Saddam Hussein's army pitched five Seersucker cruise missiles
into Kuwait as coalition forces invaded. The allies' robust missile defense network -- so effective against Scuds -- detected none of them.
Fortunately for Iraq's attackers, none of the five found their mark, with one slamming into a Kuwait City shopping mall and another landing about 100 meters from a US Marine Corps leadership post.
Finding an answer to this problem has been difficult. I was at an army missile defense conference in El Paso, Texas, in December 2003, when then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled pledged
to find a solution. Four years later, it still doesn't exist.
But there has been progress, especially in the last two weeks.
First, the US Army last week announced finalizing the design
of the joint land attack cruise missile defense elevated netted senor (JLENS). It's an aerostat tethered 10,000 feet above the ground, carrying about 7,000lbs of radars.
Knowing the missiles are coming is one thing. Shooting them down is quite another. The surface-launched advanced medium range air to air missile (SLAMRAAM) is useful, but has limited range. If the cruise missile is packed with a biological or chemical warhead, intercepting the missile at short range could do almost as much harm.
But the army has just taken a big step to solve the range problem. Late last week, the army invited industry to participate
in a market survey for an extended range cruise missile interceptor. The acquisition notice suggests the potential contract is competitive, but the favored candidate is already clear.
Raytheon has been slowly developing the low-cost, advanced extended range attack missile (AERAM)
since at least 2004. It is already designed to meet all of the requirements in the description for market survey, including compatibility with the SLAMRAAM launcher.