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US offers flexiblity on Euro missile defense

Physics Today
August 26, 2009

The Pentagon is signaling to Russia that plans for an extensive European missile defense system (EMDS) could be scaled back.

The original EMDS proposal was to use interceptors similar to those based in Alaska, with a X-band tracking radar located in the Czech Republic and the interceptors based in Poland. The EMDS would protect Europe and the US from missiles launched in the Middle East by destroying them mid-flight.

However Russia objected to the EMDS sites accusing the US of attempting to weaken their security and trying to gain influence in a region that they see as under Russian geo-political influence.

To limit these concerns, and after a new Pentagon analysis suggests the likelihood that the US will face an intercontinental missile threat is a lot weaker than previously believed, the US military is recommending that a land-based SM-3 system be deployed instead says Aviation Week.

The SM-3 can, in theory, destroy mid-range missiles aimed at Europe, but not long-range intercontinental missiles aimed at the US, either from the Middle East or launched from Russia. The SM-3 would still make use of a radar station in the Czech Republic.

“The reality is [long-range intercontinental missiles] did not come as fast as we thought it’d come,” said General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at a missile-defence conference in Alabama last week.

The Pentagon is currently in the midst of a major review of all its missile defense programs and a number of exotic technologies, such as the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) are likely to be canceled. …


Hugo Chavez: Venezuela preparing to break diplomatic ties with Colombia over US troop plan

Chavez: Venezuela ready to sever ties to Colombia
August 26th, 2009

President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that Venezuela is getting ready to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia over the neighboring country’s plan to give American troops greater access to its military bases.

Chavez said that “there’s no possibility” of repairing relations with the government of President Alvaro Uribe and that he instructed his foreign minister to “begin preparing for the rupture with Colombia.”

“It’s going to happen. Let’s get ready,” he said.

Venezuela and Colombia have been feuding for weeks over the negotiations between Bogota and Washington that would allow the U.S. military to increase its presence at seven Colombian bases through a 10-year lease agreement.

Colombian and U.S. officials say the agreement is necessary to more effectively help Colombia’s security forces fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels.

Missile Defense Budget Could Open Vulnerabilities

Global Security Newswire
August 13, 2009

The Obama administration’s proposal to emphasize battlefield missile defenses over systems for intercepting strategic ballistic missiles would save the nation money while potentially making it more vulnerable to future attack, says a report published yesterday by a Washington-based defense think tank …

The Defense Department’s $9.3 billion missile defense budget request would slash spending by $1.7 billion — or 16 percent — from the current funding level, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments analyst Todd Harrison wrote in the report. Still, the missile defense budget remains $4 billion higher than in fiscal 2001, the last funding year settled under the Clinton administration.

Harrison noted particular concern about a proposal to deploy only 30 ground-based interceptors, warning that doing so “with no replacement or replenishment program could result in too few missiles to provide a basic level of protection, especially as these missiles are depleted over time from regular test launches.”

The Pentagon request would decrease funds for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system by 35 percent, providing it with $983 million in the fiscal 2010, the report states. …

The Pentagon requested a total of $668 billion for the next fiscal year, including $130 billion for international military commitments. The poor economic climate and spending in other sectors is likely to limit future expenditures on defense procurement as well as research, development, test and evaluation efforts …


China warns of 'arms race in outer space'

Associated Press
Aug 12, 2009

China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called Wednesday for international diplomacy to avert an “arms race in outer space.”

Space should be reserved for peaceful purposes, Yang told the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

“Outer space is now facing the looming danger of weaponization,” he said. “Credible and effective multilateral measures must be taken to forestall the weaponization and arms race in outer space.”

China and Russia have been vocal advocates of a global treaty against space-based weapons and argue for this to be included in future Conference of Disarmament negotiations.

The United States has dismissed the criticism as designed to block its plans for a missile interceptor system — while leaving untouched Chinese and Russian ground-based missiles that can fire into space. …


Boeing completes missile defense silo

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Boeing, industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have completed construction of a second interceptor test silo for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California …

Because a silo needs to be refurbished after its hot-burning interceptor is fired, having two underground test silos will allow one to support testing while the other is being refurbished, Boeing said. It said the new silo can be configured for testing or tactical operations. Vandenberg’s first test silo has been used in tests since 2006.

The Huntsville, Ala.-based Ground-based Midcourse Defense program has deployed more than 20 operational interceptors at Vandenberg and Fort Greely, Alaska, to defend against long-range ballistic missile threats.


US Africa Command Chief Vows Support for Somali Government

VOA News
By Alan Boswell
August 21, 2009

The top general from the U.S. military’s Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, said on Friday that the rise of radical Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia makes East Africa a central focus of the U.S. military on the continent.

