- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced from the Oval Office, “I’ve reached a decision which offers a new hope for our children in the 21st century.” He explained his vision — and his defense budget’s inclusion — of the first funds to go toward this nation’s missile defense effort.

Liberals, and most of the media, derided the president’s project as “star wars.” Since 1983, America’s Missile Defense effort has become a multinational, multi-system effort: and it has come down to earth and the sea.

Many of the once dreamed of new space systems are gone. Instead, Missile Defense today is a collage of ground, sea, air and space sensors and weapons.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Navy and the Ballistic Missile Defense Agency did something never before accomplished. The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie demonstrated the capability of the ship systems and combat team to simultaneously detect, track and engage both a cruise missile target and a ballistic missile target.

Both targets were destroyed.

The event was conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility which is a fully instrumented range capable of squeezing all the needed engineering data out of an event like this.

“Today’s test demonstrates the true flexibility and depth of capability inherent in the Aegis BMD Weapon System,” said Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, the Missile Defense Agency’s Aegis BMD program director. “The simultaneous engagement highlights the flexibility and power of the SPY-1 radar and the weapon system’s capability to manage and prioritize the engagement of the two threats.”

For the Navy and the AEGIS Weapon System, this was the eighth successful ballistic missile intercept in 10 attempts. The Aegis BMD has also successfully supported more than 15 ballistic missile defense system tracking tests since June 2004.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed as “ludicrous” Russian concerns that Washington’s plans to deploy anti-missile defenses in Europe would endanger Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.

After more than a decade of discussions and planning, the U.S. plans to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. This would counter possible ballistic missile threats from a place like Iran. Moscow has objected, saying the plan somehow threatens its nuclear deterrent. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this. The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Miss Rice told reporters.

Ballistic Missile Defenses give options to military people and politicians facing a wider threat of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unpredictable or belligerent world leaders.

Last July 4, North Korea test-fired a long-range missile and five shorter-range missiles. Though the long-range test failed within a minute, it highlighted ongoing efforts to achieve longer-range missiles. North Korea next tested a nuclear weapon.

And in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad practically makes daily pronouncements about his nuclear ambitions. Iran has already demonstrated a missile capable of striking regional neighbors and potentially reaching into Europe.

Meanwhile, thanks to Ronald Reagan’s strategic vision, American and allied Missile Defense efforts are moving ahead and making progress every day.

The “Gipper” would be proud.

John E. Carey commanded an AEGIS ship, served in President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) and is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

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