Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
192 Pages

Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress



Once associated with the Cold War and with the Reagan administration’s “Star Wars” project, missile defence has now taken on a fresh lease of life. In response to an actual or perceived threat by States and public opinion, it has actually become one of the key topics in redefining the great strategic balances. To a large extent, however, its major technological, financial and military implications are still a mystery. It is true that this is still a difficult subject for a non-specialist public, very often coming down to grotesque misconceptions mixing ballistic missiles and the nuclear threat, pointing the finger at Iran, Syria and North Korea, not forgetting China, Russia, Israel and India, and the role of the United States, etc.
Here the authors offer an educational work intended for the wider public, to reveal the technical, operational and strategic complexity of missile defence.



Published by
Published 16 June 2014
Reads 4
EAN13 9782846705486
License: All rights reserved
Language English

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

Star Wars rebooted:
missile defence
in progress
Preconceptions on missile defence
(April 2013)The principles developed in the present work are exclusively the
responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position
of the French government.Star Wars rebooted:
missile defence
in progress
Preconceptions on missile defence
(April 2013)
Emmanuel Delorme
Bruno Gruselle
Guillaume Schlumberger
Preconceptions stemming from tradition or part of the current
climate, often mixing true and false, are present in everyone’s
mind. The authors take them as a starting point and provide
an objective and in-depth approach to what we know or think
that we know.Titre ouvrage
Emmanuel Delorme
Lieutenant-colonel, French Air Force Academy graduate and
Master of International Relations at Sciences Po; at present he is the
coordinator of the missile defence project at the Directorate for
Strategic Affairs.
Bruno Gruselle
Head of research in the “proliferation-deterrence” centre at the FRS
(Fondation pour la recherche stratégique).
By the same author
– “Modeling Proliferation Networks”, in Terrorism, Security and the
Power of Informal Networks, edited by David Martin Jones, Ann
Lane and Paul Schulte, Publ. by MPG Group UK, 2010, pp.
– With Valérie Niquet, Défense antimissiles en Japon, en Inde et en
Corée du Sud, FRS, Research and Documents, 16 May 2011
– Missile Defense in NATO: A French Perspective, Atlantic Council
of the United States, 2011
– Défense antimissiles : les Européens doivent (re)devenir les principaux
acteurs de la stratégie de l’OTAN avant Chicago, FRS Notes,
11 October 2011 (with Camille Grand).
– Long Range Strikes in 2025, FRS, Research and Documents,
March 2012
– “Star Wars Rebooted: Global Missile Defense in 2017”, National
Defense University, CSWMD Proceedings, October 2012
Guillaume Schlumberger
Research Associate at the FRS.Titre partie
sommairePreface by Camille Grand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
Ballistic missiles
“Ballistic missiles increase the nuclear threat.” . . . . . . . . . .23
“Perfecting a ballistic missile is a complicated business.” . . . .33
“Most of the proliferating countries resort to technology
transfer to develop their ballistic capabilities.” . . . . . . . . . .45
“Ballistic missiles are invulnerable.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
“Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc., those ‘rogue States’ that
constitute the ballistic threat.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
Missile defences
“It is the Americans who have been behind missile defence.”81
“Interception of a missile is a matter of a few minutes.” . .89
“Missile defence is no more complicated than air defence.”97
“Missile defence is not governed by the rules of international
law.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .107
“Missile defence corresponds to space defence.” . . . . . . . .113
“Missile defence assumes the creation of a complex
architecture of systems of systems.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117
“Missile defence is an attempt by the United States
to impose its strategies and its solutions on its allies.” . . . .125
“Missile defence calls for substantial investments
which few countries can afford, especially in a time
of economic crisis!” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .133“Missile defence programmes give the American arms industries
a real competitive advantage.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .145
“The naval constituent is now one of the essential elements
of American missile defence strategy.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151
“Missile defence has been forced upon Europe.” . . . . . . .157
“Missile defence will soon no longer be the exclusive preserve
of the United States.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .167
“Missile defence is compatible with nuclear deterrence.” .177
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .187
Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .190
Technical terms, abbreviations and acronyms are explained in the
Glossary at the end of the book.Titre partie
Innovation: always dangerous.
