Friday, December 14, 2007

Pre-Christmas hiatus

A few days ago I learned that I have to move to Berlin before January 1. Therefore I have thousand other things to do and will not find the time to write new entries in the next days. That is the reason this blog is put to a pre-Christmas hiatus.

I take this chance to wish everyone a happy seasons greetings, be it a Merry Christmas, Eid ul-Adha or whatever you may or may not celebrate and a Happy and Joyous New Year.

I hope to see you back in the next year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ashoura missile test?

Contradictory statements exist on whether the new Iranian Ashoura missile was tested or not.

One of the firsts to report on the Ashoura test was Jane’s. According to its information – as of November 26 - Iran is preparing to test-launch the Ashoura. At one can read that the Ashoura tests were already conducted and timed to coincide with the Annapolis conference. The New Delhi IPCS published a few days later on December 5 an article on the implications of Iran’s Ashoura test. The article starts off by saying that “Iran claimed to have carried out a successful test of its long-range missile”. The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS is more cautious. It reported on December 7 that Russia has no data to confirm reports by Iranian leaders that Teheran has tested a new long-range ballistic missile Ashoura.

These reports provide no information on the sources on which their statements on the test-launch are based on.

The Iranian news agencies contain no reference to a missile test. The Fars News Agency writes that the Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar did not give details about the missiles besides stating that Iran has built the Ashoura. The same is true for the Alalam News. Even the AP refers to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA, and reports that the Defense Minister “did not say whether Iran had test fired the Ashoura or had plans to do so”.

Iran is not known for being modest in reporting about its achievements in the military field. For that reason it can be assumed that a test-launch of the Ashoura would have been publicized widely. Even if it ended in a failure the officials would have come up with a creative way to celebrate the “partial success”.

Due to the lack of such announcements it can be assumed we still have to wait a while, before the missile reaches the testing level. But it is a nice way to see that the propaganda works.

Cross-blogging: The Future of US Missile Defense in Poland

Yesterday the Strategic Security Blog posted a good article on the view of the various Polish fractions on the missile defense issue. In summary the author aruges that the situation is complex and no prediction can be made in which direction things will develop. President Lech Kaczyński, being the biological and ideological twin of his brother, Poland's ousted ex-Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, continues to wield significant influence on the country's foreign and security policy. He has already announced that he will give the new Prime Minister, Mr. Donald Tusk, a hard time. Therefore, so the author,

the future of US missile defense components on Polish territory remains unclear, although on balance, the election of the Civic Platform has reduced the probability of the deployment taking place, at least in the short term.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NIE - The final nail in the coffin of the BMD?

On December 3 the new U.S. National Intelligence Report on Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities was released. It finds with “high confidence” that “in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” Some analysts regard the report's impact to "be more limited than the current tumult indicates" and consider a fundamental policy shift to be unlikely. In contrast to that, other sources conclude that the NIE report will most likely deal a death blow to the Bush administration's already-beleaguered plans to build an anti-ballistic missile base in Poland.
This is rather questionable. Proponents of the U.S. missile defense system argue that the European components are not intended to counter a current Iranian threat, but rather a potential future one. In the NIE the intelligence community also finds that "with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame." The U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley already proved that it is possible to use the NIE's findings in a way that they (allegedly)support the official line. He said that the report "confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons".
The NIE certainly caused a major shake up, but it is not the final nail into the coffin of the BMD.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Indian Air Force reaches out for the Sky

At the end of last month the Indian Air Force finally approved the introduction of the Akash (Sanskrit for Sky) missile. The Akash has been under development since 1983 as part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) undertaken by the state-owned Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). The IGMDP comprises the strategic Agni ballistic missile, the tactical Prithvi ballistic missile, the Akash surface-to-air missiles (SAM), the Nag anti-tank guided missile and their derivatives. Until 2006 it also included the Trishul SAM, whose research and development was stopped. The IGMDP aims at achieving self-sufficiency in missile development and production. The Akash missile is intended to replace aging Russian air defense systems.

India Defence elaborates on the characteristics of the missile:

Akash is a medium-range surface-to-air missile with an intercept range of 30km. It has a launch weight of 720 kg, a diameter of 35 cm and a length of 5.8 metres. Akash flies at supersonic speed, reaching around 2.5 Mach. It can reach an altitude of 18 km. A digital proximity fuze is coupled with a 55kg pre-fragmented warhead, while the safety arming and detonation mechanism enables a controlled detonation sequence.

A self-destruct device is also integrated. It is propelled by a solid fuelled booster stage. The missile has a terminal guidance system capable of working through electronic countermeasures. Features include capability of attacking multiple targets, and use of ramjet propulsion system that enables maintenance of required speeds without deceleration, unlike the Patriot missiles. The missile is supported by a multi-target and multi-function phased array fire control radar called 'Rajendra' with a range of about 60 km.

Design of the missile is much similar to SA-6 with four long tube ramjet inlet ducts mounted mid-body between wings. For pitch/yaw control four clipped triangular moving wings are mouted on mid-body. For roll control four inline clipped delta fins with ailerons are mounted before the tail.

While the missile meant for the Army can be launched from tracked vehicles such as battle tanks, the Air Force version can take off from wheeled vehicles. Three ready-to-fire Akash missiles can be carried in a battle tank. The missiles can take off in different directions and destroy multiple targets. Akash can be deployed by rail, road or air.
According to Defensenews, Akash was slated to enter the air defense systems of the Air Force and Army as early as the 1990s, but both services rejected the missile on several occasions, claiming it did not meet specifications. While the Missile.Index erroneously reports a deployment since the year 2000, the Indian Air Force has only now ordered two units of the Akash missile for introduction, likely by 2009 – more than 15 years behind schedule.

