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  • GBI Out, SM-3 In -- New Plans For Europe's BMD
    Posted by Amy Butler 5:18 PM on Sep 17, 2009

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC Gen. James Cartwright today announced new plans for ballistic missile defense of Europe and deployed US forces there.

    The 10 two-stage GBIs in Poland and a long-range radar in the Czech Republic are now scrapped, in favor of a sea- and land-based SM-3 architecture that will be implemented in four phases.

    Phase 1 -- already started - operational by 2011: Patriot and Pac-3 terminal defenses, the first Thaad will deploy within a year to Europe, as well for terminal defenses. SM-3 Block IA, already deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, will be deployed in "larger numbers," Cartwright says.

    Phase 2 -- by 2015: SM-3 Block IB -- with a two-color IR and new DACS -- will be added to ships and in a land-based configuration. Also, airborne sensors will be added. Cartwright didn't outline which ones, but MDA has already begun testing the use of Predator and its EO/IR ball for ballistic missile plume detection and tracking.

    Phase 3 -- by 2018: SM-3 Block IIA, a codevelopment with Japan to produce a 21-in booster (over the current, 14-in. design) will come online. Three sites will cover all of Europe, Cartwright says. This will include land- and ship-based interceptors and will be designed to counter IRBMs and shorter range threats.

    Phase 4 -- by 2020: Cartwright says an SM-3 Block IIB (I think this is new -- maybe it includes additional velocity at separation?) will come online and begin to address the ICBM threat from Iran.

    There was a multi-pronged rationale for the shift:

    1) Cost -- Cartwright listed the per-unit prices for interceptors as follows:

    GBI - $70M
    SM-3 IA - $9.5-$10M
    SM-3IB - $13-$15M
    Thaad -- $9M
    Patriot -- $3.3M

    This speaks for itself.

    2) Gates, Cartwright say there is a new intelligence assessment.
    *The Iran ICBM threat has progressed more slowly than expected.
    *The medium- and IRBM threat is prolifering faster than anticipated, producing a "raid" threat that hundreds of these missiles launched at once.

    3) Cartwright says this could foster international cooperation through the incorporation of foreign Aegis ships and other missile defense systems, such as the Israeli Arrow.

    Unstated in the initial part of the press conference, but certainly a factor overall, was Russia's ire at the GBI plan. Gates says that the new architecture should address Russia's "unfounded" concerns that the GBIs could target Moscow, although it was not done to appease Russia.

    Tags: ar99 GBI SM3 Boeing Raytheon MDA Gates

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