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Press Briefing with Missile Defense Director General Obering

Wednesday, 03 Oct 2007 10:06 AM

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DoD News Briefing with Gen. Renuart and Lt. Gen. Obering from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va. Presenter: Commander, NORAD, NORTHCOM Gen. Gene Renuart Jr. and Director of Missile Defense Program at the Missile Defense Agency Lt. Gen. Henry Obering.

MR. WHITMAN: Thanks for joining us this morning to discuss the results of the recent successful ground-based ballistic missile test. Today with us are two gentlemen that probably need no introduction to you. But for the record and for our listening and viewing audiences out there, we have with us today the director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General Henry, or known by most as "Trey" Obering, and NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM commander General Gene Renuart, who happened to be in town for General Pace's farewell tribute and Admiral Mullen's assumption of responsibilities as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who has, as his responsibilities, the command and control of ground-based interceptors for the missile defense system.

So with that, let me turn it over to General Obering to go ahead and give you an overview of this test.

GEN. OBERING: Thank you very much. Well, good morning, everybody. I'm going to very brief. I'm going to talk about the test infrastructure itself and the characterization of the test. I'm going to show a couple of videos, some of which you may have seen, but some of this you have not seen because we have not released yet, and then I will turn it over to General Renuart for him to make some brief remarks, and then we'll open it up for questions.

So first of all, the test infrastructure itself. This was a test in which we tried to emulate an attack from a country like North Korea into the United States with an intercept of that missile from Alaska.

So that's the geometry that we're trying to replicate in the test architecture.

The way we do that is we launch a target from Alaska, in this case Kodiak Island, Alaska, we fly it down toward the South Pacific, and we intercept with an interceptor out of California, Vandenberg Air Force Base, which also happens to have operational interceptors in silos there on the base. So that is the geometry. That's how we get to the characterization of the geometries.

In terms of the specifics, the target is a three-stage target. It is threat representative, as best that we can tell. And that includes what we estimate a threat missile to look like and to act like and to fly like. We use the operational radar in Beale Air Force Base in California as the primary detection for this flight in terms of tracking and then providing that tracking information into the fire control system of the ground-based midcourse system. We use the operational fire control system, so we use the actual operational networks as well as the hardware and the software that we have operational on a day-to-day basis. And then again, we use soldiers and crews manning the consoles, also manning the radars, as part of the test.

We fired an operationally configured interceptor out of a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and it flew out and was successful in intercepting the target.

Again, the target flight was about 24 minutes total time of flight, which is about what you would expect for an attack profile, as I mentioned previously.

Now, if we could, what I'd like to do is talk a little bit about the other sensors we had in play. We had the Aegis ship that was deployed in the Northern Pacific. It was able to track the target. Also the Sea-Based X-Band, that very powerful x-band radar that's going into its final stages of integration and testing. It was able to track the target, obviously along with the UHF radar in Beale Air Force Base in California.

If we could bring up the videos now, I want to show you those real quick. First here you're going to see should be the target. There should be a video of the target, the aft-mounted camera on the target. Hopefully, they'll have that here shortly. (Pause.) Well, let's see. We'll see if they can get them up. But anyway, we do have videos that show the camera mounted on the target, the launch from Kodiak Island. We also have videos of the interceptor launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, as well as the -- the actual video that we haven't released yet is the video of the kill vehicle, what the actual kill vehicle sees.

(Pause.) Okay. I guess it's important to turn the screen on. (Laughter.)

And again, we take great pains to be as realistic as we can within the constraints of the test. And what I mean by that is, the system operates to take the best shot it can.

Here's the aft-mounted target camera that you see, the Kodiak Island receding in the background there as it’s making its way. It actually reached an apogee in this case of in excess of 1200 kilometers.

Again, we had a good target. As you recall, last May in our attempt we had a bad - (inaudible) - target. These are the silo opening - the clamshell silos there at Vandenberg and egress of the interceptors. We had a clear day today - that day, as opposed to the fog bank that we had in the last test, and we had good shots all the way through.

