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Should the U.S. Build a National Missile Defense System?

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Essay title: Should the U.S. Build a National Missile Defense System?

Should the U.S. build a National Missile Defense System?

“What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security didn’t depend upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter an enemy attack?”

Ronald Reagan; 1983

In his speech of March 23, 1983, President Reagan presented his vision of a future where a Nation’s security did not rest upon the threat of nuclear retaliation, but on the ability to protect and defend against such attacks. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research program was designed to tell whether, and how, advanced defense technologies could contribute to the feasibility of this vision. What is a national missile defense (NMD)? A NMD is in theory “a technological shield that could destroy all incoming missiles” (Cirincione and Von Hippel 1). A NMD would most likely employ ground-based missiles that would intercept and destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). ICBMs are missiles that are capable of hitting targets thousands of miles away from their launch site. The National Missile Defense Act “calls for developing a missile-defense system that could protect the United States from an attack by a handful of nuclear armed ballistic missiles” (Ballistic Missile Defenses). It is important to realize the proposed NMD would not be designed to protect against an all out nuclear attack featuring hundreds of missiles. Is a NMD a good thing for the United States? I believe the United States should not develop and deploy a NMD system.

How does the NMD work? According to the Federation of American Scientists at, there are five elements involved in the missile defense system. The first rudiment is the Ground Based Interceptors (GBI). These are the weapons of the system. Their job is to intercept ballistic missile warheads and through the force of impact, destroy them. The GBI includes the interceptor, its launch and support equipment, missile silos, and personnel. The missile is made of an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) and boosters, and the GBI sites would be capable of holding 20 missiles with eventual upgrade to 100. The next part of the system is called the Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2). This is the brains of the system and it controls and operates the missile defense system. It provides decisive support systems, battle management systems and displays, and also situation awareness information. Satellites and radar would feed their information into this. The next part of the system works hand in hand with the BMC2. It consists of a collection of sensor satellites that would obtain and track the missiles during their trajectory path, giving the BMC2 the earliest trajectory estimate.

The third element is called the In-flight Interceptor Communications System. This is the strategically located ground system that links to the GBI for in-flight targeting. Up to seven pairs of these stations would be created. The next part, X-band/Ground-Based Radar, performs tracking, discrimination, and kill assessments of incoming missiles, providing real-time continuous tracking data to the BMC2. The final part of the missile defense system is the Upgraded Early Warning Radar. These are phased-array surveillance radars, used to detect and track the ballistic missiles. By upgrading the software of existing early warning radars, they would meet the missile defense requirements.

It has been said that the Missile Defense System is like “shooting a bullet down with a bullet” This leads one to believe that it cannot be done. If you can imagine a gun firing a bullet out of it heading up into the air, than someone else firing a gun into the air trying to hit the first bullet that just fired than you have just pictured what happens in a ground-based inception system. Also, many people question the effectiveness of the system. If the system proves to be ineffective, then the billions of dollars that was spent on it are wasted. These are real concerns that many people have and in the past may have been worthwhile. For prior to 1999, there have been many failed tests for a NMD system but there have also been some successful ones according to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

Although there are potentially ways of foiling the system, perhaps the best one is called shrouding of a warhead. Shrouding is a way of blinding the defense system. By placing a liquid nitrogen shroud on the warhead, interceptors using infrared sensors to target room temperature warheads would pick up an infrared signal one-millionth as intense. This would render it invisible up until only a few hundred meters, far too late to be successful.

The many proponents of a NMD such as Presidents Clinton, Bush, Congress, and various military officials have devised a number of reasons why a NMD

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