Monday, November 13, 2006

Defending against Iran's missiles

By James T, Hackett
The Washington Times
November 13, 2006

The government of Iran is continuing its in-your-face policy. Going beyond North Korea's launch of seven ballistic missiles on the Fourth of July, Iran in early November began a war game by launching at least 15 ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3 that can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the area. No matter who chairs the defense committees in Congress, this threat must be faced.

Iran displayed its capability by simultaneously launching six missiles of various types and ranges, and then firing "tens of missiles" more. They included the 300-mile range Shahab-2, based on North Korea's Scud C, and the 800-mile range Shahab-3, a version of North Korea's Nodong. Iranian generals said these were followed by the launch of hundreds of shorter-range rockets and missiles with ranges of 100 miles and up.

An Iranian commander said on Tehran television that some carried cluster warheads, which spread "hundreds of small bombs over the target at different ranges." Cluster bombs, he said, are effective for attacking large deployments, air bases and even ships at sea. Rockets were launched in the Persian Gulf as a challenge to the allied naval force there that had just completed an exercise of the Proliferation Security Initiative.

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards praised the successful launch of the Shahab-3, which he said has just undergone a series of improvements. Known as the Shahab-3ER, the improved model is said to go 1,240 miles, which holds at risk most U.S. bases and allies in the Middle East. And Iran is developing a solid-fuel multistage missile it calls a satellite launch vehicle, probably derived from North Korea's Taepodong. It is expected to reach well into Europe and with booster rockets could cross the Atlantic.

As Iran continues doggedly developing nuclear weapons while extending the range of missiles to deliver them, the apocalyptic regime appears increasingly dangerous to Israel, U.S. bases in Iraq, and our allies in Europe and around the Persian Gulf. The Europeans have been patiently but unsuccessfully negotiating with Iran for years, trying to constrain its covert program to develop an atomic bomb. It is reminiscent of the decade of fruitless talks with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

To be sure, diplomatic efforts to isolate and sanction Iran should continue, but opposition by Russia and China, both eager to trade with Iran, and Tehran's lack of cooperation, suggest they will be fruitless unless there is a change of regime. Meanwhile, defenses are needed against the growing threat.

Just as the missile launches from North Korea showed the importance of the defenses in Alaska and California, the multiple missile launches by Iran show the need for defenses against such weapons in the Middle East. Eastern Europe is the best location for a missile defense site to protect the Eastern United States and our allies and bases in Europe. Negotiations are under way with the Polish and Czech governments. The plan is to build an early warning radar and missile defense site like the one in Alaska, but with 10 interceptors instead of 40.

Many congressional Democrats joined Republicans this year in approving $9.4 billion for missile defense in 2007, fully funding the administration's request. At the same time, Congress emphasized the importance of fielding currently available technology while deferring spending on futuristic research and development. This bipartisan congressional consensus recognizes the need shown by the North Korean and Iranian missile tests to have defenses in the field.

With unpredictable adversaries in Northeast Asia and the Middle East, and the risk a pro-Taliban government could take power in Pakistan and gain control of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, this year's consensus in Congress on missile defense is welcome. If any issue should be above partisan politics it is defending the country against a possible nuclear attack.

The new Democratic leadership should be wary of the calls for unlimited testing before deploying defenses. That is a risky formula for delay. The safety of Americans requires early expansion and improvement of the missile defenses in Alaska and creation of a base in Europe to defend against the missile threat emerging in the Middle East.

James T, Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times and is based in Carlsbad, Calif.

China sub secretly stalked U.S. fleet

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
November 13, 2006

A Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned.

The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military.

The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations' militaries.

Disclosure of the incident comes as Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, is making his first visit to China. The four-star admiral was scheduled to meet senior Chinese military leaders during the weeklong visit, which began over the weekend.

According to the defense officials, the Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine shadowed the Kitty Hawk undetected and surfaced within five miles of the carrier Oct. 26.

The surfaced submarine was spotted by a routine surveillance flight by one of the carrier group's planes. The Kitty Hawk battle group includes an attack submarine and anti-submarine helicopters that are charged with protecting the warships from submarine attack.

According to the officials, the submarine is equipped with Russian-made wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Kitty Hawk and several other warships were deployed in ocean waters near Okinawa at the time, as part of a routine fall deployment program. The officials said Chinese submarines rarely have operated in deep water far from Chinese shores or shadowed U.S. vessels.

A Pacific Command spokesman declined to comment on the incident, saying details were classified. Pentagon spokesmen also declined to comment.

The incident is a setback for the aggressive U.S.-China military exchange program being promoted by Adm. Fallon, who has made several visits to China in recent months in an attempt to develop closer ties.

However, critics of the program in the Pentagon say China has not reciprocated and continues to deny U.S. military visitors access to key facilities, including a Beijing command center. In contrast, Chinese military visitors have been invited to military exercises and sensitive U.S. facilities.

Additionally, military intelligence officials said Adm. Fallon has restricted U.S. intelligence-gathering activities against China, fearing that disclosure of the activities would upset relations with Beijing.

The restrictions are hindering efforts to know more about China's military buildup, the officials said.

"This is a harbinger of a stronger Chinese reaction to America's military presence in East Asia," said Richard Fisher, a Chinese military specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, who called the submarine incident alarming.

"Given the long range of new Chinese sub-launched anti-ship missiles and those purchased from Russia, this incident is very serious," he said. "It will likely happen again, only because Chinese submarine captains of 40 to 50 new modern submarines entering their navy will want to test their mettle against the 7th Fleet."

Pentagon intelligence officials say China's military buildup in recent years has produced large numbers of submarines and surface ships, seeking to control larger portions of international waters in Asia, a move U.S. officials fear could restrict the flow of oil from the Middle East to Asia in the future.

Between 2002 and last year, China built 14 new submarines, including new Song-class vessels and several other types, both diesel- and nuclear-powered.

Since 1996, when the United States dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan in a show of force, Beijing also has bought and built weapons designed specifically to attack U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships.

"The Chinese have made it clear that they understand the importance of the submarine in any kind of offensive or defensive strategy to deal with a military conflict," an intelligence official said recently.

In late 2004, China dispatched a Han-class submarine to waters near Guam, Taiwan and Japan. Japan's military went on emergency alert after the submarine surfaced in Japanese waters. Beijing apologized for the incursion.

The Pentagon's latest annual report on Chinese military power stated that China is investing heavily in weapons designed "to interdict, at long ranges, aircraft carrier and expeditionary strike groups that might deploy to the western Pacific."

It could not be learned whether the U.S. government lodged a protest with China's government over the incident or otherwise raised the matter in official channels.