This, again, is a three-stage interceptor that we used. It's the same configuration that we have loaded in Alaska and in California. You can see the staging event here. Again, excellent nominal performance. In fact, some of the warfighter comments were this was textbook in terms of their perspective, and I'm sure General Renuart will talk more about that.

So you see the first stage falling away, the second stage ignition. Again, just an alternate staging view of that event.

There we go - a little clearer in the first stage.

And then the intercept scenes itself - the first thing you're going to see is a high-altitude infrared camera. You'll see the focus here on the target and the interceptor coming in and destroying it, and then you'll see a slower speed of this.

We've got good data collection from all the IR [infrared] sources, as well as the radars that I talked about. And it will be many, many weeks, as we're going through all the data, but we do know that we scored a direct hit on the warhead. We at least have enough data to understand that as well.

And then I think what you're going to see here in a few minutes or in a few seconds is a scene in which we actually can see what the kill vehicle is seeing in real time. So this is what we're seeing in the control room. And hopefully that will be coming up.

Okay. Here's what you're seeing. We have different sensors on the kill vehicle, and you see that it has multiple objects in track. Every one of those little rectangles is an object that it's tracking. And it goes through its discrimination, and it goes in and says that's the target I want to go after, and then it goes in for the warhead. And you'll see that occurring as it gets into the final - and up here on the upper left, you'll see the warhead as it comes in, just before impact.

So the target flew out for about 23, 24 minutes. The interceptor flew for about seven minutes out of Vandenberg. And all indications are this was a textbook success with respect to the program.

Depending on how you want to count and where you start the count, what we do is, we started about 2001. We go back to that time frame. This was the sixth successful intercept in nine attempts for the long- range system. Right now we're about 30 of 38 attempts overall in the program for successful hit-to-kill intercepts with our land-based mobile -- the THAAD [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense] program, for example, and the PAC-3, the Aegis, as well as the ground-based midcourse.

So we think that the - this builds more and more confidence with respect to - does the system work? The answer is yes to that. Is it going to work against more complex threats in the future? We believe it will, as be bring more and more assets on line, such as the very powerful sea-based X-band radar and improvements to both the interceptor system as well as those sensors.

So with that, I'd like to turn over to General Renuart, please.

GEN. RENUART: Thanks, Trey.

Just a couple quick points to make:

First, for us at U.S. Northern Command, it was important that the test allow us to replicate the command and control processes that we have been working on in coordination with the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Strategic Command, to ensure that we had the data in a timely enough fashion and that we could make recommendations to in fact engage each of these targets.

And so for us, having all of those elements brought into the test were critical: Aegis, Sea-Based X-Band, Beale, and of course our other national sensors.

So the benefit of this test for us was that we were able to run a normal alert system. In fact, as General Obering mentioned, I was here in town. My command center was able to reach me via telephone. We could initiate a conference call that would alert the threat, the launch of this target, begin to do the assessments on where it was headed and what its targets might be; and then make a determination that, A, it simulated the threat that we anticipated and B, we could then exercise the other role that we have, and that is, as the weapons release authority for midcourse ballistic defense intercept. And we could put that process in place so that we had operational crews at Vandenberg tied to our NORTHCOM command-and-control structure, so that we could build the conference calls of the key leadership that would be necessary for this were it a real threat, and then make decisions and intercept the target. It really turned out to be a very good exercise for us and allowed us to validate that the procedures we built up over time are in fact appropriate for the kinds of threats that this system is designed to defeat.

So from the operational perspective, the soldiers in the field, the system, the command-and-control capability, the integration of those information systems, it was also a very positive event for us as well.

And I think with that Trey and I are happy to take whatever questions you might have.

Q General, when you said you had multiple targets being tracked, were they just pieces of the missile? Were they - (inaudible)? What exactly was it looking at?

GEN. OBERING: First of all, we know that one of those was the third stage of the target - that was in the field of view - the RV [reentry vehicles] obviously.

