The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #580 on Russia

May 14, 1987

May 14, 1987 | Backgrounder on Russia

Defending America's Allies from Short-Range Soviet Missiles


(Archived document, may contain errors)

580 May 14,1987 I I I DEFENDING AMERICA'S ALLIES FROM. SHORT-RANGE SOVIET MISSILES I INTRODUCTION I The growing Soviet short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) threat to United States allies capable of destro ying these missiles in flight. Such defenses, known as Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missiles (ATBM) could strengthen NATO deterrence against a Soviet attack and provide increased security for such U.S. friends as Japan and Israel.

In the European theater, Mosc ow deploys, among other things, the Soviet SS-21 SS-12/22, and SS-23 missiles. Armed wth chemical, conventional, and nuclear warheads these could be used to launch swift debilitating preemptive attacks against NATO command and control centers, nuclear wea p ons storage sites, and other critical NATO facilities. NATO has neither a defense aganst these weapons nor a matching offensive capability. these weapons also mounts. The introduction of Soviet-made SS-21s in Syria and Ira portends an increasing SRBM role in the Middle East. These modern systems have itXe in Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle Eyt has sparked interest in defensive systems Proliferating Short-Range Missiles. In the Middle East and the Pacific, concern about 1. Both SRBM and Tactical Ballis tic Missile have been used to describe the SS-21, SS-22, and SS-23 class of weapon.

SRBM will be used in this paper since it seems inappropriate to classify the 300-mile SS-23 or 600-mile, SS-22 as a tactical ballistic missile The SS-21 has a 75-mile range . The U.S. Department of Defense classifies the SS-22 and SS-23 as shorter-range intermediate-range nuclear forces (SRINF while the SS-21 is in the category of short-range nuclear forces (SNF). See U.S. Department of Defense, Soviet Militarv Power. 1986 ( W ashington D.C U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980 p. 69. accuracy and power to destroy air fields, command and communications centers, logistic facilities, and maneuver units. Sufficient numbers of such weapons could alter sipficantly the military balan c e in the re on. For Ja an, meanwhile, the mtroduction of Soviet force targeted against the Far East, poses new threats nuclear-capable missiles on t El e Southern R urile Islands, in addition to the Soviet SS-20 with their proliferation into regions heret o fore free of such weapons, must prompt t K e U.S develo ment and deployment. Further, private in ti" ustry in all three regions would welcome ATB J research as a way to maintain technological competitiveness The rising importance of short-range ballistic m issiles in military operations, cou led and its allies to consider ATBM development. Western Europe, the Middle East, and Japan could ,benefit from ATBM development all have the technological expertise to contribute to such a system; and each region has s i 'ficant political support for ATBM Rectiging Imbalances. Washington should support a multire 'onal ATBM initiative for a number of reasons. Amon them: Ronald Reagan has pledge cfl that the Strategic Defense r Initiative (SDI) would inclu d e programs for rotecting U.S. allies; ATBMs could begin to would make technical success more li ely. It also would rectify regonal military imbalances created y Soviet SRBM deployments; and ATI3Ms would protect U.S. forces abroad.

A multiregional approach could e edite ATBM development at less cost and it also allied understanding about the role of missile defenses in Western strategy, as U.S./NATO-Israeli-Japanese security ties.

The U.S. thus should 1) support allied research efforts already directed at ATBM 2) conside r encouraging the allies to take the lead in developing their own ATBM 3) establish an office at the Pentagon to coordinate private and governmental efforts in programs each region; and 0 4) intens

its own ATBM research and development ATBM TECHNOLOGICAL REQUIREMENTS for an SDI system environment. These factors can both complicate and facilitate an ATBM defense against short-range ballistic missiles An ATBM system must takejnto account several fact o rs that are different than those 2 ATBM" systems, as discussed in the general literature, can range from upgraded air defense systems (which are designed primarily to intercept aircraft) to missile defense systems capable of also intercepting some strateg i c ballistic missiles in their terminal flight stage. Today, there seems to be a blurring of the distinction between air defense units, tactical ballistic missile interceptors, and defense systems that can potentially intercept strategic ballistic missiles such as ICBMs and SLBMs. The Soviet SA-X-lB Giant surface-to-air missile, for example, is reported to be capable of intercepting not only aircraft at all altitudes, but also cruise missiles, tactical ballistic missiles, and some strategic ballistic missil es. See U.S. Department of Defense p. 61.

