Checkmate America's Enemies with New Technology
by PETER HUESSY
October 17, 2012
Defense budgets are declining and America is resetting its security strategy. Many may think it's counter intuitive to be supporting new defense and homeland security technologies.
But during the waning days of the Cold War when defense budgets declined markedly, the research and development we did preserve then gave us the incredible stealth and precision of many of our weapons our soldiers currently field.
Today, a key emerging technology, JLENS, needs to complete its testing and begin production. The Army's Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System successfully completed two tests-April 25th and September 21st -- demonstrating its capability to defend against cruise missiles with both Navy and Army systems, the Patriot and Standard Missile 6.
Additionally, the system has simultaneously detected and tracked a simulated real-world ocean swarming scenario attack, of the type expected to be used by Iran and other terrorist entities in the Persian Gulf. Attacks can be thwarted against oil tankers, commercial freighters and naval vessels in such restricted space as the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca through which literally trillions of dollars of goods and commodities travel.
Thus, weapon systems use JLENS data to direct interceptors to their targets against asymmetrical threats, in addition to its capability against conventional rockets and missiles. The system can thus both protect our forces deployed overseas and keep the sea lanes of commerce open.
One recent analysis explained JLENS was "a dual-radar system that integrates surveillance radar with radar capable of guiding missiles to intercept, track and destroy enemy cruise missiles. The integration of existing missile systems with JLENS provides hundreds of miles of around-the-clock, 360-degree defense against enemy aircraft, cruise missiles, and unmanned drones", but with lower operating costs than current alternatives.
A JLENS deployment will consist of two orbits or airships, tethered to the ground, at 10,000 feet, with its associated radars, sensors and power supply. The technology greatly levels the playing field and gives the US the ability to see over the horizon at a distance of 550 kilometers in every direction. The system can simultaneously see multiple threats and then direct firepower against such missiles, drones and other munitions.
General James Mattis, in charge of CENTCOM, has put JLENS deployment in the theater at the top of his needs.
Critics of America's military presence overseas may see JLENS as just another system that makes such engagement possible. Many Americans believe it is time to come home from such "adventures".
But here they would be wrong. As former Reagan chief of staff Peter Hannaford has written for the Committee on the Present Danger, there are gathering threats not just overseas but from America's coastal regions that merit serious attention as well.
Recently, Russian submarines have been found patrolling in the Gulf of Mexico.
On May 2, 1999, in a meeting with a bipartisan delegation of Armed Services Committee members, a senior Russian, the former Ambassador to the US and then chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, warned that at any time Russia could launch a submarine-based missile off of America's coast, and detonate a nuclear warhead at an altitude of 60-100 kilometers and cause an EMP or electromagnetic pulse attack.
It would be silent, yet it would destroy our electrical grid and much of our critical industrial infrastructure and put at risk millions of American lives, according to two EMP Commission reports given to the US Congress.
Lukin's assistant reminded his audience that if that missile didn't work, "we have plenty of spares".
Our maritime environment is admittedly huge and some may question whether it can be protected. But the threats we face are of critical importance.
JLENS deployments along our coasts, coupled with missile defense deployments, and the assets of our Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force, could give us sufficient coverage of, warning about, and protection from such shorter range and cruise missile launches, even as our Alaska and California based interceptors protect against longer range ICBMs.
A new National Research Council report, echoing recent Congressional action, says the US should deploy a variety of additional missile defense systems in the Eastern United States, to add to the protection provided by our current Alaska and California ground based missile interceptors but for both long range and short range threats.
Missiles launched from the broad ocean expanse are by nature surreptitious, and as such make the attribution necessary for traditional deterrence to operate problematic. They would most likely be short or medium range against which JLENS is ideally suited to defend.
Few would argue we should not keep our maritime environment free of homeland threats. The JLENS deployment would have the added benefit of complimenting our naval presence which keeps the sea lanes of commerce open, upon which our country and our industrialized partners depend economically. It also can be used for border surveillance and as a tool in the drug wars. So irrespective of whether we should or should not be engaged overseas, this technology fulfills the nation's security needs both abroad and here at home.
JLENS, as one expert noted, is "not your grandfather's barrage balloon", as some might think. Major Thomas Atkins, writing in Air Defense Artillery Magazine, explains JLENS is the linchpin of "combined air defense frameworks with significant anti-air and missile defense capabilities...[and] can support...defense units such as Patriot, Aegis/Standard Missile and...ground-based AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles".
As Peter Hannaford recently explained, "The Army developed JLENS to identify, track, and engage multiple hostile targets, including low flying cruise missiles" especially those launched from submarines and freighters. As Hannaford warns, such attacks could very well involve EMP, chemical or biological weapons.
Noted defense expert Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute explains "the genius behind JLENS is the marrying of proven platform, surveillance and communications technologies together to create a greater capability than could be otherwise achieved". He further notes, "At a time when tensions with Iran are escalating", JLENS deployment makes sense, providing "persistent surveillance of most of the Persian Gulf" for the US Navy and "early warning...of an air or missile attack."
The budget request for the current fiscal year is $190.4 million, which includes funds for an extended test program. A production phase would require added funding, but a critical decision is needed now to go forward through 2022 to produce the right number of Orbits to fill the critical capability gaps in the Combatant Command's Areas of Responsibility.
But before that is determined, the question at hand is whether to proceed with a field test for which $40 million was requested by the Combatant Commanders and approved by Congress. But the funds were reprogrammed by the Department of Defense for other needs, and thus a decision to proceed with the test was delayed and put production of the two test units in doubt.
JLENS like other Army system has to be integrated into other elements, to satisfy the requirement that everyone "share a common air picture". Its dwell time is also significantly better than anything now at hand, it is ready for deployment, performs far better than any alternatives, and is needed in the field by our commanders.
In his new book The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Robert Kaplan notes: "The Eurasian land mass has become a string of overlapping missile ranges, with crowds in megacities inflamed by mass media about patches of ground in Palestine and Kashmir. Counterintuitive thoough it may seem, the way to grasp what is happening in this world of instantaneous news is to rediscover something basic: the spatial representation of humanity's divisions, possibilities and-most important-constraints. The map leads us to the right sorts of questions."
Kaplan has long observed that the weapons of choice of rogue states, from North Korea to Iran, are missiles. He also warned not too long ago that "post launch" the United States was most vulnerable.
Since 2001, the United States has deployed some 1000+ missile defense interceptors of all kinds. The proposed Gulf real-world test of JLENS would significantly add to the capability of what we have deployed to date, and it will significantly add to our future capabilities against maritime, homeland and regional military and terrorist threats. It will indeed, further all of these objectives, fulfilling once again a requirement of our constitution, "to provide for the common defense".
Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis of Potomac, Maryland , a defense and national security consulting firm.