Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cross-blogging: Iranian Missile Silos

On Wednesday Sean O'Connor put up another great post on his IMINT blog. This one is on the Iranian Missile Silos: Iran is the first country that has chosen to operationally deploy (offensive) ballistic missiles inside of silos. Make sure to read Sean's analysis.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another u-turn

Earlier this month Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski announced that his country and the United States clinched a deal “in principle” to install a missile defense system on Polish territory. Now it seems that this statement was made in a very optimistic manner – or that someone is not adhering to his principles. The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Polish officials cancelled a meeting that was scheduled to take place on Friday:

U.S. officials had hoped to reach an agreement before Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visits Washington early next month, but that opportunity will be missed, reported Gazeta Wyborcza.

“We will not accept a situation in which the Americans treat us from a business standpoint and we give them treatment based on ideology,” Tusk said (Poland Business Newswire I, Feb. 22).

“I am not convinced that the United States is approaching these negotiations with the energy it declares,” added Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (Poland Business Newswire II, Feb. 21).

Slawomir Nowak, a senior aide to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, told the private broadcaster Radio Zet that "the talks with our American friends are aimed at reaching a ... form of agreement that is mutually advantageous. The negotiations are going ahead as normal and I wouldn't panic". He stressed the importance of a visit of a US military delegation in Warsaw next week.

The Polish announcement came to a surprise for the U.S. side. John Rood, the US secretary of state for arms control and international security, was quoted recently: "I don't think there are major issues that are outstanding that are not surmountable. [...] I am very optimistic about our ability to successfully conclude these agreements."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Third European component of the missile shield

General Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, mentioned that the United States hopes to put a third major anti-missile component in Europe. In addition to the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, this third leg will involve a highly mobile X-band radar station (FBX-T).

Reuters called the plans of stationing a third leg of the missile shield in Europe “previously unannounced”. Maybe the Reuters folk should spend more time on their research: MDA outlined already in 2005 its plans to have by 2009 three FXB-T radars: one each in East Asia, the Caucasus and Europe. The East Asian site is already established in northern Japan at an air base near the village of Shariki.

There are contradictory statements on which country in the Caucasus region will host the FBX-T radar: On the Armscontrolwonk blog one can read the assumption that it will be either Georgia or Azerbaijan. Some officials say that Georgia or the other Caucasus countries are excluded, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia specifically said that his country has no plans to station any element of its future missile defense system in Georgia, while an MDA spokesperson told Jane's the region would be a "good location”. Other sources consider a site close to the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, to be the optimal choice. For details take a look at the comprehensive Federation of American Scientists’ “Sourcebook on an American Forward-Based Missile Defense Radar in the Caucasus”.

While referring to the third leg of the European components of the missile shield, General Obering said that the FBX-T radar would go in southeastern Europe, possibly in Turkey, the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea region. In other words: “all options are on the table”.

Coming back to Putin’s concerns of Ukraine hosting parts of the U.S. missile shield:

The FBX-T radar is designed to first detect a ballistic missile as close as possible to the country of origin in order to acquire targets in the boost phase. During the OSCE’s Annual Security Review Conference Dennis Mays, Deputy Director for Systems Engineering and Integration Chief Engineer, MDA, mentioned that the European part of the missile shield would contain a “forward based radar located about a 1,000 kilometers from the ballistic missile threat”. The closest distance between the Ukraine and Iran is already at the limit of this range. A radar stationed in the Ukraine could cover the Balkan states, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and bits of Russia and Kazakhstan. This would hardly provide any benefit for the U.S. missile shield – unless the Wag the Dog assumption is true and Albania is indeed the secret arch-enemy of the United States. Considering the potential trajectories of ICBMs launched by the current leader of the “Top 10 Rogue States” list, it makes most sense to station a FBX-T radar somewhere in the Caucasus and not in Europe. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the Ukraine – or any other country in north-western direction – will be chosen as a host for a FBX-T radar.

However, this raises the question if the overall number of FBX-T radar sites has been reduced from three to two, one in Japan and the other on the territory of one of Iran’s northern neighbors, i.e. the European and the Caucasus base are one and the same. Such a base could be counted as the third “European” leg, if an extended definition of Europe is being used.

