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Missile Defense: The Multiple Kill Vehicle

Discussion in 'U.S. Politics' started by BigRob, May 13, 2009.

  1. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    Introduction:

    "I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks.” President George W. Bush made these remarks after invoking Article 15 of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which gave Russia six months notice that the United States was withdrawing from the treaty. The decision was widely attacked by many prominent members of Congress and the academic community, such as Senator Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Much of the debate focused on whether or not the decision by the United States to pursue missile defense would upset the “balance of terror” and result in an “action-reaction” response from the Russian Federation. Now that the United States has deployed missile defense systems such as GMD and AEGIS, there is a new debate over the Multiple Kill Vehicle, and what effect the deployment of such as system would have on deterrence, the “balance of terror” and a possible action-reaction response. This analysis will examine the benefits and problems with the system focusing primarily on its implementation with the GMD system. . The GMD program involves interceptors in Alaska, California, and potential interceptors in Poland, however that site has run into multiple problems with the current administration, especially following the letter sent by the President to the Russians. Additionally, the vote in the in the Parliament in the Czech Republic on the radar installations has been postponed due to lack of support.

    Why The MKV is needed:

    A GAO report released in April 2007 stated that, “Missile defense is important because at least 25 countries now possess or are acquiring sophisticated missile technology that could be used to attack the United States, deployed troops, friends, and allies.” In order to defend against these threats, especially longer-range ballistic missile threats, the United States should continue to develop and deploy the MKV system for all of its missile defense programs.

    With the recent missile test by North Korea, the need for the MKV will be put into context to defend against a potential North Korean strike on American interests in the Pacific and the West Coast. American interests will extend to allies such as Japan in the region. Numerous sources have argued that nations the missile shield is intended to defend against have missiles that are of pretty shoddy craftsmanship. For example, if North Korea possessed a missile capable of reaching New York City and launched it, the radar would not show a clear image on where the actual warhead was. The GMD system currently has only one kill vehicle per interceptor, and it would need to be determined quickly and effectively which inbound part is the actual warhead.

    The problem compounds if you attempt to deter an opponent such as Russia. Russian missiles, like the RT-2UTTH - Topol-M SS-27, are designed with decoys and maneuverable warheads that make an interceptor missile with a single kill vehicle not much of a real threat to the missile. While certainly the stated purpose of the American missile defense shield is not to deter against a Russian attack, Russian exportation of missile technology should be a cause for concern.

    The Russian government continues to deny any “significant” transfer of missile technology to Iran and that they have not violated their obligations under the Missile Technology Control Regime. The same Russian government does acknowledge however that Iran has attempted to acquire missile technology from them previously and that “some Russian individuals may have been involved in Iranian missile projects.” Given this, it does not seem illogical to assume that Iran could acquire technology to create decoys and maneuverable warheads with their missile program. By extension, it was reported that Iranian missile experts were present in North Korea to “help” with their recent missile test. If this report turns out to be accurate, it stands to reason that missile technology acquired by the Iranians from the Russians could end up the hands of the North Koreans.

    With the current GMD system, the North Koreans would only need twenty-five to thirty missiles to overwhelm the entire system. Certainly this does not account for other missile defense systems, however the GMD is the main deterrent against an incoming ballistic missile. If the North Koreans are capable of putting a nuclear warhead on one of these missiles, and as mentioned by the head of the IAEA and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, North Korea has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads so they can be used on medium-range missiles, then the implications for missile defense are great. If this is accurate, it is only a matter of time before they obtain a missile capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear warhead. If our shield is overwhelmed by a small number of missiles and we have no significant assurance that the warhead will even be the target the kill-vehicle hits, it should raise the alarm. A failure in this regard could mean the death of thousands of Americans and the complete destruction of a large city.

    How does the MKV work:

    The MKV program consists of two designs. The first one implements a hover technology and was designed by Lockheed Martin. The second, done by Raytheon, operates in essence like a football team, where all the kill-vehicles are controlled by a single interceptor, the quarterback, and it issues commands to the other kill-vehicles. Should the control kill-vehicle be destroyed or incapacitated, any other interceptor can then take over the “quarterback” position. This differs from the Lockheed version because in the Lockheed program the hover vehicle acts as the “quarterback” and fires interceptors from its hovering state, whereas the Raytheon program fires all interceptors at once and then controls them in fight. Since the main contract for the program has been taken away from Lockheed Martin and awarded to Raytheon, the bulk of this explanation will focus on the operations of the Raytheon MKV, known as the MKV-R.

