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.

Ballistic Missile Technology Advances, Proliferates

Across the globe, “Adversary ballistic missile systems are becoming more mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate while also achieving longer ranges.”

So concludes a new report from U.S. Department of Defense intelligence agencies entitled Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threats 2017.

The report provides an updated catalog of unclassified information on current and projected foreign ballistic and cruise missile systems.

The new report was first obtained and reported by Bloomberg News. See “Missile Threats Surging Worldwide, DOD Study Finds” by Tony Capaccio and Larry Liebert, June 26, 2017.

“Over 20 countries have ballistic missile systems, and missiles likely will be a threat in future conflicts involving US forces,” the report stated.

“Ballistic missiles have been used in several conflicts over the last 30 years, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Afghan civil war, the war in Yemen, the 1991 and 2003 Persian Gulf conflicts, the Russian military actions in Chechnya and Georgia, and most recently in the conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine. Russia used cruise missiles for the first time during the conflict in Syria.”