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Missile Defense Briefing Report - No. 251

China's space program and U.S. security;
GMD gathers steam;
Moscow plans new missiles...;
...while plans for the "third site" waver;
Japan soldiers on

Edited by Ilan Berman
December 20, 2008

The major advances in space awareness and control that China has made in recent years pose a growing challenge to U.S. national security, the Congressionally-chartered U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has warned. In its
2008 report to Congress, released in late November, the Commission warns that Chinese advances are "steadily increasingly the vulnerability of U.S. assets," since "[i]mprovements in its imagery and intelligence satellites will enable China to locate U.S. assets such as carrier battle groups more accurately and rapidly and from greater distances." At the same time, "[i]mproved GPS-type navigational and weather satellites will enable missiles to fly more accurately to their targets." Perhaps most worrisome, however, is the Commission's observation that some Chinese strategists have explicitly advocated the targeting of enemy (potentially U.S.) space assets during conflict using both kinetic and non-kinetic (electronic warfare) means.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is marking the success of the most recent test of its most prominent missile defense program. On December 5th, the MDA carried out the most sophisticated trial to date of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system when an interceptor launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully shot down a long-range ballistic missile target fired from the Kodiak missile test range in Alaska. "This test demonstrated that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system can defeat a long-range ballistic missile target," Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said in
an official press release put out by the company. "This intercept is further proof that GMD can provide our nation with an effective defense against the threat of long-range ballistic missiles."

As part of its ongoing strategic modernization, Russia will introduce new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles into its armed services by the end of the next decade.
The Agence France Presse (December 17) cites General Nikolai Solovtsov, the head of Russia's rocket forces, as saying that "[b]y 2015-2020 the Russian strategic rocket forces will have new complete missile systems with improved combat characteristics. They will be capable of carrying out any tasks, including in conditions where an enemy uses anti-missile defense measures."

Movement on the Bush administration's so-called "third site" for missile defense in Europe could be slowing.
In its December 17th edition, the Prague Post reports that a recent visit to Poland and the Czech Republic by several key lawmakers - among them House Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairwoman Ellen Tauscher - has caused jitters among politicians in both countries. “I am unwilling to dig holes in Poland and fill them up with untested rockets,” Tauscher had told journalists before her visit. Instead, according to the Congresswoman, the United States and its allies should focus more heavily on short- and medium-range defenses, preferably within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The signs of U.S. hesitation come at a crucial time. The two treaties covering Prague's participation in the Bush administration's missile defense initiative currently sit in the country's lower house of parliament, where they face stiff opposition from the Social Democratic party, which is seeking to delay a formalized missile defense partnership between the Czech Republic and the U.S.

The failure of a recent missile defense test has not stopped the Japanese government from certifying the quality of another part of its emerging sea-based missile defense contingent,
reports the Japan Times (December 17)
. An SM-3 missile launched from the Japanese destroyer Choukai on December 16th failed to neutralize the incoming target, but officials with the country's Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) have nonetheless certified the Choukai for picket ship anti-missile duty. It becomes the second such destroyer to enter active service. Under the Japanese government's current plans, estimated to cost some 1 trillion yen ($11 billion), two more Aegis-equipped destroyers will be upgraded with SM-3 missile capabilities by the spring of 2011.

Related Categories: Europe; Russia; Missile Defense; China; Space Policy; East Asia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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