Missile Defense Needed Even More As Enemy Capabilities, Threats, Actions Pose Daunting Challenge
The United States needs to accelerate forming its missile defense shield now, more than ever, as enemy threats, worrisome capabilities and hostile actions mandate swift U.S. protective action, Riki Ellison, president of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, warned.
Fortunately, U.S. missile defense programs are progressing well, Ellison said.
He pointed to North Korea reversing course and abandoning its pledge to denuclearize, with Pyongyang deciding to rebuild and restart a nuclear reactor that it only recently had partially demolished.
As well, Ellison took note of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad uttering more threats at the United Nations last week, and Russia sending strategic bombers and naval vessels into the Western Hemisphere, to Venezuela, a nation hostile to the United States.
All of those developments are a worrisome shift that "validates real and legitimate needs for missile defense," Ellison asserted.
Then he turned to what he said are welcome advancements in U.S. missile defense programs.
"Two out of the three missile defense technologies involved proving the concept of ‘boost phase’ missile defense, which is the capability to shoot down ballistic missiles right after launch over the territory where they were launched, while they are fully intact with all their warheads, without countermeasures and a highly visible slow moving large target," he said.
"These types of technologies, when mature and added to the other layers of the current deployed system, will revolutionize missile defense and make it technically impossible to deliver a ballistic missile into a defended area with success."
He referred to a successful Airborne Laser program firing of a Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] laser on a highly modified 747-400 jumbo jet contributed by ABL prime contractor The Boeing Co. [BA]. The laser will be aimed at enemy missiles by a Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] beam control/fire control system.
And Ellison hailed a successful detection and tracking of a missile by the Near Field Infrared Experiment Research Experiment, or NFIRE. (Please see separate story in this issue.)
"The NFIRE satellite in orbit since April 24, 2007 was in position to study and collect data from a launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base," Ellison noted. "This data helps develop and mature sensoring technologies that distinguish the enormous heat signature of the rocket plume against the body of the rocket so that targeting information can be given accurately to the interceptors to hit the rocket body, not the plume of the rocket."
He noted that NFIRE is poised to contribute to U.S. missile defense.
"This NFIRE technology will be on the soon-to-be-deployed Space Tracking and Surveillance (STSS) Satellite system that will provide birth-to-death tracking and discrimination of ballistic missiles from space," Ellison observed.
Turning to the ABL test,
"A megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) was shot out of a modified 747 Air Force aircraft on the ground, which is fully integrated with sensor, targeting and stabilizing solid state lasers," he noted.
Finally, he congratulated Japan on a successful missile defense test that proves the worth of the system, he said.
"The third technology involved … Japan, as they tested with success their own Patriot 3 (PAC-3) missile at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, making it the first time a foreign nation has tested their weapons there," Ellison noted.
"The PAC-3 shoots down ballistic missiles to protect a small defended area at the terminal phase of an incoming warhead inside the atmosphere, on its final phase of flight. Japan spends around a billion and half dollars a year deploying and developing Missile Defenses and is one of the strongest supporters in the international community."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress was deciding authorization levels for funding American missile defense programs. (Please see separate story in this issue.)