The Akash's first flight occurred in 1990. By 1998 five flight trials had been conducted. Several more followed in the subsequent years. There were several official statements about successes. On the missile’s website one can read about “repeatedly successful trails”. India’s leading national daily Hindustan Times reports that the Akash has consistently failed all trials conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The newspaper refers to classified documents. An IAF expert describes the Akash missile trials as a "disaster" and states that "out of 20 test trials seen by the IAF expert, the majority of them ended in a failure." He continues:

"In its present status, Project Akash cannot meet the operational requirements of the IAF, due to major design flaws, and if the IAF wanted to use this particular missile system, then it would have to lower its acceptability standards."
The DRDO, however, has strongly defended the missile system, saying that it had an edge over other systems like the U.S. Patriot system due to its multi-target handling capacity, being a fully automatic system. Another reason for fostering the Akash production – in addition to the (alleged) superiority –in spite of the concerns might be the experience with the Trishul missile. This system was scrapped in 2006 after being in the trial stage for 23 years and after conducting at least 50 trials of this missile. DRDO was eager to prove itself as a reliable partner for the IAF and avoid that its client to hunt for alternatives abroad.

The IAF is set to evaluate the Akash in a series of tests in the Rajasthan desert. Additional live firing is planned for December at India’s missile testing range at Balasore. These tests will show whether the Akash can be introduced in 2009 as planned or if the development phase has to be extended even further.

Top picture: © Hindustan Times
Bottom picture: © India Daily

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Polish Missile Defense talks procrastinate further

The NTI Newswire reports that the successful conclusion of the U.S.-Polish Missile Defense talks is not a thing that will be under the U.S. administration’s Christmas tree:

New Polish Prime Minister Donald Turk continues to hold off negotiations with the United States on housing 10 U.S. missile interceptors, the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday (see GSN, Oct. 4).

“First we will examine the effects of to-date negotiations. The PM announced consultations — first of all with NATO, secondly with the Czech Republic and also with some neighbors. Only then will be ready to resume negotiations,” said Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

CRS report on Iran's Missile Programs

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published recently a short report titled “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Programs: An Overview”. It is dated November 8, 2007 and updates an earlier report from the year 2004. It addresses the reported or suspected range of Iranian ballistic missile programs. On the downside it has to be noted that it makes no reference to the Ashoura missile.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

U.S. reaction to the Ashoura

As already predicted, it did not take long, before the U.S. reaction to the new Iranian Ashoura missile was made public. MDA Director Lt. General Obering said that the Iran’s unbridled, continuing development of missiles raises concerns and that is why it's important to begin now on a European missile defense. He continued that the Ashoura “is different, that's what surprises us." He qualified the new missile as an qualitative improvement in Iran’s capabilities.

The Aviation Week reports that the Defense Department has long been projecting Iranian ballistic missiles to achieve a range of 2,000 km, but it was expected to be through upgrades of the long-known Shahab-3.

One proposal in the U.S.-Russian dispute over the European sites of the missile defense system is that the sites would not become operational until a clear threat from Iran emerged. One trigger could be flight-testing of an advanced ballistic missile. In this context the Ashoura missile raises an interesting question: does this “surprisingly” new missile already qualify as advanced so that a flight-test would serve as trigger to operationalize the European sites? It would be very interesting to hear official statements on this question.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Iran’s new Ashoura missile – a new piece of magic?

On Tuesday Iran once again claimed to have a new superior weapon system. This time it is the Ashoura missile. The name refers to the day of the holy mourning ceremony marking the martyrdom of Shiite Imam Hossein.

Iran claims that the Ashoura missile matches the range of the Shahab-3, which has previously been viewed as the country’s longest range missile. However, the Iranian Defense Minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, did not say how the two missiles differ from each other.

According to Reuters, Mark Fitzpatrick, a weapons expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said the Ashoura was probably a longer range version of the Shahab-3 and said, since 2005, there had been evidence Iran was working on a new model. "I think it's a pretty strong likelihood that Iran has received technology that has extended the range of their missiles, and maybe the development of a whole new missile with a longer range," he said.

Western intelligence sources, as reported by Jane’s, consider the Ashoura to be a new, indigenously developed two-stage ballistic missile. Its body is identical to that of the Shahab-3, and therefore the Ashoura could utilize the Shahab launchers and infrastructure. In contrast to the liquid-fueled Shahab-type missiles, however, the Ashoura is solid-fueled which gives it a major time advantage.

Some weapons Iran says are home-made are based on equipment supplied by China and North Korea or modifications of U.S. arms bought before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Western experts say. Jane’s reports further that the situation with the Ashoura is different: it bears no resemblance to any of the DPRK’s missiles.

Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh boasts that now Iran does not only threaten Israel, but European capitals and Moscow as well. France also expressed concerns:“This news is a cause of concern for us, and it illustrates the need to be extremely vigilant with regard to Iran's actions and intentions,” said French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani. Others are not fully convinced by the threat level: "Iran likes to make declarations on its new rockets that are invisible, make no detectable sounds and cannot be detected by any means. They have done it many times. Tehran is giving a magnificent gift to the Americans who are using them to justify the deployment of their missile defense system in Europe," Alexander Khramchikhin, head of the analytical department in the Russian Political and Military Analysis Institute told the Interfax News Agency.

The introduction of the Ashoura missile adds additional confusion to questions about the Iranian missile arsenal: the Shahab-3 was initially assumed to have a range of 2,000 km, some even expect it to range as far as 2,500 km. Yet during an Iranian military parade in September this year it was said to have only a 1,300-kilometer range. AFP reports, that at the same parade, Iran unveiled the Ghadr-1 (Power), which was said to have a range of 1,800 kilometers. AFP continues:

Some Western military experts claimed that the Ghadr-1 was no more than a Shahab-3 under a different name. It has the "baby bottle" style nose for extra aerodynamic efficiency seen on versions of the Shahab-3. […]

[Minister of Defense] Najjar added to the confusion on Tuesday by saying Iran was developing Ghadr missiles that would also have a range of 2,000 kilometres.

