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Missile Defense in Europe Needs Testing, Pentagon Says

A proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe that is intended to defend against a postulated Iranian missile threat cannot reasonably proceed without time-consuming testing and validation, according to a newly disclosed internal assessment (pdf) performed for the Department of Defense last year.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency envisions deployment of Ground-Based Interceptors in Poland and an X-band radar in the Czech Republic, a proposal that has elicited significant political opposition from Russia, and some in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“These European assets are planned to provide defenses against long-range Iranian threats to the United States as well as against intermediate-range Iranian threats to Europe.”

But “the effectiveness of the European [missile defense] assets cannot be assumed,” said the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. “A robust test program is necessary to assess the operational effectiveness of these European [missile defense] assets.”

See “European GMD Mission Test Concept,” October 1, 2007.

This unclassified Pentagon report was not readily available to the public until a copy was obtained by the Associated Press. Desmond Butler of AP reported on the Pentagon document as well as the emerging consensus in Congress that system testing will in fact be required. See “Testing Could Delay Missile Defense Plans” by Desmond Butler, Associated Press, June 23, 2008.

Related background may be found in “Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe” (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

Richard L. Garwin provided a critical assessment of the Iranian missile program and U.S. missile defense capabilities in “Evaluating Iran’s Missile Threat” (pdf), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2008.

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