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Inside the Ring: Aegis Ashore moves ahead

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Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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.

RUSSIA ON OBAMA FLEXIBILITY

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.

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About the Author

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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