Return to

April 19, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

The director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said Wednesday that the military is moving ahead with deployment of modified sea-based anti-missile interceptors on the ground in Central Europe, something likely to further upset Russia, which opposes U.S. deployments.

Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, the agency’s director, said during a Senate hearing that the new system, called Aegis Ashore, will be deployed in Romania and Poland.

The Aegis system missile is called the SM-3 Block IIA and is being co-developed with the Japanese government.

Gen. O'Reilly, testifying on his agency’s 2013 budget request of $7.75 billion, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that deployment sites are set and agreements were signed with the governments of Romania and Poland. The Romania-based interceptors are set to be fully operational in 2015, and those in Poland will be ready by 2018.

“The Aegis Ashore system is [a] very cost-effective approach to taking the proven capability at sea and move it effectively to the land,” Gen. O'Reilly said.

The land-based version reduces the need to support 270 sailors on each Aegis missile-defense ship by using fewer than 35 missile-defense troops on the ground, he said.

The Aegis Ashore “has the longest range of our regional systems, so it adds a layer of missile defense to the land that otherwise we’d be relying on for [Theater High-Altitude Area Defense].” he said. “So with Aegis Ashore and THAAD and Patriot and other regional systems, we are able to achieve that multilayered effect with a very dedicated and persistent presence of the Aegis system.”

The Obama administration several years ago made concessions to Russia by canceling plans for more ground-based interceptors in Europe. However, Moscow is continuing to demand written guarantees that the U.S. defenses in Europe will not be targeted on Russian ICBMs.

Gen. O'Reilly was asked about reports that Ellen Tauscher, a State Department envoy for missile defense, recently offered Russia the written guarantees. He said he was “unaware of specific proposals.”

The Pentagon insists the Romania and Poland defenses will be used to counter Iran’s intermediate-range missiles.

Asked about North Korea’s recent rocket launch, Gen. O'Reilly said the rocket failed “early in the flight, once again.”

Missile tests require lots of flight tests and the latest launch indicated “progress has not been made apparent” in developing the system, he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov commented recently on President Obama’s open-microphone comments promising the Russians “more flexibility” to offer concessions in missile defense talks after the November election.

“The fuss that has been raised in the United States on this score is not very intelligible,” Mr. Ryabkov told Interfax on April 2.

The Russian official said dialogue on the subject is proceeding and there are “no mysteries, no secrets, no second-, third-, or fourth-level meanings or any variants that are being developed outside the field of vision of the politicians, military, diplomats, analysts and the media.”

He insisted there are no secret negotiations or behind-the-scenes deals on missile defense, and “none are envisioned.”

Mr. Obama ignited a firestorm of concern among national security officials when he was overheard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the recent South Korean summit that he would have more room for compromise and concessions after the election and therefore Moscow should not pressure him on missile defense. Mr. Medvedev promised to pass on the comments to President-elect Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Ryabkov said Russia is planning “military-technical countermeasures” to U.S. European-based missile defenses and the first step was the activation of an early-warning radar in Kaliningrad.

He also said there would be no compromise on Russia’s objective in a joint U.S.-Russia missile-defense agreement. The Russian position on any accord is to demand “legally binding, nontargeting guarantees combined with objective nontargeting criteria,” he said.

The Obama administration has said it would not agree to limits on U.S. missile defenses. However, the president’s comments are raising questions, especially among congressional Republicans, about the promise.

New details emerged this week about the controversial photographs showing what appears to be a Chinese-made, road-mobile launcher carrying North Korea’s new long-range missile.

The new mobile missile was made public for the first time during a military parade in Pyongyang on Sunday.

Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television reported Monday that the Chinese launcher may have a U.S.-made Cummins Inc. diesel engine.

The report said the manufacturer of the launcher, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., advertised on its website a special, heavy-duty off-road vehicle with a cab very similar to the cab of what analysts say is the company’s mobile missile launcher that appeared on the streets of Pyongyang.

The Phoenix report said the 16-wheel mobile missile transporter-launcher was likely China Aerospace’s WS2600 and that the launcher is based on a design called the WS51200. The main difference between the two is that the launcher’s cab can accommodate a missile nose cone on its roof.

According to a China Aerospace brochure, the civilian vehicle uses a Cummins KTTA19-C700 engine and a German-made automatic transmission produced by ZF Friedrichshafen AG, which used to build Zeppelins.

The Obama administration is investigating whether China violated U.N. sanctions on North Korea by supplying strategic missile technology to North Korea.

The Phoenix report likely will trigger additional inquiries into whether U.S. engines are helping the rogue’s state’s long-range missile program.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience at Harvard University recently that military leaders remain loyal to the Constitution and will not be involved in the presidential campaign.

“We had no role in this political campaign or any other,” Gen. Dempsey said in answer to a question after a speech at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

The four-star general said that when troops are promoted or commissioned, “we swear an oath to the Constitution.”

“That, by the way, that makes us unique in the world,” he said. “There are plenty of militaries around the world that swear an allegiance to a particular monarch or to a particular party. But our commissioning oath is to the ideas and ideals in the Constitution of the United States.”

Return to