Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Greeley in Alaska are the nation’s only ground-based interceptor (GBI) locations for national long-range missile defense.
An East Coast missile interceptor site is now being explored, with potential candidates like Fort Drum in New York.
The hawks in congress have called the Iranian threat the reason and that by 2015 may have ICBMs and nuclear capabilities; although at that point, they may be more likely to nuke the US through far less conventional means at their disposal. Either way they would face a catastrophic repercussion that would be unrecoverable.
Considering the costs of these permanent GBIs (est. $3.6 billion), what about mobile launchers? Could there be deployable interceptors stationed at Air Force bases across the nation or at least several more locations for a fraction of the cost?
Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, stated that there is “no validated military requirement” for such an installment. The general direction of establishing a larger missile defense shield is a great idea but it needs to be operational, meaningful and inexpensive when compared to other options. Too often these things are political, not strategic, and profiteering for private interests.
The drivers behind the Pentagon mandated study are the Republican-controlled Armed Services Committee, which has set aside $250 million and leads a study for finding an East Coast interceptor site. But even Democrats in the considered locations will sometimes favor a project that they do not really believe in- say, to provide jobs. For example, US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) was: “As I’ve said before, a federal investment for missile interceptors in Upstate New York could create thousands of jobs and significant revenue in local communities, and I am pleased that Fort Drum is still in the running for such an investment in Jefferson County.” He also said: “As long as military experts determine that a new missile defense system on the East Coast is necessary, workable and cost-effective, I will continue to urge the Department of Defense to consider Fort Drum for the job.”
Clearly, General Formica is one such expert, but Senator Schumer might have other motives as well. And there are also those senators who still strongly oppose whether it is in their state or not, like Senator Patrick Leahy or Carl Levin, who consider it as a waste of money.
Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see where or if it is ever to be built. Another alternative location site might be: Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Vermont; the Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine; Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center, Ohio; or Fort Custer Training Center, Michigan.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the Missile Defense Agency on September 10, reported successful engagement and destruction of two tracked targets using the Navy’s SM-3 Block 1A interceptors.
Aegis Missile Defense with AN/SPY-1 radar and Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor with AN/TPY-2 radar where “operationally realistic trajectories” were used and deflected.
Similar successes have been reported through using layered systems of regional missile defense technologies, where short and medium range ballistic missiles can now be defeated with high success. In May, some of those systems were successfully tested in the Pacific Ocean on board the USS LAKE ERIE.
The trick for the US will be to employ such repeated success to any form of GBI long-range systems that it decides in order to counter international continental ballistic missiles, whose track record, at least at this point, is not so good.