Friday, January 12, 2007

Not the only one with Patriots on his mind

Spy68, a former military intelligence and fellow pseudononymous blogger also picked up on Bush's mention of Patriot missile deployments in the Middle East:

True, Patriot batteries can provide an important symbol of our willingness to protect our friends. But they're most useful in defending key facilities and population centers from air and ballistic missile attacks. It doesn't take a military analyst to understand that there's something larger at work here. The U.S. seems concerned that our military build-up--or a preemptive Israeli strike--could trigger a backlash from Iran, prompting missile attacks against our allies in the region (air strikes are a much lesser threat, given the limited capabilities of the Iranian Air Force). Deploying Patriot batterys now would illustrate U.S. resolve, while providing a missile defense capability in areas that are currently unprotected.

And that begs another important question, namely the beddown location for those Patriot batteries. Saudi Arabia, Israel and Kuwait already operate the system (among others). Additional deployments to those nations would provide redundant coverage. I'm guessing that the deployments announced last night will cover Iraq and the various Gulf States--Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)--that currently lack a land-based, missile defense capability. Turkey is another possibility, although our resources are not unlimited; there are only 9 Patriot battalions in the U.S. Army, which includes those currently deployed.

I forgot about the UAE. It would be a good candidate for Patriots too, especially considering Its al-Dahfra airbase is hosting an expeditionary air wing. I think Spy68 may be slightly off because last time I checked, I thought the Army had 11 ADA battlions, not 9. I doubt the Japanese or South Koreas would allow the U.S. to pull its three Patriot battlions in East Asia very easily, so we're really only talking about 1-3 additional battlions. An alternative to ADA deployments would be to loosen U.S. foreign military sales (FMS) policy on Patriot missile systems to our GCC allies. The Saudis and Kuwaitis already have their own Patriots batteries, but I doubt the UAE would have trouble fitting the cost in between their 7-star hotels, man-made islands, and Dubailand. Bahrain, Qatar and Oman may not be as flashy as the UAE, but I bet they could also fit a PAC-2 battery into their defense budgets. My coworkers that handle FMS policy and sales for CENTCOM don't seem busier than usual, but that doesn't mean they won't be soon.

No comments: