Sunday, July 26, 2009

India update

We have not had an entry on India in the recent time. So let’s see how things developed at the subcontinent.

Back in June the Times of India reported that after basing Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets in the North-East, India is now all set to conduct another test of the 3,500-km-range Agni-III ballistic missile towards the end of this month. So let’s see whether India will stick to its schedule or there are again some turtles causing a delay. Once fully-ready by 2011-2012, the Agni-III will provide India with the capability to strike deep into China, with cities like Shanghai and Beijing well within its potent reach.

In the same Times of India article the success of the latest test-launch of the Agni-II was called into question: the trial "failed to meet the laid-down flight parameters''.

Over at they reported on India’s rapid progress on its indigenous missile defense program. In light of speculations that weapon testing could be completed by 2010 they conclude that the defensive program seriously outstrips India's development of an offensive ballistic missile force.

In addition to speed, India's program shows signs of significant sophistication, especially compared to her possible regional adversaries. A case in point is China. While China's offensive ballistic missile program is more advanced than India's, it does not possess a comparable BMD capability. China's surface-to-air missiles could intercept ballistic missiles, but only up to an altitude of 30km. Furthermore, it is thought that China's BMD program falls far behind India's in the area of research and development, particularly in the area of software development and programming, key and indispensable components of any functional missile defense system.
However, India seems not to rest on its laurels. New Delhi intends to develop defenses capable of intercepting longer-range enemy missiles with ranges as high as 6,000 km. This would triple the current capability. Back in March India succeeded in countering a 2,000-km range missile at an altitude of 80 km.

Let’s shift to missiles that are intended to hit targets that are not that far away: two decades after the homegrown Nag anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) was conceived, it has been cleared for production. The Indian Army ordered 4,000 Nags. With a current annual output of 200 and eventually 400 Nags, it will take the state-owned Bharat Dynamics, which produces these missiles, some time to deliver. The DRDO scientist said focus will now shift to the helicopter version, the Helina, which will have an extended range of seven kilometers (other sources mentioned a range of eight kilometers). DRDO scientists stated that the land version also eventually will have a range of seven kilometers.

Picture © Indianarmpics

Friday, July 24, 2009

Level three is not working

Israel Air Force Commander Major General Ido Nehushtan said earlier that the Arrow-3 system, the third layer of Israel’s missile defense shield, will be operational by 2014. The events of the recent days might cause the general to reconsider his statement.

Over the course of the last week, three attempts were made to conduct an intercept test of a mock Iranian Shahab missile with the Arrow-2 anti-missile system off the coast of California. On all three occasions the tests were aborted because of various malfunctions, Israeli defense officials said. The latest attempt was made yesterday, on July 23, but the test was called off after the launch attempt was hit by last-minute technical problems. A target had been released from a C-17 plane but communication glitches between the missile and the radar led U.S. defense officials to abort the test before an intercepting missile could be fired.

Naturally, officials try to play the failure down: malfunctions of systems still in their experimental stage were to be expected.

Isaac Ben-Israel, a retired general and weapons expert, said the interceptor wasn't fired because it is too expensive to use in a test that isn't expected to go according to plan. He said such glitches are common when developing new systems and he did not consider it a significant setback.
As a consequence of this failure, further tests of the system, planned for today and Monday, have also been postponed.

The Arrow project was spurred largely by the failure of the U.S. military's Patriot missiles to intercept Iraqi Scud rockets that struck Israel in the 1991 Gulf War. The program is half-funded by the United States.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Israels three levels of missile defense

The first level, the so-called Iron Dome, is expected to be able to intercept rockets with a range from four kilometers to 70 kilometers like the Kassam and Katyusha rockets fired from the Gaza Strip or from south Lebanon. Israel has successfully tested its anti-rocket level of the defense system. An official statement announced that the tests occurred around July 15 and destroyed an unspecified number of incoming rockets. The previous tests which were conducted at the end of March were equally successful. More tests are expected in the next few months before the defense system is deployed in southern Israel to counteract rockets fired by Palestinian militants based in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israel Air Force Commander Major General Ido Nehushtan said that the system would be operational and deployed in 2010.

General Nehushtan also said that the second level of Israel’s missile defense system, the David’s Sling, would be operational within four years. David’s Sling is intended to intercept medium-range rockets.

