- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2015

The Pentagon is building a better U.S. missile defense shield as officials try to gauge the threat posed by advanced Russian cruise missiles.

Military officials are working on ways to better protect U.S. cities that involves F-16 fighter jets working in concert with sensor-laden aerostat balloons and warships, Defense One reported Thursday. A critical component of the plan includes new radar sensors for F-16s that patrol Washington.

“We’re devoting a good deal of attention to ensuring we’re properly configured against such an attack in the homeland, and we need to continue to do so,” Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 19 in Washington, Defense One reported Thursday.

The national security website says that while much attention has been given to ballistic missile threats, short-range cruise missiles pose a unique set of problems.

“Launched by ships, submarines or even trailer-mounted launchers, cruise missiles are powered throughout their entire flight. This allows them to fly close to the ground and maneuver throughout flight, making them difficult for radar to spot,” Defense One reported.

Adm. William Gortney, who leads U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, highlighted the Kh-101 cruise missile as the kind of threat the Pentagon was find a way to counter. The weapon is being developed by Russia and has a range of 1,200 miles.

“The only nation that has an effective cruise missile capability is Russia,” the officer said in March, Defense One reported.

The admiral added that the Pentagon’s overarching plan also involves finding ways to quickly identify and destroy a cruise missile’s delivery system before it has a chance to fire. 

“The best way to defeat the cruise missile threat is to shoot down the archer, or sink the archer, that’s out there,” Adm. Gortney said at an April, Defense One reported.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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