General William Ward has pledged continued support to Somalia’s transitional federal government and the African Union forces operating there. He made his remarks during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya, which is a key U.S. ally in region.

The general said that al-Shabab’s alleged link to international terrorist group al-Qaida means that the region is a priority for AFRICOM on the continent. The commander thanked Kenya for its ongoing partnership with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. …

When asked about U.S. warnings to Eritrea against its alleged support of al-Shabab, the U.S. general condemned any outside support for the Somali rebels.

“Any time a nation or a state is purposely doing things that incite, contribute to instability, insecurity – that is something that none of us would agree with. And we would hope that any legitimate government, any legitimate nation would in fact be doing otherwise,” he said. …


The American base at Molesworth (Cambridgeshire) is crucially linked to AFRICOM.

Pentagon Seeks to Fill Missile Surveillance Gap by 2016

Global Security Newswire
August 21, 2009

The United States plans to eliminate a blind spot in its space-based missile tracking capability within the next seven years, Aviation Week reported yesterday (see GSN, July 18).

An enemy ballistic missile now could be spotted by the Space-Based Infrared System or the Defense Support Program satellites shortly after launch, but the Defense Department must prepare the Space Tracking and Surveillance System for tracking a missile immediately after its boost phase, said Missile Defense Agency head Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System demonstration satellites, slated for launch in September, are intended to prove the effectiveness of space-based missile-tracking technology ahead of the wider system’s production and deployment.

The United States must eliminate the tracking gap to improve its odds of shooting down enemy missiles as they ascend, O’Reilly said. Improving U.S. capabilities to target missiles early in flight was one goal named in the Missile Defense Agency’s fiscal 2010 budget request.

O’Reilly hopes his agency can increase the velocity of U.S. missile interceptors by 2020. Such an improvement would help interceptors reach enemy missiles early in their flight, he said (Amy Butler, Aviation Week, Aug. 20).


Russia Developing New Missiles to Counter US System

VOA News
11 August 2009

A top Russian military officer says his country is developing new missiles to counter space-based missile systems that could soon be deployed by the United States.

Russian news agencies quote Air Force General Alexander Zelin as saying the new Russian missiles will also defend against airborne attacks.

General Zelin, speaking to reporters Tuesday in Moscow, said the United States by 2030 will have deployed satellite-based missile systems capable of striking targets anywhere in Russia.

General Zelin said the new Russian S-500 surface-to-air system under development will be capable of defeating “all manner of ballistic missiles and supersonic air devices”. …

Moscow has voiced strong opposition to U.S. plans to deploy a land-based missile defense system in central Europe, saying it will trigger a new arms race. U.S. officials have insisted the system, in Poland and the Czech Republic, in no way targets Russia or anyone else and is aimed at countering a possible attack from such states as Iran. …


US Air Force sets up new command for nuclear forces

Agence France-Presse: August 10, 2009

The US Air Force on Friday launches a new Global Strike Command responsible for nuclear forces after two major mishaps raised doubts about the supervision of the country’s atomic weapons.

The opening of the command marks a shake-up that followed the botched handling of nuclear weapons and the subsequent sacking of the air force’s top civilian and military leaders last year.

The command, located at Barksdale Air Force base in the southern state of Louisiana, will combine nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers as well as the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force — which had previously been under the Air Force Space Command in Colorado.

“We needed to refocus on the nuclear mission and not lose sight of that,” Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley told reporters ahead of Friday’s ceremony.

He said there had been some “painful lessons” but the new command would “reinvigorate our nuclear enterprise.”

An outside panel headed by former defense secretary James Schlesinger concluded that the US Air Force had for years given the nuclear forces a lower priority and failed to manage the mission with rigor.

The panel found “an unambiguous, dramatic and unacceptable decline in the air force’s commitment to perform the nuclear mission and, until very recently, little has been done to reverse it.”

Two widely-publicized incidents raised questions over the air force’s handling of its nuclear mission.

First came the inadvertent transfer from one US base to another of nuclear-armed cruise missiles under the wing of a B-52 bomber in September 2007.

Then the Pentagon discovered that nuclear weapons components had been inadvertently shipped to Taiwan in 2006. …


Russia Prepares to Activate New Missile-Defense Radar

Global Security Newswire
August 7, 2009

Russia yesterday said it plans to begin operating a new missile-defense radar station this fall, RIA Novosti reported…

The radar at Armavir in southern Russia would be capable of detecting incoming missiles at distances of up to 2,500 miles. It would serve to spot attacks coming from the south and southeast in lieu of outdated radars in Ukraine.

The station is undergoing tests. It “will be put into operation … in October-November this year,” said Gen. Nikolai Abroskin, director of Russia’s Federal Agency for Special Construction.