Missile Defense Ships Would Protect Against China, Gates Says

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The increasing number of U.S. warships equipped with ballistic missile defense technology would provide greater protection in case of conflict with China, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday (see GSN, April 7).

“We`re converting more ships to have ballistic missile defense that would help against China,” he told a PBS interviewer in regard to his budget plan for fiscal 2010.

The budget would reduce funding at the Missile Defense Agency by $1.4 billion but seeks $200 million to install missile shield technology on six ships, Gates said Monday.

Critics have argued that the plan would hamper the U.S. ability to fight conventional wars with nations such as China and Russia as Washington attempts to strengthen defenses against looming threats including insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Press Trust of India reported.

“I think what we are trying to do is not reduce emphasis on conventional warfare, but be more selective about the weapon systems that we fund to fight that kind of a fight,” Gates said.

The Defense Department wants to boost defenses at the theater and tactical levels against threats from Iran, Hezbollah or other rogue actors, Gates said.

“We are not cutting the number of [missile] interceptors in Alaska, we are going to … robustly fund research and development to keep enhancing their capabilities, we are keeping alive the Airborne Laser program, we are just not buying a second research platform,” he said.

“I think that what we have taken out of the budget, frankly, were some experimental capabilities that were really not intended for the rogue-state missile threat but rather, a much larger threat,” Gates added (Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India, April 8).

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