The most successful part of the star-crossed missile defense system has been the one based at sea. So, naturally, the Pentagon has decided to cut the program's budget, Defense Daily reports.
Launched from cruisers off the Hawaiian coast, the Standard Missile-3 interceptors have managed to hit their targets in five out of six recent tests. Land-based anti-missiles, on the other hand, couldn't even make it into the air during two recent exercises over the winter.
But never mind all that. The sea-based interceptors have been slated for a $95 million cut. That could keep a key signal processor from coming on line, which might "set back the whole program at least a year," Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) complained in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing... "Why are we setting aside such a successful program, where the outcome is almost predictable, and spending it on other, riskier programs?"
Update2: Well, one reason for a budget cut may be that we're getting some help:
Missile defense(Source Inside the Ring Too early to tell if this is a "Never mind" case, but I'm preparing to say it...
The Japanese government has agreed to spend some $600 million over five years to help the Pentagon upgrade the Standard Missile-3 interceptor, the heart of the Navy's new sea-based missile defense system.
According to the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, the Japanese funding of the upgrade, expected to begin in 2007, is viewed as a substantial contribution to the Navy missile defense system in the future.
Tokyo has announced its plans to field a sea-based missile defense system on its Aegis battle management-equipped ships in the next six years. It already has bought current SM-3 interceptors, and flight tests of those missiles are scheduled to begin this year near Hawaii.
The new, upgraded missile is known as SM-3 Block II and will increase the size from 13.5 inches in diameter to 21 inches, with bigger motors and warheads. It will have increased range for more lethal capability against enemy ballistic missiles, the officials said.
The new missile "will result in a greatly expanded defended area, and it will be able to counter long-range missiles," one official told us.
The Pentagon at first opposed the upgrade, favoring the smaller-diameter missile for its launch tubes.
Japan faces a threat from North Korea and Chinese missiles and is moving ahead with deploying a defensive missile shield. Its sea-based system will be built on four existing Kongo-class guided missile destroyers plus two new warships. The first missile-defense destroyer could be deployed in 2007. Tokyo also plans to purchase U.S. Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems for use on land.
A total of 15 U.S. Navy destroyers and three cruisers will be outfitted with sea-based missile defenses between the end of next year and 2009