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Middle East Missile & Air Defense Conference (MEMAD 2008)

Middle East Missile & Air Defense Conference (MEMAD 2008)

December 14, 2008

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The Middle East Missile and Air Defense Symposium (MEMAD) was successfully held at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi between 14-15 December, 2008. It made front-page news on The National and Gulf News.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, MEMAD featured more than two dozen experts in missile and air defense from the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, the US, France, and Germany. It was the region’s first dedicated high-level conference to explore the emerging threats and challenges in the form of air and missile attack.

Agenda Day One

Agenda Day Two

Post Event Synopsis - Day One

During the first day of INEGMA’s Middle East Missile & Air Defence Conference, all speakers expressed that the missile threat is a great concern, which came to the fore after being used in past conflicts involving Iran and Iraq, and in the Gulf war. If war breaks out again in the region, missiles will be used again. As a result, today the Gulf and the Middle East is forward leaning in trying to understand Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). Iran and North Korea are the main suppliers to the black market for missile components with them developing sophisticated new technologies estimated to encompass the entire missile spectrum by 2015.

The keynote speaker, Ms. Mary Beth Long, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, flying in from Bahrain after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, began by identifying early detection and tracking capabilities as crucially important: seeking as many engagement opportunities to counter a launched missile and determining the likelihood of effectiveness of any such system. Highlighting the three phases of flight that ballistic missiles take during their trajectory--the boost, mid-course, and terminal phases--Ms. Long said all provided opportunities, in principle, to employ counterforce actions. The United States DoD is said to be working on all three areas.

Although there may be some questions about U.S. components by European colleagues, the success record of testing shows their strength. In addition, debris and vulnerability issues remain for detractors, but kinetic energy helps to kill incoming missiles. On policy, the U.S. sees Iran’s capabilities are best suited to hit in the Gulf region where there would lead to national catastrophe and an international economic crisis. BMD, consequently, helps unite the GCC via a cooperative and multilateral approach. Finally, Ms. Long argued there is no reason to think that a post-Bush administration would give any less importance to work in the area of defence against ballistic and cruise missile threats--the objective of these systems is simply to enhance defensive capabilities.

The GCC nations and other countries that are participating in this conference reflect the special nature of the conference, and there is a unique opportunity to find common ground, delegates were told by the Deputy Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, Brigadier General Saif Rashid AlZahmy, Assistant Chief of Air Force. Present at the conference as a VIP was also Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Staff Major General Saeed Mohammed Khalaf al Rumaithi, who was attending on behalf of the Chief of Staff.

Speaking after the opening session, Dr. Michael Connell, a research analyst at the Centre for Naval Analysis in the U.S., spoke on the threat of cruise and ballistic missile proliferation in and around the Arab Gulf region. After a brief overview of the evolution of ballistic missiles, the discussion was expanded to why some states today are so focused on developing their sophistication in related areas. Cruise and ballistic missile are employed for the deterrence value because they are relatively difficult to defeat. Being able to deliver nuclear and WMD payloads also makes them particularly attractive to states who are looking to develop offensive capabilities because they often offer a cheaper alternative than what is achieved through similar spending on the air force. Based on history, where there have been 16 conflicts with ballistic missiles, nine of these conflicts were in the Middle East. As such, there is no taboo inhibiting the use of missiles. Missile proliferation in the Middle East is dense if one includes the surrounding states of the former Soviet Union and South Asia. Iran, as a case study, remains a threat because it has the largest inventory.

General (R’td) Khalid Abdullah Bu Ainnain, Former Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defense, President of INEGMA, and a leading intellectual on regional missile and air defence, told attending delegates how first generation ballistic missiles were designed with an artillery-like trajectory, where immediate range was obtained by cutting-off the engine. Flight time is a constraint for air defence, where operations of first generation missiles take six hours and thirty seconds to launch. But there are first generation system limitations. Using simulated animation to aide his discussion of the areas with delegates, advanced generation systems were explored in more detail. Next generation systems, which have a separable warhead, have greater accuracy and use multi-stage solid propellant technology. These new generation theater ballistic missiles (TBD) thus possess greater accuracy and maneuverability with key Penetration Aids or PENAIDS. Consequently, debris, chaffs with corner cubes and reflectors, plus decoys in the “exo” stage are the worst to try to defeat because of having to launch so many counters.

