Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU




Tuesday, 20th April 1993


How to cope with the challenges


Countering proliferation:

new criteria for European security

Lt. General GRAHAM (Ret.) (Director of High Frontier, United States). - It is fitting that this conference be held in Italy which is the only member of WEU whose territory has been attacked with ballistic missiles. I refer to the Libyan attack on Lampedusa, happily a failure. Also happily for some unknown target in some NATO country, an accidental attack by a nuclear- armed Soviet ballistic missile, which a Soviet Rocket Troops general reported was fired by accident some years ago, malfunctioned and failed to follow its path to terrible destruction.

These events underscore the seriousness of your undertaking here in Rome. On the one hand, more "Libyas" are acquiring the capability to strike the territories of European and other states with ballistic missiles and mass destruction warheads. On the other, the uncertainties of political and military affairs in the former Soviet states increase the chances of accidental or unauthorised launch of missiles at Western

European, North American, or even Far Eastern countries. To ignore these growing threats would be both military and political folly with tragic probable consequences.

High Frontier United States and High Frontier Europa have for the past ten years urged co-operation between Europe and the United States in the creation of defences against the most awesome of modern military weapons, ballistic missiles armed with mass destruction warheads. We are in general accord as to the most practical solution to this problem in light of the changed and still changing nature of the ballistic missile threat.

In brief, our recommendation is the further extension of the extended air defence system of NATO to include the co-ordination, but not direct control, of national anti-ballistic missile defences. In consonance with the views of the Russian Government expressed by Mr. Yeltsin at the June 1992 summit meeting in Washington, which called for a global protection system involving countries other than the United States and Russia, we believe that nations outside NATO who are willing to co-operate should be welcome to participate. This would include East European states, former Soviet states, Israel, and certainly Japan, now threatened by the intransigence of North Korea. NATO is the only existing international organisation capable of planning and co-ordinating such a global protection system.

The contribution of the United States to such a system would be primarily in the area of space-based interceptors and their warning and tracking supporting systems. The space systems would be able to detect, track and destroy any ballistic missile fired from any point on earth fired at any target - except for very short-range missiles. This would provide protection for areas not defended by surface-based systems, and make the surface-based systems deployed by co-operating nations far more effective. This is due to the fact that the surface-based systems would be required to deal only with missiles escaping early destruction by the space system and due also to the greatly-enhanced efficiency of surface-based systems when provided accurate warning and tracking data from space sensors. A second, very important United States contribution to this concept should be provision of SDI-developed warheads for surface-based missiles which can sharply increase effectiveness and sharply lower costs.

The primary contribution of European and other nations would be provision of defences of their own territory, the means and scale of which to be determined by individual nations. All WEU nations have the capability to build or purchase the basic missiles required for surface-based ballistic missile defences. Russia already possesses such weaponry and others (e.g. Israel) are well on the way to acquiring them. The only constraint on the development of national ABM systems would be the need for compatibility with the warning and tracking data supplied by United States-developed space systems.

One technological development in the field of ABM interceptors should be of great interest to NATO and to any government seeking ways to defence against missiles while avoiding great costs. This is the LEAP (lightweight endoatmospheric projectile). LEAP is a small, smart missile- kill package with adequate sensors and manoeuvrability to lock onto and intercept targets both in atmosphere and in space, given reasonably accurate tracking information from auxiliary space sensors. This is a technology which has been aggressively pursued by the United States SDI effort for nearly ten years. In May 1984, this type of technology enabled the homing overlay experiment (HOE) to intercept a target warhead in space. At that time, the intercept package weighed over 500 kg. In a remarkable demonstration of miniaturisation, the LEAP package now weighs from 6 to 25 kg depending on variations in the design by four United States companies.

LEAP technology has been extensively tested. Its very light weight makes it possible to add a propulsive stage to creat an "enabling stack" to increase the velocity, range and performance of surface-based intercept systems. This opens up an opportunity to retrofit currently available missiles, replacing conventional warheads with the LEAP stack to create very effective anti-ballistic missile systems without the high costs of totally new systems. This option is currently being developed by the United States army with Patriot, by the navy with the Aegis missiles, and by the air force with SRAM and modified Minuteman ICBMs. Similar options should be available to modify current missiles of other than United States origin.

