Rome, 20th-21st April 1993
Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU
Tuesday, 20th April 1993
1. The threat
1.1. Introduction and historical reference
Surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) have been widely used operationally for more than fifty years but only recently, with the proliferation of these vectors in developing third world countries, has the SSM threat been given wider consideration after many years of examination in restricted military and specialist circles.
This is quite surprising since SSMs proved their worth quite early during the second world war when Germany launched some 17 000 V-1s and 3 000 V-2s against the United Kingdom and continental Europe causing widespread destruction and the death of about 12 000 civilians. The V-2 experience was a starting point for the development of a number of ballistic missiles in both West and East. Scud-Bs can be considered as the latest development of the German V-2 rocket.
Third world countries began very early to use SSMs operationally with effect from the late '70s. It should be recalled that Frog-7s and Scud-Bs were launched from Syria and Egypt against Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
A few years later, between 1980 and 1988, Iran and Iraq fought a fierce missile war with Frog-7s, Scud-Bs and Scud-B derivatives. Each side launched some 400 missiles against the other. For the first time in 1986, SSMs were launched from a third world country against a western country. The reference here is to the two Scud-Bs which Libya launched against United States military installations in the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Although not so widely known, ballistic SSMs were used on a large scale in Afghanistan between 1988 and 1991, Scud-B again playing the star role. Western reports estimate that government forces launched more than 2 000 SSMs against the Mujahiddin. More recently and more widely known was the use of SSMs in the Gulf war two years ago when Iraq launched about 80 Scuds and the local development of this missile (Al Hussein) against Israel and the Gulf states.
The proliferation of SSMs is increasing steadily. According to certain United States CIA reports, at least fifteen developing countries can now produce SSMs; there will be 24 countries with an SSM production capability by the end of the century.
1.2. The military value of SSMs
One premise is mandatory. SSMs are a valuable alternative to more sophisticated offensive weapon systems, but the military value of these missiles, armed with conventional warheads, is minimum at the best.
To elaborate further, an old generation SSM, typically a Scud-B, is capable of carrying at its maximum range of rather less than 300 km a 1 000 km warhead. The CEP (circular error probable)(1) is a function of the missile flight time: for the Scud it is about 900 m at maximum range. A 1 000 km high explosive warhead missing the intended target by about one kilometre is absolutely without effect. Any fighter bomber, with a far greater range, is quite capable of carrying at least twice as much explosive capability and delivering it accurately to within a few tens of metres. This does not take account of the capabilities of even first-generation smart weapons.
Combat aircraft are far more accurate, flexible and can be used again and again. There are also drawbacks, which are most important for countries with limited resources. A fleet of combat aircraft is extremely expensive and has a high profile. To be effective it requires advanced operational tactics, complex maintenance and perfect crew training. These problems increase in proportion to the length of flight time or radius to reach the intended targets. Many air forces are capable of reaching targets on the battlefield, some can make more distant strikes, but for deep interdiction or strategic bombing only very few countries can deploy a credible operational attack force. The mere ownership of aircraft capable of conducting deep interdiction missions does not equate to a real military capability: this, for instance, is the case for the Syrian and Libyan Su-24 Fencers.
Another point has to be addressed: even the fastest strike aircraft usually flies at a high sub-sonic speed during cruise time, then accelerates to slightly supersonic during the final attack run. For this reason, a target some 900 km from the airbase will be reached only after about one hour of flight time. On the other hand, a ballistic missile can cover the same distance in about nine minutes and thus truly catch the enemy by surprise. Furthermore, every day there is a greater proliferation of anti-aircraft defence systems, even within the less-developed countries, thus increasing the probability of attrition rates (the number of aircraft being shot down) and diminishing the effectiveness of an attack. Conversely, until only a few years ago an SSM launched against a target was safe from any attempt to intercept it and only a mechanical failure could have stopped or changed its course.
SSMs have some valuable advantages:
- they are quite simple to use;
- they require a minimum of maintenance;
- they can be produced or assembled by countries with basic infrastructures and technology using personnel with medium skills;
- they can be mounted on mobile launchers, TELs (tractor erector launcher). TELs can be easily hidden, camouflaged, kept in protected shelters and then transferred to launch areas just prior to action. For these reasons, it is very difficult to locate and consequently to destroy TELs (2);
- they are quite cheap to produce or to buy on the market. A Scud-B costs no more than $1 million. This sum may vary considerably depending on specific situations and whether the weapon is produced locally or procured abroad.
It is evident that the older-generation SSMs with conventional high-explosive warheads and with poor accuracy are not suitable for attacking military forces except, perhaps, for large area targets such as air or naval bases at medium distances from the launch pads. (It was not by chance that Syria used their Frog-7s in 1973 against the Israeli airforce bases. This was a task that the Syrian airforce was unable to accomplish since it was too weak compared to the Israeli airforce).
The situation changes dramatically when one considers more advanced or non-conventional (i.e. nuclear or chemical) warheads. For a long time, high-explosive warheads have been backed up or replaced by cluster warheads, armed with small anti-personnel or anti-tank bombs. SSMs such as the United States Lance or ATACMs have been in service with this kind of warhead for a number of years. The Block 1 ATACMs carry a cluster warhead containing 1 000 M74 bombs. The efficiency of these SSMs depends of course on the accuracy of the missile at the end of its flight. Although some countries have developed this kind of warhead, these devices are usually reserved for short-range weapons directly employed on the battlefield: the Egyptian SAKR-80 is a typical example. There are also rumours about the new FAE (fuel air explosive) warheads that might be under development in China, but FAE technology and operating conditions make it extremely complicated to produce missile warheads of this type.
Initially, Russian Scud-type SSMs were planned for use with nuclear or chemical warheads. Considering the enormous destructive power of these warheads, the CEP had only marginal importance (3). Even an older-generation SSM becomes a formidable weapon when fitted with this kind of warhead. While military nuclear programmes or the procurement of nuclear warheads are fortunately restricted to a few emerging countries, the contrary is true for chemical weapons. Several dozen countries now have, or are about to obtain, chemical/biological weapons and, although perhaps not very sophisticated, chemical warheads for missiles are a widespread reality. This trend will surely increase in the next few years.
