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How The US’s Best Defense Against North Korean Nukes Could Spark A Nuclear War With Russia
The U.S. has spent at least $40 billion on a missile defense system intended to knock down or deter intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by North Korea, but actually using the system could lead to an accidental nuclear war with Russia, according to an expert.
Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, took to Twitter to detail how the U.S. could find itself exchanging nuclear salvos with Russia if it ever tried to shoot down an incoming North Korean ballistic missile.
The U.S.'s Missile Defense Agency, which operates the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile shield, told Business Insider in May that in the event of a real incoming threat, they would launch several interceptors to increase the chances of knocking out the missile.
Lewis pegs this figure at about four or five interceptors.
But only one interceptor missile could hit the threat. The others would continue streaking through the high atmosphere towards Russia and China.
The problem is that, in that moment, while U.S. missile defense forces are praying their interceptor hits North Korea's nuclear missile, they're also relying on Russia to be able to tell that the other interceptor missiles aren't a salvo of US nukes.
There's plenty of reason to believe Russia can't do that.
While North Korea, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and much of the world agree that North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile flew for about 37 minutes to a high point of about 1,800 miles, Russian intelligence assesses that the missile flew for just 14 minutes and reached a height of only 332 miles.
It is possible that Russia's public estimation was so different because it wanted to block UN condemnations and further sanctions on North Korea, by objecting to the consensus that the missile was an ICBM, as it already has.
It is also possible Russia legitimately thinks the missile was far short of an ICBM because their early warning system "stinks" as Lewis put it on Twitter.
For years, Russia has come out with assessments of North Korea's missile launches that wildly diverge from the global consensus. Unlike the U.S., which uses a mix of satellites and ground-based radars, Russia only uses radars to detect incoming launches.
The U.S.'s monitoring system provides the U.S. as much as 20-30 minutes to detect missile activity and to determine a response. Russia's system, meanwhile, provides only a few minutes for determining whether the streaks across its radar screens constitute unarmed interceptors or nuclear-armed ICBMs.
Russia's missile detection difficulties are well-documented. M. Elaine Bunn, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, wrote in 2004 that the US needed to consider how to notify Russia of interceptor missiles launches during a crisis given "the possibility for Russian misidentification of a GMD or Aegis interceptor launch."
However, since Bunn's suggestion in 2004, U.S. and Russian lines of communication and deconfliction have only suffered.
With little communication or cooperation between the U.S. and Russia about missile launches, Lewis warns that an attempt at intercepting a North Korean nuclear attack could spook the Russians so bad that they respond with a full-on nuclear attack that would leave much of the U.S. reduced to ashes.
More from Business Insider:
- A tiny detail from North Korea's missile launch points to an even more dangerous threat
- Here are all the missile tests conducted by North Korea since 1984
- Rex Tillerson still has a skeleton crew at the State Department to deal with North Korea
- The Navy just laid the keel for its latest attack submarine
- Coast Guard officials say they're struggling to keep up with the drugs flowing to the U.S.
Top Navy official calls out government lawyers for spying on legal team of Navy SEAL accused of war crimes
In a scathing letter, a top Navy legal official on Sunday expressed "grave ethical concerns" over revelations that government prosecutors used tracking software in emails to defense lawyers in ongoing cases involving two Navy SEALs in San Diego.
The letter, written by David G. Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Navy's Defense Service Offices, requested a response by Tuesday from the Chief of the Navy's regional law offices detailing exactly what type of software was used and what it could do, who authorized it, and what controls were put in place to limit its spread on government networks.
"As our clients learn about these extraordinary events in the media, we are left unarmed with any facts to answer their understandable concerns about our ability to secure the information they must trust us to maintain. This situation has become untenable," Wilson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose on Monday.
Those really sweet, hand-held drones that the Army bought in January were finally put to the test as they were fielded to some lucky soldiers for the first time at the beginning of May.
For many people, millennials are seen as super-entitled, self-involved, over-sensitive snowflakes who don't have the brains or brawn to, among other noble callings, serve as the next great generation of American warfighters.
Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven is here to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.
Supreme Court refuses to hear yet another challenge to the controversial Feres Doctrine on military medical malpractice
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.
FORT IRWIN, California -- Anyone who's been here has seen it: the field of brightly painted boulders surrounding a small mountain of rocks that symbolizes unit pride at the Army's National Training Center.
For nearly four decades, combat units have painted their insignias on boulders near the road into this post. It's known as Painted Rocks.