And there were several other objects that we're going to go through and analyze what they were, most likely with debris from the target itself, from the staging and that type of thing.

Q (Off mike) - launch any kind of balloons or sort of -

GEN. OBERING: We did not have any countermeasures on this flight. But I will tell you that based on what I know today, and based on the data review we've done so far over the weekend, we will put them on the next flight, because this performed so well in this mission. And as you recall, the last mission that we flew, in the 1st of September last year, FTG-02 -- we described that as a seeker characterization flight. It was not a primary -- intercept was not the primary objective.

And we learned from that. Even though we did successfully intercept the target, we learned that we needed to make adjustments for the kill vehicle in some of those areas. We did that, and those adjustments proved to be exactly the right thing. So now, we're ready for the next step, which is the addition of countermeasures on the target, and we intend to do that for the next flight.

Q How similar is this system to the system that you are planning to place in Europe, in Poland and the Czech Republic? Is it exactly the same system and - or are there any differences?

GEN. OBERING: There are - the biggest difference would be that we are going to make a modification to the interceptor. The interceptor that you saw on the flight test is a three-stage interceptor. What we're going to do is remove the third stage, so we'll only use the first two stages of the interceptor.

So it's identical in every other aspect, except we remove the third stage. We do some modification because of that removal and we'll have to change some of the software. But the fire control system, the command and control elements that General Renuart talked about -- all of that will be the same and will be identical.

The radar that we are proposing for the Czech Republic is a radar that we have been actually operating as part of our test program for almost 10 years. We've been operating it since 1998 in Kwajalein in the South Pacific. We're going to take that radar. We're going to basically refurbish it, because it needs to be some improvements made, obviously, to the software, to the processing capability, that type of thing, and use that radar in the Czech Republic. So they're very well-understood and well-characterized components.

Q Why are you removing the third stage?

GEN. OBERING: Because in the European environment, in the distance back from Iran, for example, from - that the Polish interceptor site would be, you need to have an interceptor that can get into the flight faster. Otherwise, it doesn't go through all -- you don't need all three stages in terms of the velocity and - but you do want to be able to react more quickly to the threat, because of the geographical distance.

And so therefore, we need that to be able to get into - be able to be lethal quicker, and that's why we're doing that.

MR. WHITMAN: Back here, and then we'll come over -

Q Whatever you decide is fine. Talking about the countermeasures, which kind of countermeasures are you using? Who has developed the countermeasures? Are you basing the countermeasures on intelligence or an understanding or any cooperation you might have with foreign nations? And also, when do you plan to begin testing with a salvo?

GEN. OBERING: First of all, the countermeasures that we will use will be similar to the ones that have been used before in the program, but what we try to do is we try to estimate what a threat nation would use to try to hide the warhead or to try to fool the system. So we looked for similar signatures in different areas, and I can't go into a lot of detail there because it gets sensitive very quickly. But those are programs that we've actually used in the past, and we will again use those for the future.

And in terms of a salvo, I don't believe we have a salvo launch scheduled that - to my knowledge right now, Amy. But again, the way the system is operating is not as important as it would be for a theater range system, frankly.

Q How high up the chain of command does the weapons release authority go? Does it go all the way to the president? And in the case of the European system - well, would the United States retain sole command and control, or would that -- would there be some way of sharing it with, I guess, the Poles?

GEN. RENUART: Well, the conference call process can go very quickly to the president, should that be required. And again, recall that we have both the theater capability as well as a long-range capability, and so, depending on the situation, it may or may not need to go that high.

In terms of what European -- what some future European command and control structure, I think it's probably premature to propose one yet. I think there's a lot of discussion that needs to go on before we're at a point where we're even able to deploy, and then how do you integrate that command and control? So I think probably too early to make a definitive statement on that.