My comments so far have been confined to the use of SSMs against military targets. History has shown that SSMs have generally been used, even massively, to fight a sort of cities war in which the targets were urban areas of varying sizes. This is just a reedition of the terrorist missile bombardments launched by Germany during the second world war. While allied bombers were able to destroy German cities, the nazis, unable to reach England and most of free Europe with piloted aircraft, retaliated with desperate missile launches. This lesson has been duly studied and today those who do not have the aircraft to conduct a strategic bombing campaign can adopt the less complicated and less costly alternative of an indiscriminate missile attack.
A very high level of accuracy is not necessary for a strike to have a devastating impact. All that is needed is to reach a densely-populated area. The continuous expansion of urban centres therefore offers a number of easy and usually undefended targets. The same high-explosive warhead that appears to be so ineffective against military targets becomes a lethal weapon if turned against buildings and houses.
A few images reached the West about the true situation in Iranian and Iraqi towns which were severely damaged in the never-ending war between these two countries, but everyone will recall the images of destruction and terror in Tel Aviv, struck by Iraqi missiles just two years ago. The destructive effect does not depend only on the warhead whose weight varies from 150-1 000 kg. Consideration also has to be given to the missile fuselage weighing several tons and the speed of impact ranging from 1000 m/sec for an SRBM (short-range ballistic missile) with a range of 300 km to the 4 500 m/sec of an IRBM (intermediate-range ballistic missile) with a range of 3 000 km. If the warhead does not separate from the fuselage (i.e. a single stage missile) the destructive effects (mass x speed) are amplified and are even greater in the not-uncommon case of some of the fuel remaining unburnt in the tanks at the time of impact.
Even without a warhead, a two-ton missile such as the Scud can leave a crater ten metres wide, several metres deep, and demolish houses, streets, shops and even reinforced concrete buildings. Many of the Al Hussein missiles which Iraq launched against Israel disintegrated before reaching the ground but the cinetic energy produced was more than enough to cause catastrophic effects. The launch of a few dozen missiles over an urban area can therefore kill several hundred civilians and at the same time gain relevant results at strategic level. To this end, relatively crude weapons easily produced in large quantities at low cost can do the job. If the missiles aimed at cities are armed with chemical or, even worse, nuclear warheads, consequences could be apocalyptic. Using the scale now in use, the 1945 Hiroshima bomb could be graded as a low-yield tactical device (13 kT), but it killed about 70 000 persons. In addition, there is the drama of the people who survived the bomb that were contaminated by radioactivity. The nuclear warhead of the original Soviet Scud-B has yield of some tens of kT.
1.3. The politico-strategic effects
Even a limited SSM campaign against civilian targets can have significant effects in a very short time. Mere conventional warhead explosions are over-emphasised by the media, creating a disproportionate reaction from public opinion. People usually having a different opinion of a missile - considered to be a dirty, bad weapon against which there is no defence - than of an ordinary aircraft using bombs or artillery shells. The effects of an air raid are usually far more serious than those of a few SSMs, but from a purely psychological point of view missiles arouse greater indignation.
One Al Hussein too many on Israel and the story of the Gulf war might have been quite different. The international coalition network set up by the United States with such difficulty might have been dissolved instantly and the outcome of the war jeopardised.
Obviously the effects of SSM launches can vary according to circumstances: the 2 000 Scuds fired at the Afghan freedom fighters were unable to stop the fall of the old regime to guerrilla movements.
The launching of SSMS with chemical or nuclear warheads can therefore determine the odds in a conflict, shorten a war or force an escalation.
Lessons learned from the past and an assessment of the possible outcome of crises should not blind us to the fact that the principal value of SSMs does not depend on what these weapons are actually used for but on the mere possibility that SSMs might be used. So we emerged with the concept of deterrence.
During the first world war, the strategic value of the German Blue Water fleet was not due to the real ability of this fleet to fight and win a number of decisive battles against the British fleet but to the mere existence of those grey battleships: a fleet in being.
Today, SSMs in the hands of third world countries can be considered a credible, cheap, effective deterrent force. Take Syria, for instance: Syrian conventional forces are certainly inferior to those of Israel, numbers notwithstanding. What is perhaps more important is that Israel has a military nuclear capability, a number of vectors and the willingness to use nuclear weapons if the situation becomes desperate. Syria, on the contrary, has (for the time being) no nuclear warheads, but instead fields a powerful SSM force, capable of striking any part of enemy territory. Some of the missiles are equipped with chemical warheads. Syrian chemical SSMs, if not enough to defuse the Israeli nuclear threat, to some extent give Syria simple but effective insurance.
Here, therefore, we have, on a lesser scale, a new edition of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) concept that, for decades, governed superpower relations. In the same way, Libyan SSMs, with an increasing range, made it more and more difficult for the West to attain or even threaten a new military showdown. In 1988, the only Libyan reaction to United States air raids was to launch a couple of Scud-Bs that fell into the sea without reaching the intended targets. If the situation were to be repeated today, Libya would probably be in a position to retaliate by firing SSMs fully capable of reaching Lampedusa... and not only that small island. The argument that about ten Libyan SSMs would cause little damage compared with what massive western air and missile raids can cause in Libya has only relative merit: at political level, the Libyan threat suggests that there is now a much more cautious approach. It is worth noting that it does not matter whether western intelligence can prove that a number of powerful operational SSMs exist; the mere probability that such weapons exist and could be launched is sufficient.
The missile is a kind of absolute weapon, capable of covering hundreds of kilometres in a very short time. There is so far no credible system of defence against this threat. The existence of a missile arsenal, accompanied with declared willingness to use it when needed, is a valuable instrument for political pressure or blackmail.
In any international comparison, an individual country that cannot threaten in some way the security of the opponent carries little weight. If, on the other hand, whatever the imbalance, both sides have a strike capability, it is possible to meet at the conference table on an equal footing. Stalin was quoted as saying that the relative weight of a country was measured in divisions. Today, a few old SSMs have just as much political value as powerful conventional armies.
