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DoD Ushers in New Missile Defense Capability

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2004 – A historic moment took place July 22 at Fort Greely, Alaska, as the first ground-based missile interceptor was placed in an underground silo at the missile defense complex there.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The first ground-based interceptor is lowered into its silo at the missile defense complex at Fort Greely, Alaska, July 22. The interceptor is designed to destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles before they reach U.S. airspace.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Maj. Gen. John W. Holly said the emplacement of the interceptor "marks the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks." He is the director for the Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Midcourse Defense Joint Program Office.

Holly noted there are countries that possess weapons of mass destruction and have the ability to launch ballistic missiles that could impact the United States.

The Alaska interceptor emplacement took place the same day that the House and Senate approved the $417 billion fiscal 2005 DoD budget. About $10 billion of that money goes for missile defense. The defense authorization bill now goes to President Bush for signature.

Missile Defense Agency spokesman Chris Taylor said up to five more interceptors will be emplaced at Fort Greely, located 100 miles from Fairbanks, by the end of 2004. The agency hopes to have up to 10 more interceptors emplaced by the end of 2005, he added.

The July 22 event signaled the first interceptor in the ground for the Missile Defense Agency, the outcome of President Bush's December 2002 directive that the secretary of defense provide an initial capability in 2004. The system was developed in response to a near-term ballistic missile threat to the United States, deployed forces and allied countries.

The emplacement of the first GBI does not mean the missile defense system is operational, according to an MDA release. This will happen after more interceptors are emplaced and the interconnected architecture of radars, sensors, battle management and command, control and communications is activated.

In December 2001, President Bush gave Russia six months' notice that the United States was withdrawing from its ABM treaty in order to pursue an anti-ballistic missile system.

DoD's initial plan for a missile defense capability called for up to 20 ground-based interceptors capable of intercepting and destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of flight, a period that offers the greatest opportunity for a "hit to kill."

In addition to those planned for Fort Greely, another four are slated for Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., by 2005.

Also, the plan calls for sea-based interceptors to be employed on existing Navy Aegis-class ships for a shoot-down capability against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles threatening the United States.

Up to 15 Aegis-class destroyers and three cruisers will be equipped with a long-range surveillance and tracking capability by the end of calendar 2006. The cruisers will also have the capability of shooting down potential enemy threats with the Standard Missile3.

The department also seeks to deploy air-transportable Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems as another means to stop short- and medium-range missiles.

The plans also calls for targeting incoming missiles by using land-, sea- and space-based sensors and existing early-warning satellites, as well as upgraded radar now located at Shemya, Alaska. By the end of calendar year 2005, a sea-based x-band radar will also be in place at Adak, Alaska.

In addition, DoD requested that the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Denmark upgrade early-warning radars on their territory.

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