While conventional usage refers to ATBMs as a weapon system that can counter tactical or theater ballistic missiles the Army Strategic Defense Command adopts the term Anti-Tactical Missile (ATM), which encompasses defense against all tactical missiles, i.e., cruise, and not just tactical ballistic missiles 2I I Easier Detection and Discrimination. To begin with, short flight times for tactical ballistic missiles (sometimes not exceeding six to twelve minutes) place greater demands on the ac uisition, detection, tracking, discrimination, and intercept requirements for an enemy short-range ballistic missiles. On t e other hand, because of the short fli t times and lower trajectories of most SRBMs, sensors for regional defenses can observe most of a missile's tra'ectory, unlike ICBMs where the curvature of the Earth hides much of their trajectory. be fensive sensors can observe objects essentially throughout their trajectories thus making the job of detection and discri rmnation much easier.

Another complication is that, except for the SS-20 and SS-12 mod II SS-22, SRBh do not leave the atmosphere. This may make intercepts using space-base d defenses more difficult since some defensive technologies cannot penetrate the at mosphere. However, for ground-based terminal and late midcourse interceptors, SRBMs are actually easier to intercept than are ICBMs. Atmospheric drag, for example, eatlr assists in discrimi,nation since the SS-2 it and SS-22s do spend a substantial time o u tside the atmosphere, they also are vulnerable to space-based defensive systems i 8 ATB hl system. The detection process ma be further complicated by the mobili of while lower fli t velocities make terminal interception muc Q easier as well. In any event H igh Probability of Success. Earl concepts for ATBM defense include low and high endoatmospheric (in the atmosphere f interceptor missiles and possibl space-based kinetic energy weapons. Sensors for regional defenses could include ground- i ased radars air b orne sensors, high altitude probes desi ed to pop-up with sensors, and space-based relaying information to the interceptor, and launching the interceptor within five to twenty seconds after a hostile missile takes off. An ATBM system would most likely wor k in conjunction with space-based strategic defense systems, when they are develo ed. Adding a space-based com onent to a ground-based regional defense would give AdMs the and other tamcal mssiles sensors. Data processing requirements inc r ude detection, t racking and processing of data multitiered capabi P ify essential to assure a high probability of success against the SRBM THE SRBM THREAT The emergence of accurate and lethal Soviet short-range ballistic missiles oses a major new threat to stability in v a rious regions of the world. The new generation o P highly feasible against key retaliatory assets of the opponent. This potential for "r aunching*a strikes accurate Soviet SS-21, SS-22, and SS-23 SRBMs makeg preemptive milit successful surprise attack aga nst the opponent's airfields, missile sites, communications depots, and conventional ground forces could alter regional power balances significantly.

The SRBM provides a number of benefits to a potential aggressor. Among them: I I Speed of deployment and assured .penetrability create a surprise attack ca ability.

Some short-range missiles take only three to four minutes to reach their target, t K ereby making attacks on such movable targets as enemy aircraft and missile batteries feasible I 3. See Kerry Hi nes Soviet SRBM now a conventional deep strike mission International Defense Review, Vol. 18 No. 12,1985, and Manfred Woerner A Missile Defense for NATO-Europe Strateeic Review Winter 1986 3 I SRBM forces are less costly to use than manned fighter-bombers , since the loss of trained pilots could keep planes grounded SRBMs allow better coordination of simultaneous attacks on important enemy SRBMs'alter the military palance in a region with less effort than by adding ground targets than do aircraft and/or gro u nd troops forces or sophisticated air forces 1 I The European Theatre NATO development and deployment of an ATBM defense could counter the Soviet SS-21, SS-22, and the SS-23 missiles, all of which have chemical and nuclear, as well its conventional, capab i lities. An ATBM system would improve deterrence and NATO's defensive position by convincing the Kremlin that it would be unlikely to launch a successful preemptive SRBM strike ATBMs also could protect France's nuclear force thus ensunng its credibility an d survivability against the increased accuracy of Soviet missile systems. A growing concern for France, for example, is the increasing accuracy of Soviet short-range ballistic missiles, which could reach and destroy French nuclear retaliatory forces with c o nventional or chemical warheads. As for Britain, ATBMs could protect British nuclear-carrying submarines while in port as well as U.S./NATO I ground-launched cruise missiles stationed in Britain The Middle East I Tiny Israel's lack of strategic depth make s it articularly vulnerable to an Arab preemptive strike. This means that Israel must E e able to defend its command and control mfrastructure, im ortant troop concentrations, air defense units, and air bases against a swift Arab air an 8 missile attack. I srael's ability to do so is threatened increasingly by Arab receipt of more than 200 Soviet-supplied SCUD-B, FROG-7, and SS-21 launchers supported by an inventory of at least 1,OOO surface-to-surface missiles.

