Missile defense system may be best hedge against nuclear Iran

Years of negotiations have not stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, and cloak-and-dagger operations seem to have failed as well (“Iran says nuclear scientists were targeted,” Page A5, Sept. 3). Instead of “Hail Mary” efforts to keep Iran from building a bomb, perhaps we should be investing more in the defenses that would protect us if they do.

America’s ground-based midcourse defense, or GMD system, has already proved that it can shoot an incoming ballistic missile from the sky, and its most recent successful test this summer even overcame the kind of decoy countermeasures critics say would thwart our radar sensors.

However, the GMD system’s “kill vehicles,” the interceptors that destroy incoming missiles in the upper atmosphere, are all on the West Coast, close to the North Korean threat. To stop an Iranian ballistic missile they must travel across the entire country, adding thousands of miles and precious minutes to the mission. Congress should build an additional interceptor field in the East. Currently sites in Maine, Vermont, New York, Ohio, and Michigan are under study. We should also invest in more testing and technical improvements to strengthen the system.


At less than half of 1 percent of the military budget, GMD is cheap but valuable protection against the Iranian nuclear threat.

Wilbert A. McClay


The writer is a research scientist in cybersecurity at Northeastern University and formerly worked as a scientist with the Defense Department.