    The missile defense shield relies on an integrated system of sophisticated space-based, ground-based, and airborne sensors and instruments. These also include advanced radar images and tracking information, high-speed photographs and video, and radio signals from the target, to determine the success of the intercept. Such systems include the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, the Near-Field Infrared Experiment, Sea-Based X-Band Radar, and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor. The GMD system uses all of these aspects to ensure that it is able to destroy an incoming reentry vehicle.

    If North Korea fired a missile at San Francisco, assuming they had the capability, the GMD would be the system to launch the intercept most likely. Immediately after launch, the missile would be tracked by the systems listed above, and an interceptor would be launched. The intercept would occur in space, to prevent whatever the warhead was carrying from reaching the United States. This is especially important if the warhead is of a nuclear, biological, or chemical nature.

    The interceptor launches its single intercept vehicle, which has the capability to attempt to identify and determine which part of the incoming cluster is the actual warhead that needs to be destroyed. At the time of the intercept the kill-vehicle is traveling around 7,000 miles per hour and the incoming warhead is breaking speeds of 15,000 miles per hour, meaning that the speed at which the intercept occurs can break 16,000 miles per hour. The kill-vehicle does not carry an explosive to destroy the incoming warhead, but rather it uses kinetic energy to slam into the warhead in an attempt to destroy it. There have been multiple tests using this “hitting a bullet with a bullet” technology that have been a success.

    Given this, the MKV-R will be applied to the current GMD system interceptors to conduct the important role of allowing all threats in an incoming cluster to be targeted at the same time. As stated by the Missile Defense Agency, an incoming missile threat will not involve the warhead only. It will include decoys, as well as debris from each stage of the missile, and possible debris simply from poor craftsmanship, which is not unthinkable when discussing a missile program in a nation like North Korea. The MKV allows for a legitimate counter to this threat because each interceptor will now be equipped with eight to twenty kill-vehicles to eliminate all threats in an incoming cluster.
     
  2. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    Benefits of MKV:

    The MKV-R program eliminates the need for extensive intelligence gathering during a launch to identify and target the actual warhead. This takes a lot of stress and human error out of the equation of missile defense targeting. If the ground crew is able to simply respond to an incoming missile by eliminating all targets in the incoming cluster, not only does it allow for a quicker intercept, depending on the system, but it also takes away the problem that the current interceptor format has to be a zero-fail system or it will not be effective. With the addition of the MKV-R, this problem is mitigated.

    Another benefit of this system is that it can be fully integrated with the existing missile defense system. It is not limited to the GMD system, it can be applied to Aegis, as well as theatre defense systems, as stated above. The obvious benefit of this application is that it will save a lot of money implementing the program. If the entire shield had to be reorganized and redone to accommodate this technology it would make no sense to put it in the field. Additionally, the MKV program can reduce the overall cost of missile defense because it would allow for fewer interceptors to be launched if the single kill-vehicle was unable to eliminate the incoming warhead.

    This weapon system allows for greater missile flexibility. No longer do multiple missiles have to potentially be dedicated to the same target, but now they can be freed up to combat any other potential missile launch that occurs. The MKV addresses the threats of tomorrow before they are implemented. New and improved countermeasures will pose a large threat from rouge states eventually. It is not a matter of if they will gain the technology to conduct this but rather just when. In order to ensure that the United States is protected against these threats investments need to be made today.

    Counter-Arguments to the MKV:


    Not everyone thinks the MKV program is a good idea. There are some arguments against the MKV and the effect that this program would have on countries that we are not gearing the missile shield against. For example, in regards to the proposed third missile site in Poland, Russia has expressed some concerns about the placement of interceptors in their “backyard.” Then Russian President Putin voiced comments that this site would result in a new “arms race”, and turn Europe into a “powder keg.” Secretary Gates, then in the Bush administration, seemed to indicate a willingness to back off the third site due to comments such as this. In a speech in Prague in 2007, the Secretary stated that the third site might be delayed until there is “definitive proof” that Iran was in possession of a long-range capability. This sentiment seems to have seen shared to an extent by the Obama administration and the third site has been effectively killed at this point.

    The notion that defensive weapons are destabilizing has its roots in the Cold War. During that time the United States heavily bought into the idea espoused by Thomas Schelling that deterrence was going to be maintained by the idea of a “balance of terror.” With the 1972 ABM Treaty this concept was codified in legal form and became the basis for how foreign policy was conducted. This concept can clearly be seen in the comments made by then Russian President Putin, when he said the third site could result in a new “arms race.” However, in reality, this comment is simply not logical. If ten interceptors in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic cause an arms race to erupt, then it likely is more of a political decision than a practical one.