1.4. Ballistic missiles
Traditionally, when we discuss the SSM threat we think of a fusiform device powered by a rocket engine during a short initial acceleration stage. After the engine shuts down, the missile flies on a ballistic trajectory until gravity takes over. A short-range SSM can have an apogee of about 100 km while a long-range SSM can fly out of the atmosphere to an altitude of at least 600 km in the case of an IRB. A short- range SSM usually consists of a single stage, while longer-range missiles have two or more propellant stages. At the end of ballistic flight, during the re-entry stage, the vehicle can release one or more warheads.
As I have just said, ballistic missiles fly at very high speed. During the terminal stage a speed of about 500 m/sec can be given for very short-range weapons, ranging up to 1 000 m/sec for 300 km weapons, 1 500 to 2 000 m/sec for an Al Hussein class SSM and to 4 500 m/sec and more for a typical IRBM. These data show how the problem of intercepting an SSM at the stage of descent towards the target becomes increasingly difficult as the range of the weapon increases.
Developing countries' initial procurement abroad and subsequent independent or semi-independent development of SSMs was a step-by-step process. They all started with large artillery rockets in the Russian Frog-7 category. Then came Scud-B, with a maximum range of just under 300 km, followed by Scud-C (500 to 600 km) and the local version of Scud-B. Now there is proliferation and the first programmes for developing or procuring a new weapon with a range of 900 to 1 200 km. Fortunately, the proliferation of single- and two-stage long- range weapons is still in the early stages, e.g. the CSS-2 which China sold to Saudi Arabia and the Israeli-developed Jericho-1 and 2. Analyses by western intelligence services foresee another round in this missile race in the medium/long term. The first step will be the full operational capability of weapons such as the North Korean Ro-Dong 1 (Labour-1), never yet tested but probably already being mass-produced. This weapon has an optimum range of 1 000 km but is capable of a range of 1 200 to 1 300 km. The number "1" clearly suggests that there is a potential for a more advanced Ro-Dong 2 with enhanced performances. India, Israel, Pakistan and South Africa have designed or are in the final development stage of missiles in the 1 000 to 4 000 km range.
According to a recently-published CIA report, commented on publicly by R. James Woolsey, the head of the CIA, in a few years' time several developing countries will have missiles with a long enough range to reach most of Europe, while, within a decade or so, we might see the first ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) really capable of reaching the United States. According to some western assessments, in the early years of next century there will be some five or six developing countries with SSMs capable of reaching targets 3 000 km away and at least three countries will have 5 000 km class SSMs. The race towards increasingly capable SSMs makes the user capable of reaching enemies hundreds of kilometres away and of placing launchers in protected sites well inside his own territory, thus safeguarding SSMs from the long range of most combat aircraft.
The main components of an SSM are the propulsion system, the guidance system and the warhead. For propulsion, the principal choice is between solid or liquid propellants. The older short- and medium-range missiles can usually rely on liquid propellants, which are easy and cheap to produce, while more advanced and, as a rule, Chinese weapons are equipped with solid-propellant rocket engines. The technology involved in solid propellants is still controlled by a very small number of firms and this makes the task of international agencies trying to stop proliferation slightly easier. Another advantage of liquid-propelled SSMs is that it is a simple task to modify the missiles by enlarging the fuel tanks while reducing the weight of the warhead, thus achieving a longer range. This, for instance, is exactly what Iraq did with Scud-Bs.
Liquid propellants have some disadvantages, of course, both operational and technical. Pumping the liquid fuel into the tanks is a very delicate, time-consuming operation since these are highly corrosive chemicals that have to be handled very carefully, to say the least. Conversely, a solid-propellant SSM can, to a certain extent, be handled more or less like an artillery round, ready for use.
Another aspect that should be underlined is the rapidity of launching operations. During attacks on military targets, in particular, speed of firing is vital as is the ability to reload the ramp with a new weapon. It should not be forgotten that, even from a psychological standpoint, a missile attack by one or two SSMs a day does not have the same impact as a concentrated bombing raid using scores of weapons over a short period.
Older-generation weapons had lengthy launching procedures taking more than an hour. In point of fact, no country has ever launched more than a dozen missiles a day. Remarkably, the only exception was the massive use of Scud-Bs in Afghanistan. The advent of solid-propellant rocket engines will allow launching operations to be speeded up, exposing the launcher for less than thirty minutes and also allowing an intensive, prolonged rate of firing and missile launching of valuable intensity.
The guidance system of an SSM is usually based on a number of gyroscopes and accelerometers integrated in an inertial unit. The accuracy of the systems depends on the working time of the system (i.e. flight time): the greater the range, the greater the drift rate. The accuracy of a missile declines quite substantially as it reaches its maximum range. First-generation weapons (Scud-Bs) were equipped with fairly inaccurate navigation system that made use against military targets uncertain, to say the least, unless the massive destructive power of a nuclear or chemical warhead was used. The CSS-2s which China sold to Saudi Arabia can, on paper, be considered a redoubtable weapon. They have a range of more than 2 800 km and a warhead weighing over 2 000 kg, but the CEP is no greater than 2 000 m at maximum range). In fact, without a nuclear warhead, the CSS-2 is hardly usable against targets with a large area such as a medium-sized or large town.
Fortunately, improvements in the range of SSMs derived from the new Scud-B were not achieved at the same time as improvements of the same order in accuracy, but one cannot hope that this situation will last for ever.
The Chinese M-9 is credited with a 650 m CEP (compared with 1 000 m for Scud-Bs). Current technological developments mean that greater accuracy can be expected in the near future: the Russian short-range SSM SS-21 (Tochka) can carry a 480 kg warhead over a maximum range of about 120 km with a CEP as low as 75 mm. (Western estimates, which are less optimistic, should be corrected.) The United States SSM ATACMs are even better. Generally speaking, it can be considered that most countries' short-range SSMs have a CEP of 50 m, while, for missiles with a range of up to 500 km, an average of about 100 m can be expected. In any event, it should not be forgotten that the United States INF Pershing II was credited with a CEP of only 40 m after a 1 800 km flight. With accuracy of that order and a medium-weight warhead, it is no longer essential to use nuclear or chemical warheads to attack military targets or a specific target within an urban area. Obviously, if we combine the accuracy capabilities of advanced SSMs with non-conventional warheads, we can expect terrific results. It is only a matter of time before advanced guidance systems are available for equipping SSMs produced by developing countries.
