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French Senate Committee Urges $2.2B in Antimissile Spending

A key French Senate panel gave its backing on Tuesday to several antimissile initiatives that would cost more than $2 billion over a decade, Space News reported (see GSN, June 22).

The French Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces Committee in a report called on the Sarkozy administration to pursue actions that would enable the nation to take on a significant role in planned NATO missile defense efforts. The lawmakers said that though there is not a significant danger of France coming under a direct missile attack, the nation's involvement in the NATO effort is key to ensuring the well-being of its domestic defense sector.

The 28-member alliance last year agreed to construct a missile shield for Europe. The ultimate framework of that system has yet to be determined though it would encompass a U.S. plan to field increasingly advanced sea- and land-based interceptors around the continent. The alliance also intends to connect and bolster individual member state's antimissile capabilities.

A NATO summit next May is anticipated to further spell out the architecture of the ballistic missile defense system (see related GSN story, today).

The report warns of the potential for the United States to grab a monopoly on NATO missile defense contracts. In such a scenario, Paris would lose out on the chance to develop critical technologies, such as highly accurate and exoatmosphere missile intercept systems, that are viewed as necessary to preserve the efficacy of France's nuclear weapons, according to the document.

The report's authors urged the French government to spend $980 million in a decade-long period on a spy satellite web that would provide alerts for incoming missile. The report calls for preliminary work on a space-based missile interceptor platform that is projected to cost $380 million.

The Senate committee also called for spending for a national antimissile command site and other projects.

The cost of the entire project is estimated at $2.2 billion (Peter de Selding, Space News, July 12).

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