The third and final level of the missile defense system, the Arrow 3 would be declared operational shortly afterwards. The Arrow-3 is an advanced version of the current long-range system in operation by the Israeli Air Force:

The Arrow-3 exoatmospheric interceptor includes a two stage interceptor based on hit-to-kill technology. Its compact design, outstanding maneuverability, and divert capability serve to enhance its effectiveness against all types of Theater Ballistic Missiles (TBMs) and warheads. The Arrow-3 also includes a state-of-the-art long range acquisition high resolution EO sensor and has a low life cycle cost (LCC).
While the Arrow-3 are still dreams of the future, Israel plans in coming days to launch an Arrow-2 missile interceptor off the California coast. The Israeli air force as of April had conducted 17 tests of the improved Arrow-2 system. The current exercise would be the first Arrow-2 test to target a mock enemy missile capable of traveling 1,000 km. The test launch will simulate the interception of Iranian ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3 and the Sajil missiles, as well as more advanced missiles Iran has yet to finish developing.

Picture: Arrow test launch, © Israel Aerospace Industries

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A step ahead in the missile-defense-maze

The meeting of the two presidents in Moscow was not only about counting warheads and delivery systems – the issue of missile defense was also discussed. It is time to catch up with the developments:

While visiting Russia, U.S. President Barack Obama and his counterpart, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, have signed a joint statement on missile defense. It reads in between:

“Russia and the United States plan to continue the discussion concerning the establishment of cooperation in responding to the challenge of ballistic missile proliferation. […] We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods.”
At a speech at a Moscow university President Obama elaborated further on this and highlighted the purpose of the missile shield and the condition under which the program could be scrapped:
"I want us to work together on a missile defense architecture that makes us all safer. But if the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated. That is in our mutual interest."
However, some Russian actors are reluctant to make a linkage between the two issues of missile defense and Iran. These topics should be considered separately from each other, believes the head of the international affairs committee of the State Duma lower house of Russia’s parliament Konstantin Kosachev. “The missile defense issue and Iran should not be mixed, no matter how the Americans insist on this,” the lawmaker said on the Echo of Moscow radio station commenting on President Obama’s speech.

Also in the Washington the question is deliberated whether this linkage can be made and if the presumptions on which it is based are watertight. Already back in January a review of the proposed European missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic was announced in order to see if this is the best solution to defend Europe and the United States from long-range ballistic missile threats of third sources. The United States expects to finish the review by the end of the summer.

Moscow hopes that at the end of this review Washington will realize the counter-productivity of its plan to deploy elements of U.S. missile shield in central Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week.
"I hope that the revision [of the missile shield plans] in Washington... will result in an understanding that unilateral steps in this sphere are counterproductive."
This viewpoint is shared by Russia’s Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov. He told Ekho Moskvy radio that he has reasons to believe that “ultimately, this thoughtless and very dangerous step will not be made - there will be neither radar nor missiles”.

Naturally, Russia cannot assume that Washington will follow its line of thought and it keeps all options open: on the one hand it has already expressed its willingness to collaborate with the United States on missile defense if Washington first dropped the Europe proposal, Interfax reported. On the other hand Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed on July 10 Moscow's threat to deploy short-range missiles near Poland if Washington moved to field the European defense system. Russia is also cautious to put off Iran. It has therefore broadened the scope of the missile shield’s purpose. Vladimir Yevseyev, senior research associate with the renowned Institute for World Economy and International Relations, said that:
"Iran is not the only missile threat because there are many countries in the vast Middle East area which have developed missile programs and arms. Some of them would like to create a nuclear infrastructure.”
Yevseyev proposed to deploy missile defense systems in other places than sites proposed by the United States and use, for instance, Russia's S-400 air defense system and the U.S. Patriot system, which are both capable of intercepting missiles from the Middle East.

Some people were less creative – rather a bit off – and recycled an idea from the 1980’s: Space systems designer Boris Chertok recommended building a U.S.-Russian missile defense system in outer space, Interfax reported. Chertok should take a look at the draft PPWT, the “Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects” proposed by his own government and China. The draft’s article II starts off with the sentence:
“The States Parties undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying any kinds of weapons.”
Russia is not the only player waiting for the outcome of the review. Also Poland wants a clear answer from Washington on its plans to deploy the interceptors on Polish soil under a 2008 deal, the government spokesman Pawel Gras said on July 12.
"We're still lacking an essential, clear response as to whether the U.S. will go ahead with the shield plan. It's a fundamental question to which we need a definite answer."
Gras underlined furthermore that Warsaw was still waiting for the "U.S. to make good on the promise by the new administration, independently of the shield plan, to deploy a battery of Patriot missiles."

In summary: all options are on the table – and we will have to wait for the outcome of the review to see if the options narrow down.

© picture: Xinhua

Thursday, July 2, 2009

False start

Just as a brief update: Pyongyang is unpredictable as always. All the nice thoughts I came up with in my last post are proven wrong. DRPK did not wait for July 4; it test-fired today four short-range missiles.