Picture ©

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

People who live in glass houses…

Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified yesterday a Russian-Ukrainian agreement to extend the service life of RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles. The law passed the Duma and the Federation Council on January 25 and January 30, respectively. RIA Novosti reports:

The agreement was coordinated during a visit by the Ukrainian defense minister to Moscow in 2006 and established that Ukraine would assist Russia in maintaining systems that have been on combat duty for the past 15 years for a further 10-15 years.

With this agreement in force, Russia will not need to decommission the existing missiles and manufacture more new Topol-M systems, which would increase the defense budget by $3-4 billion.

Still on the same day, Vladimir Putin expressed his appreciation for the Ukrainian assistance in a unique way with his Ukrainian counterpart being present: he said that Russia may target its missiles at Ukraine if its neighbor joins NATO and accepts the deployment of parts of the U.S. missile defense shield. Putin called the idea of targeting Ukrainian territory frightening but also referred to the "need to take retaliatory action". So Russia comes up with its own axis-of-evil: Poland, Czech Republic and Ukraine. I doubt that we have reached the end. Georgia might also be a perfect candidate.

After the extension of his target-list, Mr. Putin had warned that a "new phase in the arms race is unfolding in the world". People who live in glass houses… :

In 1998 the country founded its cooperation with India on the BrahMos cruise missile. These missiles were fielded with the Indian Navy and Army in 2006 and 2007, respectively. On January 1, 2008 the Indian Defense Ministry announced that the BrahMos would be soon supplied to the air force for Russian-built multi-role Su-30MKI fighters. It was also announced that the Brahmos-2 will be produced in the coming five years, lowering earlier predictions be two years. At five times the speed of sound, the BrahMos-2 will be fast enough to overcome any air defense system.

Picture: © AP, Russian RS-18 ballistic missile in a silo in Kazakhstan

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Polish-Russian meeting

The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk went to Moscow on Friday. He said he was deeply impressed during his visit to Moscow: "All difficult Polish-Russian relations stood in front of my eyes by the Kremlin gates."

It seems that these special doormen were not the beginning of a “shock and awe”-meeting with Vladimir Putin during which he reprimanded Poland for daring to accept the U.S. offer to host a base for the missile shield. In his comments after the meeting the Polish president said that Russia - albeit without enthusiasm - had accepted Poland's right to host a U.S. missile shield. Honestly, no one expected Putin to react enthusiastically (you might scroll to the end to see what it takes to achieve this aim).

Tusk told Polish media that the Russian president has “obviously accepted Poland's right to decide about what and whose installations we will host on our soil”. If you expected that there has to be a ‘but’, you were absolutely right: "[Putin] expressed expectations to monitor to what extent the shield installations are turned against Russia." Here comes another ‘but’: But this is something Poland is not willed to accept. The Polish Prime Minister elaborated that “the U.S. and the Czech Republic do not exclude some kind of Russian presence. There is a feel of negotiations on this. However, the Polish government will not agree to a permanent presence of third-country military.”

Surprisingly, Putin refrained from using the Cold War rhetoric and sounded even conciliatory: "I would not over-dramatize problems in our relations […] By restoring cooperation and dialogue, we will be able to find a way out of any problem."

It will be interesting to see, what kind of solution Putin has in mind and in how far his successor will be able to hammer it out. This solution will be heavily influenced by the fact that NATO is preparing its first significant decision on missile defense for the alliance's next summit in Bucharest, Romania, in early April. The Bucharest decision is expected to give the alliance a general direction on this issue, but will not be the final as "many things would have to be worked out," NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer said. No formal decision on missile defense is expected until a NATO summit in 2009. Some sources report that there is a sense among NATO defense ministers that the bolt-on idea would work.

And now, as promised, some insight what excites Putin: Putin Kampfschlumpf / Putin Battle-smurf. Any resemblance to Pippi Longstocking is purely coincidental.

Picture: © English Russia

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Iranian space aspirations

Jeffrey Lewis covers on its Armscontrolwonk blog the recent Iranian first step to join the club of space-faring nations. Check it out. Shahab-3 or not Shahab-3, that's the question.

