Missile defense gains another success

Should Israel attack Iran, or should we just blow one of their missiles out of the air during the mullahcracy’s next test?  We may be able to do that now, after the Air Force scored another impressive success with its airborne missile-defense platform.  IBD notes that the progress gives the US more flexibility in its military plans:

The news that Iran has enough nuclear material to build a nuclear weapon in relatively short order and is well along on missiles to deliver its nukes has put a sense of urgency on the proposed missile defense system slated for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Fortunately, another answer to the threat posed by rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea has just passed a critical milestone.

That answer is the YAL-1A, a modified Boeing 747-400F equipped with the Airborne Laser (ABL) system, which includes a high-energy chemical laser designed to destroy ballistic missiles in their very vulnerable boost phase, missiles such as Iran’s Shahab series.

The ABL program places a megawatt-class, high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) on a modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft to detect, track and destroy all classes of ballistic missiles. ABL also can pass information on launch sites, target tracks and predicted impact points to other layers of the global ballistic missile defense system.

This week, Boeing and the Missile Defense Agency announced another successful test — the first ground test of the entire weapon system integrated aboard the aircraft, including the firing of a high-energy laser through the ABL beam control/fire control system. Earlier tests had unit-tested other components of the system, particularly the ability to find, track and target missiles in flight.

After hitting the boost phase, a second shot would strike the missile itself, destroying it.  The remnants would land on the nation that fired the missile, which might give them a few second thoughts about launching it in the first place.  In fact, they’d have to pray that the second shot hits when the first shot succeeds.

Next January, the YAL-1A will attempt to shoot down an actual missile during the boost phase, which would make our abilities clear to the rest of the world — including the incoming administration.  This gives us more options in dealing with rogue nations, and in deploying missile defense systems.  As an option to installing fixed systems in nations where such facilities could create diplomatic tensions, a mobile airborne platform could fly continuous missions in international airspace around the countries posing threats.

The YAL-1A has another application as well.  It can be used to protect the American coastline from submerged missile launches, a threat that had disappeared after the Cold War.  If the Iranians can start building nuclear missiles, they may opt to start building submarines as launch platforms, following the lead of the US and the Soviet Union as a means of conducting a sneak attack.  The precipitous drop in oil prices puts that kind of production out of reach of the Iranian economy, at least for now, but that won’t last forever.

General Henry Obering predicted three years ago that the Air Force missile-defense program would give the US its first “light saber”, playing off of the derogatory “Star Wars” label applied to the program by its critics.  IBD says, “Let the (Air) Force be with us.”  That force appears ready to take its place in America’s arsenal, and not a moment too soon.