Crossfire War – Tehran Watch: Possible New Missile Threat

Night Watch: ARLINGTON – “They don’t need an intercontinental ballistic missile to attack us. An enemy could put a SCUD on a tramp steamer and launch it off the coast.” That is a quote from Mr. David Kier, Vice-President of Lockheed Martin’s Protection Division. Because of that non-theoretical threat Lockheed Martin has been investing its own money to develop a system called Passive Coherent Locator (PCL), that could detect such a ship-launched missile and feed accurate tracking information into the existing national missile defense command-and-control system for a response.

The PCL system involves a network of sensors that could be operational from Washington to Boston within two years of government funding and along the entire U. S. coastline some years later. 75% of the nation’s population and military bases are within 200 miles of the coast. The number of potential launch platforms is immense with 130,000 registered merchant ships in 195 countries.

Thousands of SCUDs and other inexpensive short-range ballistic missiles have been dispersed, sold, worldwide with some in countries where terrorist groups operate openly. Tehran launched a tactical ballistic missile from a ship last year and the threat is made worse with the rapid proliferation of cruise missiles, eagerly provided by Beijing, working closely with Tehran as they have been doing for years. Beijing always knew the Jihad had the serious potential to weaken three of China’s oldest and still current rivals, the West, Russia and India. Beijing’s military assistance to Tehran is actually an act of war.

Seventy countries possess an estimated 75,000 anti-ship cruise missiles and many of them could be easily converted to land-attack weapons. At least 10 nations already have land-attack cruise missiles and their number is increasing. A report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) stated, “While the Defense Department has numerous programs to address threats to forward-deployed ground and naval forces, it has devoted much less attention to cruise missile threats to the homeland.”

The report went on to mention, “Even the relatively large Seersucker can be hidden and launched from a standard 12-meter shipping container,” referring to a Soviet-designed anti-ship cruise missile. “The balance between cruise missiles and defenses currently favor the offense.”

During congressional testimony early this year, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said he was “concerned about” the potential for a ship-launched missile attack on the country and that MDA has “more than one program taking a look at that. There is a difference of opinion in terms of whether that constitutes a real threat, but that’s something I’m personally concerned about. So we’re working on it.”

MDA demonstrated the capability to provide a target for the Israeli-U. S. Arrow antimissile program in a test last year, Obering told reporters recently. “We launched a SCUD off an ocean-going platform… It was very easy to do.”

Cruise-missile defense, however, is not part of MDA’s responsibility. That responsibility is shared by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the Joint Theater Air and Missile Organization. Unfortunately MDA currently has no active program to counter ship-launched missiles, which is why MDA has no connection to Lockheed Martin’s PCL program. I assume the organizations are aware of the others existence but I would not take that for granted. These different departments can have extremely narrow and compartmentalized thinking.

Lockheed’s PCL has received some assistance in system verification from the government, including defense agencies and NASA. Kier said Lockheed “absolutely” is counting on gaining Pentagon funding to field the PCL system and the first funds could come from $20 million provided to MDA in the House 2006 defense appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Committee “believes that a sea-based missile threat now has a low probability of detection,” according to text in the bill. The money would be spent on an analysis of the need for, and deployment of, a defensive system to counter a short-range missile attack from the sea, Kier said.

As of early October, the Senate had not passed its version of the defense appropriations bill. The usual historical pattern, in an approaching threat and from an enemy that has been obviously preparing, is that in order for the need for this to be more recognized, the enemy has to start attacking, in this cases with ship-based ballistic or cruise-missiles. Either against the U. S. or one of its Allies.

One of the most essential themes of is that not all missiles, of any kind are going to work. It may not be much different than the little boy who said, “I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth I know not where.” Advanced technological, “smart weapons”, and their guidance systems can indeed become extremely dumb. The warhead could also be a dud. I would estimate that only a third will hit the target and also explode. Nor are they easily re-called like a car or refrigerator.

Night Watch Information Service

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Willard Payne
Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.