Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Pentagon showed off its new command-and-control system for U.S. missile defenses yesterday during a war-game missile attack on the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The simulation did not identify the missiles as coming from North Korea, but it was clear to observers and participants that the fictional island nation of Midland in the Sea of Japan/East Sea represented the communist state referred to by President Bush as part of an “axis of evil.”

Several minutes into the hourlong simulation, one of the seven long-range missile warheads landed on the Aleutian Islands, in western Alaska, while six others aimed at Honolulu, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs and Fort Greely, Alaska, were intercepted and destroyed in midflight.

Brig. Gen. Robert Dehnert, program director for command and control at the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said hitting a flying missile with another missile is not easy.

“As you’ve seen in the war game, this is easy to say, but difficult to accomplish,” he told congressional lawmakers, congressional staff members and 12 journalists, who played the roles of key decision-makers, from the president to Patriot anti-missile battery operators.

“The purpose today is … to provide some level of insight into the command-and-control battle-management system,” Gen. Dehnert said.

The command-and-control system connects sensors that detect and track enemy missiles with military units charged with firing interceptors at the incoming missiles, including long-range missiles traveling at speeds of up to 15,000 miles per hour.

The control system distributes data from satellites and surface radar on missile launches. It also allows commanders in Washington, Nebraska, Colorado, Alaska and Hawaii and on ships in Asia to communicate and order launches using different missile interceptors.

The war game used missile-defense systems such as Patriot PAC-3 batteries in South Korea, Navy SM-3 interceptors on a ship near Japan, and 10 ground-based strategic-missile interceptors — eight in Alaska and two in Southern California.

Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, who sponsored the three days of war games, said the exercise “reminds us all of the vulnerability of our country” to missile attack.

Mr. Allard said the main missile threats today are from Iran, which is building nuclear arms and has medium-range missiles, and North Korea, which has short-range, medium-range and long-range missiles.

On the overall threat from missile attack, Mr. Allard said, “This is a threat that is emerging more and more every year because our adversaries are getting more and more competent every year.”

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