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U.S. Missile Shield System Deployments: Larger, Sooner, Broader

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 10/2/09

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Synchronized announcements on September 17 by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. was abandoning plans to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a forward-based missile radar site in the Czech Republic are now ten days ago and information surfacing in the interim indicates that its new plans are more far-reaching than their predecessor.

Two days after the statements by the American president and defense chief the latter, Pentagon head Robert Gates, was granted a column in the New York Times.

The most representative segment of Gates' comments is arguably this:

"I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies....American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well....We are strengthening - not scrapping - missile defense in Europe." [1]

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Remarking that the earlier-envisioned system in Poland and the Czech Republic would not have been operative until 2015 and that opposition among both nations' parliamentarians would have delayed the process at least another two years, Gates evinced both impatience with and far grander designs for the European wing of the U.S.'s global missile shield program by asserting, "President Obama...decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles - weapons that are growing in capability...."

The new deployments, which will be examined in depth later, are to be more mobile and less capable of being anticipated and defended against; will be implemented, according to Gates' own schedule, at least eight years ahead of the prior plan's timeline; and will extend worldwide missile interceptor networks into far broader swathes of Eurasia, the Middle East and ultimately the planet as a whole.

Even in the first phase of the adapted - advanced - system that Gates first described on September 17, more developed technologies are to supplant what are already outdated ones that would have been applied to the Polish and Czech deployments. "[A] fixed radar site like the one previously envisioned for the Czech Republic would be far less adaptable than the airborne, space- and ground-based sensors we now plan to use."

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The new system, in addition to being more effective and quickly operationalized, will be much grander in scope and will include several times as many missiles as those intended for Poland, although that nation will still host different variants of medium-range interceptor missiles and, as Gates states below, will still eventually station long-range ground-based missiles.

"The second phase, which will become operational around 2015, will involve putting upgraded SM-3s [Standard Missile-3s] on the ground in Southern and Central Europe. All told, every phase of this plan will include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors....[O]ur military will continue research and development on a two-stage ground-based interceptor, the kind that was planned to be put in Poland, as a back-up."

Scores means some multiple of twenty and one of America's top military commanders has mentioned 100 as a starting point, as will be seen later.

SM-3s are the missiles employed by the U.S.'s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which is a sea-based anti-ballistic missile interception program designed to be based off the coasts of targeted nations as needed to render ineffective those nations' missile launch capabilities, both offensive and defensive.

They are also an integral component of the Pentagon's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a U.S.-led 90-nation international naval surveillance and interdiction project inaugurated by John Bolton in 2003 ostensibly to "interdict weapons of mass destruction" by confronting non-PSI nations' vessels anywhere in the world.

SM-3s are also to be a staple item for America's "thousand-ship navy," first proposed by the then U.S. Navy's Chief of Naval Operations Michael Mullen, now chairman of the armed forces Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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In 2005 Mullen addressed the Seventeenth International Seapower Symposium at the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island and said "the United States Navy cannot, by itself, preserve the freedom and security of the entire maritime domain. It must count on assistance from like-minded nations interested in using the sea for lawful purposes and precluding its use for others that threaten national, regional, or global security." [2]

A detailed analysis of the Proliferation Security Initiative and the 1,000-Ship Navy is contained in an earlier article in this series, Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control Of World's Oceans, Prelude To War. [3]

As part of these plans for a U.S.-dominated worldwide navy with missile interception at its core, the United States has already recruited NATO and Asian NATO allies like Norway, Spain, Japan and South Korea into the Aegis combat system with its SM-3 missile shield capacity. India is slated to be the next partner.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:

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