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Inside the Ring
Question of the Day
The commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command was in Washington recently and told a Capitol Hill gathering of defense specialists the Navy’s current SM-3 anti-missile interceptor, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s regional missile defense plan, is being souped up so that it can eventually knock out a long-range missile.
ArmyLt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, the commander, was asked to compare the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, with the Navy’s SM-3 missile interceptor, which has greater range and can hit targets in space.
“Now there’s probably greater potential in the SM-3 missile for some follow-on work that the Missile Defense Agency is planning, so that that missile may become in the deeper future an anti-ICBM capable missile,” Gen. Campbell said, adding that the THAAD is designed to provide defenses against missiles at a lower level of their flight.
Asked whether the Pentagon would ever deploy interceptors in space, Gen. Campbell said: “I don’t think the country is ready to go there, personally. But yeah, I would think in the future, if we had to get to that point because we found that our terrestrial systems were so limited, I suppose that would be assessed again and a determination made.”
Gen. Campbell said new sensors are being developed as part of the administration’s shift toward regional missile defenses and away from systems that can knock out long-range ICBMs. The plan, he said, calls for putting infrared sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles that can be used to detect missile launches and transmit the data to missile interceptors and other defense systems that would knock them out.
Additionally, the Pentagon recently put in orbit two new satellites that are the first step in an advanced missile launch detection system, he said at a June 17 breakfast meeting sponsored by the National Defense University Foundation and National Defense Industrial Association.
“What is proposed is that we have an infrared capability on an unmanned aerial vehicle, and that that would be a sensor suite that would be employed to support a regional architecture,” Gen. Campbell said.
The new system would allow missile defenses to plug in more sensors or missile interceptors or other “shooters,” he said. The space and airborne systems would augment ground-based sensor systems currently in place and add to the capabilities of the system.
Inside the Ring reported last week that Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had decided not to try to filibuster the defense budget bill, which contains a repeal of the military’s gay ban.
“Sen. McCain is not filibustering the bill,” his spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.
Hours after the column appeared, Ms. Buchanan e-mailed a follow-up statement:
“I saw your story in the paper this morning and wanted to let you know that I was wrong. Sen. McCain believes a filibuster is still on the table on the pending defense authorization bill. But with that said it’s [a] bit premature to discuss floor strategy weeks before the bill hits the floor.”
The House has passed its version of the gay-ban repeal, a major campaign promise by President Obama. The Senate committee approved a repeal on generally a party line vote. It came despite strongly worded pleas from the chiefs of the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps that a vote be put off until a Pentagon study is completed.
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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