Another discussion, led by Dr. Bernd Kubbig of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, who leads a Ballistic Missile Defence Research Program, looked at how the number of states trying to acquire ballistic missile technology has decreased. For example, once the source of concern as a result of their missile development programs, today Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq are no longer viewed as serious problems in the missile proliferation area. Syria and Egypt could potentially develop their capabilities in this area, but again, their programs are unlikely to rapidly deliver developments that can alter the balance of power in their wider regions. Thus, horizontal missile technology proliferation is not presently where the key challenge lies. Referring to vertical proliferation, where states already have the basic technology to produce short and medium range missiles, many such states are now known to be in the process of improving their systems and capabilities in terms of ability to deliver larger, or non-conventional, payloads or to expand the range of their missiles, or both.

On a non-state level, missile proliferation amongst ‘groups’ was also said to be becoming an important area of security, on local, national, and in the case of the Middle East, possibly even on a regional level. This was an emerging phenomenon and so most discussions tend to exclude discussion about missile proliferation on the lower levels. However, even less sophisticated missiles, like those used by Hizbollah, can give them, in terms of what they seek to achieve through employing such weapons, useful capability. With Kassam rockets, which cost an estimated $10 a piece, they can be used in large numbers, have a very small logistical footprint, do not need expensive or highly technical maintenance, or require sophisticated training.

How does one respond when threatened with such weapons? The answer is found in how states appropriate funds toward its defence-- in particular for capability development vis-à-vis missile and air defense--when funds are limited. Pointing out that missile defence, while useful, is not in itself a exhaustive solution, but nonetheless an expensive one. Perhaps states need to work toward resolving the political disputes which create climates that lead to military conflict.

Gerome Maffert, who leads MBDA’s business development, provided delegates with a presentation about defining mission objectives, understanding requirements, and planning for possible solutions to multiple ballistic and aerodynamic attacks. Protecting airfields, power infrastructure, and other critical areas are obviously crucial to limit damage during a time of attack--or else the possibility of losing counterforce capability is a real danger, either logistically, time critically, or because of break down in public confidence in the state. Both the maritime and a ground environment should provide the basis for projected forces to protect national territory.

General (R’td) Khalid Abdullah Bu Ainnain’s second presentation assessed cruise missile proliferation in the region and offered a detailed analysis of cruise missile technology proliferation-- showing how serious of a concern this trend is. Cruise missile, by definition, are standoff and deep targeting weapons that are accurate and cost-effective across a variety of platforms. The race to sophistication has reached a dangerous step. Advanced generation cruise missiles are entering now into service in the Middle East region. Strategic access in the Gulf region could be made difficult or denied. As such, strategic assets in the Gulf region are directly threatened. The danger posed by the threatening potential of the cruise missiles needs a prompt and strong response.

One of the final briefings of the first day of MEMAD, presented by Major General Timothy Rush, Deputy Commander of AFCENT, looked at regional integrated methods for robust defenses against attack. The use of sophisticated technologies to help sync communications helps to breakdown the enemy’s ability to attack. From a doctrinal perspective, a regional approach in the Middle East makes sense. Expanding the dialog to a multilateral discussion, instead of a bi-lateral approach, and looking into the development of a Regional Integrated Air and Missile Defense (RIAMD) concept of operations, would allow us to formulate a realistic architecture and eventually exercise these concepts. Over the past several years, our exercises have shown the viability of this concept which provides a layered interoperable defense through national execution, MG Rush said. Theater active missile defense systems are primarily SAM systems and their supporting infrastructure. Although TBM launches are detected and warnings are sent with the predicted impact point, engagements are only possible once missile defense radars detect them. Early detection will permit our upper tier engagement systems to track, engage and defeat the TBM well before its intended target area.