Gustave Flaubert, Dictionnaire des idées reçues
Missile defence is among the most difficult topics in the
strategic debate in France, because so many opinions are
expressed and the debate is so dominated by generally
accepted ideas. If we listen to most of the “experts” and
commentators, missile defence is out of reach in budgetary
terms, dangerous in strategic terms and ineffective in
military terms. To a great extent this outdated view ignores
reality in a case which had been undergoing profound changes
for fifty years as a result of three factors: the development of
the ballistic threat, the maturity of the technologies and the
reality of the programmes.
Although the new White Paper on Defence and National
Security and the impending Military Programming Law
should give decisive guidance, this book comes at the best
possible moment to give an indispensable perspective, both
for the reader with an interest in strategic issues and for the
civilian or military decision-maker.
So the authors, who have all being working on the subject
for many years and are among the foremost French experts,
9Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
are offering an unbiased briefing on the issues of ballistic
proliferation and missile defence, and are putting paid
without prevarication to the numerous generally accepted
ideas that prevent calm and conciliatory debate on this
major strategic topic. Their work demonstrates the extent
to which ballistic missile defence (BMD) has become an
essential strategic issue that justifies an in-depth debate far
from prejudice and pretence.
The book examines the reality of ballistic proliferation
and of missile programmes of countries such as North
Korea, Iran and Syria, noting recent worrying
developments, in particular the North Korean and Iranian tests. It
also shows how the topic has developed, to become a central
element in the American strategic posture and of the
American alliance system; several decades of substantial
investment have borne fruit and have greatly transformed
the American approach, which is now built round a series
of systems linking protection for the Allies and protection
for American territory in a dense and ever more structured
network. It notes the growing linkage between deterrence
and missile defence, the complementarity of which is now
recognised, particularly within NATO but also in the
French official line.
Faced with these developments and despite the decisions
taken by the Atlantic Alliance, Europeans – including the
French – more often than not continue to neglect missile
defence. Budgetary constraints justify the low level of
financial and industrial investment in the sector, even though
BMD is among the critical and innovation-generating
technologies in defence. Even so, this non-choice which is
in general characteristic of the European approach is not
fatal. European industry is in a position to offer many
technological building-bricks and capabilities that might
profitably supplement the deployment or purchase of
American materiel through cooperation. The budgetary
issues, often exaggerated, are not an insurmountable obstacle.
It is for the Europeans to get the measure of this challenge
and to make the choices which, without sharing American
ambitions and obsessions, will nevertheless enable some of
them to consider real opportunities for cooperation and for
remaining technological and strategic parties to a major
debate offering substantial spin-offs to future programmes
in the area of defence.
Even though there are but few books in France on the
subject, this one lets the reader grasp the complexity of a
technological and strategic challenge and to be fully aware
of the many facets of a subject which is drastically changing
the international system.
Camille Grand
Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (April 2013)
11La Nouvelle Guerre des étoiles – idées reçues sur la défense antimissile
Ballistic missile defence (BMD) is a relatively
well-established subject for thought and for strategic and political
studies, but which is enjoying a new golden age. Even so, it
is associated in the memories of most of the French with the
Cold War and the Reagan administration’s plan for a system
capable of defending the United States from space against
the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal (star wars). For the American
President at the beginning of the 1980s it was about escaping
from the balance of terror to pass into an era of reduced
dependence on nuclear weapons. This vision also formed
part of a technology race, making it possible to develop a
broad range of scientific skills with many applications.
In the United States there is still a lively public debate on
missile defence, after 60 years of controversy and the
expenditure of over 150 billion dollar, but it is based on a strong
consensus in favour of a system of protection against
ballistic missiles, which is now a very long way from the initial
work. The construction of a missile shield is still a myth and
will doubtless remain so for a long time yet. Even so, the
end of the 2000s saw the first real capabilities deployed and
has finally marked down BMD as an irreversible reality: two
sites to protect American territory against intercontinental
missiles have been operational in the United States since the
end of the G.W. Bush administration (at Fort Greely in
Alaska and Vandenberg in California); units involved in
13Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
NATO’s missile defence are deployed in Europe (AN/TPY
2 radar in Turkey, the Aegis frigate(s) in the Mediterranean);
American cooperation and deployments in South-east Asia
and the Middle East are making it possible to use various
missile defence components (radars, Aegis frigates, a command
and control centre, theatre defence systems).
Another feature of the debate in the United States is
profound reflection about the ambitions that the global
system desired by all the successive governments since the
end of the 1990s should have, about the place and role of
Washington’s allies and about the cost and technical
performance of the systems adopted.