We have spoken about warheads before. It should be added that reducing the weight of the warhead is one of the easier ways of boosting the range of an SSM: the politico-strategic use of SSMs is not related to the destructive power of the warhead. Some Scud derivatives are armed with light 150 kg warheads compared with 1 000 kg for basic Scud-Bs. It may also be added that the increased accuracy of new SSMs makes a warhead weighing a few hundred kilogrammes more than enough for military roles. Turning to non-conventional warheads, the weight can be further reduced without losing any destructive power: a chemical warhead can weigh an average of 200 kg.
To sum up, missile developments will soon allow developing countries to field a number of SSMs with different ranges, degrees of accuracy and warheads. In the medium/long term, it will be possible to produce large numbers of low-cost solid- propellant SSMs. New-generation, more powerful and accurate SSMs will make high-intensity, terrifying missile attack a reality, thus reducing to some extent in military terms the disadvantages as compared with piloted attack aircraft.
1.5. Cruise missiles
The missile threat has so far been seen in terms of the ballistic SSM. This does not mean other weapons systems cannot be deployed alongside traditional SSMs and here we are referring to cruise missiles.
The devastating effects of the cruise missiles launched by United States naval surface vessels and submarines and air force bombers during the 1991 Gulf war certainly attracted the attention of many countries which are now actively pursuing the aim of procuring or, better, developing weapons similar in design independently.
A cruise missile is essentially an aircraft without a pilot, usually equipped with its own guidance system. Compared with a ballistic missile, a cruise missile relies on an engine similar, albeit on a reduced scale, to the propellant system of an aircraft. All cruise missiles are powered by an air-breathing engine that usually works throughout the flight. The speed of cruise missiles is, on average, in the high subsonic range (about 900 kph), but some are much faster and have a speed well above the sound barrier. Ranges vary from a few hundred kilometres to 2 500 or 300 km. Cruise missiles can be launched from the ground or from ships, submarines or aircraft. The usual weight of warheads ranges from 500 to 1 000 kg. In the last few years, several types of warhead have been developed: high explosive, chemical or nuclear with a choice of sub-munitions or special conventional unitary warheads. The miniaturisation of nuclear devices allows countries such as China to develop small nuclear warheads compatible with the stringent requirements of a typical cruise missile.
The guidance unit is based on a unit pre-programmed before launching that stores target co-ordinates and a flight plan. This unit can be used for cruise navigation. In some missiles, it is possible to update navigation data through a data link or radio command. During the terminal stage of the flight, with the missile moving towards the target, a dedicated terminal guidance unit, either active or passive, can be used to increase accuracy. Cruise missiles have a high degree of accuracy with a CEP ranging from 300 down to 10 m.
While the low speed facilitates the work of air defence radar and interception by surface-to-surface missiles and fighter aircraft, in reality the small dimensions of the missile, the low-level flight profile, the use of ground features to conceal the weapon from radar, the use of stealth technology to reduce RCS (radar cross section) as well as IR signature and the great flexibility in preparing the flight plan and penetration run make cruise missiles very difficult targets, even for integrated, modern air defence systems. The score achieved by United States Tomahawks in the Gulf confirms this statement. While it is true that the low speed of most cruise missiles increases flight time, this does not rule out the surprise effect that can, in any event, be achieved by careful planning that takes advantage of the technical characteristics of cruise missiles. Simple cruise missiles can be cheaper to produce than ballistic SSMs. They are also easier to use and deploy and it takes less time to prepare them for launching.
For a number of years, cruise missile development was a matter for the superpowers alone, but today several development projects are under way in a number of countries, including India and China. To be more detailed, China's scheduled procurement of the technology and production tools (this is a typical turnkey contract) needed to produce small turbo-fan engines from the United States firm Garrett should be considered part of this picture. The crisis in the former Soviet Union now makes it easier for Russian cruise missiles to proliferate in several countries. It is estimated in the United States that, by the end of the century, both Iran and Iraq will be able to deploy this type of weapon. During the IDEX military show in Abu Dhabi (UAE) a few months ago, Russia, for the first time, exhibited the air-launched cruise missile AS-15 (X-65CE) in an anti-ship version armed with a conventional warhead and a redesigned fuselage embodying stealth technology to reduce RCS. Even in this version, the Russian cruise missile, weighing 1 250 kg and 6 m long, armed with a 410 kg warhead and having a range of 280 km, is quite interesting, but it should not be forgotten that its strategic version is credited with a range of 2 500 km.
This is only one example of the noteworthy Russian cruise missile design range. The Russians considered AS-15 technology to be obsolete and a new-generation weapon was being developed: the AS-19 Koala, which is to be 10 m long with a range of 4 000 km. This programme has now been stopped, as has work on the SS- N-24 Skorpion, but the SS-N-21 Sampson, with a range of 1 700 km, has been in service for a few years and is considered to be the Russian equivalent of the United States Tomahawk.
Several countries are currently working on stand-off long- range missiles as well as self-propelled launchers, not to mention surveillance RPVs and even some target drones that can easily be converted into a type of cruise missile.
The guidance system is of course the main problem but the deployment of navigation satellite networks (GPS - global positioning system - by the United States and the Soviet equivalent Glonass) was followed by availability on the market of terminals and guidance systems that are very accurate and, at the same time, very cheap: a few thousand United States dollars. It is not difficult to foresee the militarisation of those systems: weight, dimensions and reliability make incorporation in a missile fuselage very easy.
Even if these terminals are not capable of receiving the high-accuracy signals reserved for military users (4), they will in any event be able to guarantee a CEP of about 100 m after a 100 km flight: this is more than enough to meet the requirements and ambitions of a developing country.
