Archive for the ‘ballistic missile’ Category

Russia Already Bullying Barack

November 19, 2008

Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of “change,” but one change the president-elect may be planning on – not deploying a US missile defense in Eastern Europe – would be a big mistake.

Indeed, it’s exactly the type of about-face that nations like Russia, Iran and North Korea hope for from the incoming administration.

Worse, it will likely be seen abroad as knuckling to Russian bullying.

Two weeks ago, just a day after the US elections, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a virulently anti-American speech – his first major address since taking office this spring and arguably the first foreign “test” of the president-elect.

Amid other ranting, Medvedev demanded that the United States back off on its planned missile-defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

If the deployment goes ahead, Medvedev warned, Moscow will place short-range missiles in Kaliningrad – a Russian enclave nestled between NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

A few days after the Medvedev speech, a senior Obama aide came out after a phone call between the president-elect and Polish President Lech Kaczynski saying that Obama had “made no commitment on” missile defense.

Ugh. That’s not a certain retreat by Washington in the face of Moscow’s threats, but it’s a very troubling start for the Obama team on a key national-security issue.

Going wobbly caused heartburn in Warsaw and Prague, where both governments went to the mat to get approval for the missile-defense deal – and glee in Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang. What rogue doesn’t love a whiff of wobbliness?

And the stakes rose just days later, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia is now in talks to deploy missiles in Belarus, which could be bore-sighted on targets across Europe.

(Belarus’ motive? It’s probably looking for Russian help on energy supplies and financial credits – or, if Europe wants to bribe it to reject the missiles, for an easing of EU economic sanctions imposed over human-rights issues.)

The next step in this ongoing lesson for the president-elect came Friday – when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a halt to European missile defense until more talks can be held.

Sarkozy’s words, at a European Union-Russia summit, were a clear sop to fellow attendee Medvedev – at the expense of the United States and the president-elect. (Shamefully, the EU is re-engaging Russia despite Moscow’s failure to meet the EU six-point peace plan for Georgia.)

But the issue isn’t just bullying – there’s the policy, too. This system is designed to defend against the Iranian missile and nuclear threat – which is growing fast.

By Peter Brookes
The New York Post

Testing O's spine in Europe.
Medvedev: Testing O’s spine in Europe.

Just last week, Tehran tested a two-stage, solid-fuel ballistic missile – whose 1,200-mile range would let it hit all of the Middle East and parts of southeastern Europe.

If reports of the Iranian test are true, this would be Tehran’s first successful test of a multistage rocket – which would put it on track for launching missiles to ever-increasing ranges, including intercontinental distances. The test also showed advances in Iran’s basic rocketry science, moving beyond liquid fuels to a more reliable solid-fuel rocket motor.

This is an images released  Wednesday Nov. 12, 2008 taken at ...
This is an images released Wednesday Nov. 12, 2008 taken at an undisclosed location in Iran, showing a missile test fire by Iranian armed forces. Iran has successfully test-fired a new generation of long range surface-to-surface missile using solid fuel, making them more accurate than its predecessors, the defense minister announced Wednesday. Mostafa Mohammed Najjar said on state television that the Sajjil was a high-speed missile manufactured at the Iranian Aerospace department of the Defense Ministry. He said it had a range of about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers).(AP Photo/Fars News Agency, Vahid Reza Alaei)

The last thing we need is to look “soft” on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Read the rest:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/11182008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/
missile_defense__bullying_barack_139253.htm

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Ballistic Missile Defense: Doing What Was Once Thought Impossible From Warships of U.S., Japan

November 3, 2008

Warships from the U.S. and Japan demonstrated anti-ballistic missile capability during the last week in tests that were breathtaking but not perfect.

Saddam Hussein sent a shock wave through the U.S. military and also into the hearts of U.S. allies in 1991 when he used SCUD ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm.

At the same time the U.S. Navy sent a shock wave through the U.S. defense establishment with the news that Navy AEGIS cruisers had tracked those Iraqi SCUDS and U.S.  warship computer systems at sea calculated everything needed to achieve precision intercepts of those hostile ballistic missiles.

Now the Navy of the United States and that of the forces of Japan are deployed with ballistic missile defense capability that is being refined, varified and tested continuously.

This last weekend, USS Paul Hamilton shot down a ballistic missile target in the mid-Pacific.  This was another success in a long and highly complex ballistic missile defense development in the U.S. Navy — and in the Navy of Japan.

USS Paul Hamilton.jpg
Above: USS Paul Hamilton

The following is from the Honolulu Advertiser:

By Diana Leone
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A Japanese Navy ship, the JDS Chokai, has successfully tracked a ballistic missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua’i, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.

DDG-176 Choukai.jpg
Above: Chokai, of Japan’s Navy.

The tracking practice on Thursday was preparation for a mid-November test of the Chokai’s ability to shoot down a separating missile target, said Chris Taylor, agency spokesman.

The ship used on-board radar and data from other ships and shore command to calculate a “fire control solution” and simulate an intercept of the target by a Standard Missile-3, Taylor said.

The Chokai is the second Japanese ship to deploy the Aegis weapons system developed by the U.S. and used on U.S. Navy vessels as part of the country’s overall missile defense.

Japan’s ship, the Kongo, shot down a nonseparating target at the Pacific Missile Range Facility last December. The separating target is more complex, requiring the defensive missile to distinguish between the booster rocket and the warhead missile.

DDG173 JDS Kongo.jpg
Above: Kongo

U.S. ships have successfully shot down separating targets a number of times. The mid-November attempt by the Chokai will be the first for the Japanese.

The November test will draw a “surge” of about 500 Japanese and U.S. military and contractors to Kaua’i, said Tom Clements, missile facility spokesman.
In this image provided by the US Navy a ballistic threat target ... 
In this image provided by the US Navy a ballistic threat target missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii, Saturday Nov. 1, 2008 enroute to an intercept over an open ocean area northwest of Kauai. The target missile was successfully intercepted by a Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) launched from the Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton.
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In this image provided by the US Navy a Standard Missile - 3 ... 
In this image provided by the US Navy a Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton enroute to an intercept over an open ocean area northwest of Kauai, Hawaii Saturday Nov. 1, 2008. The SM-3 successfully collided with a ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Test Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. However a second threat target missile was not successfully destroyed by the USS Hopper according to the Navy.

Related:
Ballistic Missile Defense: U.S. Navy Again Demonstrates Proven Success!

India tests nuclear capable missile

March 24, 2008

NEW DELHI – India successfully tested a short-range version of its most powerful nuclear-capable missile Sunday, the defense ministry said.

The Agni-I missile, which can travel up to 435 miles, was test-fired over the Bay of Bengal from Wheeler’s Island off India’s east coast in the morning, a ministry statement said. The Agni-1 can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

“The missile had a textbook performance in terms of range, accuracy and lethality,” it said.

This missile has been tested several times in the past.

India and neighboring longtime rival Pakistan — which also has nuclear weapons — routinely test-fire missiles. The two countries have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947.

Both nations usually notify each other before conducting such tests. It was not immediately clear if Pakistan was notified this time.

No immediate response from Pakistan was available Sunday evening.

India has a variety of missiles including the short-range Prithvi ballistic missile, the medium-range Akash, and the supersonic Brahmos. The Agni missiles are the most powerful.

India last year successfully test-fired the Agni-III, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East.

New Delhi says it developed its missile program as a deterrent against neighbors China and Pakistan.
The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

America’s Naval Supremacy Slipping

March 18, 2008

During a recent trip to China with Adm. Timothy Keating, American reporters asked General Chen Bingde, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, “Should the United States have anything to fear from China’s military buildup?”

The general responded: “That’s impossible. Isn’t it? There’s such a big gap between our military and the American military. If you say you are afraid, it means you don’t have enough courage.”
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Courage or not, China’s rapid and massive military buildup (particularly in terms of its expanding submarine force and progressive aircraft-carrier R&D program) has analysts concerned. And the U.S. Navy — the first line of defense against any Chinese expansionism in the Pacific — continues to struggle with the combined effects of Clinton-era downsizing, a post –9/11 upsurge in America’s sealift and global defense requirements, and exponentially rising costs of recapitalization and modernization of the Navy’s surface and submarine fleet, aircraft, and related weapons systems. 
A warplane takes off from the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier ... 
F/A-18 takes off from the U.S. Navy
Aircraft Carrier USS John C. Stennis.
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Currently, America maintains a 280-ship Navy (including 112 ships currently underway) responsible for a wide range of seagoing operations, as well as air and land missions, conventional and unconventional. 
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The fleet is small — a dwarf fleet compared to the nearly 600-ship Navy under President Ronald Reagan — but its responsibilities aren’t.
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Among them are defense of the U.S. homeland and American territories and interests abroad.
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Keeping the sea lanes open and safe from terrorism, piracy, and weapons smuggling. Maintaining air superiority above the Navy’s areas of operation. Maintaining sea-basing and amphibious landing and landing-support capabilities (this includes the Marine Corps, which technically and traditionally falls under the Department of the Navy). Maintaining light, fast forces capable of operating in rivers and along the coastal shallows (littorals). Maintaining a strategic nuclear capability (through its ballistic missile submarine force). Maintaining superior information and intelligence collection and counterintelligence capabilities. And maintaining its ability to engage in direct action — like the recent cruise-missile strike against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia — and providing support for special operations worldwide. 

