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Timing Of BMDO Tests Must Be Based On Performance Benchmarks, Not White House Schedule: Experts

File photo of successful missile defense flight test on January 26, 2004, launched from Meck Island in the Kwajalein Island Atoll, for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program. Photo: Boeing.

Washington (UPI) Jul 07, 2005
Three outside experts commissioned by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency have warned that the ground-based strategic missile defense system being developed by the Bush administration is bound to suffer additional test failures and may not function properly if its testing regime is not revamped and made a higher priority.

Arms Control Today reported this week that the experts, who were appointed in February to evaluate the system's last three test flops, had already presented this grim assessment to Lt. Gen. Henry Obering in a March. 31 report.

The Independent Review Team included former NASA administrator William Graham; Maj. Gen. Bill Nance, a former program manager of the ground-based missile defense system; and William Ballhaus, president and chief executive officer of The Aerospace Corp., ACT reported.

The three experts found that development of the missile defense system, which is intended to protect the United States from long-range ballistic missile attacks, has been driven by a White House schedule rather than performance benchmarks.

They acknowledged that the MDA "met the challenge" of providing an initial ground-based system in accordance with President George W. Bush's December 2002 directive to begin deploying a defense in 2004. But they then warned that the "next challenge is to verify the system's operational performance and reliability."

By the end of 2004, MDA had stationed six ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, ACT said.

The Pentagon, which has yet to declare the Alaska deployment as up and running, is continuing to put these interceptors and supporting elements through a "shakedown" to assess the system's capabilities and develop procedures for its operation. MDA plans to field 10 more interceptors at Fort Greeley before 2006, ACT said.

"There is a need to validate the design and reliability of the system as currently deployed," the experts concluded. They warned, "Hardware and software may not accomplish [the] mission with predictable performance and reliability."

During congressional testimony this year, Obering has maintained his public confidence that the system can work as intended, citing several past successful intercepts in rudimentary tests and extensive simulations and modeling experiments.

But the experts reported, "Models and simulations have not yet been sufficiently validated and require additional flight data to improve confidence."

The experts urged the MDA to prepare more rigorously for tests, establish more standards and specifications for the system, boost ground testing, increase accountability and put quality assurance ahead of meeting planned schedules.

The problems that the ABM interceptor program face came as no surprise to engineers in the U.S. aerospace industry. In two of the last three major tests the interceptor missiles never even took off.

However, the president's Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and therefore is able to dictate the investigative agenda, or lack of it, of the relevant congressional committees. Therefore the failure to achieve any real progress in the ABM interceptor program has never been adequately probed on Capitol Hill or been subjected to sustained scrutiny in the U.S. media

Herley Industries has announced that its Farmingdale, N.Y., division has received a $1.2 million contract to supply complex integrated microwave assemblies for the United States ballistic missile defense system.

Farmingdale specializes in phase shifting technologies for large-phased array radars essential for tracking and directing ABM interceptors to incoming ballistic missiles.

Herley Industries is a leading contractor involved in the design, development and manufacture of microwave technology solutions for the defense, aerospace and medical industries. Based in Lancaster, it has nine manufacturing locations.

The new India-U.S. defense agreement signed by the Congress-led UPA government and the Bush administration on June 28 has provoked both enthusiastic and hostile responses in India.

But even some erstwhile critics of close defense ties with the United States have welcomed the increased cooperation on ballistic missile defense that it promises, Asian News International reported this week.

While some have termed it as a positive step toward strategic cooperation between the two largest English-speaking democracies others have been skeptical.

Commodore Uday Bhaskar, a prominent Indian defense analyst, reflected the majority view in welcoming the 10-year agreement, entitled "New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship" that was signed between Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld.

He said that for India, the agreement would be its first politico-military engagement with the world's leading military power and industrial nation, and for the United States it would be Washington's first major deal with a democratic nation outside NATO.

However, Bharat Karnad in an op-ed article in The Indian Express argued that entering into such strategic pacts with the United States was against India's long-term interests. He claimed the treaty would make India overburdened with military hardware and economically vulnerable to U.S. high-tech competition that would eat into India's domestic economy.

But even Karnad acknowledged that the one area, where co-operation with the United States would benefit India was in ABM development, a top priority for India against its traditional enemy, Pakistan, and possibly in the future against China.

Previously, Washington had been reluctant to share technology and cooperation on the development of ballistic missile defense systems, but now this had been promised through the Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership framework, Karnad said.

Karnad also noted that Washington had set up a "procurement and production group" to facilitate defense technology development offers from India that it considered "safe," giving the option to the U.S. Congress to cut the sale/transfer deals midway. This would have the effect of opening the way for the sharing of advanced American BMD technologies with India.

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India Rules Out Accepting US Missile Defence System
New Delhi (AFP) Jul 05, 2005
India on Tuesday ruled out accepting a missile defence system from the United States.

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