It is worth remembering the discussion going on in the United States about the priorities of SDIO (strategic defence initiative organisation) programmes: ballistic SSMs were always considered top priority, but today several analysts think that an anti-missile defence system must be designed to cope with cruise missiles, too. Consideration is therefore now being given to a system architecture with several parts (fighter aircraft armed with long-range air-to-air missiles, surface-to- air missile batteries, E-3A and E-2C AEW aircraft, etc.). At the moment, the proliferation of coastal defence batteries armed with anti-ship long-range cruise missiles is being taken very seriously: weapons of this type will have a long enough range to reach distant ground-based targets.
It is essential, therefore, that the system architecture of a missile defence system should be focused on both ballistic SSMs and cruise missiles. If the immediate threat alone is considered, i.e. ballistic SSMs, there is a risk of our developing a system that is obsolete before it is deployed.
1.6. Where is the threat coming from?
Before identifying in detail what the most dangerous missile threat to Europe is and where it is coming from, we need to define what we mean by "threat". We should consider only those countries that have missiles capable of reaching any part of Western Europe. Today, this capability is limited to a few Mediterranean and Eastern European countries. However, if we try to take into account probable medium-term prospects, other countries must be added to the list. To consider missile capability alone, with no strategic or military assessment, we must also examine the missile capabilities of some of the countries usually not on the list of "threatening" countries, e.g. Israel, which now has operational ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and a range well over 1500 km.
Israeli missiles probably do not need to be considered a danger for European security. The extreme uncertainty of the international situation and the number of "hot" areas suggests that we adopt a more cautious approach when turning our attention to other facts. The old saying that today's friends may be tomorrow's enemies was never more topical.
Give a few moments' though to Algeria and Egypt: pressure from Islamic fundamentalists is growing in those countries and, if an extremist government were to take over, these countries, too, might be added to the "threat" list.
Clashes and bloodbaths in Algeria and terrorist actions in Egypt, the direct outcome of Muslim pressure from the Sudan, with proven Iranian involvement, make such fears legitimate. It is not known whether western intelligence is currently devoting more resources to keeping a watch on political developments in countries exposed to the fundamentalist threat and, obviously, on their respective missile programmes.
Just a few words about Eastern Europe: the problems are linked with the fate of the missile arsenals of the new powers emerging from the former Soviet Union. Although Russia is actively limiting all strategic weapons, as well as short- and medium-range missiles, the process is a lengthy one and is encountering serious resistance from newly-independent republics such as Ukraine.
Turning to the former Warsaw Pact countries, it must be admitted that the stringent policy of limiting weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union has made the problem far less serious. Missiles available to those countries, in small numbers, are a few SS-21s, old Frog-7s and Scud-Bs. There have been no reports of new local missile programmes. Rather than a direct threat, there are reasons to fear the spread of these weapons on the open market. According to some sources, some Scud-Bs were sold and transferred from Eastern Europe to Serbia, a development whose consequences need no further explanation.
The overall situation in Eastern Europe may therefore be considered less threatening than the situation in the Mediterranean basin.
From what has just been stressed, it may be concluded that there is a positive need to look very carefully not only at the missile ambitions of all countries that may represent a direct threat for Europe but also at all the countries that are offering or may offer missiles or missile technology: North Korea, China, India and Pakistan.
2.1. Analysis and evolution of the problem
In paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3, we described a number of reasons that might induce a country to acquire missile capability. Two other factors can also be identified in addition to the political and strategic ambitions referred to above: the so- called prestige and emulation factors. I do not think there is any need to speculate further about the latter but I would say a few more words about the former. The acquisition of a weapons system by a developing country usually triggers a similar response from neighbouring states; examples of this are well known in the aerospace and naval armaments fields.
Similarly, the acquisition of an SSM capability can be considered as a self-explanatory show of power. Even more important is the autonomous production of such weapons. The missile thus becomes a status symbol that disregards logic, military or economic rationale. A good example of this is Saudi Arabia's procurement of CSS-2 IRBM missiles. In the mid-eighties, the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force was one of the most powerful air forces in the Gulf and Middle East thanks to the British Tornado interdiction aircraft and United States F-15 fighters. When Iran started the war on cities, launching Scud-B missiles over Iraq, the Saudi Government immediately felt there was weakness in its military posture and status as a regional power. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that most countries in the area were equipped with some sort of SSM. The United States was first sounded out about the possible delivery of Lance tactile missiles and the Saudis subsequently turned to China, which ensured the sale of SSMs. In 1988, when Iraq had been launching Al Hussein missiles for a year, the first CSS-2s started to reach Saudi Arabia. Although technologically obsolete, not very accurate and difficult to use, the CSS-2s were the first IRBMs to enter service in a country which did not belong to the superpower club.
The widespread angry international response and the even more alarmed reaction in the United States were disregarded and deliveries were completed. The fact that the some sixty CSS-2s buried in hardened silos in the middle of the desert had no real military value and that the cost of the programme rose to about $3 billion was irrelevant for Saudi Arabia: the government was able to fulfil its ambition and achieved undeniable prestige that its neighbours could not challenge.
There are a number of reasons underlying the ongoing race for SSMs among developing countries. Historically, this phenomenon developed in different ways that became increasingly sophisticated over the years.
The first phase can be considered as horizontal proliferation, i.e. direct sales of ready-to-use SSMs, with a minimum support and maintenance package. Until the late seventies at least this was the most common form of missile proliferation.
A country agreeing to sell SSMs achieved a twofold result: first it was able to establish privileged relationships with the procuring country at both strategic and political levels and, second, it was was able to obtain payment in hard cash. These two advantages were not always achieved.
The former Soviet Union, for instance, was very ready to sell its allies and friendly governments artillery rockets such as Frog-7 and SSMs such as Scud-B, but in some cases the transfer of these weapons was regarded as a special premium to reward a truly loyal government. Not always, therefore, was the sale or transfer of missiles a way of raising huge sums of money (5). The United States and other western countries traditionally applied strict controls and a self-limitation policy to sales of SSMs.
China was not concerned with the political aspect alone but regarded the sale of SSMs as a practical way of helping its ailing economy: buyers wishing to shop at the Chinese missile market had to be prepared to pay cash and could not be sure of bargain prices.
