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With Trump returns "Star Wars"

To fight the new generations of super fast or flexible missiles, the United States is considering extending the defensive measures to space. Is starting a new phase of the global arms race?

Peter Winkler, Washington

US President Donald Trump presented a report on US missile defense efforts on Thursday at the Pentagon. (Image: Martin H. Simon / EPA)

US President Donald Trump presented a report on US missile defense efforts on Thursday at the Pentagon. (Image: Martin H. Simon / EPA)

US President Donald Trump has one at the Pentagon on Thursday Report on the new US efforts to defend enemy missiles. The deployment of sensors and possibly weapons in space should also be tested. For the first time since Ronald Reagan's plans, almost 36 years ago, the word "Star Wars" has come back into play. The report is the first major review of US missile defense policy since 2010.

«Anywhere, anytime»

Trump said that the US goal is to fight enemy missiles anywhere, anytime. This is why it needs an investment boost in all possible missile defense areas. The return to "Star Wars" is not a coincidence in this context.

Under Trump's leadership, the United States has returned explicitly to the global rivalry between the major powers, having spent the last decades militarily dealing with local crises and fighting terrorism and insurrection. The reorientation automatically ensures that the plans, which were abandoned after the end of the Cold War, enter the discussion again.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, while presenting the report, said the rest of the world is not developing new jet fighters and bombers, is developing missiles. American rivals China and Russia are also building new systems: "These are harder to see, difficult to track and hard to defeat." These new threats also required new resources. "We do not just want to keep up with our rivals," said Shanahan, "we want to overcome them".

Americans are aware that the militarization of space would be a dangerous precedent, which is why decisions or tests were not made. The 1967 space treaty prohibits the stationing of weapons of mass destruction, but not those of other offensive weapons systems. For some time, China and Russia have tried to prevent the United States, as a precautionary measure, from developing such systems, just as they had always been wary of missile defense. So far, the powers have voluntarily renounced a militarization of space.

After the end of the Cold War, there were not many high-sounding Reagan plans left, also because of technological and financial obstacles. The technology that has been used since then to hit the intercontinental ballistic missiles arriving in the middle phase of their flight (mid-ground defense on the ground) has produced rather modest results, even if the rate of successful killings under test conditions is always well spoken.

Focus on the starting phase

For example, in response to US missile defense, Russia has also developed a new system called Avangard. This allows ballistic intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to launch sailing missiles that shoot at multiple sound speeds before returning to the atmosphere – according to Russian sources, up to Mach 27.

You can still make course changes and evasive maneuvers to the finish and are therefore hard to hit. Therefore, interest in the United States has shifted to the first phase of the flight of the ICBM, the so-called thrust phase. So the rockets are the slowest and most vulnerable. Their course is one hundred percent predictable, and could be fought with air-to-air missiles if they get close enough to the launch site.

On the one hand, the new possibilities, which will now be studied in the next six months, include futuristic high-energy weapons, possibly stationed in low orbits. But even the new F-35 fighters, with their sophisticated sensors, would be able to detect the launch of the missile if they were close enough, at least in the case of regimes like Iran or North Korea. They could then try to shoot the missiles themselves or send the long-term armed patrol drone signals that could then attempt a launch.

New types of weapons

However, as Shanahan pointed out, in the future, American forces will not only have to manage cruise missiles and improved ballistic missiles. Other new types of weapons will be added, such as "Hypersonic". This term covers non-ballistic missiles that fly at least five times the speed of sound.

United States, Russia, China and perhaps other powers are developing super-fast missiles. Like conventional cruise missiles, they fly at relatively low altitudes and can be controlled at all stages of their flight. This makes their combat more difficult, and currently there are no defenses for them.

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