The Need for a National Missile Defense (NMD) Program in the United States
Several hundred Soviet, nuclear tipped, ballistic missiles streak towards the United States without any form of opposition or challenge to their impeding destruction. The result of a situation like this would be no doubt disastrous, but it is a situation that could very well take place if the United States does not install a national ballistic missile defense program. An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system is a precaution that the American government must pursue with all of its resources in order to protect and preserve our society as we know it.
Really, what are the chances of another nation launching a ballistic missile attack on the U.S.? Well, an attack may be a lot more likely than most Americans ever even dare to think. In 1998 Iran tested an intermediate-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and North Korea launched a three-stage rocket, Taepo Dong 1(Timmerman), capable of an attack on Alaska, Hawaii, and possibly the west coast of the United States.(Richter) In 1998 Congress appointed a blue ribbon panel headed by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to take a look at just how real the threat is of an adversary developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of attacking the U.S. mainland.(Timmerman) In his conclusion Rumsfeld warned that, “rogue countries could soon have missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland—without the United States’ even knowing it.”(Richter) Rumsfeld also concluded that of the rogue nations, Iran was the furthest along with the capability of
developing a missile that could reach U.S. targets “in an arc extending northeast of a line from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to St. Paul Minnesota”, in less than five years. Next in line was Iran’s long time friend, North Korea, who could develop missiles capable of attacking the western United States “in an arc extending northwest from Phoenix, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin.” This threat is increased when taken into account the extensive friendship of Iran and North Korea. A calculated and combined attack could easily place nuclear ICBMs all over most of the continental U.S.. Even when the Taepo Dong missile was tested on August 31, 1998 an Iranian delegation was flown to North Korea bringing with them an entire plane load of telemetry equipment to monitor the test. Shortly after the test the delegation returned to Iran with the full results of the test.
The very test of the North Korean Taepo Dong missile just goes to show how very clueless the United States is as to the development of ICBMs by foreign countries. The CIA’s national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, Robert D. Walpole, admitted that nobody in the intelligence community expected North Korea to develop an ICBM capability so soon. “Although the launch of the Taepo Dong 1 missile was expected for some time, its use as a space launch vehicle with a third stage was not. The existence of a third stage concerns us. We hadn’t anticipated it.” Debris from the rocket’s third stage was found some 3,500 miles from the site of the launch, showing that North Korea has the ability to target Alaska and possibly America’s west coast, admitted Walpole. “Clearly if you can put something into orbit, you get awfully close to ICBM capability.”(Timmerman)
During the Cold War the United States and Russia both rushed to stockpile as many nuclear missiles as possible, thus prompting each other to build a missile defense system. The very first interceptor missiles were developed in the early days of the Cold War. In 1958, the Army developed a long-range interceptor missile with a nuclear warhead, the Nike-Zeus. Due to doubts about the missiles’ radar, and the frightening danger of a low-altitude detonation over the U.S., the project was shot down. Soon after in 1963 the Nike-X replaced the Nike-Zeus with a better radar, and a better short-rang interceptor called “Sprint”. The long-range Nike-Zeus became known as the “Spartan”. In 1966 the Russians began to build a massive ring of ABMs around their capitol city Moscow. After failed attempts at reaching an ABM agreement with Premier Leonid Brezhnev, President Lyndon Johnson responded by approving a “Sentinel” system to protect the U.S..