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U.S. seeks missile-defense shields for Asia, Mideast

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By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON | Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:17am EDT

(Reuters) – The United States is seeking to build regional shields against ballistic missiles in both Asia and the Middle East akin to a controversial defense system in Europe, a senior Pentagon official disclosed on Monday.

The effort may complicate U.S. ties with Russia and China, both of which fear such defenses could harm their security even though the United States says they are designed only to protect against states like Iran and North Korea.

The U.S. push for new anti-missile bulwarks includes two sets of trilateral dialogues – one with Japan and Australia and the other with Japan and South Korea, said Madelyn Creedon, an assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs.

Such shields could help counter perceived threats to their neighbors from Iran and North Korea and help defend the United States from any future long-range missiles that the two countries might develop, she told a conference co-hosted by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

The model would be the so-called “phased adaptive approach” for missile defense in Europe, Creedon said. This includes putting interceptor missiles in Poland and Romania, a radar in Turkey and the home-porting of missile defense-capable Aegis destroyers in Spain.

Moscow fears that such a shield, given planned upgrades, could grow strong enough by 2020 to undermine Moscow’s own nuclear deterrent force. It has threatened to deploy missiles to overcome the shield and potentially target missile defense installations such as those planned in NATO members Poland and Romania.

China likely would be even more opposed to an antimissile shield in its backyard, said Riki Ellison, a prominent missile-defense advocate noted for his close ties to current and former U.S. senior military officials involved in the effort.

Beijing “would take much more offense to an Asian phased adaptive approach than Russia is doing with the European one,” he said, calling regional shields a good idea in theory but problematic in reality.

GULF STATES

In the Middle East, Creedon said Washington will work to promote “interoperability and information-sharing” among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – as they acquire greater missile-defense capabilities.

The biggest U.S. missile defense contractors include Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon Co and Northrop Grumman Corp.

The Obama administration at the same time stepped back from an announcement this month that it was weighing the possibility of giving Russia certain classified missile-defense data as the price for winning its acquiescence to the European shield.

“We are not proposing to provide them with classified information,” Ellen Tauscher, the administration’s special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense, told the conference. Instead, she said, the Obama administration had offered Moscow a chance to monitor a flight test in international waters of a U.S. Standard Missile-3 interceptor.

This, she said, would let Russian officials see for themselves the accuracy of “what we are saying about our system.” The United States argues that the U.S. system poses no threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

As recently as March 6, the administration had said it was continuing negotiations begun under former President George W. Bush on a pact with Moscow that could include sharing limited classified data, but said it was making no headway toward a deal with Russia.

Obama’s administration was not the first “to believe that cooperation could be well-served by some limited sharing of classified information of a certain kind if the proper rules were in place to do that,” Bradley Roberts, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, had told the House of Representatives’ Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces at the time.

The idea of such data-sharing drew sharp criticism from Republicans in the U.S. Congress including a move to legislate a prohibition.

The rollback on any such deal involving classified data exchange came after President Barack Obama was caught on camera on Monday assuring outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the November 6 U.S. presidential election.

Obama, during talks in Seoul, urged Moscow to give him “space” until after the vote, and Medvedev said he would relay the message to Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.

(with additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Eric Beech)

These New Developments Could Be Paving The Way For Military Action In Iran

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An Iranian Ghader missile launched at the shore of sea of Oman.

Robert Johnson

There are so many snippets of rhetoric being reported about Iran, Israel and the U.S. that it’s begun to feel like a middle school circle of “he said, she said.”

Piecing together sound bites to form a rough idea of what’s actually going on is about the only option available right now, so when Leon Panetta announced yesterday that he thinks Israel may strike Iran this spring it immediately made the news.

David Ignatius at The Washington Post reported Panetta’s thoughts Thursday when the Secretary of Defense said he believed Israel would launch an attack on Iran in April, May or June.

After that, Israel allegedly believes Tehran will enter a “zone of immunity” where they will have enough enriched uranium, stashed in bunkers deep enough, that only U.S. bombs will be able to penetrate and they will be helpless to act on their own.

