Thursday, November 16, 2000, updated at 11:28(GMT+8)

Russia Urges US to End "Hera" Ballistic Missile Development

Russia has urged the United States to stop testing the medium-range ballistic missile "Hera" and destroy its stocks, the Interfax news agency cited well- informed sources in Moscow as saying November 15.

Russia is "seriously concerned by the continuation of the testing of the Hera in the United States in the framework of developing a non-strategic missile defense system," the sources said.

Moscow regards the US activities "as a direct and significant violation of the Russian-US treaty on the elimination of medium- and short-range missiles signed on December 8, 1987," they said.

Russia considers "Hera" to be a medium-range land-based missile, the production and flight testing of which are banned under Item 1, Article 6 of the treaty, the sources said.

Significantly, it has a range of greater than 1,000 kilometers and is created on the basis of the second two stages of the Minuteman-2, which is to be eliminated under the treaty. Further, it incorporates the guidance system from the medium-range Pershing- 2 missile, also banned by the treaty.

If the tests continue, the United States will be able to deploy hundreds of such missiles in the near future, which could have destabilized nuclear deterrence and undermined strategic stability, the sources said.

Russia firmly complies with treaty. At the end of the 1980s, it destroyed the missiles "Oka," the best in the world by their technical characteristics and gave up all work to create new types of tactical and operational missiles, the sources reminded.

For the last few years, the United States have been using Hera missiles as targets during the testing of its non-strategic missile defense. Hera missiles simulate a surface-to-air attacking ballistic missile and can fly for more than 1,000 kilometers.

The Hera was developed on the basis of the second and third stages of the Minutemen-2 ICBMs which are to be scrapped under the START-1 Treaty.

Information about Hera launches shows that this missile not only plays the role of a target, but is basically tested in the same mode as ground-launched intermediate-range ballistic missiles, a means of delivery for weapons of mass destruction, Russian military experts say.

The signing and the entry into force of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty became an important international step that was welcomed by the world community. The treaty was the first step in the history of humankind toward the elimination of a whole class of nuclear missiles and considerably strengthened global strategic stability.