The long development of the American programme
explains to a large extent the leading role of missile defence
in the present strategic landscape. These systems are the
response to a threat, whether real or perceived by the
authorities in the States concerned or public opinion: missile
defence (in addition to other capabilities) may be forced
upon politicians or the military as the obvious choice. The
case of Israel comes immediately to mind in this respect.
Above all, however, little by little Washington has shaped
a new reality around missile defence, making this tool a key
element in the renewal of its alliances and security policy.
The 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review embodies this
approach, which gives missile defence a strategic function as
part of the security guarantees that the United States
extends to its principal allies.
This choice is the result of political and practical
investment by the G.W. Bush administration in the early 2000s,
which made it possible to escape from the technical
constraints hampering missile defence developments by
withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, signed in 1972 with the
Soviet Union, then to speed up investments in programmes
in order to be able to deploy resources according to its
interpretation of the threat. Despite his electoral statements in
2008, President Obama did not challenge the substance of
his predecessor’s commitment but confined himself to
reshaping the details of implementation of the project.
Missile defence has become one of the key subjects in
redefining the major strategic balances.
The ABM Treaty
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, signed in 1972 between the
United States and the Soviet Union and amended in 1974, bans the
development of a system capable of nationwide defence. Thus it
restricts each country to the deployment of a missile defence
capability able to protect a ballistic missile launching site or a built-up
area. The USSR chose to protect Moscow and its neighbourhood,
while the United States decided to defend the strategic missile site
in Grand Forks (Dakota). This system would be dismantled in 1976,
due to the costs and the risks involved in using an interceptor with
a nuclear payload.
In 1985 the Reagan administration put a wide interpretation on the
Treaty, taking the view that it did not prohibit research like that
contemplated by the Strategic Defense Initiative, known as Star Wars.
Despite Russian willingness to define a speed ceiling, with effect
from which interceptors would be classed as strategic, the
demarcation agreement negotiated in 1997, which set this ceiling at 5 km/s,
would not be ratified by the United States.
At the end of 2001, after the September 11 attacks and wishing to
install a system capable of protecting the United States before the
2004 elections, President George W. Bush invoked the clause
allowing withdrawal from the Treaty for reasons of national security. The
withdrawal took effect 6 months later, in June 2002, and put an end
to the recurring debate between champions of BMD wishing to free
15Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
themselves from the legal constraints of the Treaty and champions
of arms control and the strategic dialogue with the USSR/Russia,
sceptical about the usefulness of such a system.
In Paris, and more widely in Europe, the public did not
know that a drama was being enacted at NATO headquarters
in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe that might have major
technological, financial and military consequences.
In Lisbon, in November 2010 and after over 10 years of
negotiations, the NATO heads of State decided to equip the
Alliance with a system capable of defending Europe, its
territories and its people against ballistic missiles and their
payloads, whether nuclear or conventional. This decision
owed much to Iranian efforts, brought to light almost
10 years ago, to equip itself with what might be the first
nuclear weapon in the Persian Gulf, linked with ballistic
missiles. Tehran might succeed where its former enemy Iraq
had failed in the 1980s.
Despite this prospect, reaching consensus within the
Alliance proved to be all the more difficult because of
the divergent interests and goals of the various European
– Thus a particular feature of the debate was open
confrontation between France, holding the nuclear weapon
for the ultimate guarantee of the Allies’ security, and
Germany, which was arguing at the Lisbon Summit in
favour of pursuing complete nuclear disarmament, first of
all the denuclearisation of Europe. Although this
confrontation has been relegated to the background for the time
being, the question of what the operational responses to the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their
delivery vehicles should be is going to remain open.
– Some countries are particularly exposed to ballistic risk
and may therefore reasonably want to see collective
solutions in order to protect themselves; others see the
possibility of niche investment and continuing to have a role with
the major powers.
– Lastly others, like those who have been members of the
Warsaw Pact, are less worried by these threats than by the
apparent American disengagement from the European area
and a potential reaffirmation of Russia’s role.
Moreover, Moscow is a major player in missile defence,
and has had its own capabilities for a very long time. G.W.
Bush’s government’s European missile defence projects had
led to an historic breakdown since the end of the Soviet
Empire in relations between Russia and NATO. For the
present President Obama’s efforts to restore relations by
showing himself to be less ambitious on the deployment of
capabilities do not seem to be bearing fruit.
Lastly, we cannot ignore the fact that the necessity for
major investment, which only the United States has taken
on for 60 years, to develop high-performance capabilities is
a characteristic feature of anti-missile solutions.
