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U.S. Touts Shield Test, But Doubts Remain

Published: December 9, 2008 (Issue # 1432)


WASHINGTON The U.S. military said Friday that it conducted a successful test of its missile-defense system, but that the target failed to deploy measures that experts said could have helped it avoid destruction.

The test took place as the Pentagon braces for more scrutiny of the program after President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January. The system, which officials say is intended to defend against states such as North Korea and Iran, is a flagship policy of the administration of President George W. Bush and a sore point with Russia, which fiercely opposes plans to install elements of the program in Central Europe.

In Fridays test, a target missile was fired from Kodiak, Alaska, and its warhead was destroyed 200 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean by a kill vehicle that detached from an interceptor missile fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

It was the largest, most complex test we have ever done, said U.S. Army Lieutenant General Patrick O Reilly, the head of the Pentagons Missile Defense Agency.

However, the 40-year-old target missile failed to deploy counter-measures. OReilly declined to say what those measures were, but they can include decoys or chaff, which are tiny strips of metal foil used to confuse radar systems.

OReilly said the test was operationally realistic despite the failure of the counter-measures. He said the military had used a network of land and sea-based radars and control systems in the test.

Overall, Im extremely pleased, he said. There are many threats out there today that do not have countermeasures.

But critics of the program, which the Pentagon says has cost about $100 billion since 1999, said it is unrealistic to expect that the United States could face any missile threat that would not include counter-measures.

Any country with the technical capability and the motivation to fire a long-range missile at the U.S. would also have the technical capability and the motivation to add decoys to it that are designed to defeat the defense, David Wright, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said by e-mail.

According to the Pentagon, this was the eighth successful test of the ground-based interceptor system in 13 attempts since 1999.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the system, which is called the ground-based midcourse defense.

The United States and Russia are at odds over a Bush administration plan to extend the system into Central Europe by using 10 silo-based, two-stage interceptors in Poland and a related radar system in the Czech Republic.

U.S. officials say the system aims to protect the United States and its allies from attacks by states that might fire a small number of missiles, and it could not defend against a country like Russia with a much larger arsenal.

Critics of the program question whether any country would fire a long-range missile at the United States, knowing that it would almost certainly face massive retaliation.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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