The Sky, the Sea

Armscontrolwonk has a seriously unreported scoop about the great Czech radar kerfuffle. Namely, why is the US playing down the capabilities of the one element of the missile defence plan that actually works, and wouldn’t need anything as politically contentious as a new missile base? Defence geeks will already guess what we’re talking about, which is the capability of the US Navy’s Aegis air defence cruiser to shoot at missiles in the boost phase. It seems the Missile Defense Agency isn’t keen on the notion.

There’s a lot going for it. For a start it, ah, works – the problem is much simpler. In the boost phase, the rocket is going up, but not covering much ground towards you, so it’s easier to shoot at. And the enemy ends up with the bits. Ships go to sea, and lurk in international waters – they can move to cover a specific threat, and don’t need to be based very near their patrol areas.

So, a suggestion. ACW mentions a souped-up version of the SM-3 rocket that’s being developed with the Japanese. They, after all, have bought four destroyers equipped with the missiles and the fancy radar and computer systems. Why, then, can’t Europe buy its own? A lot of objections to the whole plan are based on them being “American” bases. After all, we can’t be totally sure that the missiles would hurtle up to intercept nukes inbound to London, Vienna, Toulouse, or Tallinn – can we? So why not have our own? – during the cold war we thought this argument very important with regard to offensive nuclear weapons. Presumably, such a purchase would bring in lucrative workshare for Thales, Astrium, Matra-BAE Dynamics & Co.

And you could even call it a force de défense spatiale tous azimuts. Ships sail, right? Including to the North Atlantic, if need be. There is, however, a probby. Putting ships in the eastern Mediterranean is easy enough. Putting them in the high North and the North Sea is politically and militarily easy, although it’s a tough job in winter. The Baltic? Well, there’s nothing to stop you, and both sides are in friendly hands. The Russians wouldn’t be happy. But then, they wouldn’t anyway. ACW, though, reckons you might need one in the Black Sea.

Special international agreements exist regarding the transit of the Straits, to which Russia is a party. Specifically, you can’t send aircraft carriers through. An Aegis ship is no carrier, but that don’t mean they aren’t going to make a big fuss about it. Update: WSI Brussels Blog has more.