- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2001

In seeking support for a U.S. national missile defense, President Bush told the allies he would share missile defense technology with them. This is in sharp contrast to President Clinton, who really did not want missile defenses but was willing to conduct research on a limited system that, if deployed, would defend only this country.

Mr. Bush said in a speech on May 23, 2000, six months before the election, "A missile defense system should not only defend our country, it should defend our allies, with whom I will consult as we develop our plans."

Those consultations are now under way. But some of our allies need their own defenses against short- and medium-range missiles, and they need them now.

For years the Defense Department has been developing and testing defenses against missiles of various ranges and capabilities. At least seven different missile defense weapons currently are under development. The Army is lead service for the National Missile Defense, the new Patriot PAC-3, and the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The Navy is developing a ship-based system called Navy Area Wide and a longer-range version known as Navy Theater Wide. The Air Force is working on the Airborne and Space-Based Lasers.

Of all these missile defenses the most successful, and the only one ready to be deployed, is Patriot PAC-3. This is a brand new interceptor that includes the most advanced hit-to-kill technology. The original Patriot deployed in the early 1980s was designed with a high-explosive warhead to shoot down aircraft. The PAC-2 model, with a similar warhead but designed to intercept short-range missiles, was just entering production in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Rushed into 24-hour production, units were shipped to Israel and U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia just in time to help stop some of the 88 Scuds Saddam Hussein launched during the war in the desert.

The newest version, PAC-3, has a brand new interceptor that is much smaller and more effective than PAC-2. The PAC-3 interceptor is so small that each launcher carries 16 in place of only 4 PAC-2s. Its new warhead, a marvel of hit-to-kill technology, was developed under President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Its high-speed computer and sensitive seeker enable it to locate, track, and smash into an incoming missile at very high speed, creating a fireball that destroys the warhead completely, whether it is high-explosive, chemical, biological, or nuclear.

The PAC-3 flight test program has been highly successful: eight intercepts out of nine attempts against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and fighter jets. The Army wants 2,200 PAC-3 interceptors to protect U.S. forces and facilities around the world. Low-rate production began in December 1999, with 40 being produced this year. The first unit is to be deployed by the Army in September.

The Clinton administration planned to produce 40 more next year, but the Bush team is increasing that to 72 and requesting additional funds to raise production capability from six to 20 a month. This is a step in the right direction. The next step is to actively promote its sale abroad.

PAC-3 is the first of the new technology interceptors to complete development and go into production, but its range is too short to defend the U.S. It is ideal, however, for countries threatened by short- to medium-range missiles.

Other nations want to buy PAC-3, the most advanced missile defense system in the world today. Eight countries have PAC-2 and as many as 15 may decide to buy the new model. Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Turkey, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf emirates have shown some interest in buying PAC-3. It also should be offered to the NATO allies in keeping with the administration promise to make missile defenses available to them.

The planned increase in production capability will enable the U.S. to get more PAC-3s in the field faster, and to sell some now to the allies that are most at risk. Longer-range interceptors such as the Army's THAAD and the Navy's Theater Wide system, which are not yet ready for production, can be added later to create layered defenses against longer-range missiles.

Some of the allies are complaining that the administration's missile defense briefings have lacked specificity. So let's get specific. The administration should immediately approve the sale of PAC-3 to current users of PAC-2 such as Israel, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Greece, and license its production in Japan. Also, it should actively promote the sale of PAC-3 to other friends and allies at risk, including South Korea, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Increasing production to meet foreign demand will have the added benefit of cutting the unit cost for the U.S. taxpayer.

Deterrence only works when weapons are in the field. It is time to get PAC-3s where they are needed.

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