In moves reminiscent of the Cold War, The Pentagon has secretly been planning an extensive defense network to protect USA cities from attacks by Russian cruise missiles.
The plan includes the purchase of radars that would allow National Guard F-16 fighter jets to spot and shoot down fast, low-flying missiles. Top generals want to network the radars with sensor-laden aerostat balloons hovering over U.S. cities and with coastal warships equipped with their own sensors and interceptor missiles.
To avoid the normal procurement process, Admiral William Gortney, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command has tabled an “urgent need” request to put AESA radars on F-16s patrolling Washington airspace.
While everyone remains hush hush about the Pentagon’s overall cruise missile defense plans, much of which remain classified, senior military officials have dropped clues in speeches, congressional hearings and other public forums, all pointing to the Pentagon’s worries about Russia's development of advanced cruise missiles.
During a recent speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Admiral. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said “We’re devoting a good deal of attention to ensuring we’re properly configured against such an attack in the homeland, and we need to continue to do so” .
In recent years, The Pentagon has invested heavily in ballistic missile defenses which shoot down long-range rockets that touch the edge of space and then fall toward targets on Earth, but efforts to defend the U.S. mainland against smaller, shorter-range cruise missiles have flown under the public radar. Defending against cruise missiles is much different to shooting down a ballistic missile . Launched from ships, submarines, and even trailer-mounted launchers, cruise missiles are powered throughout their entire flight, allowing them to fly close to the ground and maneuver throughout flight, making radar detection difficult.
While many of the 4-star generals and admirals who command forces in various geographic regions of the world believe cruise missiles pose a threat to the United States, they have had trouble convincing their counterparts in the military services who decide what arms to purchase.
The major driving force behind the concern at The Pentagon is Russia’s development of the Kh-101, an air-launched cruise missile with a reported range of more than 1,200 miles.