Multi-engagements may be necessary, and established and well orchestrated integrated air and missile defense will avoid the possible engagement errors discussed earlier today. TBMs (or SSMs) are characterized by their trajectory, having one or more boosters and an initial steering vector. They have a range of less than 5500 kilometers and can travel this distance in 5 to 20 minutes. TBMs normally are carried on a Transportable Erector Launcher (TEL) so mobility enhances TBM survivability and, conversely, complicates their being targeted. Their long range affords the enemy increased options in selecting operating areas and determining potential targets. For example, TBMs have been exported by many nations-- the Scud and its derivatives being the most common. Overall the way ahead on these issues involves using existing forums such as the Middle East Air Symposium, the Network Centric Operations conference, and others to advocate the RIMAD concept.

Post Event Synopsis - Day Two

Francois Gere, President of the French Institute for Strategic Analysis introduced the first plenary session of Day Two of MEMAD. The topic for the session looked at the “Development of Artillery Rockets and their potential Threat.” Gere opened the panel up by arguing that missile defense has a long history in the region. He pointed out that artillery rockets are now becoming the tool of choice because they use the population of an area as human shields making the challenge about offensive and defensive weapons.

MG Peter Vangjel, CG U.S. Army Field Artillery School, Ft. Sill, argued in his presentation on the development of artillery rockets and their potential threat that global drivers, such as globalization and failing states and munitions, are out of control. These munitions come from unlimited resources. The next ten years, Vangjel maintained, there will be a persistent threat from these weapons that are creating chaos in civilian areas and forces militaries to change focus. Overall, the speaker wanted to emphasize five takeaways from his briefing. First, we are entering the “Age of Persistent Conflict”. Second, indirect fire will remain an enduring feature of future conflicts. Rockets, artillery and mortars are weapons of choice. Third, fixed and semi-fixed sites will always present a target that insurgents will continue to exploit. Finally, threats will continually adapt and improve to challenge the U.S. to defeat rocket artillery and mortar efforts. A holistic approach is required including human, technical and maneuvers assets.

Brigadier General Genaro Dellarocco, chief of the leading the ‘Missile and Space’ project in the US Army, said in his session on defending against artillery rockets that much of the research and development work currently being done in his office is becoming more lethal, and more joint in nature. This is indicative of the seriousness this capability is regarded by the leadership. . The mission area of this organization is also likely to grow in region in the coming years after some expected MoU’s are signed in next few months. This will extend the lower tier partnership already existent vis-à-vis the patriot system with friendly nations into newer areas and work towards more integrated systems.

Effective counter rocket and mortar systems is not an easy task. On a localized level they have been used with some success in Afghanistan, but these were not large size systems and so these solutions may be challenged with larger systems. There is thus many areas which are currently under development.

In defending against artillery rockets, a double-sided approach is required: first, conflict should be avoided through the use of diplomacy and instruments such as economic sanctions; second, intensified intelligence collection and hardening of positions should be used to ensure preparedness in the event of conflict breaking out. Sometimes sanctions work, but not always. Hitting the financial systems does however have an impact and so it should not be thought that sanctions yield are ineffective.

Any good defence is said to be rooted in a good offence, and vice versa, and so if enemy artillery targets can be reached quickly then enemy will change tactics. Detecting the forces, alerting the force, and destroying the rockets make up three key aspects of defence. Defending the force through intelligence is the first means – it is possible to deduce the enemy formation if the locations of deployed rockets can be ascertained.

Destroying the rocket saves many lives - but how this can best be done? For example, using lasers can knock out Katushya rockets, however, such a system is expensive. Like this system, there is a number of other technologies present, and others under development. For now, solutions for defending against artillery rockets are either too expensive, or difficult to transfer and move around, or not rugged enough, or still not mature needed to be put into operational use.

In the final plenary of the day, Dr. Michael Connell, from the Center for Naval Analysis, introduced the session. The two key issues were to examine Partners in ITAMD Operations and Crisis Management programs regarding Missile Attacks against Gulf states.