    There is simply no possible way that ten interceptors, even if equipped with eight to twenty multiple kill vehicles, could pose any threat to the Russian missile force. Politically however, for the hawks in the Russian government, they would make the argument that that an MKV deployment on a GMD system in the really means that instead of ten interceptors deployed in Poland it was two hundred interceptors deployed in Poland. On face value, this would be a cause for concern, even though in terms of actual capability an interceptor with twenty kill vehicles does not mean it can eliminate twenty missiles. If anything, the comments made by the Russians in regard to the proposed missile defense shield sends a clear signal to the United States about the manner that the Russians view relations with the United States. The clear message that is being sent is an adversarial one. With a traditional ally, like the United Kingdom, there is no talk of an “arms race” regardless of the number of missiles possessed by each country, and no amount of defenses will cause the United Kingdom to make the decision to drastically expand their missile and nuclear program.

    Certainly the argument can be made that one route to combat this adversarial relationship is to not proceed with the third site and instead use the elimination of the third site to promote friendly relations. However, this option does not address the issue of credibility with Poland and the Czech Republic, and it does not account for what the European allies will think. The trade off for pursuing potential better relations with Russia in this manner seems to be selling out Europe and the credibility of the extended deterrent of the United States. It does not seem to be worth the trade off.

    New Developments:

    As part of a larger $1.4 billion budget cut for the Missile Defense Agency in April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated, “We will terminate the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program because of its significant technical challenges and the need to take a fresh look at the requirement.” Only time will tell if this decision was correct or not. With rising threats all around the world, such as Iran and North Korea, potentially acquiring top of the line missile technology, the decision today seems to be a poor choice by the President. While he cites “significant technical challenges,” the MKV hit-to-kill technology has shown to be effective in numerous tests in conjunction with the GMD system. The Obama administration has continued some missile defense programs, but with the elimination of basically all boost phase intercept programs, as well as the MKV, it seems unlikely that our missile shield would pose much deterrence to anyone outside of a nation with very few missiles. While the President is right to be concerned about the strategic relationship with nations such as Russia, he must overcome the notion that defensive weapons equate to instability.

    Conclusions:

    The MKV program should be viewed as essential to ensuring that the United States missile defense shield is reliable and effective. It ensures that our missile defense is not a zero-fail scenario. The conclusions of the Bush administration that deterrence is not entirely reliable and the United States needs to be prepared for its failure represent a fundamental shift in the manner that deterrence in viewed in the United States. In order to have an effective and credible missile defense, the United States needs to ensure that it has the capability to better defend itself and its allies. The MKV program gave the missile shield a vital tool to help ensure that it was able to meet the challenges that it will likely face in the future. If the United States is going to break fully from the logic of Schelling, it must pursue viable missile defense that can defeat the targets it needs to. Given that it is not unlikely that “rouge” nations will eventually possess missile technology capable of launching decoys or maneuvering, it makes the most sense to ensure that if defense if the route the United States is going to pursue, it should pursue a system that can be the most effective. Sadly, it seems that the Obama administration is currently walking back the progress from the Bush administration and leaving the United States vulnerable to a potential attack.
     
  3. Mr.Dysfunctional

    Mr.Dysfunctional New Member

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    good lord man... is this your own words or someone else's? I don't see a link and is it possible we could read the posted work on someone elses website with only your opinions on the matter in the forum? this is almost as annoying as Mr.Shaman using 4 posts to answer each question in someone else's post other then just using one.

    Really Mr.Shaman... its annoying having you spam posts on a thread.

    As far as the MKV... *shurg* seems to me the military R&D needs something to do with their time.

    Ohh Big Rob... if this is your own work... how about a Blog entry.
    Not what I expect from a Mod.
     
  4. Mr. Shaman

    Mr. Shaman New Member

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    .....And, ALL people of "Faith" are guaranteed a Get-In-Free-ticket at The Pearly Gates. All you've gotta do is trust the "moralists", on this one.

