Kadish Describes Missile Defense Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2002 The United States is as vulnerable to ballistic missile attacks today as it was in the early 1950s, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish.
In a Pentagon briefing today, Kadish said his Missile Defense Agency is working to deploy an integrated, layered missile defense system that will provide limited defense against long-range threats and a robust defense against shorter-range threats. While the whole system is years away, he said, its individual programs could be pressed into emergency service to provide some defense from all ranges of missiles.
A layered defense seeks to destroy missiles in the boost, midcourse and terminal phases of their trajectory. The system would use multiple shots in each phase. "We will build this layered system as best we know how to do and as quickly as we can do it, against all ranges of threats," Kadish said to reporters.
The effort is budgeted for $8 billion in fiscal 2003, he said.
One boost-phase defense is the airborne laser. This speed- of-light laser system would strike missiles shortly after launch. The agency is also looking at other sea-based and ground-based systems. Kadish estimated boost-phase systems might be ready by fiscal 2009.
Midcourse defenses include the exoatmospheric kill vehicle. This "hit-to-kill" vehicle rams into incoming warheads in space. The collision, at some 15,000 miles per hour, vaporizes both. Kadish said recent tests have proved that hit-to-kill technology works, but two other questions now need to be answered: "Can we do it reliably, and can we do it reliably in the presence of countermeasures?" If the answer to both is yes, a midcourse defense capability would be available in fiscal 2006.
Another midcourse system is sea-based and has tested successfully. Kadish said the experiences with the Navy Standard Missile-3 have been so positive the agency will speed development.
Terminal phase systems are perhaps the ones the public knows most. The PAC-3 system is in operational testing now. Based on the Patriot system, the missile intercepts incoming ballistic missiles in the atmosphere. Other systems include the theater high-altitude area defense system and the joint Israeli-U.S. Arrow system. Sea-based missile defense systems are also included in terminal phase plans.
Kadish said the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty aids the U.S. missile defense effort. He said the withdrawal allows the United States to explore different elements missile defense and to approach the missile defense problem in greater detail. It also provides for more realistic testing of these systems. Finally, the United States can now discuss the missile defense problem with allies, something the treaty forbade.
Kadish said his agency would pursue a robust testing schedule. The next test of the exoatmospheric kill vehicle is set for August, while the next test of the sea-based system is set for November.