Sunday, May 18, 2014

Drone Anti-Missile Shield?

Knocking down nuclear missiles as they are launched--and going slow--has always been the best time to shoot them down. Could armed drones flying near a country with ballistic missiles provide a defense against nuclear attack?

Space-based systems didn't pan out for the job. Is this the way we could shoot down enemy nuclear missiles as they take off?

But some experts say the moment has arrived for a sequel: high-altitude drones.

North Korea’s arsenal of ballistic missiles could probably be countered if as few as three drones were suitably stationed at all times, says Dale Tietz, a former Star Wars analyst. An American Global Hawk drone, which can fly uninterrupted for 30 hours, held 18km above nearby international waters could probably carry several interceptors fast enough to shoot down missiles heading north towards America, he says. It could be alerted to launches by infrared-sensing satellites already in orbit.

Protecting Israel and Europe from Iranian missiles would be harder. Iran is bigger than North Korea, so interceptors would need to be faster (and therefore larger) to reach deep inside its territory.

For Iran, wouldn't we have to violate their air space to make sure we get them?

And for both, wouldn't the logical step be to deploy weapons that could shoot down the drones and then fire during the gap in coverage?

Or saturate the defenders with repeated launches? How many drones are we supposed to deploy over these countries?

I'm not impressed with this system as a pure defense.

A system targeting the boost phase would, however, work well as part of a strike package to destroy the nuclear arms and infrastructure of an Iran or North Korea.

In the midst of a US attack campaign--which is the best way to defeat enemy missiles--enemy leaders would have to consider that they have to use their missiles or lose them. So volley fire would not be risked. Missiles that survive our strikes would therefore be launched in smaller groups and so would be easier for our thinner defenses to handle.

If the overhead drones flying in with the strike missions were the first line of defense (along with fighter aircraft that I assume could shoot at slow-moving ascending nuclear missiles), then other missile defenses all the way back to point defense systems at the targets of the enemy would have a better chance of holding off the nuclear attack.

A shield is nice. A shield with a sword is better.