Tuesday, December 21, 2010

US : failed missile defence tests costs $100bn

Late on Wednesday, the US tested its newest round of interceptors, spending $100m to blast a missile from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean towards California.
The anti-ballistic missile system failed, as the kill vehicle designed to blow the projectile out of the sky missed its target, adding to a long-list of unsuccessful tests for the expensive weaponisation scheme.
Since the end of the cold war the US has spent "approximately $100bn" on missile defence systems, Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defence Agency, told Al Jazeera.
Wednesday’s failed long-range test was important because it involved an attempt to intercept a dummy warhead, rather than the usual testing scheme of just maneuvering the missile to a particular point in space, said Ian Anthony, the research coordinator for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think-tank in Sweden.

Despite constant technological problems with the system, the White House has requested $9.9bn for missile defence programmes for the next fiscal year (2011), Anthony told Al Jazeera.
Those vast sums of money concern Theodore Postol, a professor of science and international security at MIT and a former scientific adviser to the head of US naval operations. The weapons expert, hardly a liberal dove, just doesn’t believe missile defence can work technologically.

Technological failures and massive financial costs aside, if Barack Obama, the US president, is serious about reducing the possibility of nuclear war, then it seems developing new missile systems isn’t the best way to inspire international trust.

"The US will always say that missile defence is a defensive system," said Tom Sauer, a professor of international relations at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. "The problem is that the Russians or Chinese may perceive it as threatening or offensive. When it comes to missile defence, perspective is everything."
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister and a former KGB agent who is well versed in cold war history, called US plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe "very similar" to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.
"The Bush administration planned to have a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland," Dr. Sauer said. Obama has not ended the missile programme in Eastern Europe, he has just amended it slightly.
"Current plans call for deployment of land-based SM-3 interceptors (a modified surface to air missile) in Poland and Romania to defend Europe against short to medium range ballistic missiles," said Missile Defense Agency spokesman Lehner.