- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said Wednesday that the military is moving ahead with deployment of modified sea-based anti-missile interceptors on the ground in Central Europe, something likely to further upset Russia, which opposes U.S. deployments.

Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, the agency’s director, said during a Senate hearing that the new system, called Aegis Ashore, will be deployed in Romania and Poland.

The Aegis system missile is called the SM-3 Block IIA and is being co-developed with the Japanese government.

Gen. O'Reilly, testifying on his agency’s 2013 budget request of $7.75 billion, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that deployment sites are set and agreements were signed with the governments of Romania and Poland. The Romania-based interceptors are set to be fully operational in 2015, and those in Poland will be ready by 2018.


“The Aegis Ashore system is [a] very cost-effective approach to taking the proven capability at sea and move it effectively to the land,” Gen. O'Reilly said.

The land-based version reduces the need to support 270 sailors on each Aegis missile-defense ship by using fewer than 35 missile-defense troops on the ground, he said.

The Aegis Ashore “has the longest range of our regional systems, so it adds a layer of missile defense to the land that otherwise we’d be relying on for [Theater High-Altitude Area Defense].” he said. “So with Aegis Ashore and THAAD and Patriot and other regional systems, we are able to achieve that multilayered effect with a very dedicated and persistent presence of the Aegis system.”

The Obama administration several years ago made concessions to Russia by canceling plans for more ground-based interceptors in Europe. However, Moscow is continuing to demand written guarantees that the U.S. defenses in Europe will not be targeted on Russian ICBMs.

Gen. O'Reilly was asked about reports that Ellen Tauscher, a State Department envoy for missile defense, recently offered Russia the written guarantees. He said he was “unaware of specific proposals.”

The Pentagon insists the Romania and Poland defenses will be used to counter Iran’s intermediate-range missiles.

Asked about North Korea’s recent rocket launch, Gen. O'Reilly said the rocket failed “early in the flight, once again.”

Missile tests require lots of flight tests and the latest launch indicated “progress has not been made apparent” in developing the system, he said.

RUSSIA ON OBAMA FLEXIBILITY

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov commented recently on President Obama’s open-microphone comments promising the Russians “more flexibility” to offer concessions in missile defense talks after the November election.

“The fuss that has been raised in the United States on this score is not very intelligible,” Mr. Ryabkov told Interfax on April 2.

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