MDA budget 2009

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency published yesterday a summary of it's fiscal year 2009 budget submission to the Congress. For a brief overview of the requests for 2008 and 2009 take a look at the site of the Center for Arms Control.

The overall budget requests for 2009 sum up to US$12.26 billion, which is 17.75% more than in the year 2008. The highest increase experienced the Space Based Infra-Red System-High (SBIRS-High) with 137% and the BMD Sensors with a 84% higher budget. The Midcourse Defense is supposed to be cut by roughly US$200 million, which equals due to the high volume only 8%.

President George W. Bush requested in his 2009 FY budget proposal US$719.8 million to deploy elements of the U.S. missile shield in Europe. According to the document submitted to U.S. Congress on Monday, the 2008-2013 budget for the project is estimated at about $4.8 billion.

Picture: © RIA Novosti

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Two test announcements

Israel uses Arrow SAM for the upper layers of its multi-layered missile defense system. The original single stage Arrow missile was deployed in 1998. The first battery of the upgraded version, the Arrow-2, which is a two-stage missile, became operational in 2000. The Arrow-2 has a lower weight and an increased range (90 km) in comparison to its predecessor. For a detailed description of the Arrow-2 take a look at the Army Technology website.

Israel is also developing a third version of the missile to provide top-tier air defense. Arrow-3 will be an exo-atmospheric missile, capable of higher altitudes and greater ranges than Arrow-1 and Arrow-2, and be effective against intermediate range ballistic missiles.

According to, Israel Aerospace Industries has now announced its plans to test the Arrow-3 for the first time in late 2008. Arieh Herzog, director of the MoD’s Israel Missile Defense Organization, estimated that it would take at least five years and “several hundred million dollars” for the first Arrow-3s to become operational.

The Arrow-3 test will be followed in 2009 by the first launch of the Barak-8 surface-to-air missile, which is being developed jointly by Israel and India and will have a range of 60km. The two countries started in 2006 the development of the supersonic, vertically launched Barak-8, or BarakNG (New Generation).

Defense-Update reports:

Barak 8 missile utilizes a fully active seeker, the missile is not dependent on the launcher for targeting and guidance, and can perform at much longer ranges, offering effective protection from aerial threats, manned, unmanned as well as guided weapons. Covering both low and high altitudes, the missile is designed for operation on-board ships as well as for terrestrial applications. Barak 8 system is designed to engage multiple targets simultaneously with deadly effectiveness. The missile uses vertical launched missile is designed to offer 360 degrees protection, utilizing an advanced active radar seeker. The missile is equipped with a two-way datalink, supporting mid-course updating and terminal updating and validation.
Yossi Weiss, general manager of IAI's Systems, Missiles and Space Group, said in mid-May 2007 the Barak-8 air defense system under development would be "more capable and more sophisticated" than the U.S.-developed Patriot PAC-3. Sources declined to provide projected program costs, but estimated the effort would take about four years and a minimum of US$300 million to develop unique system elements and an initial tranche of the land-based missiles.

Sources from both India and Israel say they expect the two countries to sign an add-on development contract by early this year for an advanced land-based version of the Barak-8 which will feature a range of 150 kilometers.

No signature in March

AFP affirmed today that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is unlikely to sign a deal with the United States on hosting a US anti-missile system in his country when he visits Washington in March. Foreign Minister RadosÅ‚aw Sikorski told Polish state radio on Saturday: "I don't know whether we will be able to give all the details in legal language, […] I doubt it."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

EU's role in the Missile Defense

The Polskie Radio has a short piece on the role the EU plays in the Missile Defense debate:

The European Parliament has started a debate the possible American anti-missile shield facilities in Poland, informs DZIENNIK. EU politicians are afraid that, due to the system, the whole continent, not just Poland, will be more liable to suffer from terrorist attacks. Therefore the decision shouldn’t be taken voluntarily by Poland but consulted with the European Union. They are right, claims a columnist of the newspaper. We, the Poles, demand European solidarity whenever we find anything wrong: the Russian embargo on our meat or the Baltic gas pipeline. In the case of the shield Europe needs Poland’s solidarity. Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, has announced that Russia would be consulted on the shield, even though the Kremlin cannot forbid the system as such. Europe should have at least the same privilege, writes the columnist. (Polskie Radio)

