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North Korean Test A Spur To US Missile Defense Program

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by Jim Mannion
Washington (AFP) Oct 09, 2006
North Korea's nuclear test gave another shot in the arm Monday to the United States' 10 billion dollar a year race to develop missile defenses, analysts here said. Overshadowed by the war in Iraq in recent years, the US missile defense program is taking on renewed urgency as North Korea moves into a new era of unrestrained testing of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

With allies such as Japan and South Korea under the gun, some analysts here believe the Defense Department will move more aggressively to develop and field systems that can be deployed closer to North Korea.

"That's why there's a fire to develop systems that could be used in a regional context," said Loren Thompson, director of the Lexington Institute, a research group that specializes in military and national security issues.

Among the programs that may now get more attention is the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the Airborne Laser program, as well as an ongoing effort to upgrade more US warships for a missile defense role, he said.

The North Korean threat may also reopen debate in the United States on the development of space-based weapons, said James Carafano, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

"And, it will really spur even closer cooperation between the US and its allies in the Pacific, particular on sea-based missile defenses," he said.

How long before North Korea's testing program produces usable weapons that directly threaten either the United States or its allies is uncertain.

Pentagon and intelligence officials said it was too soon to tell whether the North Korean test, which had a smaller yield than expected, was successful or even that it was a nuclear explosion.

The catastrophic failure of a North Korean long-range missile test July 4-5 indicates that the United States still has time before it is faced with a direct threat to its territory, according to senior US military officials.

But in other flight tests the same day, North Korea's short- and medium-range missiles showed improved accuracy, officials said, which puts at greater risk Japan, South Korea, and the US forces deployed in the region.

The Pentagon has moved to counter the regional threat by equipping more Aegis warships with upgraded radars and faster interceptor missiles capable of taking out small- and medium-range missiles.

The United States deployed its first upgraded Aegis cruiser, the USS Shiloh, to Japan at the end of August to defend against North Korean missiles. A second such "engagement" cruiser, the USS Lake Eerie, is based in Hawaii.

The US Navy plans to grow its fleet of missile defense warships to six by the end of this year, missile defense officials have said. Supporting them are 11 Aegis destroyers that are capable of detecting and tracking missiles through space.

The USS Shiloh joins a powerful X-band targeting radar that was deployed in northern Japan shortly before the July 4 North Korean missile tests.

Japan also has agreed to the deployment of ground-based PAC-3 missile defense systems in Okinawa, where some 20,000 US troops are based.

But analysts say that development of more advanced "boost phase" missile defenses capable of defending both the United States and its allies has been slow.

A system of ground-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and California has taken precedence, cutting into funding for newer concepts like the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, said Thompson.

The KEI is being designed to have the speed to knock down missiles shortly after launch as they are boosting into space. In theory, they could be moved to ground bases within a region or fired from the deck of a warship.

"I think it probably can be deployed within five years. But what has happened is that it has been slowed down by the defenders of the Alaska system," he said.

The Airborne Laser, on the other hand, is years behind schedule and must overcome daunting technological hurdles to effectively target a missile in flight.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, successfully tested its US-based missile defenses against long-range missile last month, intercepting a mock warhead in space for the first time in nearly four years.

earlier related report
Northrop Grumman Establishes Premier Missile Defense Engineering Center
Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 10 - Northrop Grumman has announced the company has established a high technology Missile Defense Engineering and Analysis Center (MDEAC), a state-of-the-art capability that will support the nation's integrated air and missile defense mission, at the company's Cummings Research Park complex in Huntsville, Ala.

The Missile Defense Engineering and Analysis Center combines unique resources with experienced personnel from across the company to provide an air and missile defense center of excellence that will support the nation's needs in this critical mission area.

"Our employee base in Huntsville is rich with exceptional technical talent and subject matter expertise," said Gary Abercrombie, vice president for Northrop Grumman's Huntsville-based Missile Defense Programs organization. "This center represents a concerted effort by Northrop Grumman to provide the best resources possible to help our Army and Missile Defense Agency customers achieve their vision of an effective integrated air and missile defense capability."

The center draws together personnel with extensive air and missile defense development experience, including software and systems engineers and analysts, and specialists in enabling technologies, interoperability, and integration, to develop the world's most advanced systems and software technologies.

A key software technology associated with the MDEAC is the Northrop Grumman developed GEM/NOVA (Global Engagement Model/Northrop Grumman Orbital Visualization Agent) framework, a warfighter focused system-of-systems modeling, simulation, visualization and analysis tool that can evaluate the contributions of various elements within given ballistic missile defense systems (BMDS) and integrated air and missile defense architectures.

GEM/NOVA provides a full, global display of the entire air and missile defense arena from any perspective -- ground, air, sea or space. With the touch of a hand, users can call up ancillary pop-up displays with predictive information, watch the modeled scenario unfold, gain insight into what the automated battle manager is going to do before it happens, and adjust the battle manager's decision criteria to determine the optimal rules of engagement.

"The greatest thing about GEM/NOVA is that it allows us to look at the nation's air and missile defense architecture from a system-of-systems perspective, to include every system from every military service. We can then use that insight to help plan the next generation architecture, as well as improve today's systems," said Frank Moore, vice president, Missile Defense Division, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems sector. "GEM/NOVA is a valuable corporate asset that helps to determine how to field an effective and affordable BMDS given the realities of budget restrictions and escalating costs associated with testing fielded systems."

Northrop Grumman stood up an initial capability for the MDEAC in January with a total of 50 people. The company expects to have a fully operational capability in place in early 2007.

Northrop Grumman employs approximately 1,200 people in 18 locations in the Huntsville area. Several of the current operations will be consolidated in a new headquarters facility scheduled to open in Feb. 2007, which will house offices, laboratories and research and development centers.

Key Huntsville activities in Huntsville include developing the fire control and communications component for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program, as well as KEI integration, test, and systems engineering work; developing the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Fire Control System; serving as a key member of the Missile Defense National Team for Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications; developing and fielding advanced tactical command posts under the Command Post Platform program; serving as the prime contractor for Forward Area Air Defense, a command-and-control capability that helps protect ground forces against enemy aircraft while protecting friendly aircraft; and producing the Longbow missile and Viper Strike munition.

The company's major area customers include the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Army Aviation and Missile Command; the Army Program Executive Office for Aviation; the Army Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space; and elements of the Missile Defense Agency.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Japan Give Ballistic Missile Defence A Boost For Bush
Washington (UPI) Oct 06, 2006
Shinzo Abe's smooth accession as prime minister of Japan will give an enormous boost to the U.S. missile defense program. That is because Abe, the handpicked successor of outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, has made very clear he intends not only to stick with his predecessor's groundbreaking programs on ballistic missile defense cooperation with the United States but even to accelerate them.







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