VIEWS: 26 PAGES: 16 CATEGORY: Science & Technology POSTED ON: 7/2/2010
[...] can we undertake a new mission area without jeopardizing the traditional core capabilities of the combat air forces? [...] we should consider an adversary's ability to concentrate his attack at a specific point and time.\n Together, the small interceptor and the staring IRSTS comprise a survivable and highly flexible defensive capability that can frustrate an adversary's planning and even provide additional capabilities well beyond missile defense functions.
The Role of Airpower in Active Missile Defense Col Mike Corbett, USAF, Retired Paul Zarchan B allistic missile defense is a conten- tious issue. Some people consider it an essential tool for modern security; others believe that it diverts critical re- missile (TBM) threat has also changed with the evidence of new, dangerous capabilities on the horizon.3 Given the new emphasis on capabilities against near-term regional sources from more pressing needs.1 Ques- threats, perhaps now is a good time to reex- tions have continued to surface ever since amine the role that airpower might play in the first German V-2 missile fell on Europe this challenging mission area.4 in 1944. During Pres. George W. Bush’s ad- What is the proper role of airpower, and ministration, the military deployed an ini- what does it bring to active missile defense tial defensive capability against long-range that surface- and space-based forces do not? missiles and increased the numbers as well Should combat air forces have a primary as improved the quality of existing theater defenses.2 However, the theater ballistic Summer 2010 | 57 Corbett & Zarchan role in this mission area? Finally, can we vulnerable points and, perhaps most impor- undertake a new mission area without jeop- tantly, do so in a cost-effective manner. ardizing the traditional core capabilities of However, before we examine this concept, the combat air forces? we need to take a closer look at the threat. Besides the number of missiles produced and the number of countries that have them, Air-Launched Hit-to-Kill is the threat really growing? To date, con- ventional (nonnuclear) TBMs have never This article describes a concept that constituted a militarily significant capability treats ballistic missiles in the same manner that could hold key assets at risk or prevent as conventional air-breathing threats, using the attainment of key objectives—although similar doctrine and many of the same they could penetrate most defenses.7 A nu- technologies employed by today’s combat clear warhead changes the story, but we air forces. Known as Air-Launched Hit-to- could argue that deterrence works pretty Kill (ALHK), this concept employs small well against adversaries with enough capa- kinetic interceptors directed to targets by a bility to develop nuclear weapons. So, is the staring infrared search and track system threat of TBMs really changing? (IRSTS). Initially fighters would carry the Indications suggest that it is. Countries interceptors, but unmanned combat air sys- such as Iran are building ballistic missile tems would eventually assume that task as arsenals and equipping them with precision- well. ALHK is not a new idea, but we and guidance capabi
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