Space-based defense against an ICBM attack will not come without a heavy price tag since it would require a thousand or more space-based interceptors to do the job, according to RAND senior nuclear policy analyst David Mosher and Union of Concerned Scientists physicist and long-time critic of space weapons Laura Grego. During a media roundtable on space security in Washington this week, Mosher and Grego agreed that to be effective, a space-based, boost-phase missile defense system would require at least 1,000 interceptors. They also said that because of the short response time required to strike a ballistic missile, the interceptors would have to be in low orbit, making them vulnerable to short-range missiles. What’s more, they maintain, the space-based interceptors must be able to maneuver extensively, so propellant load would be high, adding to the spacecraft’s mass and cost. Despite such a dismal technological picture, Grego said the Pentagon’s outyear budget contains provision for a test system.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.