Missile Defense

  • Arms Industries and Trade
    The Cost of the U.S. Arms Trade
    The global arms trade is big business and the United States accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s weapons exports. Aside from the profit motivation, selling arms abroad can be an effective foreign policy tool, allowing the United States to exert influence over conflict and security worldwide without having to put boots on the ground. But are the risks worth the reward?
  • China
    Hyperventilating Over Hypersonics
    Last summer, China tested a hypersonic missile that traveled through orbit. The test shocked many observers and led to widespread concern about the potential for nuclear-armed missiles that can evade detection and defense systems. The technology is not as new as it might seem, but this latest test highlights an underlying threat that the world has been living with for decades.
  • Oil and Petroleum Products
    How Iran Can Hold the World Oil Market Hostage
    Iran poses an acute threat to oil infrastructure across the Middle East, potentially allowing it to extort concessions from world powers.    
  • Russia
    The Future of Nuclear Conflict, With Secretary Ernest Moniz and Senator Sam Nunn
    Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and former Senator Sam Nunn sit down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the future of nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia. Read “The Return of Doomsday: The New Nuclear Arms Race—and How Washington and Moscow Can Stop It,” by Moniz and Nunn, in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs.
  • Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
    What the INF Treaty’s Collapse Means for Nuclear Proliferation
    The collapse of the Cold War–era nuclear arms treaty signals trouble for U.S.-Russia relations, European security, and nonproliferation efforts.
  • Japan
    Japan's Active Defenses
    The Abe cabinet announced its new ten-year defense plan this week, promising to spend 27 trillion yen ($240 billion) over the next five years on Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Eye-catching in the announcement was the decision to refit the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s biggest destroyer, the JS Izumo, to allow fighter jets to operate off its flight deck, an unabashed upgrade to aircraft carrier. But the import of the 2018 National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) is far greater: Japan is deeply worried about the military balance in Northeast Asia and is doing it all it can to make sure its military is ready for conflict and to ensure the United States remains committed to its security. The 2018 NDPG looks ahead over the next ten years to anticipate Japan’s defense needs, noting the “accelerating pace and deepening complexity of the global power balance” as the most unnerving factor in Tokyo’s defense planning. Regional threat perception matters most, however, and Japan’s highest concern continues to be the expanding military powers of China and North Korea. China’s expanding maritime and air capabilities offer significant challenges to Japan’s SDF, and the NDPG points out that the “massive and rapid reclamation in the South China Sea” creates “a military flash point “ where China continues its intensive air and maritime operations.  The NDPG also notes North Korea’s vastly improved ballistic missile capabilities that, coupled with its WMD stocks, offer the most immediate concern for Japanese planners. In Tokyo, the import of recent North Korean launches is that Pyongyang can now launch missiles simultaneously and with the capacity for surprise. Perhaps most striking, however, was its conclusion about recent negotiations with Kim Jong-un: “there has been no fundamental change in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.” Moreover, cyber and information warfare capabilities in Pyongyang seem to be increasing, offering a threat to Japan, to others in Asia, and to the world. Also striking was the inclusion of Russia in Japan’s defense concerns. Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to negotiate a peace treaty with President Vladimir Putin, the NDPG takes note of Russia’s efforts to modernize its military forces and particularly its strategic nuclear forces. The NDPG notes Russian military activities are not only growing in the Arctic, Europe, the vicinity of the United States, and the Middle East, but are also increasing in the Far Eastern region, including around the Northern Territories. The 2019–2023 procurement plan that accompanies this new defense plan includes an array of new capabilities for the Self-Defense Forces, with a 3 trillion yen ($26.9 billion) boost from MOD’s last five year plan. Yet this still may not be enough to keep pace with the rapidly growing capabilities of Japan’s neighbors. For example, China reports spending around $151 billion in 2017 on its defenses, although the actual figure may be higher. In contrast, Japan is planning to spend on average just under $50 billion annually over the next five years. Nonetheless, the new capabilities that Japan’s defense planners seek to integrate into their military are significant. The NDPG highlights the need for “multi domain” operations, and while Japan already has one of the world’s most competent maritime forces, it must now enhance its ability to operate in cyber and space. A new space operations command will be established, with up to 500 personnel. And all three services will be required to have a dedicated cyber unit as well as capabilities to cope with the use of electromagnetic pulses designed to disable Japanese communications and information systems. Japan’s vulnerability to missile attack is real. While North Korea’s arsenal is singled out in the NDPG, all of Japan’s neighbors have ballistic missiles and (almost) all are nuclear powers. Despite enhancing its ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities, Tokyo will have little serious ability to strike back if it is attacked. North Korea, Chinese, and Russian forces continue to demonstrate their ability to challenge Japan’s airspace and to launch significant offensive operations against Japan. For years now, Japan’s air and maritime forces have remained on constant alert, aiming for a 24/7 operational readiness. The focus on Japan’s ability to counter an attack is perhaps the most striking feature of the 2018 defense plan. Both the NDPG and the five-year procurement plan highlight the importance of readiness and resilience. But this NDPG focuses attention on Japan’s overall air defenses, introducing both enhanced missile detection and destruction capabilities as well as accelerating the modernization of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) fighters.  The land-based AEGIS Ashore system will be introduced over the coming years, to be fully operational by 2023, giving Japan far greater ability to detect, target, and if necessary, destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Integrating land, sea, and air based BMD systems will be a priority once this new system is deployed. The Ground Self-Defense Force will manage this new land based capability, and the command and control system for Japan’s integrated ballistic missile defense system—including the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (MSDF) ship-based AEGIS and the Air Self-Defense Force’s PAC-3s—will need to be updated.  Japan’s air force gets a significant upgrade over the next decade. The introduction of the F-35A fighter has been in the works for several years now, with 42 new fighters (or two squadrons) planned for deployment by 2021. Japanese pilots are already training on the F-35A, and by 2021, these new fighters will replace the aged F-4 Phantoms. But the scope of the modernization plan announced this week is much greater. Japan will now purchase a total of 147 F-35s, adding 105 more to those already on their way to Japan. Of these, 42 will be the F-35B, capable of short takeoff and vertical landing, and the additional F-35As will replace the early model F-15s in use now. The pace of deployment will depend largely on how fast they can be built.  The addition of short takeoff and vertical landing F-35Bs to the arsenal offers the ASDF more options as it considers its southwestern defenses. This fighter can operate off of short runways, including a refitted flight deck on the MSDF’s largest helicopter destroyers. The JS Izumo is smaller than the newest U.S. carriers (27,000 v. 100,000 ton displacement); and perhaps more to the point, smaller than estimates of China’s newer carriers (66-70,000 ton displacement) destined for the East and South China Seas. According to the Ministry of Defense, the new F-35Bs will not be permanently stationed aboard MSDF ships, but Tokyo clearly is increasing its options and thinking aloud about how a conflict in its southwestern region might evolve. Important to that scenario are standoff missiles that will give the SDF greater capacity to confront any aggression offshore. These missiles (the JSM, the JASSM, and the LRASM) are all air-based and long-range, with ranges estimated from 500 to 1,000 kilometers. Moreover, new anti-ship missiles and hypersonic guided missiles are under development for the SDF’s island defense mission. Japan’s SDF will now have more muscular weapons and the capacity to detect foreign military activities—and potentially respond to threat—far more quickly. New capabilities in cyber and space will be built, and new command and control structures will be refined to accommodate these emerging capabilities. Recognizing the need to take action in case of new threats from cyber, space, and via electromagnetic pulse, the SDF will be driven to develop a more integrated defense posture. Beyond that, the three services will need to coordinate their new capabilities in combined operations with the United States. Clearly, President Donald J. Trump’s public request of Prime Minister Abe last year to buy more advanced U.S. weapons systems had some influence on Japanese decision-making. But there are some important trade-offs being made as a result. The F-35s will be purchased off the shelf from the United States, and the co-production arrangement that allowed Japanese manufacturers to produce in Japan will end.  But there is another fighter still under consideration in Tokyo, a new fighter to replace the multi-role F-2. Once again, Japanese planners are considering their industrial capacity and acquiring the technology and experience in building a fighter remains a longer-term aim. For now, the Japanese government has clarified its intention to organize a Japanese-led consortium to build the F-2 replacement. Tokyo’s defensive military doctrine is under increasing pressure from the far more sophisticated and assertive military forces that operate in and around Japanese territory. This is amply evident in the 2018 National Defense Program Guidelines. Yet, as I argue in my forthcoming book, Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power, the growing military pressure from Japan’s neighbors is only one part of the equation. Changing U.S. views on its alliance commitments, as well as a growing confidence within Japan over its use of military power, all factor into Tokyo’s strategic thinking.   
  • Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
    The Uncertain Future of the INF Treaty
    A landmark arms control agreement concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union in the final years of the Cold War is at risk of unraveling amid mutual suspicions.
  • Russia
    Can Reagan Show Trump How to Save the INF Treaty?
    If the President wants to use an arms build-up to advance arms control, he should take his cues from the Reagan record.
