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August 23, 2008

Another Famous Victory for Condi


by Gordon Prather

Condi Rice – desperately seeking a diplomatic victory of some sort – has capitulated to Poland’s "key demand" that in return for allowing the siting in Poland of ten interceptors of our Ground-based Midcourse Ballistic Missile Defense system (GMD), we will give Poland at least one battery of our Patriot PAC-3 ballistic missile terminal defense systems.

Of course, since Poland is now a member of NATO, there is no reason for our refusing to sell a PAC-3 battery to them. After all, we have sold PAC-3 batteries to NATO-member Turkey, as well as to non-member Kuwait.

But give it to them? Who does Condi think the Poles are; the Israelis?

And why was getting the free PAC-3 batteries a "key demand" for the Poles?

Well, first let’s see why getting ten GMD interceptors sited in Poland was so important to Condi and to the Cheney Cabal.

The ten ground-based interceptors (GBI) in Poland will be about 4,500 miles – as the ICBM flies – from Washington, DC, home of The Best Congress Money Can Buy.

Another ten GBIs of our GMD system are already sited at Ft. Greely, Alaska, which is about 3300 miles – as the ICBM flies – from Washington, DC, home of The Best Congress Money Can Buy.

Why are our GMD interceptors so far away from the presumptive targets of Russian and Chinese nuke-tipped ICBM reentry vehicles? Because they are intended to intercept those Russian/Chinese nuke-carrying reentry vehicles while they are high in their ballistic trajectories, far outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Until Bill Clinton came to power and staffed his administration with the anti-nuclear-everything crowd, our exo-atmospheric interceptors were nuke-tipped, also. (The Russian exo-atmospheric interceptors probably still are.) But Clinton decided we would forego the development and deployment of enhanced-radiation nuke-tipped interceptors, and Bush the Younger has essentially gone along with the Clinton no-nuke ABM decision.

Hence, the GBIs of our GMD system employ heat-seeking Kinetic Kill Vehicles. With such a system there is literally no margin for error. We either hit the Russian/Chinese pointy-shaped nuke-carrying re-entry vehicles – which are stone cold when exo-atmospheric – with our heat-seeking bullets or we don’t.

And, of this writing, we have never even tried to hit an exo-atmospheric stone-cold RV with our heat-seeking bullet. We’re having enough trouble hitting artificially hot-hot-hot targets.

So, don’t you feel better already about Condi’s famous diplomatic triumph?

Of course, the Russians are not going to waste an ICBM on Poland. Why should they? The ten GBIs of our GMD system the Poles are allowing to be sited in Poland are less than 150 miles distant from Russia, proper. (And less than that from the Kaliningrad enclave, separated from Russia, proper, by Poland and Lithuania, both now NATO members.)

So, why was Poland’s "key demand" that we give them PAC-3 batteries?

Well, during the Iran-Iraq war, each side launched 300 to 400 Soviet-made Scuds at each other's cities. And, during the first Gulf War, the Iraqis launched another hundred Soviet-made Scuds against Israeli cities and against U.S. staging and support areas in Saudi Arabia.

All the Scuds contained conventional high-explosive warheads.

The Scud is a liquid-fueled single-stage ballistic missile that can be somewhat mobile. The warhead remains attached to the missile throughout flight, which frequently results in the missile ‘tumbling’ upon re-entry and breaking apart. It is extremely inaccurate, its trajectory essentially resulting from the point in the trajectory at which the liquid-fueled rocket motor is shut off.

After the Gulf War, we instituted a cooperative terminal ABM program with the Israelis. In the process of helping the Israelis develop their Arrow system, we also considerably advanced our Patriot's capabilities – especially the performance of the interceptor. Hence the designation PAC-3.

The PA-3 may – or may not – be effective against Scuds.

But the Russians have since developed and widely deployed a second-generation Scud replacement, the SS-26 "Iskander" tactical ballistic missile.

The Iskanders deployed in the Russian Army are extremely mobile, mounting two missiles per launcher vehicle. Solid-fueled, with a range of 400 Km (250 miles), capable of adjusting its depressed trajectory in flight from the ballistic, equipped with a GPS homing system as well as optical/infrared sensors.

The Russians claim it has "pinpoint accuracy."

The Iskanders deployed in the Russian Army reportedly have 480 Kg (1058 pounds) non-nuclear warheads (some reportedly having 54 "elements" or "bomblets") but is clearly what the neo-crazies would call "nuclear capable."

The Iskander-E – developed for export in consonance with Military Critical Technologies List limitations – has a somewhat lesser (175 miles) range and lighter warhead, but is still what the neo-crazies would call "nuclear capable."

There has been speculation that the recently tested Iranian "stealth" missile – which is allegedly launched like a ballistic missile, but then depresses its trajectory in order to approach the target like a supersonic cruise missile – is, in fact, the Iskander-E.

Of course, unless you believe in the Tooth Fairy, there is no possibility that the Iranians will be able to arm their Iskander-E tactical ballistic missiles or their Chinese-supplied supersonic sea-skimming cruise missiles with nuclear-fission warheads. The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency – who have effectively had unrestricted access to Iran for almost five years now – continue to report that they can find no evidence that Iran now has or ever had a nuclear-fission weapon program.

Nor have they run into the Tooth Fairy.

But if its true that the Iranians have all those Russian and Chinese supersonic ground/sea skimming missiles that the Army’s PAC-3 systems in Kuwait and the Navy’s Aegis terminal defense systems on the Persian Gulf can’t handle, maybe someone able should tell John McCain to stop humming "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb-Bomb Iran."

And if President McCain was thinking of giving Georgia a few PAC-3 batteries so they could "reclaim" their "lost" provinces from the Russians, maybe he (and the Poles, who might be thinking of "reclaiming" the Kaliningrad enclave) should see a demonstration of the Russian SS-26 Iskander.

Vladimir Putin would probably be only too happy to arrange it.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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