The recent delive of some 18 Soviet SS-21 miss iles to Syria typifies the mounting problem for Israel. Inlike the FROG and the SCUD, the SS-21 has the range accuracy neutralizing for 12 to h hou9 almost all Israeli Air Force airfields in northern Israel as well as Israel's nuclear reactors near Dimona . and lethality to destro hardened targets deep inside Israel, including suppressing or While the standard armament for Arab-de loyed SS-21s is a conventional warhead, the SS-21 also is believed ca able of carrying nuc f ear and chemical charges. The SS-21 armed with a chemical warhea B might force Israeli airbases to suspend operations long enough for Arab air forces to gain control of the skies. Against both Israeli military forces and cities Arab short-raqe ballistic missiles represent a significant new t hreat. As Israeli air defenses make it more difficult for Arab air forces to complete their missions, the &ab 4. There are certain complications assodated with SRBM employment. In order for SRBMs to prove decisive for an attacker, his missile strikes must be coordinated with other forces necessary for follow-on attacks. For example, the suppression of Israeli Air defense units would be less militarily significant if Arab air forces and air mobile forces were not at hand to complete the destruction of Israe l i air bases and other key assets. Effective SRBM use may thus require the type of command and control structure not yet available to Arab armies. On the other hand, Israel has so few targets (i.e airbases and command centers) that target acquisition shoul d not prove to be a problem for Arab SRBM forces 4- I countries will increasingly need to turn to short-range ballistic missiles to carry out their attack plans i The Pacific Basin 132 SS-20,100 SCUD (soon to be re laced by with SS-22s) launchers. Most rec ent P y, tte on the southern Kurile Islands. North sometime in the be consistent suited for the of Japanese aii i defense of strategx areas.

Soviet SS-20s and other SRBM missiles could threaten Japans ability to operate the aircraft needed to defend the co untry and its sea lines of communication. Soviet ballistic missiles also may be capable of closing important Japanese orts. While these missions now could be erformed by Soviet naval aviation, the use o P Soviet missiles would free lanes P or other im ort a nt tasks. The de loyment by Japan of ATBMs, or B ?p 4 the Patriot air efense missiles that okyo recently bought from the U.S. could U.S. troops on bases in Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, and South Korea ALLIED SUPPORT FOR ATBM DEVELOPMENT France, West Ge r man and Britain have endorsed, in varying degrees, the concept of ATBMs. In response to t K e Soviet SRBM threat, NATO defense mnisters in summer 1986 directed-energy weapons and rail guns. French an cr British firms already are studying an short-range So v iet ballistic missiles. The U.S. Strategic De P ense Initiative Organization interested in adapting SDI technology to its conventional defense needs, suc R as shooting approved the drafting of guidelines for Europe-based ATBM development. NATO Defense Min i sters see the use of ATBMs as one of a series of actions to strengthen the alliances conventional forces. ATBM systems first would be extensions of the existing air defense system, but later could involve arms emplo ng such new technologies as ATBM system that could become part of an advanced Euro ean defense network against moreover, recently gave contracts to seven multinational consortiuv for Phase I studies of the architecture of a Europe-based defense against tactical missiles Advanced Israeli Ideas. Israel has expressed great interest in the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and ATBM and last year asked to participate in SDI. Israel rimarily is down shorter-range ballistic missiles based in Syria.