Brigadier General Robert Woods, Commanding General at the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, delivered a briefing on partners in ITAMD Operations. Delegates were briefed on the recent activities, current operations, and planned operations. They were told that over the next two and a half years, planned rotations and units on call for additional support as needed will continue, and an additional four PAC-3 Battalions through upgrades will also be gained through this time scale, reflecting the strong resolve to the theater.

Counter Protect and Deter (CPD) in 2006 was conducted to deter threats and show the commitment of this command to the region. Later, with the Doha Asian Games (DAG) in October 2006, the Air Missile Defence Force Protection began its permanent presence and brigade rotations to the Gulf Region. With Eagle Resolve, rapid deployment capabilities were exercised, and today the command stands ready to commit whatever forces are necessary to deter any air and missile threats throughout the surrounding region.

Various forces from two brigades have already been dedicated to the gulf region, and these forces have been integrated with forces from host nations to build a formidable ballistic missile defense architecture. Early warning is currently conducted differently with each host nation, and these classified arrangements are addressed by the U.S. State Department through bilateral agreements with each host nation. The desired end state is one coherent and integrated shared early warning (SEW) architecture. Contact with U.S. Central Command for cooperation to achieve shared early warning all the way across is also an ongoing process in this regard.

The UAE has recently signed deal to buy Patriot, THAAD, & SLAMRAAM whereas Kuwait (PAC-2 PBD 6.0) and Saudi Arabia (PAC-2) already own Patriot. Qatar is interested in Patriot & SLAMRAAM as well, however no deal has been signed yet.

Dr. Sami Faraj, Chairman of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, in his presentation “National Crisis Management in Dealing with Missile Attacks (Passive Defense) opened by saying that he is presenting his ideas based on the occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. From 1990 he began to work for official institutions and trying to coordinate between ministries. An emergency plan, if subjected to an objective debate, and supported by resources both qualitatively and quantitatively, could perhaps mean the difference between a successful crisis management, and a total catastrophe. In the best-case scenario it is always good to have a plan.

In 2003 Kuwait began to do papers at Iraqi missile systems and prepared for a crisis management plan. But then began to expand to all types of missile threats from both state and non-state actors, both external and internal. The point is to shore up defenses around key installations. According to Dr. Faraj, the GCC nations have certain commonalities that make defense a tricky issue for any would-be planner as they are too close to tension flashpoints; they are small in size and numbers, the national segment of the population is a minority, and the non-national speak many different languages and follow different religions and customs; their strategic economic areas and vital connecting arteries are too close to population areas; and, finally, their security, health, emergency services, and utilities are too close to each other. Shortages do occur at the most basic level like lack of electricity or flooding from extreme weather and this can hamper the state. So an attack will be a real crisis.

As a result, according to Dr. Faraj, is that a national crisis-manager has a major responsibility. His team will need to coordinate across a number of different agencies against a host of threats including conventional strike, unconventional strike, terrorist attack, environmental threats, cyber attacks, force saturation due to temp of operations. So therefore, there are multiple probabilities. The team must be ready for all kinds of threats. In Kuwait City, for instance, there is high-density population and key institutions of governance and business. Coalitions presence adjacent to strategic population and industrial centers represent the highest probability. In this area there are over 200 languages and this is true in other parts of the Gulf including Dubai. There is a need to build a rapid deployment crisis management team for the entire GCC.

One interesting point that Dr. Faraj argued that there is no system to fight against poisonous clouds and this is a critical problem if industrial zones and oil facilities are hit. The impact of a missile attack on one target in one country means a threat to the same institutions and economic hubs in other GCC states.

The speaker also addressed the Iranian threat to Kuwait. The Iranian threat via speedboats, mine fields, conventional maritime attacks challenge Kuwait’s planners. There may also use different types of mobile attack platforms for air operations. Some short-range Iranian missiles can hit Kuwait and not other GCC states.

Finally, Dr. Faraj stated that on the strategic level there is an evaluation of regional and international environment. This includes a threat assessment, conducting an evaluation of capabilities, and counters. On the operational level, the role of the media must be informed in emergency procedures in many different languages. In addition, the state must be divided into sections for efficiency.

The conference came to a successful conclusion.

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