Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
20. No? So the potential of a terrorist group
stealing one or illegally acquiring one and potentially using
that to blackmail somebody is not something that you or the Ministry
of Defence treat as a very serious threat?
(Mr Hawtin) No. We watch developments very carefully,
as I have said, but I would not regard that as a major concern.
However, perhaps I might ask Commodore FitzGerald to give you
an explanation of how difficult it is to fire and target a ballistic
missile, not something one can simply pick off
21. I would be interested to hear that argument.
(Commodore FitzGerald) There are certainly mobile
ballistic missile launchers, as you well know. The Russian Army
contains a number, as does the Chinese. It would be possible to
visualise a terrorist group perhaps getting hold of a short range
ballistic missile but not an intercontinental one, not one with
a range to reach the United Kingdom, certainly.
22. But it depends where they fire it from.
(Commodore FitzGerald) Precisely.
23. They can fire it from North Africa.
(Commodore FitzGerald) They would have to get it within
range and therefore that is why earlier we said that we had some
concerns about Libya, not so much for their technology but because
of their desire to acquire such weapons. A terrorist group is
rather different. They would have to have state support I think
to move around a weapon system of quite considerable size. It
is not just a truck with a firework on the back.
24. What evidence is there that these countries,
other than North Korea who have actually fired and tested them,
have got missiles now which could reach in excess of 5,000 kilometres?
(Commodore FitzGerald) Five thousand kilometres is
a significant range and at the moment it is North Korea only that
has that sort of technology.
25. But they have not actually fired one that
far, have they?
(Commodore FitzGerald) They have fired a three-stage
Taepo Dong beyond Japan which wasI could not tell you exactly
the rangeabout 3,000 kilometres.
26. A lot shorter than that.
(Commodore FitzGerald) But once you get to three-stage
technology it is not a very great technological advance then to
increase the range significantly.
27. Is it difficult to target a fairly unsophisticated
(Commodore FitzGerald) Targeting accurately is extremely
28. This goes back to the point that you made
about the Libyans, for example, who have a shortage of the technological
experts in the country, but these people are available. The Ukraine,
for example, has a whole legion of people who know how to target
and build missiles which can go over vast distances and these
people are on the labour market. Is there any evidence that you
have that these countries are buying that sort of resource?
(Mr Hawtin) I cannot answer that question in specific
terms. There is certainly underlying your question the concern
about proliferation both of the technology and as it were the
human expertise that goes with it, and there is always that possibility
of movement of the expertise and we have mentioned in particular
the export proliferation activities of North Korea as an area
of real concern to us.
29. Do we believe that the North Koreans have
guidance systems that could target accurately a ballistic missile?
(Commodore FitzGerald) I have no specific knowledge
of North Korean guidance technology. We could certainly provide
a detailed intelligence report.
30. When we were in the United States they could
not seem to be able to prove to us or offer any evidence at all
that they might have a vehicle that could travel great distances
but whether it would travel where they wanted it to go was something
that they did not explore in any detail. What are we doing about
that? Are we suggesting that that is something that is not easily
(Mr Hawtin) What we are doing is watching the developments
extremely carefully. We are concerned about the nature and the
direction of those programmes, including North Korea. I am not
an expert on guidance systems or the relative ease or difficulty
of improving them as one's development programme continues, but
I would observe that the United States is a fairly large country
and that accuracy in a precise sense may not be the most important
31. Mr Hawtin, your response clearly says that
there is really no potential as you see it for terrorist groups
to acquire and be able to use these weapons of mass destruction
on ballistic missiles. Is it fair to then say that to be pursuing
the threat of weapons of mass destruction amongst rogue states
could not be regarded as a natural extension of the war against
(Mr Hawtin) Could I just say on the first part of
your question that I do not think I said that there was not the
potential for terrorists to acquire it. I think I saidI
certainly intended tothat that was not our prime concern.
32. The second part was, that said, is it fair
then to say in your opinion that the pursuit of the threat against
weapons of mass destruction from rogue states could not therefore
logically be regarded as a natural extension of the war against
(Mr Hawtin) Again I would regard the war against international
terrorism and the concerns about proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction as very much twin and inter-related. I think the Foreign
Secretary said that clearly to the House recently.
33. I hear what you are saying in terms of the
difficulty in terms of terrorists getting hold of it and I accept
what Commodore FitzGerald said, that it would have to be state
sponsored to get there. But there is a possibility, is there not,
for example, in Iran where quite clearly there is a big divide
between different elements in the government, in terms of both
the elected government and also the unelected government that
do give quite active support to organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah
and other terrorist groups. There is a possibility therefore that
you could have a situation whereby a terrorist group could get
support from one of those states or an element within one of those
states to use such a weapon.
(Commodore FitzGerald) I am happy to answer that.
The other issue about ballistic missiles is that you can very
rapidly establish from where they were launched. This does not
fit entirely with the terrorist modus operandi. The terrorist
group, supported by whatever agency, might think rather carefully
before launching a ballistic missile, particularly one with a
weapon of mass destruction attached on the top, the launch point
of which would very rapidly be located, and could then be used
in counter operations against them. I personally do not think
it is necessarily a terrorist priority to acquire ballistic missiles
so much as weapons of mass destruction.
34. But in terms of September 11, for example,
where you are not really bothered what the consequences are afterwards,
are you, in that case you would be prepared to die and in these
situations a retaliatory strike against that would not really
matter, would it?
(Commodore FitzGerald) Yes. There is a difference
between the suicide mission and a group that you would need to
put together to sponsor and organise a ballistic missile.
35. If you had a weapon of mass destruction
would the best way of delivering it be a ballistic missile?
