President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Thursday, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon.
Photo: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Photo: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

President Trump says US will develop space-based missile defense

Dayton-area Rep. Mike Turner praises move. Sen. Portman wants missile defense site in Ohio

Turner, R-Dayton, and a longtime advocate of missile defense, said Trump’s plan is “all about advanced warning and more accurate targeting,” adding the “proliferation of missiles” across the globe “is a confirmation for the need of missile defense.”

Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, attended Trump’s speech at the Pentagon where the president unveiled the results of the long awaited Missile Defense Review. 

“The importance of this Missile Defense Review is a layered approach which by looking further in space will give us the assets for situational awareness and be able to coordinate all our responses,” Turner said, which he said would include anti-missile defense systems at sea or land.

Congressman Mike Turner, R-Dayton
Photo: Staff Writer

Trump did not mention the possibility of adding a third ground site in the United States to base an anti-missile system. The U.S. currently has interceptors based in Alaska and California, but the Pentagon has suggested one additional site in the East.Camp Garfield in Portage and Trumbull counties has been mentioned as a potential site.

“Camp Garfield in particular provides a cost-efficient and effective location to help defend the United States from ballistic missile threats,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“Although the new Missile Defense Review does not make a final decision on a third interceptor site, I will continue to make the case to the Defense Department that Camp Garfield is the ideal location.”“The ballistic missile threat to the United States has grown greatly in recent years, particularly as Iran has expanded its capabilities,” Portman said. “Adding a third ground-based interceptor site would serve American interests by protecting the U.S. homeland from this threat and deterring future aggression.”

Sen. Rob Portman (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Photo: Washington Bureau

Acting Defense secretary issues warning

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who also spoke, said competitors such as Russia and China are aggressively pursuing new missiles that are harder to see, harder to track and harder to defeat.

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Specifically, the U.S. is looking at putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles when they are launched, according to a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday. The U.S. sees space as a critical area for advanced, next-generation capabilities to stay ahead of the threats, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the review before it was released.

The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the U.S. can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

Recognizing the potential concerns surrounding any perceived weaponization of space, the strategy pushes for studies. No testing is mandated, and no final decisions have been made.

Congress, which ordered this review, already has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this “boost-phase” approach, but officials want to study the feasibility of the idea and explore ways it could be done.

The new strategy is aimed at better defending the U.S. against potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, who have been developing and fielding a much more expansive range of advanced offensive missiles that could threaten America and its allies. The threat is not only coming from traditional cruise and ballistic missiles, but also from hypersonic weapons.

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new strategic weapons he claims can’t be intercepted. One is a hypersonic glide vehicle, which could fly 20 times faster than the speed of sound and make sharp maneuvers to avoid being detected by missile defense systems.

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“Developments in hypersonic propulsion will revolutionize warfare by providing the ability to strike targets more quickly, at greater distances, and with greater firepower,” Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress last year. “China is also developing increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile warheads and hypersonic glide vehicles in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems.”

Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both emphasized space-based capabilities as the next step of missile defense.

Senior administration officials earlier signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an anti-missile weapon can be directed into its flight path.

Any expansion of the scope and cost of missile defenses would compete with other defense priorities, including the billions of extra dollars the Trump administration has committed to spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons. An expansion also would have important implications for American diplomacy, given long-standing Russian hostility to even the most rudimentary U.S. missile defenses and China’s worry that longer-range U.S. missile defenses in Asia could undermine Chinese national security.

Asked about the implications for Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia and strike better trade relations with China, the administration official said the U.S. defense capabilities are purely defensive and the U.S. has been very upfront with Moscow and Beijing about its missile defense posture.

The release of the strategy was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

While the U.S. continues to pursue peace with North Korea, Pyongyang has made threats of nuclear missile attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the past and has worked to improve its ballistic missile technology. It is still considered a serious threat to America. Iran, meanwhile, has continued to develop more sophisticated ballistic missiles, increasing their numbers and their capabilities.

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Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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