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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

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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