President Obama approved the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to European missile defense in 2009 in response to Iran’s persistent pursuit of a nuclear-weapons program. The PAA consists of four stages which unfold from 2011 through 2020 and has stirred concern in some nations.
Even though Iran claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations believe Tehran wants to develop nuclear weapons. The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran to diminish the motivation for a nuclear program and the European Union has done the same by targeting Iranian banks, trade, and gas exports. The Council of the European Union has stated that the sanctions, “… are meant to persuade Iran to engage constructively by negotiating seriously and addressing the concerns of the international community. The sanctions are not aimed at the Iranian people.” According to some estimates, Iran’s currency has lost 80 percent of its value since the beginning of the year due to combined sanctions imposed by the U.S., EU, and United Nations Security Council.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the PAA, which focuses on the sea-based Aegis combat system. The Aegis missile defense system consists of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor technology that will be gradually upgraded over time along with evolving networks of land and space-based sensors. “Aegis Ashore” will deploy Aegis on land in later phases. The first ballistic missile defense-capable ship in the PAA plan is the USS Monterey, deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 2011.
The world’s most advanced mobile radar system is the AN/TPY-2, a mobile X-band radar. This is a critical part of the ballistic missile defense system because it performs several critical functions, such as surveillance, interceptor track, in-flight data uplink/downlink, target classification/ typing/ identification, intercept assessment, and searches, acquires, tracks and discriminates threats from non-threats. The first of its kind was deployed in Turkey in late 2011. To date, the U.S. has produced seven out of the eighteen it plans to deploy, two of which are currently deployed in Israel and Japan.
Implementation of the PAA has caused some concern in other parts of the world. Even though the U.S. has attempted to reassure Russia that the approach is not oriented towards them, Moscow remains suspicious that later phases of the PAA may marginalize its nuclear deterrent forces. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has suggested allowing Russia to observe the SM-3 interceptor tests to confirm the velocity and range of the missile are not sustainable for intercepting the long-range missiles in the Russian strategic arsenal.
The U.S. must pursue implementation of the PAA to protect itself and its allies from a developing Iranian nuclear program while also easing the concerns of other nations like Russia. Meanwhile, sanctions against Iran will hopefully motivate it to rethink the wisdom of developing nuclear weapons and the means for delivering them against distant targets.
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