Test Win Aids Push For Disputed European Missile Defense System, Lawmakers Say

Lawmakers Say Test Proves GMD System Can Protect Nation Against Long-Range Missiles; Nation Mustn’t Ignore Rising Threats

Key Republican members of Congress said the recent successful Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) test shows the system is an effective shield against long-range enemy missiles.

They also argue that the successful test strengthens the case for building the European Missile Defense (EMD) system that would shield Europe and the United States against any nuclear-tipped missiles that a rogue Middle Eastern nation such as Iran might launch.

Their strong endorsement of the GMD system stood in contrast to comments by a key Democrat, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) strategic forces subcommittee. While the GMD interceptor missile worked precisely as designed, Tauscher said the target missile failed to deploy countermeasures, so the GMD still isn’t proven able to overcome them. (Please see separate story in this issue.)

In the test, a target representative of a missile that might be launched by Iran or North Korea lifted off from Alaska, and then the GMD interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., successfully intercepting and destroying the target. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, December 8, 2008.)

Republicans stated that the test proved elements of the multi-layered ballistic missile defense (BMD) system are able to provide a defense against the type of long-range ballistic missile that could be used to attack the United States or its allies.

For example, Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), ranking Republican on the HASC strategic forces subcommittee, said the test marks a major step forward in protecting the United States against long-range missiles.

The “successful intercept of a long-range ballistic missile by a ground-based interceptor represents a significant advance in the overall effort to validate our nation’s evolving missile defense capability,” Everett said.

“Flight testing is vital to the operational effectiveness of missile defense. This successful test clearly confirms ground-based missile defense is viable and that the technology works. Additionally, this positive demonstration should further strengthen the case for the third site missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which I have long supported.”

The United States must not lose sight of the fact that missile defense is needed for a reason: potential enemies are bolstering their missile capabilities apace, so that the threat is rising, not receding, according to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, ranking Republican on the HASC seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee.

That successful GMD “intercept demonstrates the value of our investment in development of ballistic missile defenses,” Bartlett said.

“Ballistic missile technology is proliferating, raising unacceptable risks that a future foe may engage in more effective attacks against us than on 9/11. If America doesn’t develop insurance against ballistic missiles, we will increase the odds of inviting this type of unimaginable attack in the future.”

Iran has moved to acquire more, longer-range missiles; has launched multiple missiles in salvo tests; launched a missile from a submerged submarine; and announced plans for a space program, which would involve similar technologies to those in an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Also, international arms inspectors report that Iran already has produced sufficient fissile material to make a nuclear weapon, and with more centrifuges spinning, soon will have enough material for several nukes.

Finally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he envisions the world without the United States; that Israel should be wiped from the map; and that Israel soon shall cease to exist.

A key legislator said the rising Iranian threat proves the critical need for GMD.

“The successful [GMD] intercept … is another step toward protecting our nation from the threat of rogue nations attacking us with ballistic missiles,” said Rep. Todd Akin (R- Mo.). “As recent tests by Iran show, this threat is real and is growing. Defending our citizens is one the most important roles of government, and we cannot drop the ball on this.”

The GMD test involved linking together many major radar systems as they tracked the target missile, helping to provide super-precise guidance directing the GMD interceptor toward a collision with the target.

That multi-sensor approach was a signal advance for missile defense, according to Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), co-chairman and a founder of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the ballistic missile defense team,” Franks said. “This GMD test uniquely coordinated and integrated multiple components of our missile defense systems, demonstrating that these systems can effectively work together to successfully interdict an actual attack. The American people and our allies are the benefactors of this capability as we prove to the world, including our allies and our enemies, that we will continue to develop capabilities to defend the homeland and our friends against the weapons of our enemies.”

The GMD test success means that Congress now has a responsibility to ensure that the European Missile Defense system is built and deployed, according to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R- Colo.).

“This successful intercept is another step forward for our ballistic missile defense system and yet another example of our ability to defend the United States and her allies from the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Lamborn said. “With this success comes a responsibility to deploy the ground-based interceptors and a radar system to Eastern Europe to better defend the United States and Europe from real threats in the Middle East.”

That EMD system would include a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in ground silos in Poland. Both the Czech and Polish administrations have approved the EMD, with full parliamentary approval still pending in each nation. As well, NATO has approved of the EMD system twice.

“As we bring additional assets on board, we increase the ability of the fire control system to provide the most accurate target trajectory for the interceptor. For this intercept, multiple assets including the Sea-Based X-band radar, a Navy Aegis BMD ship with SPY-1 radar, the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Beale Air Force Base in California, and a transportable AN/TPY-2 radar located in Juneau, Alaska, successfully sent tracking information to the fire control system.

“This is proof positive that taxpayer money is well-spent on these key missile defense elements.”

While some Democrats opposing elements of the missile defense system point to the roughly $100 billion spent on missile defense thus far, proponents of the missile shield ask what the cost would be if just one nuclear-tipped enemy missile were to approach an unprotected United States and strike New York City or Washington, D.C.