    :rolleyes:

    I often wonder how "conservatives" are so easily-taken-in by whatever con-job comes along.....especially when the Ultimate-Outcome-Absolutes (they "buy") are unverifiable, beforehand. They don't believe in the science of Evolution....but, they DO believe in talking-snakes ('cause their local-clerics have given any-and-all sales-pitch fairy-tales their Stamp Of Approval). :confused:

    Sorry, BigRob....those-of-us, who are old-enough to remember the Cold-War-fantasies (that "sold" the concept of survivability, after a nuclear-conflagaration).....coupled with the new-voters' familiarity (with any scenerio being vulnerable to a good "hacking").....aren't ready to buy your new-pitch for a Cold War Hustle II. (Besdies....we Boomers know a B.S.-hustle, when we see one. It's called Experience.)

    :rolleyes:

    The idea that our Defense Industry has some kind o' Divine Right to maintain their post-WW-II profit-margin is ABSURD....no matter how-often "conservatives" guarantee their paranoia is valid....and, they've got $eriou$-buck$ invested in weapons-development to prove it!!

    :rolleyes:
     
  5. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    I wrote it. I did make it a blog entry as well.
     
  6. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    Religion has nothing to do with this defense system.

    What the hell does evolution have to do with missile defense? Missile defense has passed test after test. I could just as easily ask you why you could ever buy a car because the chance exists it might not turn on when you go out to start it one day. To extend you logic, we should never buy cars because of that.

    Shaman, the missile defense shield is designed to counter rouge threats from rouge states. None of these states possess enough weaponry to destroy the United States. You are telling me that you think 1 nuclear warhead will destroy the US?

    Your response was completely irrelevant to the MKV program, and you obviously do not even know what it is.

    Yes, how dare the Defense Department work on actually defending the country.​
     
  7. Mr. Shaman

    Mr. Shaman New Member

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    True....but, it takes as MUCH "faith" to (really) believe such a sytem will work flawlessly!!

    Yeah....right....and, snakes really DO talk.

    :rolleyes:

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....and, exactly WHICH state are you willing to sacrifice....you know....to prove such a system is fail-safe???

    I'm waaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy ahead of you, Professor. This is an OLD subject.

    :rolleyes:
     
  8. Popeye

    Popeye Active Member

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    Geez Rob, you really are a war hawk...military this, military that, who can we attack next?...kill kill kill,..I mean you absolutely revel in the thought of death and destruction. I can almost see you drooling.

    The country's going broke and you want to waste trillions on star wars defense systems...man, go play with your army men instead, that ought to fix you for awhile.
     
  9. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    Popeye, if you bothered to read the post you would understand that my desire for this program is to save lives. Further, if you bothered to read you would have seen that this program was eliminated in a package $1.4 BILLION cut. We have lost 70 times that much trying to administer a bailout.

    When did I advocate for "killing" anything except an incoming missile? Is that a problem for you? Not to mention the MKV has nothing to do with "Star Wars." A simple fact you would know by bothering to read what was written.
     
  10. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    No one is saying the system works flawlessly. No system ever does. However this only seems to create the case for more redundancy, which you seem to oppose.


    You clearly do not even know what the MKV is. Read the post. Further, I am not willing to sacrifice any "state" (not that a North Korean warhead could destroy a state anyway) and that is why I want the MKV implemented.

    By your logic we should simply leave everything undefended because a system "might not" work. That is idiotic. Let us stop building fighters because an engine "might fail." Also, an 80% kill rate of an incoming missile is 80% better than the 0% we have under your proposed system.

    I hope someone with half a brain opens your link, because the connection it has to the MKV program does not exist.​
     
  11. The Scotsman

    The Scotsman Well-Known Member

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    ...........very good point!
     
  12. Popeye

    Popeye Active Member

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    I guess this here is the Lockeheed Martin MKV but are you telling me you want to spend trillions, er, billions on a bunch of hovering machine guns?

    The Obama administration was correct in nipping this idea in the bud..in fact, the entire defense budget should be cut in half, at least.
     
  13. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    That figures. The one thing the federal government is mandated to do under the constitution, yet the trillions Obama has blown on unconstitutional projects, that's just fine.

    Do you even know we have a constitution?

    Then you feign to actually worry about the country going broke? Where were you when Obama dumped out the rest of the TARP fund? Where were you during the $787 Billion stealformus was passed? Where have you been when it really mattered? Now we have a matter of national security, and suddenly you want to pretend going broke is important?
     
  14. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    It is not a good point since it costs nowhere near this much.
     
  15. BigRob

    BigRob Well-Known Member

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    Popeye, Lockheed does not even have the main contract to do the MKV. Raytheon does. It is not a hovering machine gun. You are simply displaying ignorance in an attempt to characterize it in this manner.
     
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