Moving to flesh out its revamped European missile defense plan announced last September, the Obama administration confirmed in February that
The Obama administration announced last fall its intention to base missile interceptors in
Romanian President Traian Băsescu broke the news about his nation’s involvement Feb. 4 while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in
Gates later told reporters he was talking with the Turkish government about what role it could play within NATO on missile defense. “We have discussed the possibility of erecting two radar systems in
Russian leaders said they were surprised by the news, and they reacted coolly to it. “We have already asked our partners in Washington...what does this all mean and why after the Romanian surprise there is a Bulgarian surprise now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to Reuters Feb. 15. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded in a
Deployment Plans Set
Last September, the Obama administration shifted gears from Bush administration plans to deploy 10 long-range interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying that it would instead deploy shorter-range interceptors against near-term missile threats from Iran and increase interceptor performance over time. (See ACT, October 2009.) According to the administration’s February 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Review and other sources, this “phased adaptive approach” for Europe includes deploying SM-3 Block IA interceptors, which have a top speed of 3 kilometers per second, on Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea and a radar in southern Europe next year. Tauscher told journalists Feb. 15 that the
By 2015, about 20 land-based SM-3 Block IB interceptors, known as “Aegis-Ashore,” would be deployed in
“We are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against the short- and medium-range threat that exists, and hence our initial emphasis will be on southeastern Europe,” David Altwegg, executive director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told Pentagon reporters Feb. 1.
The initial SM-3 Block IA and IB deployments at sea and in Romania are not likely by themselves to cause Russia serious concern, according to experts, because these interceptors would not be effective against long-range missiles and, as a result, would not likely derail the ongoing START follow-on talks (see page 40). However, the 2018 and 2020 phases of the Obama administration’s plans, during which Block IIA and IIB SM-3 missiles would be deployed at sea and in Romania and Poland, do appear to give Russian leaders reason to worry and could create problems for the current and future U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions talks, sources say. Lavrov told Russia Today TV in October that the revised
Reflecting these concerns, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told the nuclear deterrence conference Feb. 17 that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty “gave predictability” by limiting U.S. missile defense deployments. But with the Bush administration’s withdrawal from that treaty in 2002, “the environment has changed,” he said. “We are not sure that the story that we are hearing is the story that will develop within the time span of the would-be treaty, 10 years,” he said. To deal with this uncertainty,
In response to that possibility, Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to national security adviser James Jones Feb. 17 warning that “[e]ven as a unilateral declaration, a provision like this would put pressure on the United States to limit its [missile defense] systems or their deployment because of Russian threats of withdrawal from the treaty.” Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) countered that both sides are free to make unilateral declarations, which are routine and do not justify opposition to the agreement. “They can withdraw unilaterally for any reason, so I don’t know that that’s a good reason to object,” Levin told The Cable Feb. 23, adding, “The United States withdrew unilaterally from the ABM Treaty when we decided it was in our interest, right?”
In their letter, the three senators pledged to work with the administration to fund and deploy the European system, “most especially” the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was released Feb. 1, asked for about $10 billion for missile defense. That figure, which includes space-based sensors, is $2 billion less than in fiscal year 2009, when the funding was based on the Bush administration’s request, and $700 million more than in fiscal year 2010. More than $4.2 billion would go to the European system, including $1.5 billion for Aegis ballistic missile defense, $319 million for SM-3 Block IIA, $112 million for the Airborne Infrared Sensor, $94 million for 436 Aegis SM-3 Block IA and IB interceptors by 2015, $1.5 billion for three additional AN/TPY-2 radars (14 total), $455 million for BMD sensors, and $281 million for land-based SM-3, according to the MDA.
“We have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant,” Altwegg said Feb. 1.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which is meant to protect the
Meanwhile, a Jan. 31 flight test of the GMD system failed to intercept its target, which was designed to mimic an Iranian missile attack, according to the MDA. In the $150 million test, both the target missile, fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the
It was the first time the
In a separate test, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) destroyed a boosting ballistic missile for the first time Feb. 11, the MDA announced. Carried by a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the ALTB shot down a short-range ballistic missile that was launched from a sea-based mobile launch platform off Point Mugu on the central
The BMD Review said that, in the future, more emphasis would be placed on conducting realistic tests of interceptors and radars. The Bush administration was criticized repeatedly by Democrats and independent scientists for rushing the GMD system into deployment before it was fully tested and for staging tests that were not operationally realistic. In contrast, according to the review, “The [Obama] administration will take a different approach, best characterized as ‘fly before you buy.’”