Ignatius did not cite a source, but reported the news from Brussels where Panetta was attending a NATO Defense meeting.

It’s a reasonable argument that is bolstered by the fact that Israel cancelled its massive missile defense drill with the U.S., slated for the same period, saying that they couldn’t spare the forces at that time. The drill is said to be back on the books for October.

For its part, Iran is doing nothing to assuage any concerns over its intentions as it launched a satellite into orbit Friday.

Nasser Karimi at the Associated Press reports the launch raises concerns not only for the satellites possible military applications, but because the rocket that delivered it uses the same technology as a ballistic missile would use. Say, an inter-continental ballistic missile fitted with a nuclear warhead.

Israel announced Thursday that Iran is developing technology that will enable it to launch such a missile that will reach the continental United States. This satellite launch only reinforces this possibility.

In an official announcement the Iranian supreme leader warned any action against Iran will have dire effects on the U.S.

CNN reports that Iran’s supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni announced “You see every now and then in this way they say that all options are on the table. That means even the option of war.” During Friday prayers in Tehran, he continued, “This is how they make threats against us.”

“Well, these kinds of threats are detrimental to the U.S.,” he said. “The war itself will be 10 times as detrimental to the U.S.”

The Ayatollah went on to say that Iran pledges its full support to any country or organization that attacks Israel and that the U.S. and Israel will soon face defeats in a coming “great event.”

In a random aside: A South African telecom is being sued for aiding Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for an exclusive cellular license within the country.

Read more: BI

U.S. Knew Of Downed Drones Vulnerabilities And Iran Says It Did Too

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Robert Johnson

One day after Iran claimed to have brought down an advanced U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone, Public Intelligence received an Air Force report saying the drone suffers from many electronic vulnerabilities (via Jeffrey Carr at Digital Dao).

The report, Operating Next-Generation Remotely Piloted Aircraft for Irregular Warfare was published “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) in April 2011 by the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, and addresses electronic threats to the American drone fleet.

The board found a list of problems, including communications vulnerabilities and lost communication events.

From Digital Dao:

Section 2.4.3 “Threat to Communication Links” expands on the state of vulnerabilities for [drones]:

  1. Jamming of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) links is a widely available technology. It can provide an effective tool for adversaries against data links or as a way for command and control (C2) denial.
  2. Operational needs may require the use of unencrypted data links to provide broadcast services to ground troops without security clearances. Eavesdropping on these links is a known exploit that is available to adversaries for extremely low cost.
  3. Spoofing or hijacking links can lead to damaging missions, or even to platform loss.

Section 2.4.4 “Threat to Position, Navigation, and Guidance”:

  1. Small, simple GPS noise jammers can be easily constructed and employed by an unsophisticated adversary and would be effective over a limited RPA operating area.
  2. GPS repeaters are also available for corrupting navigation capabilities of RPAs.
  3. Cyber threats represent a major challenge for future RPA operations. Cyber attacks can affect both on-board and ground systems, and exploits may range from asymmetric CNO attacks to highly sophisticated electronic systems and software attacks.

This information is particularly interesting given the exclusive interview of an Iranian engineer by Scott Peterson and Payam Faramarzi at the Christian Science Monitor.

The CSM story says an Iranian electronic warfare specialist, and his team, overrode the drones communications systems based on information gleaned from the previously downed U.S. drones in Iran.

Once in control of the Sentinel, Iran reprogrammed the craft’s GPS coordinates to make the drone think it was landing at its home base, when actually it was setting down deep in Iran.

“The GPS navigation is the weakest point,” the Iranian engineer told the Monitor, giving the most detailed description yet published of Iran’s “electronic ambush” of the highly classified US drone. “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.”

The “spoofing” technique that the Iranians used – which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data – made the drone “land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications” from the US control center, says the engineer.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told CNN that Iran had no part in intercepting the RQ-170, insisting the drone suffered a technical problem and went down on its own.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused, however, to say whether the drone could have been brought down by an electronic attack.

“You can make all kinds of guesses at this point. Obviously there’s nothing that you can rule out and nothing that you can rule in right now,” Panetta said Fox News (via CNN).

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