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Admin to Roll Out New Missile Plan     01/17 06:14

   The Trump administration will roll out a new strategy Thursday for a more 
aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect against existing 
threats from North Korea and Iran and counter advanced weapon systems being 
developed by Russia and China.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration will roll out a new strategy 
Thursday for a more aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect 
against existing threats from North Korea and Iran and counter advanced weapon 
systems being developed by Russia and China.

   Details about the administration's Missile Defense Review --- the first 
compiled since 2010 --- are expected to be released during President Donald 
Trump's visit to the Pentagon with top members of his administration.

   The new review concludes that in order to adequately protect America, the 
Pentagon must expand defense technologies in space and use those systems to 
more quickly detect, track and ultimately defeat incoming missiles.

   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.

   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.

   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.

   "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 that the U.S. defense capabilities are purely defensive and that 
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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