USS Greeneville off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii.
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The Navy’s enemies and potential enemies include everyone from global terrorists like Al Qaeda to previous Cold War adversaries China and Russia.
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And not only is the Navy fleet small, it is rapidly aging, and gradually losing the depth and flexibility needed to accomplish all of its current missions and strategic requirements.
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The Navy currently maintains 11 aircraft carriers. The USS Enterprise is slated to retire in 2012, but the under-construction USS Gerald R. Ford could be delivered by 2015.The fleet is also comprised of an array of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, attack and ballistic missile submarines, amphibious assault and sealift-capable ships, support vessels of all kinds, and a variety of special warfare craft.
USS Wasp LHD-1.jpg
USS Wasp
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Sounds formidable, and in 2008 it is. But the Navy is not even close to where it needs to be if it hopes to match, deter, or outfight the emerging sea powers that will continue to grow over the next 10, 20, or 30 years.
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“Even though we obviously have a strong eye toward what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan for our ground forces, we still must have a balanced force that can deal with a range of threats,” says Peter Brookes, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs. “China is going to be a major conventional threat in the coming years. So we need the capability of projecting naval power across the Pacific to maintain peace and stability in that region.”
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According to Brookes, the Navy needs to focus on — among other things — regaining much of its anti-submarine warfare capability (undersea, surface, and airborne) that has been neglected since the end of the Cold War.
USS Kitty Hawk CV-63.jpg
USS Kitty Hawk.  This aircraft carrier calls Japan “homeport.”  She was ordered to the vicinity of Taiwan on or about 18 March 2008 to provide security for the Taiwanese elections.  Photo from the U.S. Navy.
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Hoping to remedy its overall shortfall, the Navy has proposed a 313-ship fleet – an increase of 33 surface ships and submarines — able to be deployed according to Navy officials by 2019.
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Among the Navy’s new additions would be the Littoral Combat Ship — a small, swift-moving surface vessel capable of operating in both blue water and the coastal shallows — a nuclear-powered guided-missile destroyer, a next-generation guided-missile cruiser, a new class of attack submarine, a new carrier with an electromagnetic aircraft launching system (replacing the steam-driven catapult system), and ultimately a new fleet of jets like the F-35 Lightning II (the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter).
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).jpg
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000)
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All of the newly developed ships and airplanes would have multi-roles, and would be able to go head-to-head with a wide range of conventional and unconventional threats. Problem is, developing new ships and weapons systems take time, are often technically problematic in the developmental stages, and increasingly hyper-expensive. Additionally, new ships and systems are being designed, developed, and built at the same time the Navy is having to spend money on manpower and costly, aging ships, aircraft, and weapons systems just to stay afloat and fighting.

single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie
This photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows an SM-3 missile being launched from the USS Lake Erie warship on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2008. The Pentagon says the missile successfully intercepted a wayward U.S. spy satellite orbiting the earth at 17,000 miles per hour, about 133 nautical miles over the Pacific ocean. (AP Photo/US Navy)
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Of the proposed  $515 billion U.S. Defense budget for Fiscal Year 2009, the Navy is asking for $149.3 billion — 29 percent of the budget — which includes the Marine Corps’ piece of the pie (As its current recap/mod needs are similar to the Army’s, we will address Corps issues in our forthcoming piece on ground forces.), and that requested figure will almost certainly, and necessarily, increase over subsequent years.
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Nevertheless, experts contend we are kidding ourselves if we believe the Navy will crack the 300 mark under the current plan.