Q Is that something that would have to be negotiated, though, now, or -

GEN. OBERING: What we had planned is - the reaction times of the system are such - and you saw in the video that this is over in a matter of minutes, so you can't convene a council and then decide what you're going to do with respect to that command and control. So it will be very streamlined, and it will be tied into the rest of the system in that regard.

But from a command and control situation awareness perspective, we have plans to plug the two systems together.

Otherwise, right now NATO is in the process of developing their - a command and control system that would allow them to glue together their missile defense assets that they are projecting for the future. And this air command and control system - the technical architecture of that is compatible with the command and control architecture that we developed for this system. We did that intentionally, so that they would have situational awareness of what could be happening in the long-range fight.

General Renuart is exactly right, though. We haven't gone through the details and worked through the concept of operations for all of that and how that would play out. That's what we have on our plate to do for the future.

GEN. RENUART: Let me just follow on for half a second and -- because this test simulated a particular type of threat, one of the questions that often comes up is, how might, for example, a regional combatant commander respond to a threat within their area? And would they have to get your approval to do that?

And as General Obering mentioned, we are working to create a transparent information system that allows a theater commander, whether he's responding to a scud-type missile or an intercontinental response to a threat like this, to all see the same information at the same time, so that you don't create sort of nodes of decision-making; it is a transparent process as you see the threat unfold.

Q The countermeasures - how would they compare to the countermeasures you would see on the most - like a Russian missile? Obviously these are countermeasures intended to be the kinds of things the North Koreans could do, but would they also work - obviously the Russians could overwhelm the system with multiple launches, but if the Russians were doing a single launch toward an enemy that wasn't the United States, and you decided to knock it down, would their countermeasures be beyond what you're testing next time?

GEN. OBERING: Well, first of all, the system that we are fielding - and I'll make it very clear - has nothing to do with the Russians, which is clearly -

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. OBERING: - this is clearly designed for North Korea and Iran, and there's a good technical foundation for that.

And as you call - as you correctly pointed out, there's hundreds of Russian missiles and thousands of warheads, with very advanced countermeasures, we anticipate, that would be on those missiles. So this system is not designed for that.

However, we are designing it such that the countries like North Korea, Iran or other rogue nations that may emerge -- if they use those more advanced countermeasure techniques on their limited inventories, can the system handle that? We believe that it will be able to keep pace with that type of a progression.

That's why we are fielding the very powerful sea-based X-band radar that will be coming on line. It's also why we're developing the advanced radar algorithms that we will use as part of that deployment. And very importantly, we are developing a multiple kill vehicle that will go on these interceptors. And that will allow what we call a volume kill to be able to handle those more complex threat suites. So it won't allow an interceptor to be able to counter multiple missiles. It will allow one interceptor to be able to counter a complex single threat suite.

Q Speaking of the European debate, to what extent does this success help your case or - to sell the program overseas or gather support? Or was this pretty much a neutral factor? Had it failed, would that have been a, you know, major setback type of -

GEN. OBERING: Well, I think - first of all, I think it helps us in a very real way, because, as I have had conversations with our European partners and allies and NATO partners in the past, one of the questions I do get asked is, well, this system is not proven. It doesn't work, right?

So why are you even worrying about this now? And I think those goes a long time to answering that question.

Again, with the track record -- you know, people don't realize this. I mentioned we have had 30 of 38 successful hits kill intercepts. We now have not had a major problem in the system for over two-and-a-half years, and so we're making great steady progress in terms of showing that this system does work, and this is a major step forward in being able to show that.

Q (Off mike) - 18 months, though, between - (inaudible).

GEN. OBERING: Remember, and I stood down that deployment so that we could address and make sure we did not have any systematic problems, and it turned out we did not. And that's why we were able to get back in their air so quickly.

Q Additional question. The Senate yesterday voted on the authorization bill that cut about $310 million, I think, including $85 million for -- to start construction. The Senate appropriations bill had the same; it gets passed today. What impact does that have on the program? Is that a potential show stopper -

GEN. OBERING: Absolutely not, no, because, first of all, they also allowed us to do things like site preparation and the analysis of surveys and the geotechnical work. There's a whole host of things that - activities that need to be done, and what they did is they said the $85 million that we allocated for construction start itself was going to be withheld pending a host nation agreement, which makes sense. So now the impetus is on getting a host nation agreement so that we can move ahead and with the construction.