Developing countries soon understood the importance of acquiring an at least partially independent capability in missile technology. The example of North Korea, which with the years moved from the simple procurement of SSMs to local production and subsequently exported SSMs and related technology, is a symbol of the ideal path that a number of other countries might try to follow in the next few years. There is also the instructive case of the Iranian Isfahaan plant, at first a mere warehouse for SSMs bought from various suppliers, then an assembly plant and today a real production plant.
A first step towards missile independence usually consists of the ability to assemble locally parts and components bought abroad. Then comes a mix of local production and foreign purchases. This phase is defined as SCKD (semi-complete knockdown). The final target is obviously the full ability to produce a complete SSM locally. That is complete knockdown. Initially, this can take the form of local production of an existing SSM design, which is what happened with the Scud-B.
However, the new SSM power soon tries to develop its own designs. Sometimes a weapon of foreign design is chosen through a reverse engineering process or bought straight from another country. In other cases, an original project is transformed into an operational weapon, perhaps through co-operation with another country. Missile co-operation among developing countries is certainly one of the worst things to have happened in recent years. Think, for instance, of Egypt, which reportedly sold North Korea the first Scud-B that was then cloned, modified and spread throughout the Middle East.
Even the simple production of components requires some know- how, appropriate infrastructure, tools and specialised staff. Such production factors may be acquired from one or more countries. In some really alarming cases, we have witnessed turnkey sales of manufacturing plants; this, for instance, is what happened in Syria thanks to North Korea.
Such technology transfers, real vertical proliferation, are truly dangerous because, within a short lapse of time, they can establish a new missile power potentially capable of exporting its own products. In North Korea, this development was very largely the result of the need to increase the cash flow in order to help a weak economy.
Vertical proliferation and local technical assistance guaranteed by North Korean technicians and scientists are well rewarded. Usually, the outright transfer of machinery and technology is too obvious and cannot be easily concealed, thus causing alarm and bitter international reaction. A number of different solutions have been worked out by developing countries to cover the growth in their missile industries and, gradually, more subtle tricks have been used to avoid restrictions and bypass controls imposed by the western powers.
Initially, the country concerned could entrust a foreign industry with a whole turnkey programme: against payment of huge amounts of money, the firm, usually a well-respected firm, prepared a complete plan, including the design of the missile system, industrialisation, identification of the required machinery and tools, transfer of those items and training of technicians responsible for assembling the plant and starting production in the client country. Obviously, in order to avoid suspicion, the firm responsible, resident in a given country, ordered various parts and components in different countries for later separate shipment to the final destination at different times. Usually the goods involved were not included in a restricted list and there was therefore a good chance of avoiding verification.
The main disadvantage of this method was that the entire project and related know-how remained in the hands of the initial firm and were not transferred to the client.
In the next phase, developing countries tried to run their missile programmes themselves. Over the years, some experience was acquired, better-trained scientists and technicians were hired or trained abroad and key technology was obtained in various but not always legal ways. In some cases, scientific or civil missile programmes were used to conceal military programmes: this was the case, for instance, of India, Pakistan and Argentina.
Some countries started their own programmes: the project and itself and its implementation were carried out locally, but there was still the problem of obtaining certain materials, machinery and technology, primarily that relating to the guidance system. This task was usually assigned to a number of conniving firms, each of which was given only a small part of the shopping list. These firms were able to take advantage of the open market to buy what was needed from a large number of western companies, in the United States or Europe. These companies were usually unaware of the client's final goal. The goods were shipped to the end user country and, at this point, the industrial programme could start. The entire process took time, but it was very hard to identify and stop these legal smugglers. A scheme of this kind could be used not only for missile technology but, by extension, for nuclear and chemical technology, or perhaps the supergun so important in Saddam Hussein's dreams.
A variation on this method calls for the use of different layers of shadow companies, joint ventures or import-export firms in one way or another linked to the end users. Even shipping companies, on land or at sea, can be controlled by the end user. Those responsible for procurement in the countries involved in the missile race are able to find new and more advanced systems and although some countries, such as Libya, are still rather naive and rely on workers, technicians and scientists of questionable skills, other countries, such as Iran, are able on their own to run very complex organisations and can also benefit from a technical and scientific basis that should not be underestimated. The best procurement services include that of Syria, with its ill-famed Syrian Scientific Research Council (SSRC), only recently officially banned, which for a number of years was very active in searching for dual-use western technology.
A recent case illustrates the problem.
A few months ago, the Italian authorities stopped the Waalhaven, a ship coming from Germany with Syria as its final destination. On board there were twenty-seven containers filled with machinery, subject to no control, that was officially intended for an automobile plant but was in fact urgently needed for a Scud-C missile production plant. The ship was registered in Estonia and chartered by a Dutch ship- owner. It left Hamburg, after loading the containers under orders from North Korean firms in Germany, made a stop in the Netherlands and then entered the Mediterranean, where it was stopped and forced to dock in the Sicilian port of Augusta. It was possible to stop this cargo ship only because of rumours that came to the ears of the German security services. From an official standpoint, it was obviously all perfectly legal, so the ship was allowed to leave port, but the containers were sent back to Germany and the German Government compensated the German companies for the loss of the contract. This was a really complex operation that managed to stop Syria's missile ambitions.
2.2. The principal missile programmes of concern to Europe
On the basis of what was said in paragraph 1.6, our analysis will be limited to projects and countries that are the most important in terms of European security. While, in the case of Algeria, there is still nothing worthy of note, Egypt, on the contrary, has never forgotten its missile plans and is endeavouring to obtain an autonomous capability. Although some projects (e.g. the Condor-BADR-2000) have now been finally stopped, Egypt has noteworthy potential and technology. There are, for instance, two main projects, although these are progressing very slowly, the first relating to a 450 km range weapon with a 1 000 kg warhead (Project T) and the second a 600 km range weapon with a 450 kg warhead (Vector). Project T could take as a starting point Scud-B, as modified by ABD (Arab British Dynamics), with enlarged fuel tanks and the use of lighter, more advanced materials. Vector could be broadly equivalent to Scud-C. Egypt is also producing Scud-Bs locally, in a plant near Heliopolis. The current state of international relations between Egypt and western countries is certainly facilitating the transfer of and access to the most advanced technology, but equipment and materials can also be obtained through Russia.
