National missile defense on track
- By Dan Verton
- Jun 22, 2000
The technical capability to develop a limited national missile-defense system
is available and the existing schedule to deploy such a system should not
be altered, an independent team of experts concluded in a report released
Although the current schedule for fielding a limited NMD system by 2005
"remains high risk," a report by the National Missile Defense Independent
Review Team concluded that there is "no technical reason to change the schedule
at present." The team was led by retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, the
president of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
"There has been important program progress in the past year, which includes
a successful intercept, demonstrated integration of several prototype system
elements, and continued development of simulations," the report stated.
The United States has been studying the technical aspects of deploying a
national missile defense system, widely known as "Stars Wars," since the
Reagan administration. NMD would consist of a series of networked ground-based
radar systems and early-warning satellites designed to detect the launch
of an intercontinental nuclear missile.
A limited system would be designed to counter missile threats from so-called
rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, rather than the many thousands
of missiles that could be launched during a nuclear war by Russia.
More than 20 nations, including Iran, Iraq, China and North Korea, have
aggressively pursued the development of weapons of mass destruction and
the means to deliver them across great distances, according to security
Chief among the criticisms for an NMD system have been a lack of funding,
an unrealistic schedule for deployment and questions regarding the maturity
of the technology and its ability to differentiate between dozens of real
warheads and decoys.