Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pakistan tests Shaheen-2 (Hatf VI)

Pakistan conducted two tests of its Shaheen-2 (Hatf VI) missile on Saturday and Monday, respectively. The tests “validated the operational readiness of a strategic missile group equipped with [the] Shaheen II missile," the Pakistani military said in a statement. In other words: it is ready for wartime use.

The Shaheen-2 is Pakistan’s longest range ballistic missile with a range of over 2,000km. Even though Pakistan is proud of its missile, it is a bit overly ambitious in touting this missile to be a “long range ballistic missile”. Also other sources shoot frequently one category too high: the Ghauri (Hatf V) is labeled as IRBM, even though its maximum range is 1,300km. Likewise the SRBM Shaheen-1 (Hatf IV) with its 750km range is designated as MRBM.

India on Saturday did not give much credence to the test-firing of a ballistic missile by Pakistan saying such tests were regularly required as the technology was imported.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Missile Defense Summary

The recent days saw some smaller issues in the field of missile defense. Here a brief overview:

Japan's Masahiko Komura foreign minister reassured his Russian counterpart on Monday that Tokyo's missile defense cooperation with the United States is not targeted against Russia. Komura said that the cooperation "has been forced by Japan's close location to North Korea, which has conducted a nuclear weapon test." – U.S. missile defense cooperation not targeted against Russia… somehow I have a déjà vu.

Speaking of the Czech Republic: The U.S. Defense Department announced on Tuesday it would pay $400 million to defense contractor Raytheon for the design and development of a radar for the planned European missile shield. This decision was made quickly after the NATO summit in Bucharest, where the U.S.-Czech deal was announced. It seems that Prague considers whether to seize the opportunity and deviate from its earlier position to look only for nonmilitary cooperation in the research and technical sectors as part of the radar agreement. This week mixed messages came up: Deputy Defense Minister Martin Bartak told Czech public television that “We have asked the U.S. for cooperation in the acquisition of two midrange tactical transport planes and that should be raised in the framework of antimissile defense negotiations.” Another official from the Ministry of Defense explained that such a cooperation would occur outside the radar agreement. Some media reports stating that Czech was looking for Patriot missiles were promptly denied by a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense. This is not the only problem connected with the base on Czech territory. Jeremy Druker analyzes the “The Prague-Washington swindle”. The agreement still needs to be ratified by both houses of Parliament and the president must approve any deployment of foreign troops on Czech territory. Considering the likeliness that this will happen, Druker recommends both Prague and Washington to better come up with a back-up plan. Cautious voices could also be heard among U.S. politicians. House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) said she does not want to commit the next administration to fielding missile defenses in Europe unless both countries central to the plans formally agree to host them.

Regarding the European bases of the U.S. missile shield the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a proposal on how to ease the tensions and remove the concerns that Russia has: "We believe it would be easy to relieve these concerns by not deploying missile defenses in Europe.” One cannot deny that the charm of this proposal is it its simplicity. However, Lavrov recognized that it is not very likely that Washington will accept his proposal: “But as long as our partners refuse to do so, Russia wants to be assured that their deployment will not be targeted against it." Lavrov did not elaborate on how this could be achieved. He simply stated that Moscow has proposals reciprocal to the U.S. ideas, as well as a number of questions.

NTI reports that the new Russian S-400 Triumph air-defense system is expected to undergo testing in August before its planned deployment:

The system is intended to defend against short-range and cruise missiles as well as stealth aircraft and warheads carried by high-speed delivery vehicles.
“We hope to receive this system in July-August 2008, test it and then put it on combat duty. Permanent combat readiness regiments will be the first to be re-equipped with new air defense missile systems,” ITAR-Tass quoted Col. Gen. Yuri Solovyov, head of the Russian air force’s Special Purpose Command, as saying.
Solovyov added that the new system’s “jamming vulnerability, handling channels and the firing at high-speed targets” are superior to the capabilities of its predecessor, the S-300 Triumph (United Press International, April 13).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

once again: Missile Defense developments

To catch up with the latest U.S. Missile Defense developments I start off with some cross-blogging:

First a comment by Martin Sieff on the achievements of the NATO summit in Bucharest, which he touts as "Bush's BMD victory" (part 1, part 2). Jeff Lindemyer has a rather critical perspective. on this issue. He mentions that the outcome "falls short of actual endorsement by the Alliance of the system".

Jeff also commented the presidential meeting in Sochi, where Bush and Putin “left behind a road map for their successors.”

