Defence experts claim that Iran may have the
technical capability to develop a long-range Inter-Continental Ballistic
Missile by 2010. North Korea has already developed its Taepo Dong -2
Ballistic Missile which is within striking distance of Japan, South Korea, and
US bases in Asia. However, it is Pyongyang’s development
of a ballistic missile with a 6,700 km range that concerns Western intelligence
agencies most. This missile would put the United States’ western
If North Korea were to share
this technology with countries, such as Iran and Syria, then London and Manchester would also be
within range. Both North Korea and Iran join a rapidly
expanding club of countries who have successfully developed long range
inter-continental ballistic missiles – missiles capable of striking Europe’s capitals. The
proliferation of these missiles is a ‘live threat’ and an international menace
which is likely to increase.
It is within this fragile security context that the United States is continuing
Missile Defence System (BMDS). Co-ordinated by The Missile Defence Agency (MDA)
in the Pentagon the primary purpose of the BMDS, is to “to protect the United States, its deployed
forces, allies and friends”. However, Pentagon watchers confirm the primary
focus of the multi-billion dollar programme is to defend the United States from
incoming ballistic missile attack and to ensure American dominance in what
Pentagon chiefs call “the missile defence battlespace”. The MDA has already
successfully tested and deployed both defensive and offensive weapon systems –
providing the United States with
The missile defence shield is provided through a series of fixed site
sensors and interceptors at highly fortified locations in Alaska and California. Mobile sensors and interceptors
are deployed aboard Aegis destroyers and cruisers. Airborne-launched systems,
using highly advanced laser weapons, remain on permanent standby fixed to
specially modified Boeing 747 aircraft. Pentagon officials claim the BMDS
system is now so well advanced that the US military can successfully
detect and destroy multiple ballistic missile launches – simultaneously.
So what of Britain’s missile defence? Those
opposed to any form of UK-based missile defence shield argue that no ICBM
threat exists and that neither North Korea nor Iran have developed missiles
within striking range of
but how confident can they be that rapidly developing missile technologies will
not pose a danger tomorrow? Also, how can the government protect the United Kingdom from existing medium-range
missiles being redeployed and launched from other countries nearer our shores?
The same missiles could also be launched from sea-based platforms in
international waters – again, putting key
protection. There is no effective defence against incoming ballistic missiles.
If the government accepts the existence of a missile threat, and the formation
of the Ministry of Defence’s Missile Defence Centre (MDC) suggests they do,
then it is incumbent on government to ensure that
robust missile defence measures. Government Minister’s should step out of their
outdated Cold War doctrine of mutual destruction and acknowledge that the
developed a system that provides protection from inter-continental ballistic
missile attack. Pentagon scientists claim they have managed to remove the word
‘catastrophe’ from any future missile attack.
Britain now needs to decide whether
it wants to sign up. The US Administration is currently looking for a European site which will
serve as the ‘third site’ for the Shield’s fixed site interceptors. Pentagon
officials have confirmed that
with two other sites on the Continent. Opponents to the Shield suggest the
siting of American ‘interceptor missiles’ on
cities key targets. But it is wishful thinking to suggest
The question should not be: are we a target? rather, how can
Britain defend itself given we are
already a target?
The Ministry of Defence’s lack of ‘strategic urgency’ on developing
measures to combat missile threatis in stark contrast to the actions of both
the Japanese and South Korean governments. Both countries have recently
purchased ship-based American PAC3 interceptor missiles, which are providing a
missile shield from rogue and/or targeted missiles from
the Japanese with further defences in the form of the USS Shiloh a US Navy
Aegis destroyer carrying highly advanced anti-ballistic missile weaponry.
BMDS providing early warning against long-range missile launches from the
are the eyes and ears of the BMDS – if a hostile missile was launched against
Fylingdales would be able to detect and track the missile within two minutes.
missile interceptors would render us powerless to destroy the threat. All the
government could do, would be to watch and wait and count the number of
Britain is now in the ludicrous
position of knowing when we are coming under attack but not being capable of
doing anything about it.
We are able to alert the Americans if they are coming
under attack at the same time, but it is only our American cousins who are
currently capable of foiling such an attack – an attack on their own shores.
Is it not time for the government to answer why Britain is accepting all
the risks of what is, to date, an ‘American Shield’, but is still not in
receipt of any obvious ‘protective benefits’ for the United Kingdom? Indeed,
unless Britain becomes an equal partner
with equal protection
become politically and militarily – untenable. The government’s policy is a
halfway house to nowhere.
If Britain did become an equal
partner, then the cost of deploying and storing interceptor missiles should be
paid for by the Americans. This would be an acceptable quid pro quo for
the American radar sensors at Fylingdales? The Pentagon should choose
their land-based missile interceptors – missile interceptions would need clear rules
of engagement and joint launch-keys. Agreement should be
bi-lateral and not dependent on the wieldy decision-making processes of NATO.
Only a few years ago the successful development of a workable Ballistic
Missile Defence Shield which could successfully detect, track, and intercept
enemy missiles was dismissed by military chiefs, on both sides of the
military scientists have proved the critics wrong – overcoming the technical
hurdles which produced those initial doubts. The British government must now
decide whether it wishes to protect
documented threat and take part in the American Ballistic Missile Defence
Shield – on equal terms?