- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

Russia has conducted a test of a long-range missile with a new jet-powered last stage designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
They view the launch as Russia's answer to U.S. plans to deploy a missile-defense system against long-range missiles.
The flight test of the road-mobile SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) took place from a launch site in central Russia two weeks ago. It was tracked to an impact area several thousand miles away on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
U.S. officials said the missile's flight took an unusual path: Its last stage was a high-speed cruise missile that flew within the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 100,000 feet.
"It looks like the Russians were testing scramjet technology," said one intelligence official.
Citing a policy of not discussing intelligence matters, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke declined to comment on the Russian missile test.
A "scramjet," short for supersonic-combustion ramjet, is a high-powered jet engine capable of reaching speeds of five times the speed of sound Mach 5 or more.
It is lighter than a space-borne re-entry vehicle because it does not need to carry its own oxygen.
Officials familiar with intelligence reports of the SS-25 flight test said it involved firing the road-mobile missile nearly into space and then having its last stage drop down to within the atmosphere and flying at supersonic speed to the Kamchatka impact range.
The SS-25 ballistic missile has three stages and a post-boost vehicle carrying the warhead. It has a maximum range of more than 7,000 miles.
Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which is in charge of all U.S. missile-defense development, said current U.S. systems capable of knocking down cruise missiles are the Patriot PAC-2 and newly deployed PAC-3.
The Navy's ship-launched Standard missile currently deployed on Aegis-equipped warships is also capable of knocking down cruise missiles, Col. Lehner said.
Asked if current systems could knock out a cruise missile traveling at Mach 5, Col. Lehner said: "The PAC-3 can shoot down a Scud, even one that moves at high velocity."
U.S. national missile-defense efforts are currently focused on intercepting long-range missile warheads in space. The Bush administration's successful July 14 interceptor test involved knocking out a dummy warhead 140 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
The Air Force is developing an aircraft-mounted anti-missile laser that is being designed to knock out missiles shortly after launch in the "boost phase" of their flight. It is not known if the airborne laser could be used against high-speed cruise missiles.
Russian leaders, including President Vladmir Putin, have vowed to adopt countermeasures for Moscow's strategic nuclear missile forces if the United States builds a national missile-defense shield.
Mr. Putin said in June — before his recent agreement with President Bush to discuss scrapping the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by linking it to bilateral cuts in nuclear stockpiles — that one Russian countermeasure would be to load multiple warheads or additional warheads on its current missiles.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in an interview with The Washington Times last week that the Pentagon is working on a research and development program that includes "a variety of ways" to shoot down incoming missiles.
The Pentagon also is in the process of conducting a nuclear posture review to determine how many and what types of strategic forces should be deployed.
Military experts said that in 1995, the Russians unveiled a prototype scramjet-powered missile called GELA. Several ground tests of the missile were carried out and two brief flight tests also were reported in trade publications.
Sven Kraemer, a former White House National Security Council staff specialist on strategic missiles, said he was not aware of the SS-25 scramjet test, but said if it were true it would be an alarming development. It would indicate Russia is continuing to develop advanced strategic weapons.
"If this is true, it demonstrates Russia's intense effort to very significantly upgrade its offensive capabilities even as it is doing the same in its strategic defense investments," Mr. Kraemer said in an interview.
Mr. Kraemer said that in addition to continued development of new strategic weapons, Russia has gone ahead with upgrading its nuclear-armed strategic defense system around Moscow and the construction of deep underground bunkers used to protect leaders and command forces in a nuclear war.
The latest strategic-missile test by Russia is likely to fuel criticism of U.S. aid to Russia for the dismantling of nuclear weapons. Critics of the aid program point out that the money allows Moscow to use its own funds to develop new nuclear arms as it dismantles older ones.
The Bush administration has cut some $100 million from the aid program.
Keith Payne, a missile-defense expert who heads the National Institute for Public Policy, a defense think tank, said any Russian effort to counter U.S. missile defenses with a scramjet missile or other techniques is misguided.
"The missile-defense system we're talking about isn't designed to defeat Russian ICBMs," Mr. Payne said. "If the Russians want to put any countermeasures, I don't really care. It doesn't undermine what we're developing."
The Bush administration has repeatedly said that a national missile defense is aimed at protecting the United States from missile attacks by "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iraq.
Mr. Payne said the scramjet missile may be part of Russia's efforts to develop non-nuclear or conventional precision-guided long-range missiles. "The Russians put a lot of stock in that," he said.
The United States is currently working on its own version of a hypersonic cruise missile that uses scramjet technology and will travel at speeds of Mach 5 or higher.
A scramjet space aircraft is also being developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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