Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . Reagan’s Vision Lives!
Flash Message 130413
Don’t Underestimate Aegis Capabilities!
April 17, 2013
Monday’s email message observed that now Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter and past Secretary of Defense William J. Perry co-authored a 2006 Washington Post OpEd arguing the United States should make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it could be launched. Their advice was ignored, but might have been right especially given the current state of affairs with North Korea—and should be reconsidered to counter Iranian long range missiles if/when they get a nuclear weapon.
Alternately, we might shoot such missiles down after North Korea launches them. To support that option, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to reverse the previous Obama administration decision and buy the full 44 ground-based interceptors in Alaska as planned by the Bush-43 administration. This would strengthen our ability to shoot down North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that North Korea might launch over the North Pole toward the United States.
This would complement the argument on Monday by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, that we should make clear we will shoot down North Korea’s missiles when they leave their airspace. He was talking about shooting down medium range ballistic missiles that might be headed toward our allies in the region—perhaps by employing Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships now deployed in the waters around North Korea.
But Aegis is inherently capable of doing much more than that, thankfully. Especially when considering that North Korea might launch a satellite over the South Pole in a orbit designed to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could cause critical infrastructure damage and chaos throughout the entire U.S. leading to the ultimate death of several hundred million Americans. It seems that we are unprepared to deal with this contingency that the North Koreans may actually have practiced to execute, as discussed in our April 11 Flash Message.
Aegis also can help deal with this threat, whereas our ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California are primarily focused on countering ICBMs that approach the U.S. over the North Pole. After all, Aegis has had an enviable testing record, 25 intercepts out of 31 attempts—including shooting down a satellite in 2008, albeit at a lower altitude that the 300 mile-high orbits previously employed by North Korean satellites.
Since day one, Aegis attempted intercepts have been executed by operational crews that have performed with professional excellence. The “powers that be” should give these seasoned crews their head and see what they can do to counter an attack on the U.S. over the South Pole. There are at least three ways Aegis can help, in spite of doubts expressed by some.
As illustrated in the figures below, North Korea’s two recent satellites were launched to the south over waters in which Aegis plausibly could operate. According to analyses by David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, there were three stages in which the boosting rockets fell away while the satellite is being inserted into orbit. If provided sufficient early tracking information, the well trained crew of an appropriately stationed Aegis cruiser or destroyer could launch its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor to strike the still ascending North Korean rocket as it leaves the earth’s atmosphere and before the satellite is inserted into orbit. It should be noted that Aegis has demonstrated the SM-3’s capability to intercept a medium range ballistic missile in its ascent phase.
The second way Aegis can help is by providing appropriate tracking information to the global BMD system’s command, control and communications system to permit our ground-based interceptors, perhaps best for those in California, to launch in sufficient time to intercept the satellite after it passes over the South Pole but before it overflies the United States.
The third way Aegis can help is to conduct an intercept of the satellite after it is in orbit, depending on its orbital parameters. Here, the key issue would be whether the current SM-3 can reach the orbiting satellite—an argument for increasing the future capabilities of the SM-3 to assure that its reach cannot be easily overflown by North Korea or Iran.
As previously observed, there are disputes about whether North Korean ballistic missiles launched in a normal ballistic trajectory have sufficient range to reach the U.S. mainland, but there can be no dispute about whether a nuclear weapon on a satellite in a polar orbit can be detonated on-orbit above the United States—or anywhere else on the surface of the earth.
Unless intercepted, such a satellite would approach America from the south and its payload could be detonated 300 miles above Omaha—blanketing the entire United States with an EMP, the consequences of which could be, within a year, the death of a couple hundred million Americans. We referred to this as a “back door” attack scenario, whereas our missile defense of the U.S. homeland is primarily deployed against a “front door” attack over the North Pole.
It is critically/urgently important to assure that such a back door attack cannot be carried out by North Korea, or in the future, Iran.
And what should you do?
We can use your help in spreading the word to grass roots and local authorities to press the powers that be to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do. Will you do your part?
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!