The NTI Newswire reports on conflicting information and comes up with different figures: Military officials first said the Shahab-3 missile had a 1,800-kilometer range, but it was said to have only a 1,300-kilometer range when it shown off at the parade in September.

Stratfor has a very handy map showing the range of the Shahab-3 and the Ashoura missiles:


The Ashoura would indeed significantly increase Iran’s missile capabilities, both in terms of range and reduced launch-time. However, only the missile tests will show, whether it again falls under the category “magic”, that was described by Alexander Khramchikhin described as invisible, non-detectible and non-audible, or if it is really able to significantly impact the security of the region and beyond.

Top image © AFP

Missile flight path

I just found an illustration of the flight paths of ICBMs launched from Iran and DPRK in direction of the USA. The fact that these countries do not possess ICBMs is ignored, but it is nonetheless a nice picture.
© Stratfor

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Progress on the air-launched version of the BrahMos

India and Russia cooperate on the development of various types of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. India has already deployed a sea-based and a land-based version. Today the Indian government announced that the re-design and development of the air-launched version of the BrahMos cruise missile has been completed and that it is ready for testing. A suitable universal launcher for different types of aircraft has also been designed. Tests are planned for 2009.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Follow-up on Poland

The EUobserver has today an interesting article about new developments in Poland:

Poland offers talks on US missile shield

US ambitions to place parts of a missile defence shield in Poland is no longer an exclusive bilateral issue between Washington and Warsaw, but will be put up for a broader discussion, the new Polish leadership has indicated.
"We will be ready to conduct further negotiations on the issue after a series of consultations with NATO and some of our neighbours", prime minister Donald Tusk said in his first policy speech to the country's parliament on Friday (23 November).
This falls in line with the Ellen Tauscher's call to "NATO-ize" the missile defense. This is only an addition to Defense Minister Klich's statement on the deployment of U.S. Patriot and THAAD systems, not a deviation:
Mr Tusk added that he was "aware of the political and military importance of the initiative", although he was also set "to convince the US of the need to strengthen Poland's own defences".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Poland's new approach to missile defence

The new Polish government headed by Donald Tusk takes a more rational approach to the country’s foreign and security agenda. The policy is refocused in a more pro-European direction after the strongly pro-US tilt under Tusk’s predecessor, Jarosław Kaczyński. This shift also includes a review of the consideration whether Poland will host ten U.S. anti-missile interceptors. The new Defense Minister Bogdan Klich stressed that his country must weigh the benefits and costs of this project for Poland. This statement has to be seen against the background that Russian officials repeatedly have warned that the U.S. deployment of interceptors in Poland could trigger a new arms race. This would pose a greater threat to Poland compared to the current situation and the possible future threat from the so called rogue-states. Therefore he puts the obligation to defend the country on the United States.

The NTI Newswire reports:

Klich said the United States must be ready to protect Polish air space if it wants the European nation to house its missile interceptors, the Financial Times reported. The interceptors might make Poland a target for aggression that could be offset by Patriot or Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense systems, according to the government.

The Polish Defense Minister correctly acknowledged that Moscow’s problem was not the base itself but “the institutionalised presence of the US in central Europe”, which would mark the final end of Russia’s attempts to exert influence in a region it had historically controlled. This demise of Russian military influence in its former satellite countries is non-reversible and Moscow is very reluctant to accept this. In contrast to that its economic leverage has significantly increased and it has not shied away to use this leverage. The interruption of natural gas supplies to Western Europe and the ban on Polish meat serve as examples.

However, these means are perceived to be less prestigious and not fully equal to the military power. This is especially true as Russia is still grappling to accept that it is no longer the superpower it used to be during the Cold War. The deployment of U.S. Patriot or THAAD systems on Polish territory in addition to the interceptors will rub Russia’s nose in it. These two systems might help to protect Poland from short- and medium-range missiles that Russia might deploy in the future. At the same time this would also show Russia quite plainly that it only plays second fiddle in terms of strategic security. This would certainly not sooth Russian concerns over the system but rather lift the mutual suspicions to a higher level.

Poland should carefully consider, if this really would serve its interests or if it only aggravates the problem – a problem that would not exist without the deployment of U.S. interceptor base.

Picture: Bogdan Kilich, © Office for a Democratic Belarus

Bulava test history

A small addendum to the Bulava test: Pavel Podvig posted on his site a handy table with the Bulava test history:




Pop-up test of a mockup of the missile.




Pop-up test.




First flight test. Launch from a surfaced submarine. Reports about failure of the third stage.




First launch from a submerged submarine.




Launch from a submerged submarine. The first stage failed shortly after launch.




Launch from a submerged submarine. Failure of the first stage.




From a surfaced submarine. Problems with the third stage.




Unconfirmed reports about problems with one of the warheads.




The first stage failed shortly after launch.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Bulava failure?

Pavel Podvig reports in his blog Russian strategic nuclear forces on another Bulava (SS-NX-30) test:

There is no official confirmaiton of this, but it appears that Russia conducted a test of the Bulava missile a few days ago. The missile reportedly failed shortly after launch. If this information is correct, then Bulava is back to the unlucky days of 2006, when it failed in three tests in a row - on September 7, 2006, October 25, 2006, and December 24, 2006. One fight test that was conducted after that, on June 28, 2007, was reported to be successful (although there were some doubts about that too).

A couple of days ago, I posted on Russian plans to conduct five launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2007. One of these launches was the test of a RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) on October 29. Russia furthermore specified the testing of three other missiles: a RS-12M (SS-25 Sickle), a missile interceptor and a heavy RS-20 (SS-18 Satan). Assuming that Pavel Podvig's information is correct, the Bulava test was the fifth test launch of the series that was not specified.

Contradictory information came up in an interview with the Russian Admiral Vladimir Masorin, who said in early August that Russia would hold two more test launches of the Bulava missile in 2007 and would complete tests in 2008.

