As tension between the United States and Russia continues, the US is apparently looking to upgrade its cruise missile defense systems. The plan which is apparently being worked on by military personnel in the United States would provide a missile shield for the nation against cruise missile attacks from Russia.

U.S. Building Russian Cruise Missile Defense System
Source: Pixabay

US updates cruise missile defense

According to reports, the plan in question involves purchasing radars which would enable National Guard F-16 fighter jets to spot and shoot down fast and low-flying cruise missiles. Top personnel in the United States military reportedly intend to network radars with a collection of sensor-laden aerostat balloons, which would then be stationed over major United States cities.

The final piece in this particular defense jigsaw would be a raft of coastal warships, which would be equipped with sensors and interceptor missiles. The overall picture is one of a sophisticated and innovative missile shield, intended to both protect the United States against any incoming missiles from Russia, as well as providing an obvious deterrent to any such action.

Military top brass clues

Although these cruise missile plans remain very much covert at present, and are obviously classified to prevent public consumption, clues have been spotted in comments made by senior military officials. During a May 19 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated that the United States military was currently ensuring that a good deal of attention was being at directed towards preventing a cruise missile attack against US soil.

The intention to shore up United States cruise missile defenses, and the particular focus on Russia, is indicative of the geopolitical situation between the two nations at present. With the United States very much representing the old world order that has dominated the planet over the last few decades, Russia is an obvious rival for the country. Russia forms part of the powerful BRICS entity with China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and the two nuclear powers, Russia and China, occupy a particularly prominent position in this power bloc.

Tension between the nations may be a natural geopolitical phenomenon, but it has also been exacerbated by recent incidents. The United States has strongly opposed what it has characterized as being aggressive actions by Russia in the Ukraine, with the Russian establishment dismissing the public proclamations of the Obama administration on the subject.

And tension has been further ramped up over the recent headline news at FIFA. The United States has waded into this controversy, perhaps seeing an opportunity to damage Russia, and certainly this is the perception of Vladimir Putin. With Russia having been selected for the 2018 World Cup, Putin evidently believes that the US wishes to diminish the international position of Russia by attempting to encourage the international community to hold this tournament elsewhere.

In an indication of how serious this situation has already become, it was only reported last week that the United States was actually considering utilizing nuclear weapons as one possible option in this continuing conflict. While this remains an unlikely proposition, the historical relationship between the two nations, and the context of this nearly having occurred during the Cuban missile crisis, brings this chilling prospect into sharper focus.

Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that the United States is concentrating on improving its defensive mechanisms. While a pre-emptive strike from Russia would seem to be extremely unlikely considering the military and nuclear capabilities of the United States, any measures against this option would seemingly make practical sense for the US government and nation as a whole.

Many people might wonder why intercepting cruise missiles would necessitate a new defense shield and attendant system. The reason for this is quite simply that intercepting cruise missiles is completely different from shooting down a ballistic weapon. Cruise missiles are launched by ships, submarines, and occasionally from trailers, and are powered throughout their entire flightpath. This enables them to fly much closer to the ground than conventional weapons, while manoeuvring them throughout flightpaths is also possible. This means that cruise missiles can be difficult for conventional radar to identify, meaning that failsafe systems need to put in place to guard against the threat.

Russia develops cruise missile threat

It seems that the internal concern at the Pentagon is based on Russia’s recent development of the Kh-101; an air-launched cruise missile with a reported range of more than 1,200 miles. William Evans Gortney, the United States Navy admiral who currently serves as the sixth commander of U.S. Northern Command and the 23rd commander of NORAD, claimed at a March 19 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing that Russia is the only country on the planet with an effective cruise missile capability.

Gortney stated that it is possible for Russia to fire cruise missiles from both ships and submarines. It is also reported by Pentagon intelligence that Moscow has the capabilities to fire cruise missiles from developed containers within a cargo ship, indicating that it would not require a trained military in order to strike American shores with the technology.

Another consideration which is motivating this new cruise missile system is the fact that shooting missiles down is rather costly. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both American and Kuwaiti Patriot missiles intercepted a number of Iraqi ballistic missiles. But this process is reportedly extremely expensive, and this has motivated the US military to develop this new, affordable delivery platform as a defense shield.

While the continuing tension between the United States and Russia is certainly a cause for concern, it seems a much more preferable prospect for the United States to be developing defensive capabilities. As much as the rivalry between the US-NATO power structure and the emerging Russia / China collaboration will continue to be a geopolitical theme of the 21st century, one hopes that it can be resolved without significant physical conflict.