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The Allies America Needs For Missile Defense

Some say it'll take a planet wide effort to make missile defense to truly work.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2006
America's ballistic missile defense alliances with other industrialized democracies around the world are far from being a one-way street: BMD is such an expensive, experimental, cutting-edge technology, and such a difficult one to master, that the United States is finding great benefit from sharing the financial, research and manufacturing burdens of developing it with its allies.

Among America's major allies committed to developing BMD in partnership with Washington, one stands out above all others. Japan, under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is committing more financial and industrial resources to developing its own BMD national shield in close partnership with the United States than any other ally.

Japan is the second-largest industrial economy in the world, behind the United States, and has an enormous annual trade surplus. It therefore has vast financial resources and industrial capacity to commit to the project.

The deals Koizumi has brokered with the Bush administration are obviously of crucial importance in developing ballistic missile defenses for Japan and giving Japanese industry access to cutting-edge American technologies employed in radar-targeting, missile interception and the airborne laser program.

But in return, Japanese orders will keep high-tech U.S. production lines running and provide a massive and much-needed boost to America's own hugely negative annual trade balance with Tokyo.

Japan plans to purchase the U.S. AEGIS sea-based BMD system and the land-based Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptor batteries. The Japanese Defense Agency also plans to equip Maritime Self-Defense Forces destroyers with SM-3 interceptors.

Australia has been developing its Jindalee high-frequency, over-the-horizon radar -- a system more advanced than anything comparable in the world. The close partnership Prime Minister John Howard has cultivated with President George W. Bush will allow the United States to use that technology.

Israel has long-developed its ambitious Arrow ABM interceptor as a defense against intermediate-range, nuclear-capable missiles through a partnership between Israel Aircraft Industries and Boeing. Raytheon and other major U.S. aerospace companies are also involved.

For the Israelis, as for the Japanese, ballistic missile defense is a matter of pressing national survival. Both countries are densely populated, with most of their people packed into vulnerable, huge urban areas. Therefore, they especially feel the need to develop effective BMD systems.

Tiny Israel lacks Japan's huge industrial manufacturing capabilities and its almost unlimited financial resources, but Israeli scientists have been at the cutting-edge of BMD development in their own specialized fields.

They are now exploring the possibility of developing very short-range ballistic missile defenses they could deploy against low-tech Qassam missiles fired at key Israeli strategic targets from Gaza and the West Bank. That technology could prove important in the future to U.S. forces deployed in Iraq or deployed in other hostile theaters of operations.

Germany and Italy have joined the United States in developing the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS -- a highly mobile MD system for defending against short- to medium-range threats. MEADS is scheduled to be fielded in 2014 and could be a replacement for the aging U.S.-built Patriot systems.

The defense of the United States against potential ballistic missile threats is helped by the cooperation of overseas bases provided by Britain and Denmark. Britain has agreed to a U.S. request to upgrade the early warning radar at Fylingdales, Yorkshire, in northeastern England, for missile defense purposes. Denmark gives the United States permission to operate its radars at Thule in Greenland.

India is eager to gain access to U.S. technology in developing its own ballistic missile defenses, primarily for use against Pakistan. But India is rapidly developing enormous scientific resources of its own, especially in the area of software programming. Bangalore alone now has more software engineers working than Silicone Valley in California.

That human reservoir of high-tech expertise is likely to prove of increasing importance to U.S. military programs as America's own industrial base and native resource of trained scientists and engineers continues to shrink.

Currently there are only 20,000 scientists and engineers employed in the U.S. aerospace program, according to a recent report by the Pentagon's own Defense Science Board. That is only one-seventh, or less than 15 percent, of the number employed in the aerospace sector 25 years ago.

Ballistic missile defense offers the hope of an America that can at last protect itself from at least some, if not all, nuclear missile threats from around the world. Yet the sheer scale of the challenge requires an America that cultivates more international cooperation with allies old and new, not less. The patterns of progress in BMD development around the world reflect that new reality.

Source: United Press International

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