This road will certainly be bumpy. On Monday the Daily Star titled that "Moscow softens opposition to planned US missile defense network in Europe". On the next day, however, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his demand that Moscow must have permanent access to Washington's planned missile shield in eastern Europe if its concerns are to be placated. Mr Lavrov told Russian radio:

"For us it is important that we should see second-by-second where that radar is looking, and what is happening at the... base in the Czech Republic."
So far, the United States has proposed that Russian officers be granted frequent access to the sites, but not be based at them permanently. The minister stressed importance of the permanency component by saying that the proposed confidence building measures would otherwise be "rendered worthless". In turn, the Czech deputy foreign minister already stated that "permanent presence is not something we would be considering." In short: the chances for a presidential post-office missile-honeymoon are very slim.

The two soon-to-be ex-Presidents were not the only ones talking about missile defense. The Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said on Monday the world needs a missile shield to protect against threats from Israel and the United States. He continued that U.S. claims that the European missile shield would defend against Iran's missiles were nothing but a sham. At the same time he underlined the defensive nature of the Iranian missile program: "[We] will only target aggressors against its territories". This only shows that the problem is that there is no unanimous view on who the aggressor is. All parties claim to act defensively while they see the aggressor on the other side. Voila, the perfect scene for an arms race.

Picture © AFP

Thursday, April 3, 2008

NATO supports Bush's missile defense plans

On the second day of their summit, NATO leaders have agreed to fully endorse President Bush's plan to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and to urge Russia to drop its objections to the shield. In a communique NATO leaders expressed that "ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to allied forces, territory and populations." They also lauded "the substantial contribution to the protection of allies ... to be provided by the U.S.-led system."

However, states were also called upon to explore the options to NATO-ize the two future European bases of the missile defense system and to explore links with future missile shields elsewhere. The member states are asked to come up with recommendations to be considered at their next meeting in 2009.

While this kind of support is definitely welcomed by President Bush, especially in the light of the next meeting with President Putin in Sochi, the United States could also claim another victory: Condeleezza Rice and her Czech colleague Karel Schwarzenberg announced that they came to an agreement to allow construction of a radar base on Czech territory:

“We have clarified the content of the treaty,” Schwarzeberg said. He added that he and Rice have made preliminary arrangements regarding the treaty’s signing, which he says will most likely happen in Prague some time in the first 10 days of May.
It will be interesting to see how the negotiations with Poland continue. On the one hand, the country, being a NATO member, just expressed support for the deal. On the other hand, Warsaw tries to get the best price for their consent. This could include some walk-aways from the remaining negotiations and some other dramaturgical scenes that run counter to the support they expressed at the summit.

Picture © FAZ.NET

some figures

The Center for American Progress posted an article titled "Shooting for the Stars: Ballistic Missiles by the Numbers". In it the center came up with some figures for the U.S. ballistic missile defense programs which it calls obsolete and dealing with a largely hypothetical threat:

2,380: Number of long-range missiles in the Soviet Union’s combined ICBM and SLBM arsenals in 1987, with 9,847 warheads.

669: Number of long-range missiles, carrying 2,467 warheads, in Russia’s arsenal as of February 2007.

1,640: Number of long-range missiles deployed by the United States in 1987, with 8,331 warheads.

836: Number of long-range missiles, carrying 3,066 warheads, in the U.S. arsenal as of February 2007.

71 percent: Decrease in the number of ICBMs that threaten U.S. territory from 1987 to 2007. In 1987, the Soviet Union and China fielded a combined 2,400 long-range missiles. Twenty years later, the combined number for Russia and China was 689.

$91.1 million: Budget overrun in fiscal year 2007 for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, a mobile system built by Lockheed Martin Corp. that can shoot down short and medium-range ballistic missiles.

$325.8 million: Total projected cost overrun for the THAAD program, according to GAO.

$10.4 billion: FY 2008 total budget allocation for ballistic missile defense.$12.3 billion: FY 2009 total budget request for ballistic missile defense.

Naturally, MDA chief Lt. Gen. Henry Obering has another perspective on the work and purpose of his agency. On Tuesday he mentioned that North Korea continues to seek a nuclear-capable ICBM despite signing a denuclearization pact last year and presses forward with its development.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Upcoming Agni-III test- updated

India announced the next test-launch of its Agni-III for April. According to plans, it will be the third launch of Agni-III, which will take place from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on the Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast. The first two launches were conducted from the same test range. The first launch on July 9, 2006, proved to be unsuccessful with the missile falling into the sea off the coast of Orissa, short of reaching the target. India scored better on April 12, 2007, when it declared the flight test to be a success.

