U.S. Missile Defenses Enhanced to Deal With Growing Threat, General Says

A senior U.S. Defense Department official said the rising risk of missile attack has led the United States to pursue a concerted expansion of its missile defenses, the Washington Times reported today (see GSN, Feb. 2).

"We can't get the genie back in the bottle … the threat is growing and proliferating … it is inherently unpredictable, and we need a flexible missile-defense program that is responsive," the head of the Missile Defense Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, said in recent remarks on the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review.

An agency newsletter last week detailed the latest plans for fielding new land-and sea-based defenses across the globe. Plans encompass a program to deploy by October 30 long-range missile interceptors in Alaska and California (see related GSN story, today).

Within two years, the Pentagon is expected to have another 10 naval vessels equipped with Aegis ballistic missile defense systems. Nineteen warships are already using the technology. By the end of this year, 20 Navy ships with 61 Standard Missile 3 interceptors are also anticipated to be deployed.

The first phase of the Obama administration's revised plan for a European missile shield is also set to be put in place in 2010. It covers the fielding of Aegis warships equipped with SM-3 interceptors and sensors for the detection of missiles.

The new plan replaces a Bush-era proposal that would have deployed 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic (see GSN, Feb. 23).

Washington this year has had both successful and unsuccessful tests of its missile defenses. On Feb. 11, the military's new Airborne Laser successfully destroyed a simulated short-range missile. It marked the first success of a laser targeting and eliminating a missile in the beginning stage of flight (see GSN, Feb. 12).

At the end of January, a test of a land-based, long-range missile interceptor was deemed a failure when the interceptor failed to strike a target missile (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, March 4).

March 4, 2010
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A senior U.S. Defense Department official said the rising risk of missile attack has led the United States to pursue a concerted expansion of its missile defenses, the Washington Times reported today (see GSN, Feb. 2).