Iranian Missiles and U.S. Defenses

Iran’s mid-December missile test is further evidence of their inexorable drive to extend the range of their ballistic missile arsenal [1]. The longer the effective range of that force, the greater will be Iran?s ability to terrorize the populations of Europe, U.S. bases in the Middle East, and Israel.

The test validates the progress made by Iranian missileers and the priority placed on missile development by the Iranian government. “The advance rate is phenomenal,” says Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel?s Missile Defense Program. The new test reportedly involved a solid-fueled, multi-stage rocket. Rubin notes that Iran has now conducted three missile tests in 13 months. Rubin says, “They need to keep testing to prove their past successes were not spurious.”[2]

And, what is the likely U.S. response to these developments? Continued pressure on sanctions is probable and focus on their nuclear program is guaranteed. But, what about defending against an attack should diplomatic options fail to deter Iranian aggression? Earlier in the week, the Defense Department had announced plans to test the missile defense system against a simulated Iranian launch.[3]

Earlier in the year, the Obama Administration shifted the focus of the planned European missile defense site, placing greater emphasis on meeting Iran?s short- and medium-range missiles. In doing so, they opted to terminate development of a new interceptor designed to destroy long-range Iranian missiles in favor of near-term deployment of Aegis ships armed with the SM-3 interceptor into the Mediterranean. By 2015, the Missile Defense Agency proposed to have ready for use a new variant of the SM-3 with improved discrimination abilities and suitable for deployment on land. In 2018, MDA’s plans call for employment of a different variant of the SM-3 with sufficient range to defend all of Europe.[4]

Iran’s continued provocations offer ample evidence of the need for these kinds of investments in defensive capability. Whether the Obama Administration made the correct technical choice remains to be seen, but there is no doubting the importance and urgency of the effort.

1) http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/16/iran.missile/index.html

2) http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/12/16/important-points-about-irans-missile-test/

3) http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BE0B020091215

4) These plans are outlined in Gen. O?Reilly?s October 1, 2009 statement to the House Armed Services Committee (page 4),http://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/ps_hasc100109.pdf.

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