The long-awaited report calls for technology development, but stops short of calling for the deployment of hypersonic interceptors and space-based lasers.
The Pentagon is planning to create a missile shield to protect the U.S. from low-flying Russian and Chinese cruise missiles using a mix of interceptors, fighter jets, satellites and radars, the Trump administration announced Thursday.
The plan — laid out in the administration’s long-anticipated Missile Defense Review — stops short of calling for the deployment of hypersonic interceptors and space-based lasers, controversial weapons that reportedly been under consideration. Instead, the review calls for spending more to develop technologies that could be used in these types of weapons.
“They deferred all of the hard things,” said Thomas Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They could still do something pretty substantial, but the significance of the pivot here is kind of at the level of theory and declaratory policy,” he said. “The department could go do some more things, but there has to be some active decision to do that and they haven’t done that yet.”
Most of the initiatives touted in the report are already in the works — and some have been for years. The Obama administration boosted the number of missile interceptors in Alaska from 36 to 40. (There are also four Ground Based Interceptors in California). Congress approved an additional 20 interceptors in Alaska in 2017, bringing the total number of US interceptors to 64.
Dems express alarm at Trump missile defense plans
The top Democrats from the House and Senate Armed Services committees on Thursday indicated they were alarmed by the Trump administration’s new missile defense plans, and urged the president to avoid policies that could spur another Cold War and waste critical resources.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House panel, called on the administration to “avoid missile defense policies that will fuel a nuclear arms race,” following President Trump’s unveiling of the Missile Defense Review.
The document highlights new ways of deterring weapons from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea including building up the U.S. missile stockpile and introducing new technologies.
“Strategic stability is an essential component of U.S. national security, and it does not serve our long-term interest to take steps that incentivize Russia and China to increase the number and capability of their nuclear weapons,” Smith said in a statement.
Trump in his speech seemed to allude to the administration’s decision in October to pull the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.
The nuclear deal, signed by the two countries during the Cold War, bans all land-based missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles and includes missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. The original ban between Moscow and Washington resulted in 2,692 missiles being destroyed.
“We are committed to establishing a missile defense program that can shield every city in the United States and we will never negotiate away our right to do this,” Trump said.