Bush moves towards ‘Star Wars’ missile defence
WASHINGTON: President George W Bush is planning to put the first weapons in space despite broad international opposition, budget papers sent to Congress on Monday showed.
Bush’s spending plans for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 include an unspecified sum for developing and testing “advanced, lightweight, space-based (missile) interceptor components,” the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency said. In its budget overview, the agency said it was seeking $47 million to start “technology development” of such weapons and others that could be phased into a multi-layered US missile shield starting in January 2012.
In the two years thereafter, the Pentagon aims to base a handful of missile interceptors in orbit for testing, the agency said. Any such set up, whether space-based lasers or interceptor rockets in orbit, could give the United States the means to attack enemy satellites as well as incoming warheads.
China, an emerging space power, has voiced strong objections to such “weaponisation” of space as have Russia and some US European allies.
Although the heavens are already home to spy satellites and other military and intelligence sensors that help weapons work, no offensive or defensive arms are known to be in orbit yet. Last year, the Missile Defence Agency obtained an initial $14 million for research on a space-based interceptor “test bed,” but no decision has been made yet to deploy it.
The fiscal 2005 budget is the first to set aside funds to start developing the kind of weapons President Ronald Reagan had in mind when he called for a space-based Strategic Defence Initiative on March 23, 1983. Critics decried Reagan’s vision as “Star Wars” for fear it would launch an arms race in space. By Sept 30 of this year, Bush is set to put on alert several ground-based interceptor missiles at Fort Greely, Alaska, for an initial shield against limited ballistic missile attacks from countries like North Korea.
By December 2005, this bulwark will consist of up to 20 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, up to 10 based on US warships at sea plus upgraded radar stations and communications links. The initial system is optimised to knock down any long-range North Korean missiles that could carry nuclear, chemical or biological warheads, though critics doubt the system — such as it is — could thwart a surprise attack. —Reuters