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Tags: abres | bmd | brilliant | pebbles | iwg | sdi | usaf

Trump Should Take Putin Back to Reagan's Future on SDI

russian president vladimir putin and us president donald trump in argentina

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, looks at Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they take places for a photo, during the G20 Leaders' Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Nov. 30, 2018. (Getty Images)

Henry F. Cooper By Monday, 31 December 2018 01:02 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

President Trump must take note of Russia’s recently tested Avangardhypersonic "boost glide" maneuvering reentry vehicle (MaRV) and Vladimir Putin’s associated claim that it can defeat all U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.

It is most vulnerable in its “boost phase” while its rockets burn to lift it high into (or above) the atmosphere, and then it “sails” in the upper atmosphere to maneuver and avoid current U.S. BMD interceptors on its way to its target.

If we had “boost phase” interceptors, we could defeat Avagard shortly after it is launched and before it can threaten our current defenses. Anyone listening?

Former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov opined that Avangard’s ability to “zigzag” its course and altitude within the atmosphere makes it impossible to predict the weapon's location. (An interesting claim that may not be true, if we take advantage of some known technology.)

He also noted that Russia can deploy Avangard on dozens of ICBMs(thought to be Soviet SS-19s originally based in Ukraine) placed indefinitely in existing launch siloes—all at minimal cost. He claimed Russia has a stockpile of several dozen such missiles that could serve for a long time. Ivanov added that they fit in existing silos, reducing Avangard's deployment costs.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Ivanov no doubt accurately claimed "The Avangard has cost hundreds of times less than what the U.S. has spent on its missile defense."

He also observed that Russia began developing Avangard after 2002 when the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and began developing defenses against ballistic missiles. He never mentioned ongoing Soviet/Russian BMD systems.

These Russian claims deserve careful consideration and scrutiny.

First, Avangard is not a new idea. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union pursued such MaRV technology that traces its origin to German scientists and engineers who developed the V-2 rockets used against Great Britain and our allies in World War II.

The U.S. Advanced Ballistic Reentry System (ABRES) program (that began in the 1960s) fully tested an advanced maneuvering reentry vehicle for our MX- ICBM in 1981, and we began deploying a variant on our Pershing II intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in West Germany in 1983.

Both of these ballistic missile systems no longer exist in the U.S. inventory, as a consequence of our arms control agreements with the Soviet Union/Russia. Meanwhile, Russia is again deploying large ICBMs that carry multiple warheads (that had been banned by the now expired START II Treaty) and violating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that banned IRBMs.

Putin accurately claims that Avagard can defeat our current BMD systems for far less than we have invested in them — a consequence of poor political choices we have made.

Our leaders chose to build the most expensive, least effective defenses, while ignoring the most cost-effective BMD system concepts conceived and advanced by President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) — namely those based in space that, by the way, can intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

The Clinton administration was ideologically opposed to these concepts, gutted the SDI program in early 1993, and declared allegiance to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that blocked the development, testing and deployment of these, the most cost-effective, BMD systems.

When President George W. Bush withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, many of us hoped for revived efforts to build these most cost-effective BMD systems — to no avail.

Now, President Trump can correct that error — and in the process counter at least the initial recently demonstrated hypervelocity threat, e.g., by the Avangard development.

We should deploy a modern version of the Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor system, advocated by early directors of what is now the Missile Defense Agency as the most cost-effective product of the SDI decade (1983-93) that the Clinton administration cancelled in 1993.

SDI’s first Director, Retired USAF Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, joined me on August 14, 2017 in urging President Trump to revive space based defenses. Our previous Wall Street Journal article had disputed excessive cost claims—that still abound.

The Pentagon’s independent cost estimators in 1989 concluded that 1000 Brilliant Pebbles would cost $10 billion in 1988 dollars—with inflation now $20 billion—for research and development, deployment, and operations for 20 years. Today’s technology—being developed by the private sector — should be even more capable for less money.

The second SDI Director, USAF Lt. Gen.  George Monahan, shepherded that 1989-90 phase of the Brilliant Pebbles program that the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities approved to enter the Demonstration and Validation (DemVal) phase as a Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP), the first SDI program to achieve this status.

Were he still living, he surely would have joined us in urging President Trump to revive that innovative SDI program — and would have been a coauthor of our article arguing that President "Trump Can Fulfill Reagan’s Defense Vision."

We were joined by Retired USA Lt. Gen. Mal O’Neill who had served in General Abramson’s SDI watch, was my deputy SDI director and, as director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), had to pick up the pieces in 1993 after Defense Secretary Les Aspin "took the stars out of Star Wars" while scuttling most of Reagan’s SDI efforts.

We were also joined by retired USAF Col. Rowland H. (RHIP) Worrell, who led the Brilliant Pebbles Task Force through the acquisition phase that gained approval by the Pentagon’s acquisition officials, and Dr. Robert L. Pfaltsgraff, who has chaired the Independent Working Group (IWG) on Missile Defense since 2001.

The IWG, composed of policy and technical experts, exhaustively considered these issues and strongly advocated revival of the Brilliant Pebbles effort. Their advice has to this date been ignored, for political rather than technical reasons — as Chapter 4 of the 2008 IWG reportdiscusses in detail.

Pentagon leaders well understand these issues — under secretary of defense for research and engineering Dr. Michael Griffin was deputy SDI director for technology during the critical reviews determining the merits of Brilliant Pebbles.

Time for him to lead!

Now is the time to revive and accelerate these efforts to challenge Putin’s claims. A worthy goal for President Trump’s space force.

Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.


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George W. Bush withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. Many of us hoped for revived efforts to build these most cost-effective BMD systems — to no avail. Now, Trump can correct that error. Were Reagan still living, he would have joined us in urging President Trump to revive the innovative SDI program.
abres, bmd, brilliant, pebbles, iwg, sdi, usaf
Monday, 31 December 2018 01:02 PM
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