In this photo provided by Missile Defense Agency, a ground-based missile is shown shortly after liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. The missile successfully intercepted a target missile Friday in a test of the nation’s defense system, the Missile Defense Agency said.
After a successful test last week, the tracking radars and interceptor rockets of a new American missile defense system can be turned on at any time to respond to an emerging crisis in Asia, senior military officers said Tuesday.
General Victor Renuart Jr., the senior commander for defense of United States territory, said that the antimissile system could guard against the risk of ballistic missile attack from North Korea even while development continues on a series of radars in California and the Pacific Ocean and on interceptor missiles in Alaska and California.
While the new system is limited, it is the most extensive anti-ballistic missile system the Pentagon has fielded since the Safeguard ABM system near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota was briefly operated, starting in 1975. Congress immediately voted to shut it down, and it operated for only a few months.
“We can bring missiles up or take them down as need be so that they can continue doing the testing,” said Renuart, commander of the military’s Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs. But, he added, “I’m fully confident that we have all of the pieces in place that, if the nation needed to, we could respond.”
Here is the video of the September 28th test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California:
Although there appears to be minimal operational status at this time it is still noteworthy milestone in the history of the Missile Defense Agency.
So, what is next?
The Pentagon will incorporate counter-measures in its next major missile defense test for the first time in years after a successful intercept last week, the general who heads the program said Tuesday.
Critics of the system have long contended the interceptor’s so-called “kill vehicle” could easily be spoofed with simple counter-measures such as decoy balloons, because of the difficulty of distinguishing a warhead from other objects in space.
But Lieutenant General Henry “Trey” Obering showed reporters a video of the view from the kill vehicle in Friday’s test in which it is seen sorting through a variety of objects before zeroing in on the mock warhead.
The other objects included the missile’s re-entry vehicle as well as other as yet unidentified debris, said Obering, who heads the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
“We did not have countermeasures on this flight,” he said, but based on the system’s performance in the test, “we will be put them on the next flight.”
The next test could be as early as February or March, or as late as May, a spokesman for the agency said.
And, deployment in Europe to protect United States and its Allies from Iran missile attack.
A successful U.S. missile defense test last Friday should quieten doubts about the system’s viability and bolster support for U.S. plans to deploy interceptor missiles and a powerful tracking radar in Europe, a top Pentagon official said on Tuesday.
“I think it helps in a very real way,” Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering told reporters. He said European and NATO allies often questioned him about the unproven nature of U.S. missile defenses.
“This goes a long way to answering that question,” he said. “We’re making great steady progress in terms of showing that this system does work, and this is a major step forward.”
Washington wants to install 10 ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar station in the Czech Republic to defend against a potential Iranian missile attack. It says Iran may develop missiles able to reach the United States by 2015.
Even if work began next year, the European sites would not be operational until 2011 or 2012, Obering said, underscoring the need to start soon.
Thanks to President Ronald Reagan and his early SDI staff America is safer today. And, no thanks to Senators Carl Levin, Joe Biden, Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry.