and negotiated an arms-reduction treaty with Russia that imposes sweeping restrictions on U.S. missile defense options. This raises questions about the Administration’s commitment to missile defense. The U.S. government should take note of the French efforts, which are a step in the right direction for the development of missile defenses.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to A Good Step for NATO Missile Defense—from France

    1. @ponder68 says:

      It is interesting that the French have likewise come to the conclusion that space-based interceptors are the best option to intercept missiles in their boost phase. Of course, the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation have come to a similar conclusion, and it is their prime motivator for the so-called "space weapons" debate. Is it no wonder they're trying to snooker the United States and its allies into signing onto agreements like PAROS and the PPWT. Bottom line: the "space weapons" debate is all about missile defense no matter how hard the PRC and the Russian Federation try to convince everyone otherwise.

    2. clint says:

      I am not sure who told you that "Space-based interceptors present the best option for a boost-phase missile defense."

      Can you point me to a technical study?

      This Air Force (ex-AF) officer says the opposite is true: that space based missile defense is not feasible:
      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1212/1

      And independent physicists seem to agree:
      http://www.missilethreat.com/repository/doclib/20

      So I am confused — it seems space based missile defense is not the most sensible thing to do. If you have any other information to share on this issue that would be good. Thanks.

    3. roger says:

      uhhh….not sure how to put this: I just read the Space News article: you are clearly confused about what the French are proposing.

      They are NOT proposing space-based missile defense. "Exo-atmospheric" intercepts does not mean "space-based". It means that the intercepts occur in space, just like in our Aegis system and our GBIs in AK and CA.

      So the whole premise of your article appears to be deeply flawed. I would suggest you take down your post instead of spreading completely wrong information on what the French are planning to do. The are NOT — repeat NOT — planning a space based missile defense.

      • Roger: I asked Michaela about your point, she asked that I pass this along:

        The post is not saying that the French are proposing space-missile defense. The news says “Ultimately, the report says, if France remains on the sidelines of developments in precision missile strike and space-based missile interception, the French nuclear deterrent’s power will erode. “ The difference is between a space intercept and a space-based interceptor. Other sources reporting about the report refer to a “space-based interceptor platform.” (e.g. http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20110713_9547.php)

      • Roger: I asked Michaela about your point, she asked that I pass this along:

        The post is not saying that the French are proposing space-missile defense. The news says “Ultimately, the report says, if France remains on the sidelines of developments in precision missile strike and space-based missile interception, the French nuclear deterrent’s power will erode. “ The difference is between a space intercept and a space-based interceptor. Other sources reporting about the report refer to a “space-based interceptor platform.” (e.g. http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20110713_9547.php)

        • roger says:

          The other source is wrong too, if that is the case. I link to the French senate document to show you why Michaela is wrong.

        • roger says:

          The "space-based" is a mistake that Space News made. There is no need for you and Heritage to perpetuate it. Read the French senate document original.

    4. Roger: I asked Michaela about your point, she asked that I pass this along:

      The post is not saying that the French are proposing space-missile defense. The news says “Ultimately, the report says, if France remains on the sidelines of developments in precision missile strike and space-based missile interception, the French nuclear deterrent’s power will erode. “ The difference is between a space intercept and a space-based interceptor. Other sources reporting about the report refer to a “space-based interceptor platform.” (e.g. http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20110713_9547.php)

    5. Scot - New Jersey says:

      Roger;
      Please site your sources. How are we to evaluate your statements when left unsupported?

    6. roger says:

      My source is the French Senate, and the document on missile defense that they issued — which is the subject of the post. The French are NOT proposing a space-based missile defense system like brilliant pebbles — they are expressing a possible interest in researching ground based exo-atmospheric interceptors like the SM-3 and the GBIs.

      Here is my source:
      http://www.senat.fr/rap/r10-733/r10-733-syn.pdf

      Again, I would suggest you update your post to reflect the fact that you are wrongly attributing things to the Government of France or simply delete it.

    7. Michaela Bendikova says:

      The post doesn't say the French are proposing Brilliant Pebbles but makes the case why the United States should reconstitute its space-based missile defense program. The argument for space-based missile defense is independent of what the French will or will not be doing.
      In the link you provided, I do see a reference to an exoatmospheric interceptor in the document but I do not see a reference to a basing mode of the proposed interceptor.

      • roger says:

        Great — so despite France being in the title, this has nothing to do with France. OK got it.

        Now — Do you care to reply to clint above who cites 2 technical studies that show that space based missile defense is infeasible and ineffective and expensive?

        Also there is the CBO study showing it is not feasible:
        http://www.missilethreat.com/repository/doclib/20

        The cost would be –quote — " from $27 billion to $78 billion, CBO estimates. If the
        system was scaled back to defend against missiles from
        only one of those countries, costs would be lower. Conversely,
        if the system needed to counter solid-fuel missiles—
        which have a shorter boost phase than liquid-fuel
        missiles do—costs could rise."

        The ground based BPI is much lower costs.

        And see the 2 studies by Clint above.

        Space based may be "cool" but it is ineffective, and expensive.

        Why waste government $$?

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