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US Exercises Missile Defense System To Prepare For Operations

By the end of 2007, America's ground-based missile interceptors are scheduled to grow to 28 at both the Alaska and California launch sites.
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2004
The US missile defense system is still on track to go on alert by the end of this year and key US military commands are conducting "shakedown exercises" in preparation, a defense spokesman said Wednesday.

Russia announced plans earlier Wednesday to acquire a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of defeating any anti-missile shield, but the spokesman said the US system is not designed to protect against long-range attack from either China or Russia.

US ground-based interceptor missiles are being installed in Alaska and California primarily to defend against a limited attack by a rogue power such as North Korea.

The United States also has proposed a third interceptor site somewhere in Europe to expand coverage against missiles fired from the Middle East, though no decision has been made on where to locate it, said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency.

"This missile defense system as being deployed is not a threat to either the Russian or the Chinese strategic deterrent force," he said.

A sixth interceptor missile was installed in a silo at Fort Greely, Alaska last week and two more are due to be put in place before the end of the year at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, forming the first installment of the missile defense system.

Lehner said the plan "is still to have them on alert by the end of the year."

By the end of 2007, the numbers of ground-based missile interceptors are scheduled to grow to 28 at both the Alaska and California launch sites.

By 2007, the agency also plans to have 18 Aegis warships armed with new and faster missiles capable of intercepting and destroying medium range missiles.

Already two Aegis warships have been deployed in waters off North Korea to serve as platforms for forward radars for the missile defense system.

Critics have charged that the Pentagon is fielding the system without adequate testing.

The Missile Defense Agency is planning to conduct its first attempted intercept in more than two years sometime next month, resuming flight tests that were cancelled of delayed six times since December 2002, officials have said.

In earlier tests, target missiles have been successfully intercepted in five of eight attempts, but those have been under artificial conditions using some surrogate components.

The system uses a network of early warning satellites and high powered radars to detect and track and target long range missiles, feeding data to command centers that then fire interceptor missiles into a collision in space with the incoming missile.

The US Northern, Strategic and Pacific Commands are conducting "shakedown exercises" with the system to train crews and test the interconnectivity its parts, Lehner said.

"It's like when you deliver a ship to Navy, they take it out into the ocean sometimes for weeks and months to shakedown the different systems within the ship itself," Lehner said.

"It's the same with this system. It's making sure everything is integrated properly, that all the communications procedures are down pat, all the maintenance procedures for the command and control and for the interceptors themselves, for the radars - all those procedures are in place," he said.

All rights reserved. � 2004 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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