A new report by two physicists suggests an airborne network of drone-based interceptors could defend against a ballistic missile attack by North Korea.
“All of the technologies needed to implement the proposed system are proven and no new technologies are needed to realize the system,” their recent evaluation found.
The system, they said, could “quickly create an incentive for North Korea to take diplomatic negotiations seriously and to destroy North Korean ICBMs if they are launched at the continental United States.”
The report was authored by Richard Garwin, IBM fellow emeritus, and Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at MIT.
North Korea has been testing not only its ballistic missiles, but its nuclear potential, in recent years. The tests slowed down after President Trump took office, and in a stunning change of heart, North Korean officials have indicated that they might be willing to meet with Trump administration officials for discussions.
Given the instability of the rogue communist regime, no one knows whether those talks may prove fruitful.
The report, posted at the website of the Federation of American Scientists, is titled “Airborne Patrol to Destroy DPRK ICBMS in Powered Flight.”
It first outlines the dark side.
“Although there is no evidence that the DPRK has mastered the technology of a ruggedized warhead and reentry vehicle that would survive the 60 G deceleration and heating of atmospheric reentry at ICBM range, they could do so in time,” the report said.
“It is also not clear that any of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons can yet be carried to ICBM range, but that also is only a matter of time.”
So the idea is to use MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) remotely piloted aircraft, which could “loiter” for some 37 hours in the vicinity of any possible launch.
And it could carry two Boost-Phase Intercept missiles that could “home optically on the booster flame and the ICBM’s hard body.”
A launch from North Korea would be followed by the ignition of the Intercepts, which could cause the launch to fail at the outset.
“The baseline system could technically be deployed in 2020, and would be designed to handle up to five simultaneous ICBM launches,” the report said.
And it could be improved over time.
“For example, we have analyzed the system assuming that interceptors have a top speed of 4 KM/s with a 25 kg seeker. We believe that faster, or lighter and smaller interceptors can be built that would increase the firepower of the system and possibly its capability against somewhat shorter range ballistic missiles like the Nodong – which poses a threat to Japan.”
The drones would do their loitering “outside of North Korean airspace,” so ordinary defenses against surface-to-air missiles could be employed.
FAS commented, “The asserted role of such a system in promoting diplomatic negotiations rests on certain assumptions about how it would be perceived and evaluated by North Korea that are not addressed by the authors.”