Strategic and Tactical Ballistic Missiles: How Large a Threat?
In February, a Navy SM-2 Block IVA anti-theater ballistic missile was tested successfully at White Sands, New Mexico. Within a few years, similar missiles are scheduled to be deployed on board U.S. Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers-and we may sell them to allied navies. In each case, they are intended to deal with relatively short-range offensive missiles, the type now proliferating within the Third World. For the United States, however, there is a wider question: If it is becoming possible to neutralize short-range ballistic missiles, is now the time to launch a serious effort to develop a defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)? Since we have no such defense at present, we must rely entirely on the threat represented by our own strategic missiles. (We lost the ability to destroy enemy ICBMs preemptively when the Soviets learned to maintain their weapons on short alert in the 1970s.)