Missile Defense’s Real Enemy: Math | China Commentary | Scoop.it

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By Harry Kazianis February 2, 2013



Stretching back several decades, the concept of missile defense has been hotly debated. Some well reasoned scholars argue that the United States and other countries need such defenses incase deterrence breaks down or an irrational actor gets their finger on the nuclear trigger. Others argue that missile defenses are a waste of money given that they are easily defeated, and defensive technology will always stay behind the curve -- never ready for primetime.


Both sides have logical arguments. For the record, I am an advocate of missile defense -- under certain conditions. With various nations all over the planet purchasing or developing ballistic and cruise weapons, defenses against such weaponry are vital -- especially for the American navy in the form of Aegis missile defenses.  When it comes to missile defense in nuclear matters- I have some shall we say, complex views. For regimes such as Iran, North Korea and others when sometimes rationality is not their strongest suit -- missile defense all the way. When it comes to nations with larger missile arsenals such as China or Russia, I am not sold -- yet.


There is however one thing you can't argue against, simple math.

Case in point, take a look at a recent book chapter by Dr. Toshi Yoshihara in Chinese Aerospace Power (a really good book, China defense geeks I am talking to you -- it's a classic -- get your credit card out) from our friends over at the Chinese Maritime Studies Institute.


Dr. Yoshihara notes:

"ASBMs (anti-ship ballistic missiles) may not need to produce mission kills against the surface fleet to complicate U.S. plans. They only need to reach the fleet's defensive envelope for the Aegis to engage the incoming threats, thus forcing the defender to expend valuable ammunition that cannot be easily resupplied at sea under combat conditions. Even inaccurate ASBMs, then, could compel the Aegis to exhaust its weapons inventory, leaving it defenseless against further PLA actions. Used in conjunction with conventional ballistic missile strikes against U.S. bases and other land targets across Asia -- strikes that would elicit more intercept attempts -- ASBM raids could deprive the United States and its allies of their staying power in a sea fight."

Such a point raises a larger question. Will American commanders in the future face large missile forces aimed at their ships that can just simply overwhelm their defenses through sheer numbers?


Another example comes from a 2011 report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis entitledOutside-In: Operating from Range to Defeat Iran’s Anti-Access and Area-Denial Threats (A2/AD geeks, this is truly a must read). In sketching out a scenario for a possible Iranian A2/AD campaign between 2020-2025, the authors explain: