March 6, 2014
A new government-funded report from the Santa Monica, CA-based Rand Corp., a nonprofit research group, highlights several technologies that it says should have tighter export controls because of the possibility they could be used to outmaneuver missile defense systems.
The paper, sponsored mainly by the U.S. Threat Reduction Agency, recommends that the 34-member international Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) adopt new rules restricting the sale of 19 types of so-called "penetration aids," or technologies that can be used with an offensive missile to help them avoid defense capabilities.
“One of the greatest problems with ballistic missile defense has been the problem of countermeasures,” said report co-author Richard Speier in an interview with GSN. “That attackers would use decoys and jammers and other techniques to make it difficult for missile defense interceptors to hit their target.”
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction becomes a greater threat when accompanied by the proliferation of effective means of delivery, according to the report. Some policy makers have been increasingly interested in missile defenses as missile threats from so-called rogue nations have been an ongoing concern, Speier notes.
There are three kinds of technologies that should likely be the most restricted, or placed into the MTCR’s Category I, according to the report. These include boost-glide vehicles and their subsystems; missiles that are used in interdictions tests; and complete missile borne countermeasure subsystems.
Boost-glide vehicles, designed to use aerodynamic forces to control their direction, do not adhere to a ballistic trajectory, according to the report, so are more difficult to monitor and intercept. Target missiles used in tests should be tightly controlled, as they employ technology that can be interchangeable with -- or even indistinguishable from -- some kinds of penetration aids. “Nations could use the manufacture of such dummy missiles as a cover for developing antimissile countermeasures,” the report states.
There may be a reluctance to place too many technologies in Category I, according to the report. It could therefore make more sense to place some of the additional technologies that are recommended for restriction into Category II, which includes dual use technologies that are judged on a case-by case basis. In some instances, “it may be more realistic to perform a case-by-case review to maintain room for negotiation and avoid overloading the export-control framework.” Other technologies listed are clearly dual-use and so should be in Category II.
In addition to the MTCR’s procedures to coordinate export decisions among its members, the U.S. has legislation providing sanctions against domestic and foreign entities that contribute to missile proliferation, the report notes.