Of course, it is doubtless unnecessary for the Europeans
to set aside equivalent budgets in order to have capabilities
appropriate to their needs. However, the question of the
financial conditions in which missile defence projects might
be implemented seems to arise here and now. Today all the
NATO countries are faced with the prospect of large-scale
budget cuts. In the longer term the deployment of a system
in Europe for the countries of the Alliance will also have
17Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
financial consequences, and the Europeans will have to
agree to take on at least part of the burden of keeping a
complex architecture in operational condition.
In addition, the efforts that will be made in the field of
missile defence will have a formative role and will affect the
competitiveness of our industrial champions. To illustrate
this point, it is enough to note that while the budget of the
American missile defence agency accounts for less than 4%
of defence investment, its share allocated to preparation for
the future rises to over 12% of the Pentagon’s research and
development effort.
Decisions of principle were taken in Chicago at the
NATO Summit in May 2012, in particular the operational
implementation of an interim missile defence capability for
the Alliance. These will govern the future of missile defence
in Europe, and to some extent the future of the Atlantic
Alliance’s strategic stability.
With this in prospect, it seemed helpful to us to offer the
wider public an educational work, to illustrate the
technical, industrial and operational complexity of missile defence
and supplying keys to work out how it will evolve.
MISSILESLa Nouvelle Guerre des étoiles – idées reçues sur la défense antimissile
20In terms of trajectory, ballistic missiles can be used in
many ways, according to operational requirements. High
trajectories seek to increase the maximum altitude reached
by the missile (the apogee). This trajectory makes it possible
to increase the re-entry velocity, hence making it more
difficult for the defence systems to intercept the missile.
Flat trajectories are intended to reduce the maximum
altitude reached, to pass under the horizon of detectors or
under the floor of certain interceptors (the altitude below
which missile interceptors are no longer capable of
interception) and generally to reduce the flight time, and therefore
the windows of opportunity for missile interception. Both
types of trajectory reduce ballistic missile range.
Maximum ranges are obtained in the case of those known
as minimum-energy trajectories.
Ballistic missiles can be classified according to range, i.e.
the distance between the firing point and the point of
impact. Thus NATO distinguishes between:
– Short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), whose range is
between 150 and 1 499 km: in general these missiles have
only one propulsion stage but may carry a separable
war21Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
head. Missiles whose range exceeds 1 000 km have one or
two propulsion stages and a separable warhead.
– Medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM), whose range
is between 1 500 and 2 999 km.
– Intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) have a
range between 3 000 and 5 499 km: they make it necessary
to overcome some substantial technical obstacles (staging,
re-entering the atmosphere, etc.)
– Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), whose range
exceeds 5 500 km.
The development of systems for the last two categories
calls for increased technological maturity, inter alia because
of the high velocities reached by this type of missile.
22“Ballistic missiles increase
the nuclear threat.”
Missiles are attractive to many nations because they can be used
effectively against an air defense system, where an attack with
manned aircraft would be impractical or too costly. In addition, missiles
can be used as a deterrent or an instrument of coercion. Even
limited use of these weapons could be devastating, because missiles can
be armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads.
The national air and space intelligence center, 2009
A connection is often made between ballistic missiles and
nuclear weapons, and rightly so: these two technologies
made their appearance at the same time at the end of the
Second World War.
During the Cold War the United States and the USSR
embarked upon a fierce competition to increase their
arsenals in both number and quality; ballistic missiles became
the preferred method for bringing a nuclear threat to bear
on populations, centres of power or the forces of the enemy.
This competition, particularly keen after the Soviet
demonstration of its ballistic capability at the end of the
1950s (the launch of the first Sputnik satellite and the
American dread of the Missile gap), was accompanied by
crises (the most famous being the Cuban missile crisis in 1962)
or by major controversies in the western camp (the
intermediate nuclear forces – INF– battle at the beginning of the
1980s). Other players gradually joined in: the United
Kingdom and France, China and more recently India,
23Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
Pakistan and Israel. All the nuclear powers, official or
suspected, have made the choice to invest in ballistic missiles.
Today a fresh source of anxiety is added to this
perception of a massive accumulation of sophisticated ballistic
missiles carrying nuclear weapons, linked with the
demonstrated or suspected desire of certain States (Iran, North
Korea) to have access to nuclear weapons and to “vectorise”
them (mounting them on ballistic missiles): the secrecy that
shrouds these efforts, even if today these ambitions are
doubtless limited in quantity and quality, is creating fresh
strategic challenges. However, ballistic missiles with
nonnuclear warheads have regularly been used.
