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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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lunarchick - 05:45am Jul 18, 2001 EST (#7161 of 7168)

    'AN old scheme to put swarms of tiny killer satellites in space as a shield against ballistic missiles will get a new look under the Pentagon's expanded missile defence program, a senior defence official said.
Although such a system is far off, the Pentagon begins work next year on concepts for space-based "kill vehicles" that would be tried in an experiment in space in 2005 to 2006, said Rob Snyder, executive director of the Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation.

The experiment would involve boosting a killer satellite into space and then flying it against a target warhead, he told reporters at a missile defence conference here yesterday.

In the experiment, the "kill vehicle" will not be stationed in orbit, Snyder said, but in concept it would "work the same way Brilliant Pebbles worked".

Brilliant Pebbles, a program pursued during the heyday of the Star Wars effort and later abandoned, called for using thousands of tiny orbiting killer satellites to attack and destroy intercontinental missiles as they boost into space.

"The old Brilliant Pebbles constellation, depending on whether you wanted to protect part of the world or the whole world, could have been as many as 3,600 or 4,000 of these satellites in orbit," said Snyder.

"So they would be close enough when the boost happened they could get at it with divert capability on the vehicle," he said.

He said the experiment is a new initiative by the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation, which has been instructed by the White House to accelerate testing and development of a broad range of missile defences that are now banned under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow.

The new administration of President George W Bush has played down its plans for missile defences in space, emphasising instead its intention to develop ground, air and sea based defences against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But Snyder said there were advantages to using space as a platform for missile defence systems like Brilliant Pebbles.

"There's an advantage of global interceptors in the sense that they are always there," he said.

Bush's proposed missile defence shield received a boost last Saturday, when an interceptor missile fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific hit a dummy warhead launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Although the test is being hailed as a success, especially after the Pentagon had failed two out of three previous tries, the Defence Department yesterday said it would take several months before experts can fully assess its results.

In the meantime, the United States could come into conflict with the ABM treaty as early as next February, when it conducts another series of tests of possible components of its future missile defence system, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington yesterday.

He said a group of legal experts at the Department of Defence had been ordered to identify "ABM Treaty issues" st

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