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European BMD Acquisition Looms, But Tough Questions Precede It

By | August 21, 2006

      HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A defense company is hoping its ballistic missile defense work may grow as Europe installs a missile shield against enemy weapons launched from the Middle East.

      But a key political issue that must be resolved first is the location of a ballistic missile interceptor facility, because that may determine on which nation the shattered remnants of an intercepted enemy missile might fall, according to Mike Scherer, vice president for business development with Teledyne Brown Engineering, a division of Teledyne Technologies [TDY].

      The United States has focused its ground-based anti-ballistic missile efforts on potential ballistic threats from North Korea, which fired a long-range missile July 4 (ET) that failed in its first stage.

      But for Europe, the threat might come from the Middle East.

      For example, Iran has begun processing nuclear materials that Western leaders fear could be used to produce nuclear weapons, though Iran claims it is for peaceful electrical generation purposes.

      Also, Iran has shown interest in missile technology.

      A 1,000-mile-range missile launched in Iran could hit France, Germany, Italy or Spain, Scherer noted.

      Critics have said the multi-layered U.S. missile defense system is hugely expensive, costing tens of billions of dollars.

      But Europe can afford a missile system, Scherer said. That’s because the United States is bankrolling the immensely costly development of missile shield systems. In contrast, deployment and operation of a missile shield costs far less, he noted.

      Another issue for Europe is what happens if a missile defense installation is located far forward, near the enemy. If the forward missile shield fails to kill an incoming enemy missile, and there are no other rearward missile defense installation, the enemy weapon may continue on to hit a helpless target city, he noted.

      Yet another tough issue is defeating large numbers of enemy cruise missiles, according to John R. Yanosky vice president of missile systems with Teledyne Brown Engineering.

      Hezbollah terrorists recently have fired hundreds of missiles and rockets into Israel, and Hezbollah may have thousands more of the weapons hidden in secret caches.

      Such weapons “are very, very difficult to hit,” Yanosky said.

      But Teledyne Brown has developed technologies well capable of countering such threats, “another area where we are very qualified,” he added.

      One problem cited by some military officers is that they may find themselves using an expensive defensive system against a cheap, ubiquitous terrorist missile or other threat, which is not a cost effective defense.

      But Scherer said cost can’t be permitted to block defense of a nation.

      “This is not an economic discussion,” but rather a military imperative, he said.

      Even if the cost of obliterating an incoming enemy missile is high, Scherer noted, the destruction of that missile before it impacts one of your cities punishes the enemy psychologically.

      As well, many military leaders say that no matter how high the cost of intercepting an enemy missile, if it is tipped with a weapon of mass destruction such as a nuclear device, the cost of destruction to a city and its citizens would be orders of magnitudes higher if the enemy missile reached its target.

      The truism that one can’t count pennies in deciding whether to use a weapons system against an aggressive enemy applies whether the U.S. system used is a BMD asset or other weapon system.

      For example, he noted, U.S. forces may employ tanks costing millions of dollars, even though an insurgent might destroy a tank with a cheap rocket-propelled grenade. Or a U.S. aircraft costing tens of millions of dollars may be shot down by fire from an AK-47 rifle.

      Teledyne Brown Engineering is involved with The Boeing Co. [BA] in the Ground-based Missile Defense system.

      It is centered in Alaska and California, and focuses on potential missile threats emanating from Asia.

      Missile defense is the largest business area for Teledyne Brown Engineering, Scherer said.

      The company pulls in some $130 million to $135 million yearly from contracts, he said.

      That includes revenues realized by Teledyne Brown Engineering doing a buyout of CollaborX Inc. this month, which added about $20 million worth of work to Teledyne Brown books, he said.

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