At the worst, I think it would put us back something like six months to a year depending on when we get that host nation agreement, but if we get the host nation agreement soon enough, there should not be a significant delay at all.

Q General - (name and affiliation inaudible). Do you think that this test will help to convince the Russians, and especially considering Secretary Gates' trip to Moscow scheduled for October 12th? And do you see a light at the end of the tunnel in regard to your missile defense talks with the Kremlin?

GEN. OBERING: Well, we have taken the proposals that the Russians have made on missile defense cooperation very seriously. I have - I asked my deputy director, General O'Reilly, to visit the radar that they put on the table that offered up the use of it -

Q In Karbala.

GEN. OBERING: In Karbala, yes, and Azerbaijan. He went there, was very well received by both the Russians and the Azeris and very well hosted. We're still collecting data from that visit to determine, you know, exactly what the extent of capability, performance and that type of thing is, and we'll continue to do that. We will still engage with the Russians on a whole host of -- spectrum of engagement options with respect to missile defense. So we're continuing in that regard.

I hope that this test did one thing, if nothing else, and that is, we did invite the Russians to view the test, and they accepted our invitation. So we actually had Russian visitors that were sitting with me up on the Hill here and observed this test last Friday.

Q What are the levels of this - what was the level of the visitors?

GEN. OBERING: You could ask the Russians that, but - I'd let them tell you.

Q The Gabala offer, is it still on the table?

GEN. OBERING: It's still on the table. The concern that we had all along is that the frequency of that radar, that is a wide-area surveillance radar, it is not a precision tracking radar. So it's not the same type of radar that we are offering to put in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic radar, as I mentioned earlier, is a very, very precise X-band radar that we've been using for almost 10 years in our test program, very well characterized. The radar at Gabala is a VHF radar that has a different functionality. It would be very nice to be able to use that radar in conjunction with the radar in Gabala. I think that would be the ideal solution. But that's something that we will continue to talk about with the Russians.

GEN. RENUART: I need to break away, unfortunately, so I'll let General Obering continue and let you-all beat him up for a few more minutes. But just from the user's perspective, from the operational perspective, a very positive test, very successful, and we appreciate the great coordination and cooperation we've had with MDA.

Q General, just one operational question?

GEN. RENUART: Sure.

Q Remember last year there was a lot of debate on whether the U.S. system was up and running when the North Korean tests happened last July? At this point is your system up and running 24/7?

GEN. RENUART: Well, we have built a good relationship with the folks in the Missile Defense Agency to allow for this spiral testing process. So in other words, we can bring missiles up or take them down as need be so that they can continue doing the testing. They'll move the radars in and out of the network so that they can continue software upgrades and the like. But in terms of do I feel comfortable that, should a threat develop --

Q Yes.

GEN. RENUART: - I'm fully confident that we have all of the pieces in place that, if the nation needed to, we could respond.

Q Okay, thanks.

GEN. RENUART: Thank you very much.

GEN. OBERING: Yes, sir?

Q There was another aspect of the Russian proposal that doesn't get much attention, and that was sharing information on threat warning and that kind of thing. You know, could you describe what it was that they were proposing along those lines, and how interested - you know, how interesting a proposal it is?

GEN. OBERING: Well, first of all, that's a proposal that we've actually been exploring for quite a while, not just from the Russians. But we've also talked about that ourselves with the Russians, is to - how could we share data, radar data, take the information from Russian sensors, take the information from the radar, for example, that we would propose for the Czech Republic, and take information from other sensors that - such as NATO may be considering, and sharing that in a combined information environment? We think that would be very useful, and that's part of the discussions that we're continuing to have with the Russians.

Q Is it still all or nothing in terms of what the Russians are offering?