I regret to report that the current situation regarding SDI is not promising for our view of practical global defences against ballistic missiles. Our military programmes in general are under heavy political pressure, and SDI has always been a special target for our farthest left politicians. Even so, the Clinton administration has proposed level funding, i.e. the same $3.8 billion of the total is to be spent on tactical-theatre defences and on a single ground-launch site in North Dakota. There is only $800 million for all the rest of the SDI programme including space-borne systems, which are likely to be relegated to "research" only.

This priority of expenditure is politically based and is contrary to strategic, military and technological common sense. Much of it springs from an illogical reverence for the ABM Treaty - a relic of cold war, designed to deal with nuclear confrontation between two superpowers (one of which no longer exists), and made obsolete by twenty years of technological advance. But the urge to maintain that treaty exists and results in huge sums being spent on a marginally effective, but treaty-compliant, set of 100 launchers in Dakota protecting the least-populated third of America. It also results in even heavier expenditures on "tactical" and "theatre" systems less impacted by the treaty and deployed in Europe where the nations are not signatories to the treaty.

We at High Frontier have serious logic problems with the concepts of "tactical" and "theatre" defences. Emphasis on tactical ABM defences assumes that the current and growing ballistic missile threats are designed to attack United States and allied military forces in battle. This is absolutely not the case. The missiles we worry about still existing in the former Soviet states are not the tactical ones. Missiles being acquired or in the hands of rogue nations are not being acquired in order to attack military forces in the field; they are for attack or threat of attack on cities. Iran and Iraq fired hundreds of missiles at Baghdad and Tehran, not military forces. Saddam Hussein fired at cities, not military installations per se.

The use of the term "theatre" to describe United States ABM systems deployed abroad is also misleading. Is Europe really a "theatre of operations" in today's strategic situation? Or is that merely a convenient holdover of cold war nomenclature? The reality is that the current United States programme visualises deployable United States surface ABM units - ground and naval - stationed in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East providing what is essentially national defences for European and other nations. While this might appear to be the lowest cost option for Europeans, I suspect that there will be good reasons found in European capitals to object to such a dependency. I am sure that the United States Congress will eventually object to spending the bulk of United States SDI funds to defend other nations while Americans remain vulnerable.

The terms "tactical" and "theatre" thus have little meaning in the context of defending ourselves against ballistic missiles. At best they suggest ranges of missiles - "tactical", a few hundred kilometres range; "theatre", more than a few hundred kilometres. The use of these terms within United States Government circles is driven by the desire of some bureaucrats and politicians to avoid the terms "strategic" and "global", terms that invoke the need for space-borne, not merely surface- based defences.

If we must speak in terms of "tactical" or "theatre" defences, we should nonetheless bear in mind that space-borne systems are the most effective and least costly defence against missiles of all ranges (except the very shortest-range weapons which are not the weapons constituting the grave threat to our nations). Every Iraqi Scud fired in the Gulf war could have been intercepted by a Brilliant Pebbles defensive system had it been deployed.

There are sound technical, operational and strategic reasons for stressing the space-borne intercept systems. Technically, space-borne systems have a great advantage over surface-based systems in their capability to intercept in the early stages of a missile's trajectory when the target is large and slow relative to the interceptor. Surface-based systems intercept in the late stages of trajectory when the target is small and very fast relative to the interceptor.

Operationally, space-borne interceptors, engaging their targets early in trajectory, cause debris and/or submunitions to fall far away from the defended target rather than on those being defended.

Strategically, space-borne defences require no guesswork as to the probable target areas of accidental, unauthorised or rogue nation attack or blackmail threats. Surface-based systems, because of limits to the area they can effectively defend, must be deployed with a predetermination of likely targets for missile attack. Further, while any defence against ballistic missiles reduces the enthusiasm of nations to acquire such weapons, the global nature of the space-borne systems would have the broadest and strongest deterrent effect on proliferation.

The current political scene in the United States does not bode well for the vigorous pursuit of the space-borne capabilities which are the key to co-operation among the nations of Europe in a common defence. However, increasing strategic uncertainties world-wide, the need to discourage the proliferation of ballistic missiles, and the serious attention of Europeans and Russians to these problems give us hope that the United States SDI programme will be reoriented toward more promising ends soon. The results of this conference in Rome could have tremendous impact on the fluid scene in Washington. If the WEU experts here assembled recognise the need for global ballistic missile defence and the crucial role that space-borne assets would play in a multinational effort, I am sure their views will carry great weight in current deliberations by my government.