This picture released by the US Navy shows Fire Controlman 2nd ...
Our sailors make our Navy the most capable in the world. This picture released by the US Navy shows Fire Controlman 2nd Class John Whitby operating the radar system control during a ballistic missile defense drill on February 16 aboard the USS Lake Erie. The US warship is moving into position to try to shoot down a defunct US spy satellite as early as Wednesday before it tumbles into the Earth’s atmosphere, Pentagon officials said.
(AFP/US Navy-HO/Michael Hight)
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“This is the dirty secret inside the Beltway,” says Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation. “If you crunch the actual shipbuilding numbers — year-to-year for the next 10 to 20 years — a 313-ship Navy is a pipe dream.”
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According to Eaglen, the budget requests for shipbuilding submitted to Congress between FY 03 and FY 07, averaged just over $9.5 billion per year. “What’s needed is at least $15 billion per year,” she says. “What’s worse is that I see Defense spending dropping.”
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Cynthia Brown, president of the American Shipbuilding Association, believes money slated for new ship construction needs to be at least $22 billion per year.
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“Of the proposed $149.3 billion, only $12 billion is slated for new ship construction in FY 09,” says Brown. “Since 2001, the Defense Department has increased its spending by 80.8 percent, excluding war supplementals, but shipbuilding has only increased 12.2 percent.”
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Costs of recapitalizing and modernizing our Navy will continue to rise, as will the conventional and unconventional threats our sailors must be trained and equipped to fight. And considering the make-up of Congress — and who may be moving into the White House in 2009 — the nation’s primary power-projection force may find it near impossible to avoid becoming, as Eaglen says, “a mere shadow of its former self.”

Cheney says US needs missile defense

March 12, 2008
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON – Borrowing a theme from the presidential contest, Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that the possibility of a 3 a.m. emergency call to the White House is all the more reason for the next commander in chief to follow through on President Bush‘s plans for a national missile defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at a Heritage Foundation Dinner ...
Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at a Heritage Foundation Dinner commemorating the 25th Anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative Proposal on Tuesday, March 11, 2008, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)


“It’s plain to see that the world around us gives ample reason to continue working on missile defense,” Cheney told the conservative Heritage Foundation at a dinner recognizing the 25th anniversary of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, a proposed network of rockets capable of shooting down incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Bush has set in motion a more modest version of Reagan’s original plan.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080312/ap_on_go_
pr_wh/cheney;_ylt=AglCCh7o4m
CMMlNL_Cstelms0NUE

Bush, Polish PM agree on missile defense

March 11, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said President Bush has removed key stumbling blocks in negotiations to allow U.S. missile defense interceptors on Polish soil.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk answers questions about ...
Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk answers questions about allowing U.S. missile defense interceptors to be based on Polish soil, Monday, March 10, 2008, during and interview with The Associated Press in Washington, following his meeting with President Bush. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Negotiations had been stalled because of Poland’s demand for help in upgrading its military in exchange for allowing the interceptors. U.S. negotiators wanted to deal with the Polish demands separately and leave promises vague.

But Tusk said that Bush agreed during their meeting Monday that the missile defense program and the U.S.-aided modernization of the Polish military would be considered all in “one package.”

“The words of President Bush were very convincing,” he told The Associated Press through an interpreter after leaving the White House. “This is a politician, who is controversial for some but in my opinion is very trustworthy. I believe that is extremely important in the world of politics.”
A ballistic missile streaks across the sky during a test for ... 
A ballistic missile streaks across the sky during a test for the US missile defense program in 2001.(AFP/File/Mike Nelson)

Bush, in a joint appearance with Tusk at the White House, said he had assured the prime minister that the United States would develop a concrete plan for helping Poland modernize its military “before my watch is over.”

The U.S. missile defense plans have become one of the thorniest issues in U.S.-Russian relations. Russia opposes the U.S. plan to build part of its global missile defense system so close to Russian borders, arguing that it would undermine the Russian deterrent. The United States says the system is aimed at countering a threat from Iran or North Korea and would be impotent against Russia’s massive arsenal.

The Polish government argues that the military upgrade is necessary because Russia has threatened to target Poland with nuclear missiles if it should allow the interceptors.

The White House denied the suggestion that the military help is a reward for Polish agreement on the interceptors or that it is needed because of a Russian threat to Poland.

“It is certainly not a quid pro quo,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “Who is suggesting that Russia is going to attack anybody?”