(Commodore FitzGerald) That is another technology
issue because a short range missile is relatively easily weaponeered
for chemical type weapons or biological weapons, but as soon as
the range starts to build up weaponeering becomes more difficult,
not least because you have to consider re-entry and the heat generated
in that context.
36. Gentlemen, we know that part of the United
States' missile defence programme is related specifically to the
American homeland. Can you tell us particularly what system they
intend to use, how many missiles it would be intended to take
out and what countries would be involved? Would it still be the
same three? Would it only be one of the three? What do we know?
(Mr Hawtin) The short answer, Mr Roy, is no, I cannot
give you precise answers to that question but let me be a little
bit more helpful if I may. Under the Clinton administration it
is well known that they were concentrating their activities on
mid-course intercepts involving ground based missile defences.
They did not proceed with those programmes and the Bush administration
has not decided what it is going to do. It is conducting a wide
range of research, development, testing and evaluation activities,
focusing in the short term on what it calls emerging technology
systems, of which there are three: one involving the use of test
facilities in Alaska, the second a proposed testing of an airborne
laser and the third the possible use of seaborne missile defence
systems. That is an ongoing testing programme. They have not decided
what they want to do. What it may also be helpful to the Committee
for us to do is for me to ask Mr Roper to set out in technical
terms what the difference is in the various stages of missile
defence are and how they relate to what the Bush administration
is doing. Would that be helpful?
37. Yes. Is it still the same three "axis
of evil" countries that would be involved in relation to
the threat specifically to the homeland?
(Mr Hawtin) The three states of concern, Iran, Iraq
and North Korea, are the ones in question. The immediate American
concern we believe is over North Korea as the most immediate threat
to the United States homeland. May I invite Mr Roper to say a
(Mr Roper) Perhaps I should start by making the obvious
comment that in the 19 years since Reagan made his speech on the
strategic defence issue the only thing constant in US plans has
been the pace of change. There is no stability in those plans.
Let me set the scene a bit in terms of the stages of a ballistic
missile flight which may pay dividends as we get into the more
detailed questioning. There are three phases of a ballistic missile
flight where interception is being considered. The first is the
boost phase when the missile is in powered flight. It is what
is often referred to as the ultimate panacea of ballistic missile
defence because if you can attack it in that phase you are attacking
it as a large vulnerable target, very visible, before it has deployed
any counter measures, before it has deployed sub-munitions and,
in the old Cold War days, before multiple independently targeted
re-entry vehicles have been deployed. It has got everything going
for it but unfortunately it is extremely difficult to do. The
mid-course phase is the second phase and this is a phase when
the ballistic missile has ceased its powered flight and is coasting
in free flight outside the atmosphere. Most of a ballistic missile
trajectory is in that phase, typically 80 per cent or so of the
time in flight, so you have a lot more time to intercept in that
phase. The other thing is that flight in the mid-course is inherently
predictable. If you know where it is and what velocity it is doing
at any one point you can predict where it will be in any other
part of that flight independent of the shape, size and weight
of it. Literally, if you stand in space and throw a brick with
a certain velocity it will follow the same trajectory as if you
throw a feather, and that seems inherently strange because if
you try and throw a feather here at ground level atmospheric drag
makes it really quite different. It is very different in space.
That is the mid-course phase. The final phase is the terminal
or re-entry phase when the warhead or complete missile begins
to re-enter the atmosphere and suffer decelerating forces from
the atmosphere. It ceases to be predictable in what it is going
to do, and if you leave it until that point to intercept it you
have left yourself very little time and you have the ability then
to defend only a very small area on the ground. On the other hand,
if there have been counter measures deployed in all probability
they will have pancaked out and you tend to have a relatively
clear target. Those are the three phases. The Clinton plan for
national missile defence focused very much on the mid-course phase
using very large ground based interceptors, essentially ICBMs,
which were aiming to intercept incoming threat missiles deep out
beyond the territory of the United States. Providing you can launch
your defensive missile early enough you can defend vast tracts
of territory. A ballistic missile flight with a 5,000 kilometre
trajectory will take 25 minutes. If, as soon as you see it, you
launch your missile you can intercept it several thousand kilometres
out which means potentially one missile site within the United
States could defend against trajectories going to the Eastern
Seaboard, California, Alaska, Florida, even Hawaii.
38. What would be the timescale between first
seeing it from the launch to the intercept?
(Mr Roper) That is a very important question because
in order to defend vast tracts of territory you have to launch
early, which means you have to see it early. No matter how powerful
a radar you place in the United States the curvature of the earth
means that you will not see it early enough, which means you need
sensors in the up-threat direction to see it with the radar. You
will get cueing from satellites when you see the launch but you
need a radar to give you the track information. If the US wants
to defend itself against, for example, threats from the Middle
East, it will need a radar located in the up-threat direction.
That is relevant to the Fylingdales study.
39. To the layman what is the timescale between
it going off and intercepting it?
(Mr Roper) A 10,000 kilometre long based trajectory
from North Korea to the central United States is about 35 minutes'
flight time. If the US wants to defend itself against trajectories
of that length anywhere in the United States with perhaps a single
site, then I suspect you would be talking about launching within
the first ten minutes of that 35 minutes.
13 Note from Witness: The range of a Taepo-Dong-I
as a two stage ballestic missile is estimated to be about 2000
km. The 1998 launch was described as a three stage satellite launch
vehicle. The second stage over flew Japan and impacted in the
Pacific Ocean about 1650 km down range. The third stage went further,
but appeared to suffer a technical failure and did not insert
a satellite into orbit. Back
Note from Witness: It is more accurate to say that this
is relevant to the potential Fylingdale requirements. Back