General Sees Funding Need For Sea-Based Missile Defenses

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
National Journal's CongressDailyAM
April 1, 2008
The head of the Missile Defense Agency said Monday the FY10 defense budget might seek funds to strengthen sea-based missile defense capabilities and to develop more mobile land-based interceptors.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering said his agency, looking at the capabilities and limitations of U.S. missile defense, believes it has "gotten a leg up" on the ground-based mid-course interceptors, which are the primary defense option against ballistic missiles launched against the United States.
Where it needs to be more robust is in the sea-based program and land-mobile interceptors, he said.
Obering, who spoke at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference on missile defense, said budget proposals were not final until approved by the White House.
He noted that Patriot III antimissile batteries are fielded for land-based defense against short and intermediate range missiles and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, expected to be operational in FY09, will provide expanded coverage for land forces. Both are movable.
The general indicated that an improved mobile land-based system would be based on the development of so-called kinetic kill vehicles, which would provide greater flexibility in missile defense.
Obering did not offer any details on how much funding would be sought to beef up those two programs. He also provided no details on what improvements would be sought for the sea-based defense, which is based on the Navy's Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers and destroyers and the SM-3 Standard missiles.
The Navy system captured the world's attention last month with its destruction of an out-of-control spy satellite that was about to plunge to earth with a tank full of toxic hydrazine fuel.
But Jimmy Carter, a Lockheed Martin official in the Aegis ballistic missile defense program, told CongressDaily that all 18 of the ships programmed to have the ability to shoot down missiles will be operational this year.
Then, he said, Lockheed Martin will begin to upgrade them with a "second-generation" system that will have improved signal processing capability. That could mean better ability to detect and track a missile and to differentiate between a warhead and decoys.
The contractor also is proposing a "next-generation' system that would be based on open architecture software, making it much easier to upgrade. That also could be used to enable more of the Navy's Aegis-equipped warships to perform missile defense, Carter said.
In other remarks to reporters, Obering said his agency is considering holding an open competition for the future maintenance of its national defense system. Boeing now has the lead for developing the missile defense system and maintaining the current equipment.
The agency determined that it was preferable to continue Boeing's development role but that competing the maintenance program might be more cost effective. Obering said his agency spends "hundreds of millions" of dollars annual to sustain the existing national defense system.
By Otto Kreisher