Last August, I wrote that we can quickly adapt U.S. aircraft to intercept ballistic missiles early after they are launched, provided we have prepared to do so. My claims were pertinent because our intelligence community had recently acknowledged North Korea could have 60 nuclear weapons — and it had recently tested ballistic missiles that could reach Guam (a U.S. territory), Hawaii, Alaska, and the continental United States.
Then I heard only “crickets” from the Trump administration until last week, when Missile Defense Agency Director USAF Lt. General Samuel Greaves testified before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He noted that F-35 fighters — flown by Air Force, Navy, and Marine pilots and available to our many commands around the world — could play important missile defense roles, including to employ its Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) against ballistic missiles, as I had proposed last August.
Sydney J. Freeburg Jr. in Breaking Defense reported that General Greaves said in the open hearing that, “We see that deployed capability as, if not a game changer, then a significant contributor to future ballistic missile defense.” And it might take “seven years to essentially work out the Concept of Operations (and) develop the capabilities" that our many commands around the world can exploit.
Maybe . . . for a full plate of capabilities, but I agree with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that it is possible to achieve rapidly the capability to shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles in their boost phase, while their rockets still burn and they are very vulnerable as I reported last August.
Of course, our pilots must be prepared and supported to fly “into harm’s way” to enable an early intercept, because there is such a short time window during which such an intercept is feasible.
I made that observation at the Heritage Foundation conference honoring President Reagan’s March 23, 1983, speech that launched his Strategic Missile Defense Initiative. Immediately, Retired USAF Lt. General “Orville” Wright observed that our pilots are prepared to execute that important mission . . . they just need the technical/operational capability to do so.
So, I hope General Greaves and his troops are including appropriate early deployment options. We should waste no time — because North Korea can launch electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks on the United States and our allies, today!
This undeniable technically correct assertion is contrary to the views of many who say we still have time to deal with North Korea’s ballistic missile threat — allegedly because it still has to demonstrate a means to reenter the atmosphere with the needed accuracy to hit an American city.
But, Dr. William R. Graham, for 17 years the chairman of the EMP Commission, has aptly observed that North Korea needs neither accuracy nor reentry to the atmosphere to pose an existential EMP threat.
Those who ignore the importance of this plausible EMP attack strategy apparently ignore the public claim by North Korean leaders that an EMP attack strategy is a “strategic objective.”
I also discussed this threat in my December 4, 2017 Newsmax article, which emphasized that even a North Korean high altitude nuclear test over the neighboring ocean could shut down the undersea communication cables over which $10 trillion of commerce takes place daily.
So . . . I am encouraged by the reported comments from General Greaves. I only urge that he move with deliberate, competent haste to provide our pilots the ability to defeat North Korea’s EMP attack “strategic goal.”
Also, I hope he and his troops are considering how to expedite development and employment of boost-phase interceptors from unpiloted air vehicles (UAVs) — or as some refer to such drones, remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs).
No time to waste!
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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