Senior Policy Director John Erath spoke with NBC News about missile defense and the feasibility of an “Iron Dome” defense system in the United States.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive news on missile defense. It’s doing really good work on protecting civilians in Ukraine and Israel now,” said John Erath, a former National Security Council official who is the senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a nonpartisan nonprofit group. “But what is going on there is far different from what is being worked on and planned and may someday come to pass defending the U.S. homeland. It’s apples and oranges.”
“Those missiles go over the North Pole and then into space before re-entering the atmosphere on the way to their target,” Erath said. “While Hamas rockets might be traveling several hundred miles an hour, intercontinental ballistic missiles re-enter from space at thousands of miles an hour.”
At those speeds and trajectories, reliably hitting them is vastly more challenging.
“We have invested billions in missile defense systems, and we have certain capabilities against very limited missile threats against the U.S. homeland,” Erath said. “If there were an accidental launch or a rogue actor got a handle of one or two, yeah, we can protect against that. But if you’re talking about a mass attack from a country on the scale of Russia or China, the math just doesn’t work out.”
With current technologies, defenders are at a major disadvantage, Erath said, because reliably hitting an incoming missile generally requires launching at least three interceptors, because each one has a relatively low probability of success. But interceptors cost more than the missiles they’re trying to hit, because they require more advanced guidance systems, and you need more of them.
“So you need a lot of them, and they’re expensive, and the antidote to that is very simple, which is: You just throw more things at us and overwhelm the defenses,” Erath said. Read more