AFP, A third interceptor missile was lowered into an underground silo in Alaska this week, the latest addition to a ground-based missile defense system that will become operational this year, the US Defense Department said Thursday.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said the interceptor missile went into a launch silo at Fort Greely, Alaska on Wednesday.
Three more interceptor missiles will be fielded by mid-October at Fort Greely, and two others later this year at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, it said.
“Although the system will initially have a limited capability when it becomes operational later this year, it will mark the first time the United States has a capability to defend the entire country against a limited attack by a long-range ballistic missile,” the agency said in a statement.
A prominent critic, Democratic Senator Jack Reed, said the agency's claim that the missiles will provide an effective national defense against long-range missiles “strained credibility.”
“The agency has never done a single test of the interceptor, or the radar needed to guide the interceptor, or the incredibly complex command and control system to see if they can actually shoot down an enemy missile,” he said.
Flight tests have been cancelled or delayed six times since December 2002 because of technical problems and test failures, and the first real test is not scheduled until late November — “safely after the elections,” Reed said.
Nevertheless, the administration planned to announce the deployment of “this untested, problem-ridden system” next month before the elections, he said, accusing the administration of “a cynical approach to our nation's defense”.