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General Cites Need For Conventional Global Strike Missiles

By | April 2, 2007

      The United States needs conventional-weapon ballistic missiles — the prompt global strike weapon — to respond to threats swiftly, including such crises as an enemy attacking U.S. space assets, a key officer said.

      Existing U.S. forces may lack both the reach and speed required to take out threats at some remote locations, according to Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. He spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee.

      Currently, the nation suffers a capability gap in responding to some threats, he said.

      The prompt global strike system, with submarine-launched missiles wielding conventional warheads, would address that need, he said.

      In the case of an enemy in a remote area using a weapon to attack U.S. space assets, Cartwright asked how many of those American assets the United States would be willing to lose before responding in decisive fashion to kill the threat.

      However, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the subcommittee chairman, observed that if an enemy nation were to launch attacks on U.S. satellites, “that’s an act of war” that would elicit responses from many types of U.S. military forces.

      Cartwright said he is confident China and Russia wouldn’t mistake a conventional-warhead prompt global strike asset for a nuclear-tipped U.S. missile in flight, triggering World War III.

      He also spoke of the need for ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.

      “The testing [of various BMD systems] has been very successful so far,” Cartwright said.

      It is critical that the United States develop systems able to kill an array of enemy threats, ranging from short-range missiles to intermediate-range weapons, up to intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, he said.

      “There has to be some way to devalue these short- and medium-range missiles,” he said.

      The BMD shield is needed, critically, not only to protect the United States from attack, but also to shield U.S. troops abroad from threats such as chemical-agent attacks, he said.

      Cartwright said he is confident that the multi-layered BMD shield will work if needed, though that would be more likely against short- or medium-range enemy missiles.

      Assessing chances of killing a sophisticated incoming Russian ICBM, he said, there would be “a lower probability of engagement success.”

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