The most serious concern in the Mediterranean basin is centred on Libya and Syria. A few years ago, Libya made an effort to deploy SSMs capable of striking Israel and Europe. Scud-Bs are considered inadequate and there are thus sound reasons for a massive effort to acquire more powerful weapons. The first programme was aimed at the development of a 600 km missile in the same class as the Scud-C produced by North Korea or the Chinese M-9. These efforts have never progressed beyond the initial stages. There are also a number of programmes aimed at modifying Scud-B or developing new weapons with solid or liquid propellant with a range up to and well in excess of 1 000 km. The most famous of these projects is certainly Al Fatah, a liquid propellant missile, with a 500 kg warhead and a range not far from the target of 1 000 km. All these autonomous programmes are far from the operational stage. To fill this gap, also taking account of the many problems encountered with national programmes, Libya has knocked on North Korea's door, asking for the Ro-Dong 1. According to some western sources, this missile, capable of carrying a 1 000 kg warhead with a 1 000 km range, might be in Libyan hands.
Syria is conducting several programmes, mainly aimed at Israel, but today alarmingly dangerous even for Europe. Large numbers of Scud-B SSMs and SSC-1B anti-ship Sepals were procured from the Soviet Union. Subsequently there was the short-range tactical SS-21, followed by the Chinese M-11 (solid propellant, 300 km range, 500 kg warhead) and the more highly-capable M-9 (600 km and 500 kg). The most threatening development is the acquisition of autonomous production capability for Scud-Cs (600 km and 500 kg) thanks to the help and assistance of North Korea which, apart from the SSMs, supplied technology and plant. There are also rumours of national programmes for developing SSMs with a 300 to 500 km range. There may be an underground production facility near Aleppo while, in Hama, there may be a factory working on the production of guidance systems.
While not of immediate concern for Europe, the Iranian missile programmes are so ambitious that they require detailed analysis. This is not just because the weapons can or could in a matter of years reach every target in the Middle East but also because missiles and technology could be transferred to friendly Islamic governments in the Mediterranean, not forgetting that the final objective also involves long-range missiles. In the short-range SSM area, there is a fully autonomous production capability, symbolised by the experimental Fajr-3 with a 150 km range and the Chinese CSS-8, which is operational and locally produced. A substantial number of Scud-Bs were procured from North Korea and the Soviet Union and M-9s from China. Co- operation with North Korea has grown, allowing the local assembly of the 600 km Scud-C, while there is a total knock-down capability to produce Scud-B. Some reports suggest the existence of a project, with the co-operation of China or North Korea, aimed at a 1 000 km, 400 kg warhead Tondar-68. On the basis of this information, transatlantic alarm seems fully justified, as is the call for the application of several controls on the export of goods to this Islamic regime.
2.3. How to counter proliferation
What possibilities do Europe and the West have to eliminate the missile threat? From a purely military standpoint we can discuss the merits of a pre-emptive, Israeli-style solution: precise air and/or missile attacks targeted on the destruction of missile ramps, warehouses, assembly centres and production plants. Unfortunately, even if such a solution were politically acceptable, the real effect of even massive attacks is questionable because there are too many targets and many of them are heavily defended by air defence systems or placed in reinforced bunkers or even underground facilities.
Another option is deterrence, confronting the aggressor with a sword of Damocles in the form of devastating retaliation. In any event, we must not make the mistake of adopting western criteria for assessing the hypothetical behaviour of countries whose culture is totally different from that of the West: people believing they can go to heaven by falling in battle against hated infidels are not really scared by this kind of threat.
An active defence system capable of detecting, identifying and destroying missiles en route for Europe will, admitting that such a system is ever developed, have reduced capabilities in terms of efficiency and coverage. If the enemy could field SSMs with chemical or nuclear warheads, the few missiles evading the defences would be capable of inflicting enormous damage.
An active defence system is, in any event, activated once the missiles are launched into the sky.
It is even more difficult to plan a passive defence system which is adequate to shield the entire civilian population: here we are talking of a gigantic infrastructure effort involving astronomical expenditure. In Europe, probably only Switzerland can rely on a scattered network of effective shelters. The process of missile capability procurement must therefore be made as difficult as possible.
For this purpose, political and economic instruments and a number of stringent control rules can be applied in order to avoid the technology concerned being exported to developing countries.
The West cannot be said to have reacted to the missile proliferation threat in time. The MTCR (missile technology control regime) was signed only in April 1987. This was not a formal treaty but an agreement calling on signatories not to export certain goods, complete missiles and technology and to stop trade in them. Seven countries signed the agreement in 1987: the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Italy. Twenty-three countries are now participating in the MTCR agreement and discussions are being held with several others.
The MTCR regime is limited to systems with a range of not less than 300 km and a payload of 500 kg or more. Thanks to the MTCR, it has been possible to set up an international forum to co-ordinate the fight against proliferation and to exchange information. Satisfactory results have been achieved, but the sophistication of procurement structures and the broader base of suppliers makes controls more difficult every day.
Today those who are shopping for technology and materials are looking for sub-components that are freely available on the market, not included in MTCR lists and not easily connected with missile programmes. Furthermore, general economic progress now makes it very easy to diversify sources of supply, the United States and Western Europe having, at least to some extent, been abandoned in favour of Asian or Eastern European countries which are most industrialised.
Too many countries are not acceding to the MTCR and will never accept any restrictions on their imports.
Steps are being taken in reaction to this. In particular, there is a move towards extending the boundaries of the treaty to include warheads of over 150 kg. (A lot of SSMs effectively have a range over the 300 km ceiling but are excluded from the MTCR because they have a payload of less than 500 kg.) It would be most appropriate if not just ballistic SSMs but also cruise missiles were regarded as equally dangerous. Blocking the transfer of such systems and technology is even more difficult, but paying attention to ballistic missiles alone is counter- productive: there is a definite risk of producing a new form of the same, traditional threat to global security.