Lt. General James Abrahamson, head of the U.S. S DI program, notes that Israeli scientists already have come up with some very good and advanced ideas, particularly in the field of rail guns, lasers, and electronic countermeasures. Last November, Israel signed a $5.1 million agreement with the U.S under which Israel is to research tactical ballistic missile defense s stems. It has been reported that Israel is preparing a theater defense design study for R ATOs central front region 5. Veinbergex Urges Japan to Take Star Wars Role, The New York Times, Apri l 6,1986, p. 9 6. The U.S. SDIO has its om theater ballistic missile defense architecture program, and in January 1987 Deputy Secretary of Defense William H. Tatl IV instructed the services to begin developing a comprehensive plan for an anti-tactical miss i le (ATM) program to protect NATO and other allied forces against Soviet tactical and cruise missiles. i I 5 i I ATBM deployment seems consistent with Japan's three nonnuclear principles: "not ossess' g nuclear weapons, not producing them and not permittin g their introduction into Papan THE COMMON FRAMEWORK FORATBM DEVELOPMENT There are four considerations common to the three regions that would benefit from ent. This suggests that a multiregional ATBM system concept may be ATBM deplo feasible and Cr esirabl e . The common considerations include Each region faces potential securitythreats from continued roliferation of enemy ballistic missiles. In accord with the defensive strategy of NATO, f apan, and Israel and the re B uce an enem 's confidence in a surprise attack that relies on SRBMs. Regional stability capabilities, which would have application in three regions Technological com etitiveness woul B be enhanced by the investment re uired by ATBM and by the ensuing g usiness and technolo 'cal exchan es. In ad d ition al three regions im ortance of absorbing an initial enemy strike and retaliating effectively, ATBMs can is also enhance by removing the incentive to strike reemptively (Le., a country with vulnerable forces may want to strike first for fear of osing these forces to an enemy first strike). Additionally, ATBM-related technolo ies may strengthen conventional defensive P r Each region's civilian econom would benefit from ATBM cooperation I Q d have the technological expertise to contri Ute to the .S. ATB M effort Each region's security rests on continued good relations with the U.S. ATBM cooperation would reinforce security and diplomatic linkages. Cooperation in ATBM research, development, and deployment also may move Japan, Israel, and NATO toward closer overall security cooperation There appears to be sup ort for ATBM systems by many of the Western European governments and those of Israe P and Japan as well MULTIREGIONAL ATBM COOPERATION AND SYSTEM DESIGN Israel and the European allies are already develo p ing ma'or elements of an ATBM and strtte ic defense technologies are well advanced and, in some instances, ahead of U.S efforts. 8 .S. SDI officials e lain that the technology is now available to build the components of a regional Al%M system. This techno l ogy includes missile system. A 1986 Pentagon study finds that European researc h and development on ATBMs 1) The Navy/RCA AEGIS Radar paired with a two-stage hypervelocity anti-ballistic I 7. Japan formally agreed to participate in the SDI on September 9, 19

86. See n;e New York Times, September 10 1986, p. A

6. Despite Nakasone's support for SDI, the Japanese Cabinet did have some hesitations, wliich led them to stress Japan's technological role in SDI and downplay its military aspects. See "Officials Ant icipate Japan Joining SDI," Defense News, September 8,1986, p 1. I 8. See Clarence Robinson Regional Applications of SDI Technologies" in SDI in the Near Term: Strateev. Technolow and the ABM Treatv proceedings of a conference. sponsored by the Fund for a n American Renaissance July 15 1986, Washington, D.C., p. 32 6- I 2) A modified Army Patriot air defense missile or the SDI small radar homing intercept 3) The new EMS (exoatmospheric reentry vehicle interception system which could 4) The Army FLAGE (flexi b le lightweight a 'le guided experiment interceptor technology missile SRHIT capable of destroying warheads by crashing into them. I destroy warheads before they reenter the atmosphere combined with a millimeter wave radar techno Y ogy that could be use d t o intercept I warheads inside the atmosphere 5) An upgraded ASTER missile to be used for intercepting warheads as they reenter the Though the technolo atmosphere. I I may be available or close at hand, it lacks systems integration and a theater design be P ore it can be forged into an operational system. The U.S Israel NATO-Europe, Israel, and Japan, research and CF evelopment coordination could speed the system would take into account strategic requirements an cf political restraints. Such la and West Eur o peans are working on theater desi process and bring down the costs of production by lowerin unit costs. The emergmg system would be studies. Since the threat is similar for I i nonnuclear; based in part on such passive components as concealment, mobility, and hardening; part of a combined defense against aircraft, cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles able to cope with conventional, chemical, and nuclear armed warhead threats; not tied too closely with the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative b e cause the regional intermediate-range missile and SRBM threat is independent of the intercontinental ballistic missile threats targeted by SDI; I a dedicated ATBM system in response to the threat based on either an upgraded air defense weapon, such as the Patriot or Hawk, or on i I effective but not necessarily leakproof--even a partial defense contributes to 1 reasonable in terms of development and deployment costs in the overalicontext of generally comprehensive and including low and high endoatmos heric interceptors attacker uncertainty defense spending needs with space-based kinetic energy weapons as soon as they are develope B and with sensors that could be based on the ground, in space, or on aircraft; considered as a possible terminal and late-midcou r se layer of an overall SDI multilayer defense, if and when an SDI deployment decision is made. I 7 ATBM AND THE 1972 ANTI-BALLISTIC MISSILE TREATY Critics of SDI and supporters of a narrow inte retation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistid would violate the purpose and letter of the ABM Treaty. The fact is, however, that the ABM Treaty does not ban ATBMs. ATBMs, after all will be constructed and deployed to defend against tactical ballistic missiles of relatively short range--not the strategic missiles addressed by the ABM Treaty. ATBMs are not an ABM system Missile (ABM) Treaty contend that unconstraine B ATBM development and deployment U.S. SUPPORT FOR A MULTIREGIONAL ATBM SYSTEM The U.S. should su port the development and deployment of an ATBM system

