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Professor Says U.S. Missile Interceptors In Europe Could Kill Russian ICBMs

By | August 29, 2007

      A professor said that Russians are correct, and U.S. military leaders are wrong, in a debate about whether U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors that might be installed in Europe could defeat Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

      The professor said that U.S. missile interceptors could take down Russian ICBMs, as Russia claims. Russians have vociferously assailed U.S. plans to erect a missile shield in Europe against missiles launched from Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, a nation with which Russia has friendly relations.

      His arguments could give ammunition to lawmakers who want to cut or kill funding for the European BMD installation, which would be a third site for the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.

      As well, he argues that the Aegis sea-based BMD system could do as good a job of protecting Europe from enemy missiles as the GMD system.

      Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, co-authored the 42-page study with George N. Lewis, associate director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University, for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

      Postol outlined his views to a luncheon in a House office building on Capitol Hill.

      He made several main points in his presentation:

      Aegis interceptors can protect Europe from incoming enemy missiles.

      True, there are as yet unresolved questions as to whether the Aegis interceptor missiles can sense and reliably maneuver to smash into and kill enemy missiles.

      But the Missile Defense Agency says the sea-based Aegis BMD system can perform missile defense.

      As for the separate GMD system, a land-based asset, it is true that interceptors based in Poland would be able to provide a BMD shield protecting most, but not all, of Europe.

      But as well, those GMD interceptors could kill any Russian ICBMs launched toward targets on the East Coast of the United States.

      “Missile Defense Agency claims that such intercepts are not possible are inaccurate.”

      There still are many unresolved engineering and technical problem with GMD, as congressional lawmakers stated when they cut requested funding for the GMD program.

      To be sure, it isn’t clear that those performance uncertainties with the GMD system are any less formidable than those with the Aegis system.

      As a final point, “Aegis interceptors appear to be as viable a choice for policy makers as ground=based interceptors.”

      To view a full version of the Postol-Lewis paper and handout as posted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science., please go to on the Web.

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