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Airborne Boost-Phase Ballistic Missile Defense

Airborne Boost-Phase Ballistic Missile Defense

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Published by: aircombat on Apr 13, 2011
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Science and Global Security, 12:1–67, 2004Copyright
Taylor & Francis Inc.ISSN: 0892-9882 printDOI: 10.1080/08929880490464649
Airborne Boost-Phase BallisticMissile Defense
Dean A. Wilkening
Boost-phase ballistic missile defense is alluring because rocket boosters are easy todetect and track, they are relatively vulnerable due to the large axial loads on a missileunder powered flight, the entire payload (single or multiple warheads and midcoursepenetrationaids)maybedestroyedinasingleshot,andcountermeasurestodefeatboost-phase defense are more difficult to devise than for midcourse ballistic missile defenses.Moreover, if intercepted several seconds before booster burnout, the debris will landwell short of the target area, although collateral damage to other territory is a seriousconcern.On the other hand, boost-phase ballistic missile defense is technically challengingbecause the intercept timelines are very short (1–3 minutes for theater-range ballis-tic missiles and 3–5 minutes for intercontinental range missiles) and missile boostersare accelerating targets, thus complicating the design of homing kinetic-kill vehicles(KKVs). This article examines the technical feasibility and nominal capability of onetype of boost-phase defense, namely, airborne boost-phase intercept (ABI). Airbornelaser systems are not examined here.
This article concludes that ABI should be techni-cally achievable within the next decade and that airborne platforms offer some uniqueadvantages, especially for theater ballistic missile defense, that warrant their seriousconsideration in future U.S. missile defense architectures.
The advantages of boost-phase ballistic missile defense animated PresidentReagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. However, unlike boost-phase defenseagainstRussianICBMs,boost-phasedefenseagainstemergingballistic-missilestates does not necessarily require space-based weapons due to their small
Received 11 June 2003; accepted 17 December 2003.Address correspondence to Dean A. Wilkening, Encina Hall, Stanford University, Stan-ford, CA 94305. E-mail: wilkening@stanford.edu
Dean A. Wilkening
, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford Uni-versity, Stanford, CA.

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