at 1) The U.S. and its allies must recti

regional military imbalances brought about by the 2) Support for ATBMs would demonstrate to Western Europe that the U.S. remains 3) Proliferation of short-range ballistic missiles is certain to continue, particularly if a mee ts the strategic an B political needs of Western Europe, Japan, and Israel. The reasons deployment of Soviet short-range ballistic missiles vitally committed to West European defenses U.S. strategic defense system eventually is able to check the intercont i nental ballistx missile threat 4) A multiregional approach to ATBM would expedite deployment at less cost by drawing on foreign expertise 5) It could be a first step toward the eventual deployment of U.S. missile defenses; and 6) An ATBM system capable of operating in different regions of the world would ,offer protection to U.S. forces operating in those regions; an Israeli missile defense system, for example, could provide some measure of protection for U.S. forces operating in the Eastern Mediterranean A multinational approach to ATBM research and development is already in place. The Strategic Defense htiative, meanwhile, has begun to coordinate West European, Israeli and U.S. efforts. Of the $3.2 billion approved for SDI in fiscal 1987 50 mdlion has bee n earmarked for joint development, on a matching fund basis of an ATBM for deplo who s onsored the ATBM amendment For the first time, the SDI office has been 'ven a itah and Israel received $10 million and $6 million, respectively, or SDI research and rela t ed applications in theater ballistic missile defense with NATO allies and other partners. Said Senator Dan Quayle, the Indiana Repub r ican cr s eci i! c near-term task that will end in a deployed system in the earl 1990s In ad ition P Quayle's ATBM joint development measure is only a first step. Additional steps could Establishing an ATBM system as an allied, rather than strictly U.S initiative include 8- Building on existing force structures and capabilities, such as NATO's integrated air defense system, and the Patriot air defense weapon, which is in use in Western Europe and Japan Pushin4 ATBM as a conventional defense improvement (CDI) effort, since the Making ATBM funding available to private companies--rather than to Soviet SRBM is emerging as a conv e ntional warfare problem governments--to "invite, show, and test." Companies should compete to see who can'make a particular component with cost an important criterion. If private companies have something to contribute, additional funds should then be made available to their respective governments Encouraging participation in computer-simulated, test-bed activities Focusing on subcomponent activities rather than com lete systems, thus I encouraging cooperation between companies. Other researc Yl and develop ment efforts should be examined to see what they can contribute to ATBM development.

CONCLUSION I As the deployment of hi hly accurate and lethal Soviet short-range ballistic missiles East, and Asia, the vulnerability increases for U.S. allies and forces i n those regions. The abili of Soviet SRBMs to circumvent existing NATO, Israeli, and Japanese air defenses the early stages of conflict the regional military balance--create incentives or the Soviet Union and other states to consider preemptive military o ptions.

Anti-tactical ballistic missile defenses could thwart a Soviet or Arab attack utilizing intermediate- and short-range ballistic missiles. By denying the Soviets--and in the case of Israel, the Arabs--the prospects if a quick win by a preemptive missile as s ault deterrence of aggression is strengthened, and stability in the region is reinforced armed with conventional, c E emical, and nuclear warheads continues in Europe, the Middle and x e ability of accurate SRBMs to attack crucial targets--thus altering s i nificantly in P i Western Europe, Israel, and Japan all face a similar threat in terms of the emerging Soviet SRBM threat. All three regions have the technological and scientific expertise to contribute to an ATBM effort, and there seems to be a great de al of support for necess% ATB s by the current governments in Israel and Western Europe.

Besides the political considerations, there are technological and economic factors that may figure in a nation's decision to articipate in a multiregional ATBM develo ment coordinating their research and development efforts with the eventual goal of deploying an ATBM system compatible with the threat each region faces scheme. It makes sense, therefore, P or the three regions to cooperate with the 8s. tin Pre ared for T he Heritage Foundation by a Washington-based defense consultant Ro l! ert M. Soofer, Ph.D 9 I

About the Author

Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. Senior Fellow
Center for Health Policy Studies