US-Poland deal and missile defense genealogy

Earlier this week I blogged on the leaned-back position of Poland in the missile defense debate. Prime Minister Tusk said on January 10 that "it is not a race against time. The essential thing is to get what we want from the negotiations". Still on Thursday Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said that either the United States must help convince Russia that the proposed defensive missile shield does not pose a threat to Moscow, or find "some other way" to address the extra risk to Poland from the project.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski

It seems that the United States deemed the second option to be the easier one and in contrast to what I have expected, my eastern neighbor obviously got what he was aiming for in a timely fashion: On Friday Poland and the United States clinched a deal “in principle” to install a missile defense system on Polish territory.

Reuters reported already last month that Poland's new centre-right government wants deeper security links with the United States and would like Washington to boost its air defenses with new short- and medium-range systems like the Patriot missile in exchange for Warsaw's cooperation. Following the breakthrough no details about the terms of cooperation were announced, it is not clear how much the United States finally paid for the Polish consent. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice only stated in vague terms:

"We understand that there is a desire for defense modernization in Poland, and particularly for air defense modernization in Poland. This is something that we support because it will make our ally, Poland, more capable."
The support can range from a pure moral support to the delivery of PAC-3 systems. In general she tried to de-couple the missile defense issue of the modernization of the Polish armed forces. Mr. Sikorski echoed this approach final statement after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which he stressed that the missile defense and the modernization of the Polish forces are two separate issues. The Secretary put the modernization rather in a NATO context and stressed the changed role of the Transatlantic Alliance and it’s out of area operations to which Poland with can contribute even more if it has modernized forces. Taking this statement, I would like to see an explanation by Ms. Rice how potential future Polish missile defense forces - supported by the United States - that are set up to defend Polish territory are suited to contribute to NATO out of area operations. It is not very likely that Poland will use these forces in NATO missions and leave its territory vulnerable.

Condoleezza Rice also tried to ease Russian concerns. She said that the United States and its "new European" partners will "put together an architecture for limited missile defenses, VERY limited missile defenses". While referring to the SDI-program of the 1980’s the Secretary stressed:

This [i.e. the current GMD program] is not that [i.e. SDI] program. This is not the son of that program. This is not the grandson of that program. This is a very different program that is meant to deal with limited threats. There is no way that a few interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic can degrade the thousands of nuclear warheads that the Russians have and there is no intent to do so.
I doubt that this kind of missile defense genealogy is suited to soothe Russian concerns and the country’s fervently opposition to this program. Furthermore it is very questionable if it “will help us all to be safer” as predicted by Ms. Rice. As an indicator might serve the plans that were announced on January 30 according to which the Russian Defense Ministry contemplates to change the configuration of troops in Kaliningrad in response to U.S. missile shield.

However, it is way too early to assume that the whole issue is home and dry. Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski was cautious to raise too high expectations. He said that “there is still a great deal of work for our experts” and that there was still a long way to go. Or a bit more figuratively: "We are not at the end of the road as regards negotiations. We are in the middle of the road." His spokesperson, Mr. Piotr Paszkowski, was also very careful in the choice of his wording. He spoke of a framework for future talks and that there is so far definitely no agreement.

The talks for the second half of the negotiations-road will take time. At least some actors will change before the final deal will be made. President Bush’s days in office are numbered and the Russians will elect on March 2 a new president. Even though Putin’s designated successor Dmitry Medvedev uses a more moderate language, Putin will remain a key player in Russian politics and therefore it is unlikely that the tone of the debate will soften drastically.

Even if Mr. Sikorski said that “The idea is that America and Poland, thanks to what we are discussing today, can do more together in the future” the Russian side will definitely read the “can” as a “will”. Therefore we can anticipate another episode with a grumbling and threatening Russia on next Friday. On that day President Putin and Prime Minister Tusk will meet in Moscow and discuss the issue that “will help us all to be safer”.

For those of you who love primary sources, take a look at the remarks made after the meeting of Secretary Rice and FM Sikorski:

Russia picture: © RIA Novosti