US Plans To Acclerate Deployment Of Aegis Warships For Missile Defense
The United States plans to accelerate the deployment of Aegis warships in waters off North Korea to serve as forward radars for a missile defense system that is being readied for operations, a top US general said Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, also said discussions were well underway with allies about placing a third site for ground-based interceptor missiles in Europe.
He outlined US missile defense plans amid expectations that President George W. Bush will declare the missile defense system to be operational before the end of the year.
Speaking to defense analysts and reporters at a luncheon, Obering would not say when the system would be put on alert but said it was now in a "shakedown period" with trained crews.
"There's no show-stopper there, and there's no reluctance," he said. "What we're doing is making our way very systematically through this. I believe when the time is right, there will be a declaratory policy that will be issued and then we will go on with business.
Two Aegis destroyers already are operating in the Sea of Japan, their powerful tracking radars serving as the leading edge of a system of ground-based interceptor missiles centered in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenburg Air Force Base, California .
Obering said four or five Aegis warships will be operating by the end of the year, and plans call for deploying 18 Aegis ships - 15 destroyers and three cruisers - in a missile defense role wherever they are needed by 2007.
They will serve initially only as forward radars to track long-range missiles. But starting next year they also will be equipped with SM-3 missiles designed to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles, he said.
"We'll accelerate initial forward deployed radars into 2005," Obering said.
While the North Korean missile threat is the focus of the initial missile defense system being set up in Alaska and California, the Pentagon also has begun to take steps to increase its coverage of the Middle East.
"We also have plans, and have conducted quite a bit of consultations with our allies, on putting (in) a third interceptor site," he said. "In addition to Fort Greely and Vandenburg we'll put a site in Europe to expand that coverage to our allies."
British newspaper reports earlier this month said Prime Minister Tony Blair had agreed in principle to host interceptors in Britain.
Asked why Washington was moving now on the British site when US intelligence does not forsee an Iranian threat before 2015, Obering said, "We think its prudent to lay the foundation now because we are going to expect we're going to run into problems. There may be some delays we'll have to address."
"But I think it's important that we invite our friends, our allies to participate in this with us, and that they can benefit from the coverage the same way we have. Because they are defenseless against the threat just like we would have been if we had not begun to deploy this," he said.
A tracking radar at Beale Air Force Base in California also will be upgraded next year to provide coverage of ballistic missile threats emanating from the Middle East, he said.
As envisioned by the Pentagon, the system initially will be centered on ground-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and California that would be cued to collide in space with incoming long-range missiles through an elaborate computer-linked network of radars and other sensors.
The plan has aroused intense controversy over the years. Critics say it has been insufficiently tested, and that the tests to date have been conducted under unrealistic conditions.
Obering said the system's next integrated flight test will be in December, its first in nearly two years.
Meanwhile, five interceptor missiles have been positioned in launch silos at Fort Greely, and a sixth is due to be added in November. Two more interceptor missiles are to go into silos at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California by the end of the year.
Work to upgrade a Cobra Dane tracking radar on Shemya Island has been completed, upgrades of another radar in RAF Fylingdales in Britain are on track for completionin February, he said.
A huge sea-based X-band radar that is capable of detecting an object the size of a golf ball from 1,000 miles away is being built on giant pontoons. Obering said it will be on station off Alaska by December 2005.
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Boost-Phase Defense Not Effective For Protecting US: New Study
College Park MD (SPX) Oct 18, 2004
Intercepting missiles while their rockets are still burning would not be an effective approach for defending the U.S. against attacks by an important type of enemy missile. This conclusion comes from an independent study by the American Physical Society (APS) into the scientific and technical feasibility of boost-phase defense, published in the latest issue of the APS Reviews of Modern Physics.
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