Russia has already made the decision to start the serial production of the Bulava. In 2006 the former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated: "We are fairly certain that the [Bulava] missile system, and a new submarine to be equipped with it, will be deployed by our navy in 2008". Given the lack of success of the test launches, it will be interesting to hear some comments of his successor on a deployment date.

© picture:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iskander deployment in Belarus

Today’s news agencies report that Russia might re-equip its forces with Iskander missiles (SS-26 Stone) and it also contemplates to deploy them in neighboring Belarus. The development of the tactical short-range missile started in the early 1970’s and it is in service since 1998.

The missile is regarded to be of high combat effectiveness. The former director of Israel's Missile Defence Agency, Uzi Rubin, concluded that the Iskander is “is the first ballistic missile ever to include built-in countermeasures against the West's growing range of deployed theatre missile defence [TMD] systems”. These countermeasures include:
· Boost phase maneuvering;
· Depressed trajectory (apogee of 50 km);
· Low radar signature, achieved by "a special composite"; and
· Terminal phase maneuvering.

The Iskander missile system is in between designed to engage air and missile defense facilities.

Currently only one missile battalion in Russia is fully equipped with Iskander missiles. Another one will follow in 2008. Until 2015 the number is scheduled to increase to five. In addition to that, Russia and Belarus have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E complexes to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015. Other sources mention 2020. The situation is a bit blurry: while a Belarussian defense ministry spokesman said there had been no discussion of any such deployment, another spokesperson said in Minsk that Belarus planned to purchase and incorporate the Iskander in one of its missile brigades by 2020 under its military program.

Leaving the date aside, the Commander of Russian Armed Forces Missile Troops and Artillery Col. Gen. Vladimir Zaritsky called the deployment of the Iskander in Belarus an asymmetrical response by Russia to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in Europe. He was further quoted that “"Any action must have a counter-action“. But this reaction is literally falling short. There are two versions of the Iskander missile. The first version is deployed by the Russian army and has a range of 400km and a payload of 480kg. A second version, the Iskander-E, was especially designed to meet the MTCR restrictions, so it can be exported. This E-version has a range of 280km (i.e. below the MTCR’s 300km range limit) and a payload of 415kg. This is the type Belarus would receive. Even if the country were to deploy the Iskander-E in the utmost Western part of its territory, the missiles could by no means reach the potential future U.S. missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Redzikowo, the potential site for the interceptor base, is located roughly 450km away from the Belarussian border and Brdy in the Czech Republic, which is under discussion to host the radar, is even further away, roughly 720km. Even the Russian non-export version could not reach the bases.

This would be indeed an asymmetrical response. Stay tuned for the next episode of “The big sabre-rattling”.

© picture: RIA Novosti

Friday, November 9, 2007

David's Sling update

A brief update on David's Sling: In an earlier post I wrote that in May this year it was announced that the United States would provide $45 million for this project. Today’s NTI Newswire reports that U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday allocated additional $155 million for the development of the Israeli David’s Sling missile interceptor. This underlines the United States' strong interest build-up of defense capabilites against short-range missiles in the region. The system is expected to be operational within four years.

Let’s NATO-ize!

In an interview on November 8, Ellen Tauscher, the Chairwoman of U.S. House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, strongly criticized the current plans of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system and its developments. The Missile Defense Agency should focus on the existing threats like the 600 Iranian short-range and medium-range missiles rather than prioritizing “science projects” such as the European missile defense site which would not become effective until 2012.

The Congresswoman suggested to take a strategic pause, get the rhetoric right and NATO-ize it the missile defense plans. The U.S. should work with all of its 26 NATO partners on these plans — instead of working bilaterally with just two — and also try to win cooperation from Russia. Tauscher specifically named NATO's Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program - which could include the PAC-3, THAAD, and Aegis BMD systems - which is awaiting a February 2008 study on its potential for pairing with U.S. GMD. She stressed that the NATO-system, when deployed in southeastern Europe, has clear advantages over the currently planned U.S. system. The NATO-option would leave no gap in missile defense coverage because it could engage shorter-range missiles launched from the Middle East.

On the same day, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a fiscal 2008 defense spending bill that includes $8.7 billion for missile defense programs, about 2 percent less than requested by President Bush. As laid out by, the bill cuts $85 million for construction of the third ballistic missile defense site in Poland, but retains funding for the radar in the Czech Republic. Congress would bless defense budget reprogramming in 2008 once Czech and Polish legislatures formally bless agreements to hosts the bases, Tauscher said. However, she does not expect that to happen. This makes a NATO-ized option even more attractive.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dual AEGIS test

In the early evening (Hawaii Standard Time) of November 6 the U.S. Navy conducted its latest AEGIS test. For the first time two missiles were intercepted – simultaneously. For details read the MDA’s News Release. This is celebrated as a major success. Especially since the Navy recognized that “[t]he adversary may not shoot one ballistic missile at us or an ally at a time” shooting down more than one missile becomes handy. But I do not understand the flurry about this. The Navy has already shown that it can handle the AEGIS system: the two missiles of this week marked the tenth and eleventh successful intercepts. The only change that was made in this test is that instead of aiming with one interceptor at one target the numbers were doubled. It is not like hitting two birds with one stone. There was also no change in the sophistication of the incoming missiles. Like in all previous tests, also in the intercepts on Tuesday the mock enemy targets were “non-separating”, meaning that the targets’ warheads did not separate from their booster rockets. This would be a step closer to real-life situations.

The THAAD system takes the steps in a different order. Until now it also has only intercepted non-separating targets. But this is going to change in the near future. Due to the success of the recent THAAD-test MDA plans to move the simulation closer to reality: in spring 2008 THAAD operators plan to attempt to destroy a separating target inside earth’s atmosphere. THAAD program manager and vice president at Lochkheed Martin qualified this as “a big milestone for the program.” In a next step later 2008, the THAAD system will follow the AEGIS test path and destroy two varying target types.