  • North Korea
    Dealing With North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles: A Brief Look
    This post is co-authored by Sungtae "Jacky" Park, research associate for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.  A version of this post is set to appear in Airpress. North Korea’s intense series of ballistic missile tests since last year has brought Kim Jong-un ever closer to mastering the capability to hit the continental United States. Washington and its allies are now acutely confronting the problem of how best to deter North Korea militarily, even as U.S. and regional policymakers continue to look for a way to convince Kim to stand down and reverse direction. North Korea’s ballistic missile development has persisted for decades. As listed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Missile Defense Project, existing and developing capabilities include: Short-range ballistic missiles or SRBMs, with ranges defined to be 1,000 kilometers or under (KN-02, Hwasong-5 and 6, KN-18, and Scud-ER/extended-range Hwasong-6) Medium-range ballistic missiles or MRBMs, with ranges defined to be between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers (No-dong, KN-11, and KN-15/Pukguksong-2, all under the range of 2,000 kilometers) Intermediate-range ballistic missiles or IRBMs, with ranges defined to be between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers (Musudan and Hwasong-12) Intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, with ranges defined as at least 5,500 kilometers (KN-08, KN-14, Hwasong-14, and Taepodong-2, all of which have ranges of at least 10,000 kilometers) The North Korean arsenal also includes cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers, and various artillery pieces The diverseness of North Korea’s missile arsenal suggests that the Kim regime desires to practice deterrence vis-à-vis the United States both through denial of U.S. attack options and punishment for any attack. To begin with, Seoul, located thirty miles from the demilitarized zone, has always been hostage to North Korean conventional military threats, and now North Korea seeks to make Japanese and U.S. cities hostage to the threat of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The North Koreans are seeking to establish deterrence by threatening to punish their adversaries with unbearable human cost if attacked. The North Koreans have also been developing the capability to strike U.S. bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam with nuclear weapons, thereby seeking to minimize the chance of a U.S.-led attack succeeding by holding U.S. troops and transit/supply lines to the Korean front at risk and by seeking to greatly raise the cost of such an attack. The North Koreans are seeking to establish deterrence by seeking to deny the adversaries’ capability to achieve their objective. But the purpose of North Korea’s growing arsenal seems to go beyond deterrence. The North Koreans continue to call on the United States to sign a peace treaty that would likely include the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula and the end of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Many experts suspect that Kim, after pushing the United States out of the Korean Peninsula, would seek to unify Korea on his terms by using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. With the North’s testing of ICBMs, there are growing concerns that the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence to South Korea would weaken if a major U.S. city (Los Angeles, for example) were to come under the threat of a nuclear strike. Many fear that the perception of American irresolution could tempt Pyongyang to seek Korean unification by force. In response, the United States and its allies have been redoubling efforts to deter and defend against North Korea’s expanding missile threat. The American strategy for deterrence by punishment, at least since the end of the Cold War, presumes that a major North Korean attack would result in the end of the Kim regime. For example, President Donald Trump has stated in his UN speech, albeit in an overdramatic manner, that, if “forced to defend itself or its allies,” the United States would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” The South Koreans have also stated that they will go after the North Korean leadership and have even announced the formation of a unit specifically created to decapitate the North Korean leadership. With regard to deterrence by denial, the United States has been developing and deploying multiple types of missile defense systems. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system's interceptors are deployed in Alaska and California to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles. Aegis SM-3 missiles are deployed on ships in the Pacific to defend U.S. and allied targets in the region. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is deployed in South Korea and Guam for area defense, while the United States has also deployed Patriot batteries for point defense throughout the region. Japan and South Korea also have their own missile defense capabilities, although rather limited compared to U.S. capability. To strike and destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, the United States has B-2 bombers and F-22 fighter aircraft in the region that can be used to penetrate North Korean airspace to hit nuclear and missile targets. In addition, the U.S. navy can launch cruise missiles. The South Koreans, as part of their preemptive doctrine, are deploying ballistic and cruise missiles to strike North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities. Missile defense systems are expected to intercept any missile that initial strikes had failed to destroy. Without clear intelligence on North Korean targets, the likelihood of success of such strikes would be uncertain, however, and North Korea’s capability to massively retaliate against South Korea gives pause to any preventive option. As the North Koreans continue to develop their missile technology and increase the size of their arsenal, they will likely gain the advantage in terms of cost-benefit calculations vis-à-vis the United States. Assuming that North Korea will have dozens (or perhaps even far more) nuclear-tipped missiles, the United States and allies would have the task of destroying or intercepting every single one of them, while North Korea only needs one warhead to land on a densely populated area to potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people. It does not help that GMD only has the accuracy rate of approximately 50 percent under relatively benign circumstances and that the current "shot doctrine" states that the United State will be firing four to five interceptor missiles for every incoming ICBM. Taking into account the possibility that the North Koreans might develop dummy warheads, the task of defending against the North Korean threat will likely become more difficult into the future. These factors increase the American sense of urgency and raise the risks of preemption higher as North Korea edges closer to mastering the capability to directly threaten the continental United States. As the North Koreans advance their nuclear weapons capability, creating a more stable deterrence dynamics on the Korean Peninsula will become more complex. But just as the North Koreans merely have to create the possibility that a single warhead might slip and land on an American city, the Americans merely have to create the possibility that North Korean plans to decouple the U.S.-South Korea alliance and seek unification on Pyongyang’s terms might not work out. While the United States faces the cost-benefit disadvantage that naturally derives from deploying any missile defense system, its economy is also immeasurably larger than that of North Korea, which will have its own limit in increasing the size of its arsenal. The United States should continue to seek a diplomatic pathway to denuclearize North Korea. But regardless of prospects for a diplomatic settlement, the United States and its allies still have the means to create stable deterrence on the Korean Peninsula and should deepen their security cooperation to do so.
