Daily Telegraph: America's proposed missile shield in Europe is unlikely to be operational before Iran acquires inter-continental weapons, it has emerged.
The Daily Telegraph
by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
America's proposed missile shield in Europe is unlikely to be operational before Iran acquires inter-continental weapons, it has emerged.
The latest setback to hit the troubled project came after Defence Department experts refused to certify the interceptor missiles to shoot down an incoming threat because they had not been fully tested.
Washington had set a 2013 deadline to finish the system but defence experts believe the Pentagon will miss that date by up to five years.
Democrats in Congress had threatened to withhold funding for the system until certification was obtained.
Meanwhile experts believe Iran will be able to produce inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of reaching Europe, and possibly America, by 2015. Some intelligence reports suggest Iran will have obtained the amount of uranium needed for a nuclear weapon much sooner.
The Pentagon claimed that earlier tests on interceptor missiles in the US missile defence system had proved the viability of the European systems. Scientists disagreed, pointing to significant design differences, most importantly that the European system relied on two stage rockets, one less than the American version.
"It is important to know that this system will work effectively before we buy or deploy it," said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A spokesman for the Missile Defence Agency, Rick Lehner warned that testing could push the launch of the system back by several years, with the missile launches likely to stretch over two to three years.
"It takes a significant amount of time to conduct three flight tests," he said. "They can take a long time to design, a long time to execute and a long time to do the post-test analysis. It's not impossible but we have been running one to two a year in recent years."