A major improvement could be made in the proposed European Missile Defense (EMD) system that the United States wishes to install to protect Europe from Iranian missile attacks, by increasing it to three or four separate sites, a noted military expert said.

Iran is acquiring ever longer-range missiles, and also has a nuclear materials production program that was assailed by Britain, France and the United States. (Please see full story in this issue.)

Uzi Rubin, president of Rubicon, Ltd., consultants and a former Israel missile defence leader, explained the upgrade before a breakfast meeting of the National Defense University Foundation at the Capitol Hill Club, and in an interview afterward with Space & Missile Defense Report.

Once Iran develops nuclear weapons, “I don’t think they [Iranians] have any problem” in mounting those weapons on missiles, he said. “I don’t think it’s so difficult.”

“The West should defend itself” from missile attack, he said. “The West can defend itself.”

While EMD is well considered and a wise move to shield European nations against Iranian nuclear blackmail, as Iran moves to develop nuclear weapons and longer-range missiles, EMD as currently envisioned wouldn’t provide a sufficiently broad geographic sweep against all potential missile threats in the region, Rubin said.

The EMD site, collectively, would be centered in Eastern Europe with an advanced-capability radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in silos in Poland, if those nations agree to host the system.

That Baltic-area installation is fine, and would be “the cornerstone” of the broader, upgraded, multi-site missile shield, he said. But those additional missile defense sites linked to that EMD system would permit protection against enemy missiles fired from a much broader threat area, Rubin said.

For example, another site in Sicily and yet another site perhaps in Spain would form a shield against missiles launched anywhere in what Rubin terms the Greater Middle East, a “zone of concern” stretching from near India on the East through most of Northern Africa on the West. That would encompass areas as far west as Morocco and as far east as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And perhaps a fourth site could round out the overall system, he said. He also said that Turkey might require its own defensive system.

While it is true that the United States could defend itself with missile defense systems in its own territory, it also is true that European nations require a broader, multi- site missile defense shield to protect them against missiles from anywhere in the Greater Middle East, he said. In assessing the threat, he warned, “It’s not just Iran” that poses a danger.

The complete system would include a “local” missile defense system to cover the far western side of Northern Africa.

All told, this multi-site defense shield could counter sudden shifts in missile threats throughout the Greater Middle East region, he said.

This region is rife with unrest and political instability, and a nation that today may seem peaceful may, tomorrow, suddenly pose a signal threat, he indicated.

For example, Algeria has attempted to purchase Scud missiles. Iraq at one time had a massive missile arsenal.

And now, he said, there is the intimidating rise of Iran, producing nuclear materials even as the isolated nation is bristling with missiles. Iran raised fears in the West by rejecting without any negotiation a proposal for it to forfeit its nuclear materials production program in exchange for nuclear electrical generating capabilities.

That obstinate stand by Iran drew instant condemnation from the top American, British and French leaders, President Bush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nicolas Sarkozy. (Please see full story in this issue.)

Iran has fired multiple missiles in a single salvo test; launched a missile from a submerged submarine; and announced plans for a space program. Rubin noted that Iran aims for the capability to launch a spy satellite by 2015. Launching a satellite into space employs much the same technology as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would threaten all of Europe and many U.S. cities such as New York and Washington, D.C.

For example, Iran now possesses the latest version of the Shahab missile, the Shahab 3, or Kadir 1, Rubin noted.

Then there is the BM 25, a variant of the Soviet land attack cruise missile, he said.

And now Iran is pressing forward to obtain supersonic stealth missile capabilities, in a “very ambitious” program, he said.

More worrisome, he said, is the Ashura solid propellant weapon, with a formidable range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles).

Next may come an Iranian missile threat with a range of 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles). “This is really bad news,” he said.

Now, to be sure, he said, some Iranian missile efforts have been failures, such as a launch in which parts came off the missile as it ascended, culminating in an explosion that destroyed the weapon.

But the United States also had such spectacular failures in the early years of its space program.

Iran, Rubin noted, shows its “proficiency jumping by leaps and bounds.” Take a look into the future, and it is clear that “Iran is on its way to global capability” in its missiles program, he said.

This is chilling, given the cold, cruel mentality of many such people, he said. “These people have different norms” from those in civilized societies, Rubin added, explaining, “We don’t kill innocent people” deliberately, targeting them to achieve a political end. “We don’t bombard them.”

But many peoples in the Greater Middle East have no such compunctions, and therefore those in civilized nations “need missile defense,” he said.

While Rubin is proposing that his upgraded missile defense system be deployed at fixed sites on land, he said in response to an audience question that it also in theory could be embarked on ships. But that would yield little advantage, he said. And the radar and interceptors would require a gigantic ship.