Secrecy News

An Airborne Defense Against North Korean ICBMs?

Could an airborne network of drone-based interceptors effectively defend against the launch of North Korean ballistic missiles? A recent assessment by physicists Richard L. Garwin and Theodore A. Postol concludes that it could.

“All of the technologies needed to implement the proposed system are proven and no new technologies are needed to realize the system,” they wrote.

Their concept envisions the deployment of a number of Predator B drones loitering outside of North Korean airspace each bearing two boost-phase intercept missiles.

“The baseline system could technically be deployed in 2020, and would be designed to handle up to 5 simultaneous ICBM launches.”

“The potential value of this system could be to quickly create an incentive for North Korea to take diplomatic negotiations seriously and to destroy North Korean ICBMs if they are launched at the continental United States.”

See Airborne Patrol to Destroy DPRK ICBMs in Powered Flight by R.L. Garwin and T.A. Postol, November 26, 2017.

The asserted role of such a system in promoting diplomatic negotiations rests on certain assumptions about how it would be perceived and evaluated by North Korea that are not addressed by the authors here.

3 thoughts on “An Airborne Defense Against North Korean ICBMs?

  1. Some years ago I heard an unclassified talk by Hans Mark, former Secretary of the Air Force, on destroying missiles at launch when they are moving slowly. He described the use of aircraft (before the drone era) to continuously circle Soviet submarines that can detect a launch and destroy a missile. It sounded plausible to my unclassified ears backed up by many years of experience in astrophysics.

  2. I think drones could all be taken out by a nuclear radiation blast. (Not likely to be deliberate over one’s own country.) I think drones could all fail due to solar activity. I’ll bet there are jamming techniques to take drones out.
    Drones have limited flight time. Multiple drone failures would exhaust the inventory.
    I’d suggest odder ideas, like balloons that can launch cruise missile-like interceptors. Balloons can be kept in the air cheaply. China uses them for surveillance and emergency supply delivery.

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