Pentagon Sees Sample Missle Defense Rocket by '04

Aug 10, 2001
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States probably will have prototype rockets capable of destroying an enemy's long-range missile available in about two years, Pentagon officials told Congress Wednesday.

The military plans to build silos for the interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. He told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that four prototype interceptors capable of shooting down an enemy missile should be in place there by September 2004.

The Defense Department is working to develop several ways to block long-range missiles fired at the United States. President Bush last year announced he was withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that bans such anti-missile systems.

Russia and other countries oppose the decision.

The Pentagon has tested prototypes of missile interceptors fired from silos on land and Navy ships at sea in recent months. Although all of the most recent tests have destroyed dummy warheads, officials say the tests were designed to evaluate system components and were virtually guaranteed to knock down the dummy warheads anyway.

Designing, testing and building a system of land- and sea-based missile defenses would cost between $23 billion and $64 billion by 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this year.

Critics of the missile defense program say it's too expensive and question whether the defenses would really work. Expecting to have prototype rockets capable of shooting down missiles ready by 2004 is unrealistic, critics said.

"It's wishful thinking,'' Chris Madison of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation said Wednesday.

The land-based program aimed at destroying long-range missiles in space is the furthest along - and is the program that Wolfowitz said should have prototypes capable of shooting down a missile by 2004.

Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday about plans to have operational prototypes ready in two years.