Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 21, December 1997
Ballistic Missile Defence DevelopmentsOn 19 November, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced its estimate of the research and development (R&D) costs likely to be entailed in preparing a possible national missile defence (NMD) system: $6.6 billion. The figure was given in the DoD's quarterly Selected Acquisition Reports (SAR).
The Clinton Administration is committed to a '3+3' NMD programme: 3 years of R&D, 3 years from decisions to deploy to entry into operation. The clock started ticking in 1997, requiring R&D to be sufficiently advanced by 2000 to allow for deployment decisions. On 25 November, Doug Graham, Director of Business Development and International Programs for one of the main companies involved in NMD R&D, Lockheed Martin, was quoted by Defense Daily as describing the '3+3' schedule as "pretty tough but do-able." Graham described "schedule risk" as the "biggest challenge" facing his company, and the whole NMD project.
Also on 25 November, it was reported that the DoD's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) had backed away from plans to ground-launch NMD targets for test-firings of candidate NMD systems - reportedly the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) systems, and the Navy's Upper and Lower Tier systems.
Ground-launches were being contemplated at a Florida Keys facility. However, according to a letter from the head of the BMDO, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lester Lyles, the Organization now intends to launch the targets from aircraft (C-130 transports). Lyles noted:
"This decision was made after a review of factors including cost savings, testing requirements, projected budgets, as well as a consideration of environmental concerns expressed by the public during the course of the analysis."
Reports: NMD R&D program estimated to cost $6.6 billion, Defense Daily, 20 November; Lockheed Martin - tight schedule is biggest threat in NMD program, Defense Daily, 25 November; BMDO rejects land-based missile tests from Florida Keys, Defense Daily, 25 November.
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