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NATO Moves Closer To Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Capability

By | February 18, 2008

      NATO inaugurated a special testing facility in The Hague, Netherlands — a milestone in the multi-year alliance project to protect deployed operating forces from ballistic missile attack.

      The integration test bed — ready nine months ahead of schedule — will be inaugurated by NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, Peter Flory, the alliance said in a statement.

      In 2006, NATO signed a contract with SAIC [SAI] to build an Integration Test Bed for the Alliance’s future Active Layered Theatre Missile Defence (ALTBMD) capability

      The alliance wants to protect its troops in specific areas from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles by 2010. NATO TMD will be a multilayer system consisting of early warning sensors, radar and interceptors. NATO member countries will provide the sensors and weapon systems. NATO is developing a commonly funded NATO architecture to integrate all the elements.

      The state-of-the-art test bed facility will test designs for NATO systems that will allow European and U.S. missile defense technologies to work together as part of a NATO theater missile defense system.

      Once fully implemented, the system will be used to protect forces against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. It also will complement NATO’s current capability against aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and other aerial threats.

      Last month, the test site conducted milestone tests with Dutch and U.S. facilities, in which real European and U.S. systems successfully countered a simulated ballistic missile attack against NATO forces.

      "The test bed is the linchpin of the project," Flory said. "It allows us to determine whether we actually can get the different components to work together, and work together rapidly enough to counter one or several missile attacks. The fact that we were able to get it connected to NATO nations for experiments nine months ahead of schedule is very good news for NATO. This is a crucial step toward a theater missile defense capability."

      The contract for delivery of the test bed was signed at NATO’s 2006 Riga Summit in the presence of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

      The test bed is run by NATO’s Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Program Office and hosted by NATO’s Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), responsible for developing and procuring new technologies in support of NATO and its missions.

      U.S. officials welcome NATO developing defensive shields such as ALTBMD against short- and medium-range enemy missiles. They see that as a dovetailing, complementary capability to work with the proposed U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that would shield Europe against longer-range missile threats, including those that might be launched from Middle Eastern nations such as Iran.

      The GMD system, before it can be built, will first have to be accepted by host nations: the Czech Republic, where the GMD radar would be emplaced; Poland, where interceptor in- ground silos would be installed; and some other area such as Turkey or the Caucasus where a mobile radar might operate.

      (Please see full story in this issue.)

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