There is still no reliable information available on the number and the dates of Agni-III test launches for 2008. In December last year IRNA stated wrongly that the next test would be conducted in June this year. However, there is no indication on whether IRNA only omitted the April test with another one being conducted in June, if DRDO decided to test-launch earlier or if the information was plainly wrong. In another piece on the Agni I wrote in January on the same question:

Jane’s quotes local press reports, according to which Dr V K Saraswat said that the 3,000 km-range Agni-III would make three more test flights during 2008. This information is contradictory to what his colleague M Natarajan, who is scientific advisor to the ministry of defense and chief controller at DRDO, said earlier. He spoke of two tests: “One, sometime within the first quarter of [2008], and another within nine to 12 months."
Maybe we can get additional information on this issue in April when India will be commenting the launch. The successes of the recent past made DRDO very confident. They bragged about the Agni-III and described it as not just “a missile, but a system for the future”.

Update April 2: The Times of India provided today additional information on the upcoming test. The test-firing is likely to take place between April 20 to 30, but the exact launch date will depend on technical, environmental and other parameters. The daily continues:

"If the third test is successful, then the ballistic missile will require just one or two more tests before it can go for limited series production and training trials by the armed forces. Its operational deployment should be possible by 2010-2011," said a source.
The same article contained also information on the Agni-III+ missile:

The government, however, is yet to give defence scientists the green signal for an advanced version of Agni-III, with a miniaturised third-stage to increase the strike distance to around 5,000-km. "If the political directive comes, we can test this Agni-III-plus missile in a year or so," the source said.

The missile defense saga

The never-ending missile story continues:

On April 1, news floated that the Polish government had reduced its demands on what Poland would get in exchange for agreeing to construct the elements of the US anti-missile shield on its territory. April Fool! These claims were repeatedly rejected by the head of the parliamentary club of Civic Platform (PO), Mr Zbigniew Chlebowski, who said that the conditions of the Polish party remain unchanged. However, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski indicated that an agreement could be reached by spring. So the saga continues.

The Czechs seems to be some steps ahead: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova announced on Monday that a problem concerning environmental issues had been solved after the U.S. side agreed that Czech environmental standards, not American, would apply to the U.S. military presence in the Brdy military district, some 90 kilometers southwest of Prague. The daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) even wrote that an agreement between the United States and the Czech Republic on the stationing of a U.S. radar base on Czech soil may be symbolically signed on May 5, the anniversary day of the Prague anti-Nazi uprising at the end of war in 1945. The HN continues that the negotiations on the main treaty on the radar should be completed by the Bucharest NATO summit, but it will be ready for signature at the turn of April and May at the earliest. The main treaty might even be signed already on April 28 when Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is to visit the United States. This view is shared by the United States. John Rood, the U.S. State Department's undersecretary for arms control and international security, said that negotiations could be wrapped up within days "with a final burst of activity.”

Polish and Czech officials have indicated they would like to receive formal NATO approval of the planned U.S. BMD deployments in the hopes that this endorsement would increase popular support for hosting the systems. These expectations are shared by the United States. Daniel Fried, U.S.-Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, stated that Washington expects that at the Bucharest Summit, NATO will take further steps to acknowledge growing missile threats, welcome U.S. contributions to the defense of Alliance territory, and task further work in strengthening NATO’s defenses against these new threats. Richard Weitz comments in his article in the forthcoming April issue of WMDInsights:

Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether Fried’s arguments, as well as other U.S. reassurances, will overcome allied uncertainties in time for the Bucharest summit. These doubts invariably increase Allied reluctance to commit to a short-range BMD system whose purpose would be to supplement longer-range systems that might not be deployed.

In any case, some Allied governments do not yet consider missile defenses optimal for meeting contemporary and emerging threats to NATO.

Common concerns include continuing reservations about the technical capabilities of the planned systems; a belief that threats of retaliation will deter any attack against NATO, making defenses unnecessary; an expectation that diplomatic or economic instruments will suffice to avert the advent of an Iranian missile threat to Europe; and worries about further damaging Russian-NATO relations over this issue.
NATO has not only the role of an bystander. NTI reported last week that the alliance is expected to establish a theater missile defense system by 2010. The system would augment the U.S. elements and provide defense against short- and medium-range missiles. According to the Newswire, the NATO shield would have some level of combat ability by 2010 and be fully activated by 2015.

Over the weekend Bush and Putin will meet at Sochi, in between to discuss the questions corning the envisaged two European missile defense bases. Currently the United States is waiting for
Moscow to react to the written proposal made by the U.S. two weeks ago.

Even though much is going on at the moment, somehow it is still the same: nothing is cast in stone yet and we had these close-to-an-agreement moments already before.