Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters – 2007-01-30 23:55:04
US Missile Defense Maturing, Latest Test a Success
Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters
WASHINGTON (Janury 29, 2007) — Within a year, the US missile defense system should be able to guard against enemy attacks, while testing new technologies, the deputy director of the US Missile Defense Agency said on Monday.
The United States activated the ground-based system last summer when North Korea launched one long-range and six short-range missiles.
North Korea’s intercontinental Taepodong 2 missile fell into the Sea of Japan shortly after launch but the short-range tests appeared successful, said Brig. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
O’Reilly said there would be no formal announcement that the system was operational. He predicted the capability to defend against enemy missiles and to continue testing and development work would be achieved within a year.
“It’s just a matter of maturation,” he told reporters after a speech hosted by the George C. Marshall Institute, a public policy group.
O’Reilly said work by North Korea and Iran on long-range ballistic missiles underscored the need for a viable U.S. missile defense system.
The war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants last summer also highlighted the dangers of ballistic missiles and their use by non-state actors, he said. “We know we must be prepared for all contingencies.”
O’Reilly said the missile defense system, which includes sea-based and ground-based interceptors, and powerful X-Band radar systems, achieved success in 14 of 15 flight tests.
Through the end of 2007, the program will focus on protecting the United States from threats from the Middle East and North Korea, expanding coverage to U.S. allies and boosting protection against shorter-range threats.
In 2008 and beyond, there would be increased focus on countering unconventional attacks and increasing the U.S. inventory of interceptors and sensors, O’Reilly said.
RUSSIA IS WARY
On Saturday, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), built by Lockheed Martin Corp, intercepted a target shot from a barge. It was the first test of THAAD since its move to the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
Two more THAAD intercept tests are planned for 2007, along with three tests of the Aegis Standard Missile-3 interceptors against short- and medium-range targets, O’Reilly said.
The agency also plans two tests of long-range ground-based interceptors in late spring and early fall.
The United States has 14 interceptors in Alaska and two in California, primarily to counter North Korea. O’Reilly said the number in Alaska would grow to 21 within eight months.
By 2011, plans call for some 40 interceptors in Alaska and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, he said.
He said negotiations were just beginning with Poland to host up to 10 ground-based interceptors and with the Czech Republic about fielding an advanced radar station.
Asked about the concerns of Russian officials, O’Reilly said the United States was talking with Moscow and hoped to convince it that placing U.S. missile defenses in eastern Europe could also enhance Russia’s security as well.
He gave no timeline for completing negotiations with Poland and the Czechs, but said the United States was “always looking at all our options” if either country chose not to proceed.
“We’ll have to see how it unfolds,” O’Reilly said.
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