  • North Korea
    Can Ballistic Missile Defense Shield Guam From North Korea?
    Attempts by the United States and Japan to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles headed toward Guam could fail and undermine the credibility of missile defense.
  • South Korea
    The Halt of South Korea’s THAAD Deployment
    South Korea’s new president decided to halt deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system last week—pending environmental review. Why the immediate trigger? Moon’s administration discovered the ROK Ministry of National Defense did not brief the incoming president that four additional THAAD launchers scheduled for deployment as components of the battery deployed last April near Seongju had already arrived in-country. The failure to provide critical information regarding South Korea’s security rightly incensed Moon, and ensured he will clean house. Increased transparency More broadly, Moon campaign supporters were dismayed by USFK’s expedited deployment of the THAAD battery and two launchers only two weeks prior to South Korea’s election. Given the Moon campaign’s longstanding criticisms that the previous administration had failed to manage the THAAD decision and deployment in a transparent manner, it was inevitable that there would be a domestic review of decisions made by the acting government in the months prior to Moon’s election. However, outside observers are skeptical that the review may be a ploy to reverse South Korean public support for the deployment. This despite assurances from the government to the United States that the decision by Moon will not change the outcome of South Korean support for the THAAD deployment. It shouldn't. Barely a day after Moon Jae-in’s announcement, North Korea reportedly launched four short-range anti-ship missiles. North Korea's missile advances across the board are cause for concern--and cause for defensive countermeasures. The risks and vulnerabilities are out in the open: South Korea’s indigenous missile defense efforts are developing too slowly to counter North Korean progress, and that could put U.S. Forces in Korea at risk. Moon's decision carries risks The Moon administration must find a way to enhance governmental transparency and accountability while upholding its credibility as a strong U.S. security partner. If the perception becomes that the South Korean government is blocking measures necessary to protect American forces, that would rapidly erode American public support for U.S. troop commitments. It could potentially provide President Donald Trump with a pretext to pursue U.S. withdrawal of forces in Korea. Moon's decision also carries another risk. For months, China put the economic pressure on South Korea for agreeing to the deployment in the first place. It could see the halt in implementation of the THAAD deployment as an acquiescence, and thereby invite even more pressure on Seoul on each occasion that China is dissatisfied with new South Korean defense measures toward North Korea. The way forward The THAAD debate has become overheated and politicized, generating risks of miscalculation and overreaction. A pause that defuses the political issues surrounding the THAAD deployment would be a good thing, but a pause as prelude to reversal could do great damage to the U.S.-ROK security alliance. Moon will hold his first summit with Trump in later this month. At that time, the United States and South Korea should reestablish a coordinated strategy for addressing the North Korean problem and focus on South Korean vulnerabilities to North Korean missiles in a comprehensive fashion, while also improving South Korean governmental transparency on these issues.   But if the deployment is paralyzed by opponents of the system in South Korea's new government, that outcome would mark gain for North Korea and China and a setback for the U.S.-ROK alliance. This post originally appeared on Forbes.
  • South Korea
    THAAD and Thucydides: Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees
    Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. Since the July 7 announcement by the U.S.-Korea alliance to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, analysts and commentators have been discussing whether and how Beijing would retaliate against Seoul and whether the decision would lead to a dangerous arms race between the United States and China. These are important questions, but Thucydides might say that they are also missing the forest for the trees. By itself, the THAAD controversy is not a make-or-break issue in China-South Korea relations or in the U.S.-China arms race dynamics but is simply one symptom of broader trends, namely the increasingly zero-sum nature of the U.S.-China competition in Asia and the evolution in strategic military technologies. Read more in The National Interest...