Picture ©

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Russian conspiracy theories

The Russian press, in this case the Pravda, was today once more active in its field of specialty: conspiracy theory. From the beginning of the discussions on the missile defense system Russian officials and the country’s press expressed fears that the system is directed against Russia. The Pravda took today another step and claimed that the United States plans to “encircle Russia with missile systems and radars”. According to the article, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency intends to add a mobile radar station in the Caspian region. The Vedemosti is more precise and identifies the radar as and X-band radar. The alleged reason for deploying such radar in the region is

“to track the launches of non-existent long-range Iranian missiles and monitor Russian test grounds in the Astrakhan Region and Kazakhstan, where new weapon systems are tested“.

The speculations continue that the U.S. radars are also being installed in the Far East and Mongolia. However, one point is omitted: not only is a part of the Russian landmass located in that region, but also China and DPRK. It might run counter to the Russian self-perception, but the Cold War is over and so is the bipolarity. Russia is no longer of the same preeminent strategic importance for the United States’ strategic planning as it used to be. Other actors have evolved – and they are located close to the Russian borders.
If the United States deploys the mentioned radars, tracking Russian launches might be a welcomed side-effect, but not the sole purpose. Instead re-activating Cold War rhetoric and habits Russia and the United States should work constructively on the issue.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Poland Creates Secret Missile Defense Office

Polish Minister of Defense, Aleksander Szczygło © Rzeczpospolita

I have not seen this message anywhere else, so here comes again the full-text from the NTI Newswire:

Poland’s Defense Ministry is not releasing any details regarding the operations or staffing of a missile defense office created last week, the Poland Business Newswire reported (see GSN, Oct. 4).

The document establishing the office was dated Oct. 22, but Polish defense officials have revealed little about its classified activities, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported yesterday.

The office’s establishment does not reflect a decision by Poland to allow a U.S. missile interceptor base to be built on its territory, said Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, Poland’s top negotiator with the United States. However, the office could streamline communications between Polish and U.S. officials as well as Polish defense strategists and Foreign Ministry lawyers, he added.

Piotr Pacholski, who has overseen missile defense issues at the ministry, was named to head the new office. It is expected to coordinate the deployment of U.S. missile defenses if Warsaw signs off on the installation, according to Rzeczpospolita (Poland Business Newswire, Oct. 30).

The Polish-speaking readers can find the Rzeczpospolita article here.

It seems as if someone wanted to create a fait accompli – maybe even before leaving office. There is no sense in creating a Missile Defense Office if you do not want to have a certain
missile defense capabilities. While it can be expected that a Polish government led by Donald Tusk will still accept to host the U.S. interceptor base - much to the annoyance of Moscow - it is likely to push for a harder bargain from the Americans. With a Missile Defense Office already established, it will be more difficult to take this tougher stand, this means that the final deal will contain a larger Kaczyński-era component.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Russian missile-test salvo

On Saturday I posted that Russia plans to conduct five more ICBM launches this year. The first of these announced tests was conducted on Monday. A RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) missile was successfully launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan and its simulated warhead has reached the Kura testing site on the Kamchatka peninsula. The RS-18 missiles are in operation since 29 years. Due to the successful test their service life will be extend by two years. Two previous tests launches were conducted on November 9, 2006 and October 20, 2005.

Russia began manufacturing the silo-based RS-18 missiles in the 1970s. Each missile carries six 550-kiloton warheads and has a launch-weight of 105 tons. As usual, the numbers on how many missiles of this type are in service are varying, they range from 160 over 123 to over 100.

A small follow-up occurred on the next day: Russia tested on October 30 an interceptor missile of its Moscow missile defense system. The purpose of this launch was also to test the performance characteristics and extend the service life of the interceptor. It was already the 43rd launch of this type of missile.

The next short-range missile tests are already scheduled. The NTI Newswire reports:

Russia announced Thursday that it plans to flight-test two Tochka ballistic missiles between Nov. 13 and 17 from a site in southern Russia, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Oct. 18).

Also called the SS-21 Scarab, the short-range, single-warhead missile can be fired from a mobile launcher to hit targets within 45 miles. Russia has maintained the weapon in its arsenal since 1976, but it ultimately is to be replaced by the multiple-warhead Iskander-M missile.

“The missile units will conduct missile firing practices (at the Kapustin Yar testing site in the Astrakhan Region) and will test launch two Tochka tactical missiles,” said Col. Igor Konashenkov.The Russian Ground Forces successfully tested 12 Tochka missiles in 2007, Konashenkov said, noting that the November launches would be carried out by a Siberian missile brigade.

©RIA Novosti

Russia's "grandiose" modernization plans

Again some cross-blogging: Jeff from Nukes of Hazard posted yesterday an article on Russia's "grandiose" modernization plans. He highlights the importance of reading the news carefully: missiles are not warheads!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I know what you did last Friday...

The U.S military conducted its fourth successful Ground Based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) test in a row (for a factual summary of the earlier tests see the Missile Defense Agency’s website). As Reuters reports, the test conducted late Friday evening was designed to show how the radar, launcher, fire control equipment and procedures of the system worked together, as well as the interceptor detecting and destroying the target using only the force of the collision.

During this test the target missile was intercepted outside the Earth's atmosphere. The THAAD system is designed to defend troops, population centers and critical facilities against short- to medium-range ballistic missiles. These missiles can be destroyed during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. With this capability, THAAD is able to protect a significant wider area than the Patriot missile defense systems could. The THAAD missile has a range of 200km and can intercept in altitudes of up to 150km - the equivalent Patriot figures are 70 and 24+ km, respectively. For more facts on the THAAD system take a look at this site.

The Pentagon Channel had also a brief clip on the test.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

GMD test

The last interceptor test of the US Ground-based Midcourse Defense occurred on September 28. Even though this was already one month ago, I discovered today The Pentagon Channel. They have clip on the missile test which I think is worth sharing. It shows a Pentagon Briefing with Missile Defense Agency director Lieutenant General Henry Obering.

Those of you, who are looking only for a brief summary, might want to read this factual note.

The video contains some information I have not found elsewhere, neither in the official press release nor in analyzes like one by Vinod Kumar at IDSA. One of them is that for the first time Russian observers attended such a test. Efforts to reduce tensions and disperse the concerns of Russians side but as rhetoric of the last weeks show, it is still a long way to go. Furthermore General Obering mentioned that the next test will be the first in which the target missile will be equipped with counter-measures like decoys. Finally. He also spoke of “volume kill”: future interceptors might have more than one kill-vehicle. They are intended to increase the chance that not only a decoy is intercepted while the warhead continues its path.

The next test will be conducted at earliest in February 2008.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Russian sabre-rattling

The head of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov told a news conference yesterday that Russia will conduct five launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2007. The launches will include a RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto), a RS-12M (SS-25 Sickle), a missile interceptor and a heavy RS-20 (SS-18 Satan). During the course of the year Russia has already conducted seven missile tests, the latest test launch occurred on October 18.

On the same day Solovstov warned that Moscow could restart at short notice production of short- and medium-range missiles:

“If a political decision is taken on creating such a class of missiles, obviously Russia will build them quickly. We have everything needed to do this.”

This is just another warning sign directed towards the United States that is related to the row over the missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic. Just yesterday President Putin made a comparison between the U.S. missile shield and the Cuban Missile crisis.
However, the threats to restart the production of short- and medium-range missiles will not cause major concerns or fears on the other side of the Atlantic, because it is obvious that it is only a fight with words. Russia is not in a position to jumpstart its missile production. As UPI reported earlier this year:

Redevelopment and redeployment of intermediate-range missiles for use against NATO also presents several logistical problems. Russia's primary ballistic missile assembly plant at Votkinsk is only capable of a historical peak production capacity of approximately 80 missiles per year.

Since the actual rate of production has been closer to the minimum rate -- 12-15 per year for more than a decade -- Votkinsk's optimal production capacity is likely to have fallen closer to 30 missiles per year as unused production lines have been shut down.

Like in several earlier occasions the statement made by Colonel General Solovstov has not to be seen as a credible threat, but rather as some sabre-rattling and a call for attention. Russia does not want to be ignored and side-lined.

Photo: © RIA Novosti

Thursday, October 25, 2007

European bases of the U.S. Missile Defense

President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that a planned missile shield in Europe is vital to protect against an "emerging Iranian threat". He described the threat as real and urgent: "Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them." According to U.S. intelligence estimates Iran could be capable of striking European countries with IBCMs before 2015. Therefore the aim is to have both missile defense sites ready for limited operation by 2011 and fully operational by 2013.

However, the people that President Bush wants to protect perceive the situation differently. It almost seems that they do not want to be “protected”, at least not in the proposed way. A poll that was conducted earlier this year in Germany hints that 48 percent of Germans believe that the United States is a bigger threat to world security than Iran and 72 percent are against missile defense. Only 31 percent perceive Iran as the bigger threat.

The online journal WMDInsights had a special report on the perceptions in European countries on the missile defense system. Some findings for the two potential host countries are:

According to a survey conducted in Poland in early February [2007], 55 percent of the Polish people oppose the deployment while only 28 percent support it. A subsequent poll by the CBOS agency, a leading Polish public opinion research organization, confirmed this opposition, with 56 percent responding negatively to a question on their views regarding hosting U.S. BMD interceptors. The most recent poll, published on March 19, 2007, found that 51 percent of the respondents definitely oppose the base and 28 percent would prefer not to host it. Only 30 percent support the proposed deployment of the BMD interceptors, with a mere 8 percent “definitely” backing it.
The opposition is even more obvious in the Czech Republic:

In the Czech Republic, concern about the possibility of losing a referendum on the U.S. radar base led the government parties in mid-March to vote in the Czech legislature against holding a ballot on the BMD issue. An early March poll by the Center for Public Opinion Research (CVVM) found that 61 percent of the respondents opposed the proposed U.S. BMD radar base and 73 percent wanted the government to hold a referendum on the issue. Another early March survey conducted by the STEM agency, a second respected Czech polling firm, found that 70 percent of Czech respondents objected to the radar.
Naturally, also here the saying “Do not trust any statistics you have not faked yourself” applies. A poll that was conducted by the U.S. Opinion Research Corporation and sponsored by the non-profit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) comes to completely different results:

While 58 percent of Pole respondents in a recent poll supported the BMD plan, in the neighboring Czech Republic, 51 percent of the poll's respondents said they were against it.
A small annotation: the mission statement of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance starts off with: “The Mission of MDAA is to help make the world safer by encouraging the development of missile defense which would protect against all types of missiles during all times.” A slight bias towards a certain direction might be given. Any poll contains a certain error probability but it comes to a surprise to see an increase of 30 percent even when one takes into consideration that the polls mentioned in WMDInsights were conducted in February and March and the one mentioned by the MDAA in September. The developments in the recent months in the countries’ national politics do not indicate that such a major change has taken place. The recent Polish elections have brought to an end the Kaczynski-government that was a staunch supporter of the missile defense system. Donald Tusk, the politician expected to become the next Polish prime minister after elections this week, is said to have taken a tougher stand than the outgoing government on talks with the United States about a missile site. The parliamentary elections can also to a certain degree be seen as a poll on the question of missile defense. It remains to be seen in how far the new Polish government will take a different approach to the issue and how this will impact the overall negotiations.

