Could the U.S. Face a Cruise Missile Threat from the Gulf of Mexico?

As asked here a few times in the past, it’s unknown which should be more alarming: The fact that the Russians have been meddling in our backyard for so long, or the fact that the unintelligent communities are so slow to pick up on this.

Now a third element to this question can be added: When’s the last time anyone has heard that the US Military might be able cobble together enough stuff so that maybe something will work‘? That’s how far downhill it has gone.

Most people don’t even know that the Russians have reopened ties with Nicaragu a long time ago (See alsoHERE) and have been discussing reopening a Soviet era strategic airbase, one large enough to house nuclear bombers.

The United States is puzzling over how to block cruise missiles that theoretically could be launched from the Gulf of Mexico, even after throwing some of its most advanced technologies at the problem.

Russia and Iran have been cited as possible threats that might, at some point, lurk in the waters just off U.S. shores.

A 2013 military exercise pitted systems such as Patriot interceptors, Aegis warships and combat aircraft against potential cruise-missile or short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Gulf. But the drill highlighted a particular vulnerability to cruise missiles lobbed from that region, U.S. Northern Command head Gen. Charles Jacoby indicated in congressional testimony last week.

He said the Pentagon has “some significant challenges” in countering these missiles, but is exploring “some opportunities to use existing systems more effectively to do that.” Many detailed results of the Oct. 11 drill conducted near Key West, Fla., remain classified, Jacoby said.

“The cruise-missile threat portion of that we are working on very hard,” the general added at the March 13 Senate Armed Service Committee hearing, in response to a question from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The idea is to cobble together enough stuff [so] that maybe something will work. But none of these systems were designed for cruise-missile defense,” Kingston Reif, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, said in an e-mail.

Cruise missiles can be particularly challenging to defend against, as they can be more difficult than aircraft to detect on radar and are sometimes tricky to shoot down, according to military experts.

A 2013 U.S. military intelligence report forecasted that cruise missiles would spread into more hands over the coming decade. The document also hints at the ability to evade defenses designed against ballistic missiles.

“Cruise missiles can fly at low altitudes to stay below enemy radar and, in some cases, hide behind terrain features. Newer missiles are incorporating stealth features to make them even less visible to radars and infrared detectors,” says the 2013 assessment by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

“They also are capable of introducing cruise missiles into a theater from submarines,” said Jacoby, without elaborating on the specific regions to which these vessels could deploy. “They’ve just begun production of a new class of quiet nuclear submarines specifically designed to deliver cruise missiles.”

One 2012 news article quotes U.S. government insiders asserting that a Russian submarine equipped with cruise missiles had evaded detection for weeks in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the Defense Department denied the contentions described in the Washington Free Beacon report.

The fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill, enacted in December, mandates a U.S. defense focus on “ballistic missiles that could be launched from vessels on the seas around the United States, including the Gulf of Mexico.”

Full article: Could the U.S. Face a Cruise Missile Threat from the Gulf of Mexico? (National Journal)

Comments are closed.