GEN. OBERING: I wouldn't characterize it like that, because we're still talking.

Q To follow up again on the Russian concerns, you said several times that technically speaking the European site isn't designed to take down a Russian missile. Because of the trajectory, you get into a tail chase, and these missiles can't do it.

GEN. OBERING: Right.

Q Some of your skeptics in the scientific community have copied a chart that says the European system has a role of protecting our forward-deployed forces in Asia and Asian allies. And they say that if the European site can catch an Iranian missile heading toward Asia, it can win a tail chase with the Russian system.

We're not scientists. Can you respond to that criticism?

GEN. OBERING: Yes, I can.

First of all, if you look at the trajectories themselves, and that's very important here, is, where would you intercept a missile headed for the United States or headed for Asia? And how would that occur and what would that particular access be? That's what a lot of this is about, is, where is the missile being launched from?

What continues to be ignored here is the location of the interceptor site vis-a-vis the Russian ICBM sites. The Iranian sites are much farther south, to the southeast. And what that allows us to do - it allows us to establish a track on those missiles, get that information into the fire control system, be able to generate a fire control solution of what we call a weapons task plan, launch the interceptor and then engage that missile with a lethal velocity. You can't just go up and kiss these things; you have to hit them hard enough to destroy them.

So when you put all those factors into play, we cannot catch a Russian ICBM. They - we are too close to their launch sites to start with. And by the time we go through it, and if we were trying to establish a track on those missiles, get that into a fire control solution, launch our interceptors, it is, as we have stated - we get into a tail chase with those missiles.

So, yes, we can defend some portions, depending on the trajectory, from Iran into Asia. But again, that gets back to the fact of where they're launched from, not where they're headed to. So I tried to put that to bed many different times, but -- and I understand. I think our skeptics are using data that they try to put together and they try to tile together, and they're using unclassified information and everything else, and so I'm trying to give you the reality and the data that's hard data that we get from our testing and our flight testing and our ground testing.

Yes, sir.

Q General, you mentioned that the X-Band was involved, but it's still being set up. It's not fully operational, is it?

GEN. OBERING: What you just outlined is exactly why we do spiral development, which is that even though the SBX - the Sea-Based X-Band - is still in development - we're still going through the testing and checkout of that - we actually could use that system if we needed to. It has a load of software that would allow us to track the targets and to get that information into the system. So that is the value and the benefit of using this spiral development approach is that you can actually take advantage of military utility when you have even a fragile type of capability, if need be.

Now, we're not saying that it is operational yet; it's still in the development, as I said. But all indications are so far that it is going to be a tremendous addition to the overall system capability.

Q What ship did you use? Lake Erie or -

GEN. OBERING: I'll have to - I don't have the name. I'm - it just surpasses me right now [USS Russell] - (chuckles) - because we swapped them out. We swapped them out several times in terms of the test planning.

Q What was the position of the sun relative to this test; i.e., relative to the interceptor during the exercise?

GEN. OBERING: I don't know. I'd have to go back and re-create that. But we managed that. We managed that as part of the trajectory fly-out.

Q Because there are some who say that if the sun's behind the interceptor, you get a better IR picture of the target coming in.

GEN. OBERING: Oh, you're saying that we are using that somehow to enhance or to rig the test? No, we don't do that. We will take every advantage we can to try to kill an incoming warhead, but we can manage that from the engagement software.

Yes, Amy?

Q When is the test with the countermeasures coming up?

GEN. OBERING: We are evaluating that right now in terms of when we will fly. It could be as early as the February-March time frame or it could be later on, in the May-April time frame. it depends on how we progress with our data analysis and when we're going to have the Sea-based X-band. We also are going to deploy the same radar that we have in Japan today, what we call the TPY-2. We're going to deploy that to Alaska, and it's going to be able to be in the proper geographic location for the target launch out of Kodiak Island. So that will participate as well. So we're going to take all those factors into play and come up with what the timeline would be.

