Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 28
Panel recommends upgrades to Vandenberg's missile defense
BY JEREMY THOMAS
A study released by the National Research Council on Sept. 11 cautioned that the nation’s missile defense system, which includes ground-based interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, is flawed and in need of improvements.
According to researchers, the current Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system—comprised of four interceptor missiles in silos at Vandenberg and 26 in Fort Greely, Alaska—is “very expensive and has limited effectiveness” against any threats other than “the most primitive attacks,” the report states.
The system is designed to protect the nation against long-range ballistic missile strikes, primarily from potential threats by North Korea or Iran. The shield hasn’t successfully tested an intercept since December 2008.
The 240-page NRC report, which took two years to complete, concludes the missile shield was developed “in an environment of limited objectives” and was “less than fully tested.” It calls for replacing Raytheon-made interceptors, such as those used at Vandenberg, with “heavier, more capable” rockets, as well adding new radars to existing early-warning sites.
The report goes on to recommend the Pentagon’s U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shift its focus to intercepting missiles in mid-flight, as opposed to at early launch, and calls for the construction of a third missile-interceptor site in the Northeast, possibly at Fort Drum, New York, or Maine.
Improvements to the ground-based shield could be carried out within the $45 billion budget for MDA set into 2016, the report states.
Vandenberg Air Force Base has been home to the interceptor missiles since 2005, in accordance with then-president George W. Bush’s plans for a limited defense system to protect the entire 50 states.
The National Research Council is tied to the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and consults the federal government on science and technology issues. Congress commissioned the recent study.
A representative from Vandenberg Air Force Base didn’t return a request for comment as of press time.