Top US Contractors Ready for Space-arms Studies

April 13th, 2008 - by admin

Jim Wolf / Reuters – 2008-04-13 10:51:43

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (April 10, 2006) — Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp each said on Thursday they would respond to any U.S. request to explore a space-based layer for ballistic missile defense.

“If our customer comes to us and says we want you to investigate this, certainly industry will be ready, willing and able to do so,” said Scott Fancher, Boeing’s top executive for missile defense systems.

“I think you’ll find Boeing has many of the technologies and capabilities and skills that are necessary to go do that,” he said in reply to a question at a briefing for reporters during a conference here called the National Space Symposium.

Lockheed Martin, the only contractor that does more business with the Pentagon than Boeing, followed suit when asked about bidding on any such work.

President Bush has asked Congress for $10 million in seed money to look at adding a space-based layer to ground- and sea-based parts of an emerging shield against missiles that could be tipped with chemical, germ or nuclear warheads.

If the funding is approved and the Missile Defense Agency seeks industry help on studies, “Lockheed Martin would be pleased to support such activities,” said Scott Lusk, a company spokesman.

“Lockheed Martin has a tremendous depth and breadth of proven missile defense capabilities that it brings to the table,” he added in an e-mailed reply.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency, told Congress last week that the administration is again seeking $10 million for studies to inform debate and “to keep our options open.”

“I wish that I could tell you in the next 20 years what the missile threats to the United States will be, and I wish the (intelligence) community could see that with a crystal ball, but they can’t,” he said at an April 1 hearing of the Senate Armed Forces strategic forces subcommittee.

“And so I think it’s very prudent that out of a $9.3 billion request (for the Missile Defense Agency in the 2009 budget year), that we allocate at least $10 million to maintaining our options with respect to the future,” he said.

“And that future, in terms of flexibility, of not knowing which axis the threat may come from, is in space,” Obering said.

A space-based missile-defense layer could involve some 1,000 orbiting interceptors at an estimated cost of $16.4 billion, according to a July 2006 report by leading missile-defense advocates who call themselves the Independent Working Group.

Last year, the Democrat-controlled Congress rejected the administration’s request for $10 million to resume studies on the idea, first floated in the 1980s as part of then-President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. (Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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