Q Okay. And can I just ask one more? At the Huntsville conference there was a lot of talk about making the system more flexible in terms of operation and testing, and potentially doing them essentially, like, concurrently. What is the status of that push? Is the software set up to do that?

GEN. OBERING: Yes.

Q

And do you have redundancies?

GEN. OBERING: Yes. We actually have - and General Renuart alluded to that a little bit. We actually have today the ability to set up an operational capability and to continue an operational capability while in parallel we are developing new software and new capability to put onto the network. It just turns out that at the moment, we're using both of those, okay? But we have the ability now to have continuous operations while we do development and testing.

Q Do you still plan on doing two flight tests a year?

GEN. OBERING: At least, yes. And again, a lot of that is not paced by - most of that, I will say, is paced by the data analysis. We get reams and reams of data from these flight tests, and we want to make sure that for the money we're spending on these flight tests, we're getting all of our bang for the buck. So we go through a very exhaustive analysis prior to determining what adjustments we want to make, improvements or whatever for the next flight. But we're shooting for at least two, maybe three a year, depending on the situation.

Q What do you say to critics - this is going back to the Russian missiles - what do you say to critics that say you're spending billions of dollars over a number of - (off mike) - years, and this system is only really designed for threats from North Korea and Iran, and it's not really designed for a Russian threat at all?

GEN. OBERING: Okay. Well, first of all, the billions of dollars that we spent turns out to be roughly $100 billion through 2006, as I recall, is roughly it. And that's for the entire system, that's not just for what we have deployed in Alaska and California.

That includes all of the Aegis ships that - we've modified 16 Aegis ships to date to be able to use the long-range tracking and surveillance capabilities. We've modified nine of those ships to launch the sea-based missiles. We've delivered almost 20 of those sea-based interceptors. We now have - let's see - 20 interceptors in the ground in Alaska. We have three in the ground in California. We have the X-band radar we've put in Japan. We have that massive sea-based X-band radar. We have the radars in Cobra Dane, and Beale in California, that we have modified. We have the Fylingdales radar in the United Kingdom. We have all the command and control suites that we've deployed in Hawaii, Colorado, Nebraska and Washington, D.C. - even command and control awareness in the United Kingdom. So it's a lot more than just what we have spent on these particular interceptors.

But to your point more precisely, first of all, you have to pay attention to what the threat is. We do believe -- we've seen this progression of missile technology in North Korea from the shorter range to the longer range, and they have gotten better and better. You know, they had the failure of that long-range weapon in the summer of 2006, but they also had a successful test of shorter-range missiles that were very - apparently very successful, and we know they're going to continue that development. And we don't know what their intent is. They describe a very hostile intent, so we have to pay attention to that.

The same thing is true now in Iran. We see this progression from shorter-range missiles to longer-range missiles. And we believe that that's going to become - they're going to be able to threaten the United States somewhere around the 2015 time frame, is what the latest projections are.

So that means we need to take steps today. For example, Tony asked me about when we're going to have a capability in Europe. If we start this next year, we won't have the first interceptor in place until 2011, early 2012. And then by the time we finish out the interceptor emplacements and do the testing, we're right on the edge of that prediction. So that's why we have to move now.

Now let's talk about cost, because it's easy to say, well, we spend $100 billion, what do you have to show for it? Well, I -

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. OBERING: 1983, at the beginning of the program, so this is every penny that's been allocated to the program.

Now, that's a lot of money, but look at what happened on 9/11. We had an attack on New York and in Washington. And just the damage to New York City alone, just the damage there, was $83 billion, based on a 2002 GAO report. $83 billion: That's almost as much as we've spent on this entire program since its inception.

And that was not an attack with a weapon of mass destruction; that was not a nuclear warhead detonating in New York. And so if we have the ability to stop an attack on even one American city, we would have more than paid for this program many, many times over. And we think it's well worth that expenditure, especially as we move into an uncertain future in which as these missiles continue to proliferate, the way they have in the past, we don't know who's going to be able to get their hands on these weapons.