When told that it is Polish officials who have said this, Perino said that it wasn’t part of the discussions Monday between Tusk and Bush.

Tusk said that the United States had backed down from an insistence that it would need six months to consider how it could help Poland upgrade its military. Tusk said that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told him Monday that the period could be reduced to three months.

Following the meeting between the two leaders at the White House, Bush said the United States recognizes the need for Polish forces to be modernized, and “we’re responding.”

“There is a commitment to a system that respects Poland’s sovereignty and that will ensure that the people of Poland will not be subjected to any undue security risks,” Bush said. “This is the kind of issue that all kinds of rumors and worries can grow out of and we just want to assure people that it’s necessary and at the same time there will be this modernization effort that will take place.”

Neither leader talked specifics. Bush said “obviously there’s a lot of work to do” and that experts are working through the details to make sure that “the people of Poland are comfortable with the idea.”

The United States opened the negotiations last year with the government of previous Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who strongly supported the U.S. proposal. Tusk’s government has sought more in return.

Polish officials have said they are looking for help to acquire air defenses against short- to medium-range missiles. Negotiators have asked for Patriot 3 or THAAD missiles and have identified 17 areas of the Polish military that the United States could help modernize. Interceptors for the planned U.S. shield are for protection against long-range missiles.

Sayonara and Aloha: Japan and U.S. Ending Successful Missile Defense Test; Vow to “Press Ahead”

December 19, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
December 19, 2007

Scientists, engineers, missile defense experts and naval warfare professionals are meeting now to evaluate the initial data extractions of a landmark event: Japan’s Navy ship JS KONGO detected, tracked, developed a fire control solution, launched an SM-3 midcourse ballistic missile (BM) interceptor and killed the intended BM target on Monday.
In this photo provided by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, ... 
In this photo provided by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Japanese Aegis Destroyer JS Kongo in the warter off Kauai, Hawaii, Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. The Japanese military became the first U.S. ally to shoot down a mid-range ballistic missile in space, about 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean, fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, run by the U.S. Navy, with the interceptor fired from the ship at sea in a test Monday.(AP Photo/Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, HO)
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Never before has an ally of the United States employed this lethal and long-range ballistic missile defense system: the modified AEGIS weapon system including the SPY radar and the SM-3 missile.

All previous tests employing this system were conducted solely by the U.S. Navy.

In fact, this event again proved the viability of effective ballistic missile defense; a science once thought impossible.

The KONGO guided intercept that destroyed the ballistic missile occurred more than 100 miles above the surface of the sea.

The event was carried out at America’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) near Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Many in the international community including Admirals from Japan, South Korea and as far away as Germany call PMRF the finest missile land, sea and air test facility in the world.

The lead U.S. agency for event coordination of Japan Flight Test Mission 1 (JFTM-1) was the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) headed by Lt. General Henry “Trey” Obering III.

Lockheed Martin is the lead engineering agent for the AEGIS system.  Raytheon engineerers the SM-3.  A Raytheon press release said, “The SM-3 Block IA provides increased capability to engage short-to-intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The missile incorporates rocket motor upgrades and computer program modifications to improve sensor performance, missile guidance and control, as well as lower cost. SM-3 Block IA includes production and mission support features required to qualify the missile as a tactical fleet asset.”

“We are proud of SM-3’s impressive record of successful intercepts,” said Fred Wyatt, Raytheon’s vice president for Naval Warfare Systems in a previous statement.

“The program has truly transitioned to a manufacturing mindset. We have delivered more than 23 operational SM-3 rounds to our customers. We are ramping up our facilities and suppliers to accelerate deliveries of this urgently needed capability to the fleet,” said Wyatt.

Rear Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force said the missile defense test event was “Breathtaking and a wonderful success.” He praised the professionalism and competence of KONGO’s Captain and crew.
DDG Kongo
KONGO at sea

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency called the test “a major milestone” in U.S.-Japanese relations.

A senior U.S. Naval Officer told Peace and Freedom, “This is a beginning and not an ending.  Someday, in the not to distant future, U.S. Navy and Japan Navy cruisers and guided missile destroyers will work together to deter actors with ballistic missiles like North Korea. Moreover, the two naval forces will work in an integrated architecture to defend the people of Japan and increase security and confidence of the American people and all U.S. allies. This is an ‘Aloha’ moment, not a good bye. You can expect both nations to press ahead.”
In this photo provided by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, ... 
The SM-3 Interceptor Missile blasts from JS KONGO’s Vertical Launch System on December 17, 2007.  The missile flew downrange and killed a ballistic missile target more than 100 miles above the sea.

