Cover: Cruise Missile Penaid Nonproliferation

Cruise Missile Penaid Nonproliferation

Hindering the Spread of Countermeasures Against Cruise Missile Defenses

Published Oct 20, 2014

by Richard H. Speier, George Nacouzi, K. Scott McMahon


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Research Questions

  1. What technologies and equipment related to cruise missile countermeasures (known as penetration aids, or penaids), if proliferated, would constitute an emerging threat to the United States?
  2. How could the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Annex, the international instrument for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, be refined to hinder the proliferation of countermeasures against missile defenses?
  3. What is the appropriate balance of specificity and generality in classifying penaid items in the MTCR Annex? Greater specificity would benefit export-control and customs officials, but greater generality would help avoid unintended information transfer to potential proliferators.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) becomes a greater threat when accompanied by the proliferation of effective means of delivery. The threat of one means of delivery, cruise missiles, will increase if proliferators can acquire effective countermeasures against missile defenses. Such countermeasures, when incorporated in an attacker's missile, are known as penetration aids or penaids. As proliferator nations acquire ballistic and cruise missiles for this purpose, it will be important to establish effective measures to counter WMD attacks. This research was designed to assist U.S. agencies charged with generating policies to discourage the proliferation of WMD and cruise missile delivery systems, thereby strengthening deterrence. Specifically, it recommends controls on potential exports of penaid-related items according to the structure of the current international policy against missile proliferation, the Missile Technology Control Regime. The recommendations account for 18 classes of such items and are based on structured interviews with government and nongovernment experts, as well as an independent technical assessment to develop a preliminary characterization of the technologies and equipment most critical to the emerging penaid threat. The project also brought together a selected group of experts to participate in a workshop to review the initial characterization of penaid technologies and equipment. An earlier report by the same authors, Penaid Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of Countermeasures Against Ballistic Missiles (RR-378-DTRA), presented a similar approach to controlling the proliferation of ballistic missile penaids.

Key Findings

There Are Established Control Mechanisms to Prevent the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • The eight classes of items in the MTCR's Category I are subject to the tightest export restrictions. The MTCR guidelines state that such exports, if they occur at all, must be "rare" and subject to strong provisions with respect to supplier responsibility.
  • Category II items can be used to make Category I items, but they are generally dual-use. (That is, they have other purposes, such as for manned aircraft.) Category II exports are subject to greater flexibility but nevertheless require case-by-case export reviews and specific international procedures.
  • The MTCR has well-developed procedures for coordinating export decisions among its members. In addition, the United States has legislation providing sanctions against domestic and foreign entities that contribute to missile proliferation.

Eighteen Classes of Technologies and Equipment Related to Cruise Missile Countermeasures Are Likely Candidates for International Export Control

  • In contrast to ballistic missiles, which deliver their payloads at point targets, cruise missiles can dispense a liquid or powder payload while flying in a line perpendicular to the prevailing wind. This means that cruise missiles can be far more efficient at delivering chemical or biological agents.
  • Eighteen penaid-related items applicable to cruise missiles are appropriate for inclusion in MTCR Category II, though three types of items — electromagnetic pulse generators, air defense communication jammers, and standoff delivery capabilities — may pose greater challenges.
  • If the end use for an item is determined to be the delivery of weapons of mass destruction, the MTCR guidelines automatically upgrade the item to Category I restrictions.
  • A Category II case-by-case review will be needed to determine whether complete cruise missile penaid subsystems are to be used on an unmanned aerial vehicle or on a manned aircraft.


  • The MTCR Category II classification should apply to 18 penaid-related items relevant to cruise missiles, with a case-by-case review to determine whether complete subsystems will be used on an unmanned aerial vehicle or on a manned aircraft.
  • To avoid overloading MTCR with these new or revised items, the new items can be nested into the control definitions of larger classes of items. For example, one possibility is to fill in the currently empty Item 5 with a new set of subitems, "penetration aids."
  • MTCR controls should stay focused and not extend to home-on-jam subsystems. At least initially, a move to control this capability may extend MTCR controls too far in the direction of standard offensive tactics to suppress defenses.
  • The "Stealth" classification in the MTCR is potentially all-inclusive in terms of devices for reduced observables. To avoid confusion, the clarity of the item could be improved by adding additional examples and changing the name of the classification to "Signature Control."

This research was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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