We saw for the first time, in summer of 2006, a terrorist group, Hezbollah, getting their hands on short-range missiles and rockets, and being able to use those against Israel. That type of trend could expand. So we want to make sure that this country's prepared for that. And we think that it is a reasonable amount of money -- less than 2 percent of the Defense budget -- to be prepared to address that threat.

Q If the Czech Republic decides not to allow the radar to go in there, are there other alternatives? Could it be placed in a Middle East ally and still track Iranian missiles from there? Could it -- are the sea-based developed enough that you could proceed with a sea-based solution?

GEN. OBERING: There are other countries that we could -- that could host the radar or the interceptor as well, for that matter. They're not as optimum as the Czech Republic and Poland. And that's why we're very serious and we're very engaged with our allies, the Polish government and the Czech government, to make that happen. There are other alternatives, but they're not as good in that regard.

Other alternatives overall, like going to a sea-based capability, is just -- first of all, there's a couple of problems with that. Number one, the missile that we're proposing putting in Poland and the Czech Republic is, as I said earlier, almost identical to what we flew on our flight test, except we have the third stage removed. So it is a well-proven design. It's well-flown.

We have not even begun the development, in terms of the sea-based capability, that would be able to engage an intermediate range or an ICBM threat. Otherwise, the sea-based interceptors we have today are capable of defending against the shorter-range and medium-range threats, not the long-range weapons that we're talking about, that we're concerned about coming from Iran. So the sea-based is not a technical option for several years. It would be available some time around the 2014, 2015 time frame.

Q (Off mike) -- sea-based radar?

GEN. OBERING: The sea-based radar is not capable enough to replace what we're proposing for the Czech Republic. And even by the time we get the sea-based interceptors, it would take too many ships to be able to cover the same defended area that we're able to defend with this one interceptor site. So there's -- it's just not a cost- effective solution.

You've got to remember that the -- you have to remember that the land-based silo missile that we use -- that's about a 60-foot missile in length, and it's about 56 inches in diameter, something like that.

The sea-based are only about 18 to 20 feet and about 21 inches in diameter, once we do that development.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Sir, you haven't mentioned China at all, and I wondered how -- in your thinking and planning for future threats, how you evaluate the Chinese capability and what measures you would need, then, to step up even what is being done to defend against a threat from North Korea and Iran?

GEN. OBERING: Well, as I said, you know, we're fielding capabilities to counter a nation like North Korea or Iran. We're not fielding capability to counter the Chinese.

However, the Chinese do have a very active development program, missile development program. So we have to maintain cognizance of that program.

There are things that we can -- there are steps that we're taking in our development program that could be used, but we have no intention to field those unless we need to do that. And so we are clearly focused on North Korea and Iran, because we think that is the near and real-term threats.

Yes, sir?

Q What exactly was the interceptor? What was the missile used here in this latest test?

GEN. OBERING: It was an orbital missile, what we call the Orbital Boost Vehicle, OBV. That had -- built by Orbital.

The kill vehicle is the exoatmospheric kill vehicle. It's built by Raytheon. And Boeing Company is the primary contractor for the entire system being able to do that, all that integration. Northrop Grumman is the company that produces the command and control battle management -- or I'm sorry -- the fire control system for the ground- based midcourse. And Lockheed Martin is responsible for the command and control battle management and communications system, all of which performed beautifully. So it was a true team effort between all of those contractors.

Q Just one quick technical question. You have the SBIRS [Space Based Infrared System] on the chart. Was that -- do they actually use that highly elliptical orbit payload that's in here, or was this Defense Support Program --

GEN. OBERING: This was the Defense Support Program.

Q Well, why do you - (off mike) - SBIRS then on there? I mean -

GEN. OBERING: Well, SBIRS - we use the SBIRS ground station as the feed for that.

MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you.

GEN. OBERING: Okay. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

(C) COPYRIGHT 2007, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC.,

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