Another major instrument might be the introduction of a special provision in commercial law in MTCR countries allowing governments to stop the transfer or sale of any material whatsoever, even if it is not subject to any mandatory export authorisation, if there is a risk for state security. This sort of catch-all clause could be very effective; if we review the Waalhaven case, we can see that the ship was stopped only thanks to the new ruling under German export law which introduced this kind of legal provision just in time, in 1992. The introduction of a new system to take the appropriate decisions within the MTCR framework is also really important: there is a definite need for a mechanism that allows the MTCR nations to order (by a majority vote) a stop to the export of specific systems and technology from a member state to a third country if there is a real risk of missile proliferation.
Today, every partner in the MTCR is able to decide autonomously in cases of different interpretations of systems of clauses and rules which are not really stringent.
There are good examples of what could be done. We can, for instance, look at what is done in respect of the proliferation of nuclear technology.
The MTCR countries should also be able to apply common sanctions against countries anying to obtain missiles or forbidden technology illegally: we suggest that consideration be given to a system of commercial sanctions (including a selective ban on exports towards the country concerned) along the lines of the sanctions ordered by the State Department of the United States in July 1992 against Syria and North Korea for a two-year period. The effect of these sanctions might have been greater if they had been adopted not only by the United States but by all the MTCR countries and given adequate publicity.
The United States is also calling for the application of even more punitive sanctions against countries such as Libya and Iran, going as far as a general commercial and technological embargo. Stopping all commercial relations would prevent sensitive technology and components from falling into the wrong hands, at least where western countries are concerned. This would be perfect, but we know that there are a number of alternative suppliers and every sanction and the level of pressure to be applied have to be decided after a case-by-case assessment. For United States industry, losing the Libyan or Iranian markets is probably not too important (and it will be interesting to follow United States decisions on the proposed sale of Boeing 737 airliners to Iran) while, for many Western European countries, trade with those countries is not at all marginal. On the contrary, the United States has very good reasons not to punish a number of countries that, from a European standpoint, could, without hesitation, be punished by a global embargo. It is admittedly difficult to find a solution palatable to all those concerned without affecting the special interests of one or another.
2.4. Conclusions and prospects
Missile proliferation today is a dramatic source of concern. It is not wise to place much hope in control structures since proliferation would, at the very best, be slowed down slightly but not stopped. History teaches us that efforts to prevent "minor" countries having access to advanced weapons systems have, in the medium term, been regularly frustrated. This is not meant to suggest that nothing can be done. It is always important to co-ordinate and share intelligent approaches to be followed and to stop the efforts of countries trying to obtain or increase their missile capabilities. The end of the cold war is now releasing large reserves of personnel and resources that can be redirected to cope with new threats.
Disarmament and arms control agreements need to be strengthened and made mandatory, while time-wasting interpretative discussions should be abandoned.
We need to maintain a credible military potential that can, at least partially, act as a deterrent and dissuasive instrument against potential aggressors. Military capabilities have to be maintained at a level that makes a missile attack inconvenient or definitely disadvantageous. Obviously military power has real value only if there is definite, generally recognised willingness to retaliate in the event of an aggression.
Political and economic pressure can be used to try to slow down or stop missile proliferation.
Active defence systems are to be regarded as another option, but the cost and complexity of these systems is so great that an operational system will be unable to ensure global coverage or a high degree of probability of stopping a possible missile attack.
There is no ideal answer to the problem; it is better to try to implement a range of measures simultaneously that will, in any event, reduce but not eliminate the threat.
To forget the whole problem might have dramatic consequences in a few years' time. Something can be done immediately and at relatively low cost and a serious, co-ordinated approach may suffice. Active defence systems can instead be aimed at the medium and long term and will require tremendous investment that only an international framework of co-operation will make possible.
Perhaps even more important is the need to make public opinion and governments aware. Without crying that Armageddon is at hand, the phenomenon should be analysed and fought to the greatest possible extent: the danger is a real one.
1. CEP is defined as the radius of the circle having as a centre the target on which 50% of the missiles fired will fall. Obviously, accuracy data for different SSMs are highly classified and are therefore approximated in this study.
2. The substantial failure of the giant Scud chase launched by the allied air forces during the Gulf war, withdrawing precious air assets from the ongoing attack campaign against Iraqi forces, proves this point. At the end of the war, 2 493 sorties were devoted to the impossible task of tracking and finding the TELs based in hiding. Needless to say, while fixed launching ramps were soon found and destroyed, TELs were generally able to escape this fate. The United States Special Forces and British SAS teams were more successful in this job.
3. Imagine a Scud-B being launched armed with a chemical warhead filled with a quite basic nerve agent, Soman. The effect and contamination levels depend on a number of factors and on weather conditions, but if we assume slight wind conditions, a single warhead is sufficient to cover an elliptical area of 2x0.5 km with an agent concentration dense enough to affect exposed people seriously; in an area of 330x500 m there could be a substantial number of dead, chances of survival could be minimal, if any. The explosion of a low yield tactical nuclear warhead can kill people exposed without cover within a range in the order of 1 km, with a different level of contamination as the distance from ground zero increases.
4. Navigation satellites transmit a low-accuracy signal, for general users, known as C/A - course/acquisition - at a frequency of about 1 MHz. The high-accuracy signal, known as P, is transmitted at ten times the rate of the C/A and can be decoded only by dedicated military terminals. P signals are said have an accuracy of 16 m, but in practice this figure is closer to 10 m. The C/A was intentionally downgraded to achieve an accuracy of just 100 m. It is interesting to note that, thanks to dedicated transmitter networks and DGPS (differential GPS) techniques, it is possible, in smaller areas, to correct transmission and atmosphere distortion errors, obtaining increased accuracy in the 4 m range, both with P and C/A signals.
5. It should be explained that the initial generous shipments of Scud-Bs was not followed by a similar transfer of more modern missiles from the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia. Today, Scud-Bs are technically obsolete and a number of countries still have to rely on weapons dating back twenty or more years. The need to replace these SSMs with more modern weaponry has made it necessary to diversify suppliers and start independent programmes.