Like it was the case with its northern neighbor, also the government of the Czech Republic in the recent time firmly favored hosting a U.S. missile defense site but a senior Czech official said on Tuesday that Prague believes it will take longer to negotiate a deal than U.S. officials had hoped. He also mentioned that his government takes little stock in public opinion polls that show a majority of Czechs oppose having a U.S. missile defense site on their territory. However, with a new Polish government in place that does not equally firmly support the missile system the Czech Republic might feel singled out and the comment about the need for more time could be seen as a first cautious hint for a weakening governmental support.

Against this background the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced yesterday that the United States might delay activating its planned East European missile defense sites until Iran took some concrete action, such as testing its own missiles. Such a condition appears to be very vague because also throughout 2006 and 2007 Iran has continued with the development and testing of its missile systems. Therefore the only question is “when” the next missile test will occur and not “if” it will occur at all. In so far the delay of which Secretary Gates spoke was probably not a way to soothe Russian concerns over the system but rather a way of acknowledging that original time-table of finalizing the deals with the two potential host countries by the end of the year is off the table.

The cartoon was taken from: The Economist, A few interceptors, a big gap

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russia scraps more Topol ICBMs

Russia has announced that it has dismantled another nine of its Topol mobile missile systems under the START I agreement. Earlier this year – in March, May and August – already 27 Topol systems were scrapped. This brings down Russia’s arsenal of this type of ICBM to 207 from 243 in January 2007. The pace of dismantling increased in comparison to 2006, where only 16 mobile Topol ICBMs were dismantled under monitoring by U.S. inspectors.

© Капустин Яр

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Russia test-launches Topol ICBM

Russia conducted on October 18 a test launch of its RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile, NATO codename SS-25 Sickle, from the Plesetsk Space Center. The Topol is a three-stage missile fired from a mobile launcher and is similar in size to the US Minuteman ICBM. It can carry a single 550kt nuclear warhead. 80 Topol missiles have been launched from the Plesetsk Space Center so far; 50 of those have been combat training launches.

The missile headed from the space center in the northwestern part of Russia, roughly 800 km northward of Moscow, toward the Kura impact range in the Kamchatka Peninsula where it hit its test target. A space center source told Interfax: "The launch has been carried out under a program for extending the service life of this type of missiles. Based upon its results, the service life of Topol missiles at the [Russian Strategic Rocket Forces] may be extended to 21 years". Other sources report on a possible extension of up to 23 years. The missile was first deployed in 1988 and had an original service life of 10 years.

The missile will be progressively retired over the next years and is being replaced by a mobile version of the Topol-M (SS-27) missile, which can carry up to six nuclear warheads.

© Первый канал, archive

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bahrain prepares against Patriot attacks

Defense Industry Daily announced that Bahrain receives the AN/TPS-59(V)3B ballistic missile defense radar system. The sale was initiated in May 2004 when a US$43.6 million contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin. The system is designed to operate with Patriot or Hawk missile batteries.

On a not too serious note: Bahrain is in dire need of such a missile defense radar. Hopefully the system will not only operate with Patriot batteries but also protect the Kingdom from those missiles: earlier this week a Patriot missile was accidentally fired from a US military base in Qatar. Luckily no one was hurt during this incident; the missile only ploughed some nearby farmland. With its range of over 80 km Bahrain is well in the range of the Patriot missiles deployed in Qatar. But not all hope is lost: Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman acknowledged that “[t]hose things are not supposed to accidentally discharge" and that "[i]t was not supposed to happen". Hooray! So neither Bahrain nor Qatar were exposed to a deliberate attack. The old Russian proverb, which is attributed to Lenin, applies also here: доверяй, но поверяй (trust, but verify).

The Patriot missile that was accidentally launched. (c) Al Jazeera

Friday, October 19, 2007

Iron Dome

Israel is making progress on the lowest level of its four-tiered anti-missile system. This tier is dubbed Iron Dome. The other elements of the system for countering ballistic threats are on the second level David’s Sling on which I reported earlier and Patriot missile batteries. The air force is currently considering upgrading the batteries to the newer PAC-3 model. Israel has a number of U.S.-supplied Patriot PAC-3 left over from the 2003 Iraq war. Levels three and four will be made up by Arrow and Arrow 2 systems, respectively.

According to the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak the country will be able to defend itself against 90 percent of missiles fired against it once all four layers are in place which is expected to happen within a few years. However, none of the systems will be able to stop mortar shells as they are too small and their flight time too short to be intercepted.

The establishment of the first tier, the Iron Dome system, was approved at the beginning of 2007. The costs of this system stand at NIS 1.5 billion (US$375 million), over the course of approximately three years, to be used for development and initial armament to protect Israel's south and north. The interceptor system and the rockets, which will cost US$35-50,000, are being developed by the governmental firm RAFAEL. Notwithstanding that the project was approved less than one year ago, Barak already announced on Wednesday that the Iron Dome is near its completion and if all goes well, in two and a half years first trials can be conducted. He also deems the system to be very lucrative for export where he anticipates international interest in the system. "It will be a first-class export item because use of missiles will be more and more widespread. I think there will be more and more countries that will want to procure such a system," he said.

This system not only raises proliferation concerns, it is has a retarding impact on the peace process in the region. Israel fears that short-range missiles might not only be fired from the Gaza strip but also from the West Bank. In consequence Barak stated that he considers the installment of a missile defense system as a precondition for the withdrawal from the West Bank and its handover to the Palestinians.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Philip Coyle on Proposed Missile Defense Cuts

Jeff at Nukes of Hazard has a great article on the proposed budget cuts to the missile defense sites in Eastern Europe and the Airborne Laser program. Check it out here.

Plans to export BrahMos

India’s Defence Minister A K Antony left for a four-day trip to Moscow. This trip is expected to reinvigorate defence cooperation between both countries - close to 70 percent of India's inventory is directly or indirectly related to Russia. During the meeting with his Russian counterpart, Anatoliy Serdyukov, discussions will be held on the BrahMos cruise missile.

