UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


U.S. missile defense chief argues for missile shield in space

RIA Novosti

28/03/2007 14:05 WASHINGTON, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - A senior U.S. official in charge of America's missile defense program told a congressional committee Tuesday that some elements should be deployed in space, including a "space-based layer" in near-Earth orbit.

Addressing the Armed Services Committee, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, director of the U.S. missile defense program, sought to justify the need for substantial spending on the program in 2008 by saying it would increase the effectiveness of the missile shield in view of gathering threats and the proliferation of ballistic missiles worldwide.

U.S. plans to deploy elements of the missile shield in Central Europe are expected to cost $1.6 billion over the next five years. The program will later be expanded to include sea-based missiles and missile tracking systems in space.

Washington has cited possible threats from Iran or North Korea as a reason for its missile defense program. Obering's report to the committee said that about 100 foreign ballistic missiles had been launched in 2006 around the world, and that missile tests had doubled in number in 2007.

The official also said space-based systems would provide anti-missile protection independent of geographic location, strategic warning or permission to deploy bases, and would make it possible to intercept ballistic missiles in mid-trajectory.

Some U.S. experts, including Theresa Hitchens of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, have voiced concerns over the deployment of missile defense elements in space, saying the move could be a cover for the deployment of advanced weapons, which could easily be transformed from anti-missile into anti-satellite systems.

Obering's report said that all relevant technical information had to be gathered first, and requested $10 million for a concept study and small-scale experiments within the program.

The document also said the Bush Administration had requested that Congress earmark a total of $8.9 billion in 2008 - including $7.1 billion for short-term and $1.8 billion for long-term programs - on the missile shield.

The U.S. Administration plans to deploy 44 land-based anti-ballistic missiles in Alaska and California, upgrade early warning radars in Alaska, California and Britain, integrate sea-based X-band radars into the system, and deploy 132 standard SM-3 missiles on 18 Aegis ballistic missile defense cruisers.

Washington has also announced its intention to deploy elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and will soon begin consultations with these countries.

The report said the U.S. would modify its X-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and relocate it to Czech territory to enhance the early-warning capabilities of systems deployed in Britain and Greenland.

The Czech government is expected to respond to the U.S. request later Wednesday. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has spoken out in support of the initiative, saying it met national interests and would reinforce the defense capability and raise the security of the country and of Europe as a whole.

Obering's report also said that negotiations with the Polish government on the deployment of 10 land-based interceptor missiles beginning in 2011 would hopefully be successful.

Poland's national security chief, Wladyslaw Stasiak, said Warsaw would not discuss the U.S. program with NATO, but would consider it directly with Washington.

"There will be no talks with NATO, because it was not NATO that came up with the initiative," he said.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said elements of the U.S. missile shield in Poland would guarantee that the country is no longer under Moscow's influence.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Brian Green said at the report hearings in Congress Tuesday that the U.S. Administration would not discuss its plans with NATO.

"NATO is a consensus organization, which means we would have to try to achieve unanimity," he said. "To achieve unanimity in any organization, including NATO, is a very difficult challenge."

Green regretted Russia's refusal to accept the missile shield, but promised to inform Moscow about progress in the program and to look into opportunities for future cooperation on the issue.

The Russia-NATO Council is expected to consider the U.S. plans April 19, diplomatic sources in Brussels said Wednesday. Ambassadors of 26 NATO members and experts will also meet on the same day to discuss the matter.

Some European Union officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have called on the U.S. to coordinate its missile defense program with NATO.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list