19 January 2006

Missile Defense Status Report

Great expense has not produced much success in the area of national missile defense, which the adminstration is now scaling back:

The government has spent about $100 billion on missile defense since 1983, including $7.8 billion authorized for the current fiscal year. Interceptors, however, have failed five times in 11 tests - even though some critics of the program say the tests have been practically rigged to succeed.

Officials with the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said its director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, decided to step back on the advice of two independent panels, which scrutinized the program after test failures in 2004 and 2005 in which the interceptors did not even make it out of their silos.

Another plan to put huge anti-missile lasers on 747s has also been having difficulties. "The Airborne Laser is billions over budget and years past its initial deadline."

The Navy, using systems based on its Aegis fire control system (originally designed to stop cruise missiles and the other threats to surface war ships), has been rather more successful. In part because of that edge, the Navy is now repackaging its pitch for a next generation "cruiser", the largest war ship in its existing fleet, since at least March, selling it as a missile defense cruiser.

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