- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

A year ago this month, after decades of debate and delay, the first units of a national missile defense were deployed. Today, as that defense grows, a transition from a national to a global defense is under way. Japan, India, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, NATO and others are moving to acquire new or improved missile defenses.

Recently, the Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved a defense appropriation bill that includes nearly $8 billion for missile defense. Top priority is to complete the current Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) to protect the United States, while adding regional defenses where needed. The SAC found GMD fundamentally sound, but in need of more rigorous testing. It added $200 million to maintain production of GMD interceptors and allow more tests.

Much is being done to improve initial defenses. Nine interceptors are on line in Alaska and California, and five more will be in place by the end of this year. The battle-management, command, control and communications systems are connected, linking the interceptors to ground- and sea-based radars and space-based sensors.

Existing radars are being upgraded and new ones built. A transportable X-band radar was tested against a Minuteman missile Sept. 14 and will be deployed in December. On Sept. 26, the Cobra Dane radar on Shemya Island in the Aleutians successfully tracked an air-launched missile on a realistic trajectory across the Pacific. The big sea-based X-band radar, which will help distinguish warheads from decoys, is in testing in the Gulf of Mexico and will move to the Aleutians next spring.

U.S. and Japanese Aegis destroyers are on station in the Pacific and Sea of Japan, watching for missiles. The Navy’s new Standard Missile-3, which will give Aegis ships the ability not just to detect short- and medium-range missiles, but shoot them down, will soon be in the fleet. The SAC added $75 million to accelerate this successful program. In addition to the U.S. and Japan, South Korea and Australia are deploying Aegis-equipped ships also able to carry missile interceptors.

The U.S. and Japan are jointly improving the sea-based interceptor SM-3 Block II, to defend a larger area and counter longer-range missiles. Japan, worried about China and North Korea, will build the second-stage rocket and design a “clam shell” nose cone, paying a large part of development costs.

The main program to attack missiles in their vulnerable boost-phase is the Airborne Laser (ABL), a high-energy laser weapon carried in a 747 aircraft with a global reach. ABL continues meeting its milestones and is on schedule for a missile shoot-down attempt in 2008. The SAC added $10 million for the ABL because of its “steady progress in the last 18 months.”

To pay for some of the increases, the Senate committee cut $111 million from the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, expressing concern about its rationale: to develop a very high-speed interceptor to be sited close enough to an enemy missile to intercept it in the first three minutes or so after launch. Many think this an infeasible chimera that would waste resources needed to complete and improve more practical defenses.

Missile defense is needed to protect against the hostile regimes in North Korea and Iran and deter China’s use of its nuclear missiles for intimidation. Iran’s determination to develop both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has led many Europeans to see the value of missile defense. The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance released a poll in early September showing 71 percent of Europeans now favor missile defenses.

NATO plans to integrate the missile defenses of member countries so they can communicate and operate jointly as an “alliance shield.” A U.S. missile defense site in Europe is essential for defending both North America and Europe against missiles from the Middle East. The Pentagon should not delay plans for a European GMD. Poland would be a good location.

Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said last month existing defenses cannot stop China’s long-range missiles. That shows the importance of Senate insistence on getting the GMD fully deployed and providing spiral upgrades, so it can stop long-range missiles from anywhere. The Agency should focus on those priorities.

In the upcoming conference on the defense appropriation bill, the House should accept the Senate’s missile defense changes.

James Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times and is based in Carlsbad, Calif.

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