Japan Set to Test Sea-Based Missile Defense System

October 16, 2007

The Asahi Shimbun
October 16, 2007

The Defense Ministry will conduct a trial exercise with newly developed ballistic missile defense (BMD) technology in December ahead of plans the following month to deploy the nation’s first sea-based system to defend against such strikes.

Ministry officials said the guided missile destroyer Kongo will be based in waters off Hawaii in mid-December for the exercise to be conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Navy to intercept a ballistic missile using the advanced Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system.

Related:
Russia: Japan-U.S. Missile Defense “Of Concern”

Read the rest:
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200710150314.html

Missile Defense Works

October 9, 2007

By James T. Hackett
The Washington Times
October 5, 2007

The successful intercept of a ballistic missile high over the Pacific Ocean last Friday should quiet the critics who keep saying missile defense doesn’t work. But don’t count on it.

Stubborn opposition dies slowly.

Arms-control activists and some congressional Democrats keep calling for “operational testing” of the national missile defense system, implying that current testing is inadequate. Critics, including many in the media, routinely write that missile defense “doesn’t work,” and then call for more flight tests. When Congress cut funds for a missile defense site in Poland, one of the reasons given was that more operational testing of ground-based defenses was needed.

But consider what happened last Friday. A ballistic missile launched from Kodiak, Alaska, flew thousands of miles southeast before being struck and destroyed some 100 miles over the ocean by an interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast. It was an operational interceptor, same as the nearly two dozen now in silos in Alaska and California, launched from an operational site, using operational command and control, manned by operational crews and tracked by the operational radar at Beale AFB, Calif.

If that is not an operational test, what is? It was as realistic as possible within safety constraints. A similar successful test by an operational interceptor was conducted from Vandenberg a year ago. Both were challenging end-to-end tests, demonstrating all components of a very complex system work together effectively. Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, notes there now have been 22 successes in 23 attempts of missile defense tests since 2005.

Critics say this mixes tests of long-range and short-range interceptors. But the point is that the basic technology, which is similar in both, works as intended. There always will be test failures, but that is how problems are identified and fixed. Overall, the missile defense test program has been highly successful.

In last week’s test the satellite-based missile warning system detected the launch, the Beale radar acquired the target and tracked it, and data was passed to the fire control and communications unit, which launched the interceptor. The kill vehicle separated from the booster rocket, received target data from the Beale radar, and then pointed toward the target and homed in to destroy it.

An Aegis ship in the Pacific and the sea-based X-band radar successfully tracked the target. In the next flight test early next year, data from Aegis and X-band radars will be used to direct the interceptor toward the target. The X-band radar then will be the primary engagement radar, which will provide a huge increase in capability. Transportable X-band radars also will be used in future tests.

Critics claim the defense can be overcome if the incoming missile deploys decoys or other penetration aids. But the emerging missile defense system includes an extensive network of land- and sea-based radars. With a variety of sensors tracking the target, the chance of distinguishing warheads from decoys is greatly improved. The X-band radar, working in conjunction with the interceptor’s on-board sensors, is especially good at such discrimination.

Past flight tests include five successful intercepts in which penetration aids were used, and more of these tests will be conducted in the future.

A frequent complaint is that there have not been enough flight tests of the ground-based missile defense system. Some would delay the deployment of defenses until more tests have been completed. But Charles McQueary, head of the Defense Department’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, has endorsed two flight tests per year.

Mr. McQueary told Congress the flight test program is viable, explaining it is important to leave enough time between tests to analyze the data and make sure nothing went wrong. Besides, at a cost of some $85 million for each intercept test, it would be expensive and wasteful to do more than necessary.

Launching target missiles from Alaska toward the continental United States has made the tests more realistic than launching westward from California. Future tests against salvos and penetration aids will add even more realism. Yet, critics continue to claim the tests are not sufficiently realistic. Some purists will not be content until North Korea launches a missile at this country, providing the ultimate in reality testing.

But two outstanding intercepts in 12 months by an operational missile defense system should quiet even the most severe critics.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in Carlsbad, Calif.