The BrahMos is a supersonic anti-ship and land attack missile, which can be launched from submarines, ships, aircrafts and land-based Mobile Autonomous Launchers. It has a range of 300 km and can attain a speed of Mach 2.8, which makes it about three times faster than the subsonic U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile and the Pakistani Babur missile, which was deployed in 2005 and reaches a speed of 880 km/h. While BrahMos’ speed and versatility are definitely noteworthy, its true technical prowess still remains to be seen. As it is the case with almost every Russian military product that enters the market, comments were made that it is superior to U.S. products. As always, these comments have to be taken with a grain of salt.

So far India is the only country to have this missile in the arsenals. It tested the missile successfully already in 2004 and deployed a sea-based version in 2006. The land-attack version was put into service in July this year. Air and submarine-launched versions of BrahMos are also in the pipeline for the Indian armed forces. During the visit of Defense Minister Antony to Russia, India is hoping to prepare the ground for Russia to acquire the BrahMos missiles. Even though the missile was jointly developed, Russia has no legal obligations to induce it. However, this would be highly welcomed by the Indian side and seen as a gesture that would strengthen the defense cooperation between the two countries. Furthermore, if not only India, but also Russia, a major military power and arms exporter, had the BrahMos in its arsenal, the trust into this weapon system would increase significantly and so would the chances for exporting it.

Especially India has been keen to jumpstart the process of exporting BrahMos for some time. The global cruise missile market estimated to be worth around $10 billion in the coming decade, but there has been opposition from some quarters in Russia. In January this year Russia clarified that it was not opposed to selling BrahMos to some "specific third countries". As Stratfor reports, Dr A. Sivathanu Pillai, chief executive officer of BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd., emphasized in an Oct. 4 interview Malaysia's candidacy to be the first export customer, though he insisted on the use of official channels in setting up the deal. Malaysia has well established arms trade connections with Russia from which it bought already four missile systems. Against this background Malaysia is more likely to buy the missile, if Russia were stressing its contribution to the BrahMos joint venture by acquiring the missile itself.
Malaysia already fields Harpoon, Exocet, Otomat, and Sea Eagle anti-ship cruise missiles. The speed of all these missiles is high subsonic. Being one of the nations bordering the busiest shipping lane in the world - the Strait of Malacca – the modern supersonic BrahMos will significantly increase the stand of the country.

Dangers exist, that this might cause the other countries that neighbor the Strait of Malacca or in the region in general also to upgrade their arsenals. Indonesia, for example, possesses Harpoon and Exocet anti-ship missiles. These systems were already fielded in the 1970’s. They are not only aging, but also have a significantly shorter range and a lower speed than the BrahMos missile. The Exocet missile reaches only up to 70 km and the Harpoon between 120 and 240 km, depending on the type. Especially if one takes into consideration the vast length of the Indonesian coastline, which is over 80,000 km, a significantly greater range and higher speed of a new anti-ship missile could contribute to the Indonesian decision to buy this weapon. The same is true for Thailand, which has besides Harpoon and Exocet missiles the Chinese origin FL-1/-2 and YJ-1/-2 missiles, which have the same speed and range shortcomings as the former missiles.

Talks had also been held so far with Chile, South Africa, Kuwait and UAE in this regard. Overall, BrahMos Aerospace hopes to be able to sell around 1,000 missiles. As The Times of India notes, this will be a big step forward for India, which has so far imported cutting-edge military technology rather than exporting it. This step is certainly big in the sense that it constitutes a major shift in the country's status from being a missile importer to being a missle exporting nation. However, this step is definitely no big event in other terms: the proliferation of anti-ship missile technology will continue. The next steps are already laid out. The Daily India reports about future plans for a hypersonic version of the Brahmos cruise missile:

[These talks] are also expected to take place as efforts are on to make the transition from planning stage to implementation stage. The plan is awaiting a nod from the Indian and the Russian governments. The hypersonic missiles would approximately move five times faster than the present cruise missile, sources in the DRDO said.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

David's Sling

Two days ago Haaretz TV featured a clip on the introduction of David's Sling (known in Israel as Kela David):

(Sorry, it is really annoying that the video starts automatically, but I could not find the command in the iframe source code to turn this off)

David's sling is a co-production between the Israel's RAFAEL (Armaments Development Authority) and the U.S. military contractor Raytheon. In May this year it was announced that the United States would provide $45 million for this project. The system is expected to be ready for operational testing within two years and operational within four years.

The available information about the purpose of this missile are contradictory. The Haaretz clip states that this new missile is designed to intercept Katyusha rockets. Another source reports that the system's purpose is to defend against Fajr missiles. According to this source, a defense against the shorter range Katyusha rockets is not provided. A third source mentions that David's Sling is being developed as a response against missiles with a range of 40-250 km, namely Syrian-made 220mm and 302mm Katyushas and Iranian-made Zilzal missiles.

Let's take a look at the range of these rockets:

(c) BBC News, Hezbollah's rocket force

David's Sling is designed to intercept its targets in the terminal phase of their flight paths. If we take the 40-250 km range of rockets that are seen as potential targets for David's Sling, the system could not take down the first generation of Katyushas, BM-21, which have a range of 20 km. In contrast to that the BM-27 and the Fajr-3, also dubbed as third-generation Katyusha, have a range of 40 and 45 km, respectively, which makes them potential targets. Both Fajr-3 and Zelzal-2 fall also within the operational range of David's Sling.

However, this system still gives Israel no protection against the short-range Kassams which range up to 10 km. During the year 2006 alone, more than 1000 of these rockets were launched against Israel. To counter them, Israel is seperately developing Iron Dome, a system which utilizes a kinetic interceptor to knock down Kassams.

Friday, October 12, 2007

going critical

This is the first entry of the new Missile Monitor blog. This blog will cover recent news, developments and analyses in the field of proliferation and technology of missiles and the latest news in the debate on missile shields. Enjoy.