So the first use of ballistic missiles, by the Nazis at the end
of the Second World War, illustrates how these operate as
political weapons for harassment. By virtue of ballistic
missiles used as poor man’s aircraft, the Germans were able to
reach distant areas despite their inferior air power.
Up to now the V2 attacks on London have been the most
substantial ballistic offensive against a city: between
September 1944 and March 1945, 518 out of the 1359
launched reached London, on a daily basis of 4 to 5 launches.
The human cost was 2 511 killed and 21 380 wounded, while
nearly 1.5 million people were evacuated from London.
These missiles travelled over 300 km with an explosive
payload of 730 kg; they used liquid propulsion and were very
inaccurate (circular error probability 17 km).
These attacks have replaced the V2 bombardment of the
port of Antwerp in the collective memory: Antwerp was the
logistical nerve centre for the allied forces at the end of 1944
and the beginning of 1945. This attempt to disrupt
logistical flows was extended to a number of key rail centres in
24The Ballistic Missiles
Northern France and Belgium: up to now this has been the
only occasion on which ballistic missiles have been used
against French territory.
The V2, a German achievement in the 1940s, would be
the basis of the first Soviet and western ballistic missiles
after the war: those countries would recover V2 parts, which
would be used for their initial work, and would take in
many German scientists to work on their national
programmes. In particular the United States welcomed Dr. Werner
von Braun, who led the team at Peenemünde responsible
for developing the V2s. Von Braun would be put in charge
of the American ballistic and space programmes: in
particular he would direct the Mercury programme for NASA.
To a certain extent it is this logic of long-range strikes
meant to create terror and weaken the enemy’s
determination or inflict unbearable damage on him that has presided
over the marriage between the ballistic delivery vehicle and
the nuclear weapon. Since the ballistic missile is capable of
penetrating any air defence, it was logical in the end to link it
with a weapon whose potential for destruction is unequalled.
However, this linkage is not as close as one might think.
Historically two families of ballistic missiles have been
developed by the United States and Russia after 1945:
– The first ballistic missile family is intended for use, and
is more like rockets and long-range artillery. Thus the missiles
developed in the 1950s based on German technology are
dualpurpose: the Soviet SS-1s – from which the SCUD missiles
originated – can carry conventional or nuclear payloads. Besides,
the nuclear weapon has also been regarded as a battlefield
weapon by Soviet and American officials up to the 1987 INF
Treaty and doubtless beyond, at least as regards the Russians.
25Star Wars rebooted: missile defence in progress
– Even today the United States is investing in the
development and deployment of accurate conventional missiles
for short-range strikes beyond the front line (cf. the second
war in Iraq) following on from concepts developed for the
Central Europe theatre during the Cold War. They are also
regularly contemplating the use of ballistic missiles for very
long-range strikes on very high-value targets. So the United
States has been working since the early 2000s on options
making it possible to strike any point on the earth in less
than an hour. This project, named Conventional Prompt
Global Strike, was first based on the conversion of nuclear
ballistic missiles for conventional missions. While this
option has been abandoned for the moment in favour of
more futuristic solutions for political reasons, it shows that
the ballistic missile can also be the artillery of the rich when
it is a question of obtaining a precise military effect.
– The second ballistic missile family is for carrying nuclear
weapons. It is generally intended for non-use. Later, with
technological improvements, come increases in range and a
separation, at least in the case of the two great powers, between
systems intended for use and those with a deterrent role: to
bring the threat of mass destruction to bear on the vital
interests of the enemy and to prevent the launch of a conflict.
So we can see that countries with ballistic missiles, and
particularly proliferating countries in the ballistic missile
field, do not automatically fall within the nuclearisation
process. The missiles can be used as vehicles for local or
regional “terror” bombardment and without carrying
nuclear weapons.
In the war of the cities during the Iran/Iraq war, Tehran was
bombarded with missiles fired at the rate of 2 to 3 per day
26L’Hôpital en sursis – idées reçues sur le système hospitalier
Editor: Marie-Laurence Dubray
Editor’s thanks to Anne-Laure Marsaleix and Coralie Albinet
© Le Cavalier Bleu – 5 avenue de la République – 75011 Paris.
«idées reçues» is a trademark.
Cover: © Mademoiselle –
Printed in the European Union
ISBN 978-2-84670-487-8 / Copyright registration: March 2013
ISSN: 1964-700X