More Decoys, Please

A future “salvo exchange” of precision-guided munitions with a similarly armed adversary will probably mean a mass launch of decoys as the first wave, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments senior fellow Mark Gunzinger said Tuesday. Explaining ideas in a new PGM study he authored with Bryan Clark, Gunzinger said an opening salvo of decoys will compel the adversary to fire a considerable number of defensive systems to try to catch them all. Once those defenses are depleted or being reloaded, a second wave of higher-value standoff weapons could swarm in and effectively knock them out. Adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are investing heavily in such defenses, and trying to develop less costly alternatives, but the US is lagging in developing similar measures, he said. If it was able to do so, “it would be a cost imposer” on the adversary, but right now it cost the US more to destroy a target than it may be worth. “We have to turn that around,” he said. Fighting an adversary like Iraq in 2003—but armed with modern defenses—would require more munitions than the US has bought in 15 years, he said. Swarms of cheap decoys are one way to recover the advantage, he said.