Sunday, March 9, 2014
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “We certainly will not go forward with the additional 14 interceptors until we are sure that we have the complete confidence we need. But the American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective.”
The Associated Press
In addition to the 26 interceptors at Fort Greely, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency maintains four interceptors at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Part of a “ground-based midcourse defense” system, the interceptors are launched via rocket into space along the trajectory of the incoming missile. Eventually, the “kill vehicle” separates from the rocket and uses its own sensors, propulsion and outside guidance from missile tracking systems to slam into the incoming warhead, according to information posted on Defense Department websites.
The actual intercept is designed to take place in space, with the debris left to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
The latest system has yet to conclusively prove its effectiveness, however.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service reported Friday that the upgraded interceptors failed a test in December against a target resembling an incoming missile. Pentagon officials said Friday that the 14 new interceptors bound for Alaska will be deployed only if a second test this fall is successful.
“We certainly will not go forward with the additional 14 interceptors until we are sure that we have the complete confidence we need,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at Pentagon news conference, as reported by McClatchy-Tribune. “But the American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective.”
The National Research Council report released last year found serious holes in the nation’s defense system against intercontinental ballistic missiles, especially when it came to protecting the East Coast.
The report recommended establishment of a new type of interceptor system in either upstate New York or northern Maine “to protect the eastern United States and Canada against any potential threats.”
The report does not specify Limestone in particular but recommends a potential site in the Caribou area.
In various scenarios laid out in the report, the Maine-based missiles would likely be the third or fourth interceptors launched to knock down a missile bound for the United States.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at (207) 317-6256 or at:
On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC