A Good Step for NATO Missile Defense—from France

Michaela Dodge /

The French Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces recently released a report called “Ballistic Missile Defense: Military Shield or Strategic Challenge?” This report urges France to take a strong role in the NATO missile defense program and to develop a space-based (exoatmospheric) ballistic missile defense interceptor. This would be a great step in the right direction for NATO and the French defense industry—one the United States should learn from.

Space-based interceptors present the best option for a boost-phase missile defense. In the boost phase, ballistic missiles are the most vulnerable to counterattack, because they are slow and have not deployed countermeasures yet. Low speed and absence of countermeasures make it easier to track the missile; if the U.S. and its allies are able to track a missile, they can kill the missile. The United States advanced the concept of a space-based intercept in its Brilliant Pebbles (later known as Global Protection Against Limited Strikes) program in late 1980s and early 1990s, but the Clinton Administration decided to terminate the program. Despite significant successes of the program, it has never been reconstituted; however, as findings of the Independent Working Group indicate, interceptors in space would allow the United States and its allies to obtain a truly effective missile defense capability. An estimated cost of a space-based test bed for missile defense interceptors is $3 billion to $5 billion over three years. (more…)