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US defence official: The Deveselu base will be equipped with SM3 IB interceptors by 2015, later on to be upgraded

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The interceptors to be deployed in Romania at the Devesleu site as part of the US ballistic missile defence system in Europe by 2015 will be of SM3 IB type, currently undergoing fly testing, but they will be totally or partially replaced by SM3 IIA missiles, currently co-developed with Japan as phase three interceptors to be ready by 2018, a US senior defence official said Friday in Brussels.

He added that the SM3 IIB interceptors that were to be deployed in phase four of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) which the Pentagon said they were discarding on March 15 were only in a concept development phase.

'The SM3 IIB phase four interceptors that we are now not going to pursue never existed other than on Power Points; it was a design objective. We were working with the American industry to try to determine whether it was feasible a missile defence interceptor small enough to fit in the existing launch tubes of our ships, so it could be deployed at sea, as part of the inventory of the cruisers or destroyers so we would not have to spend billions of dollars to redesign the ships. It should have solid propellant, not liquid propellant, because not only the US navy, but also most European navies are not comfortable with the idea of putting liquid fuel in missiles on their ships, because if there is an accident you lose the ship,' said the US official, who has been working for the US defence system for more than 35 years.

He mentioned that such interceptors would have to be very fast an available in a short time, because 'the North Korean threat is there, and now the Iranian threat is coming fast.' He explained that one of the reasons why phase four interceptors could not been developed was because money had been moved to the development of SM3 IB phase two missiles, the likes of those to be deployed in Romania.

'We were hoping that such a missile could be developed by 2020. We were still in a process of deciding whether that was feasible in physical sense, in technical sense, as state-of-the-art rocket propulsion, when the US Congress one and a half year ago decided to cut almost all of the money for this programme and move it to another program, the SM3 IB, which had had some plane problems and needed more test. So, we took the money from the phase four system and put it against the phase two system. ... Continuing resolution means that for this fiscal year we can't spend more on any single programme than you could have spent last year. Since SMe IIB had essentially been zero that meant it was against zero this year. We have begun telling our allies that the earliest that the SM3 IIB could have been available was 2022, which is nine years. So, when you have a deputy defence minister in Pyongyang say we are going to incinerate Washington with ICBMs, something that is not available for nine years is not particularly relevant to that particular threat. So, that is why the programme has been cancelled,' the official added,quoted by Agerpres.

He said both SM3 IB and SM3 IIA interceptors will be deployed to the Romanian site, with the latter still undergoing tests.

'The SM3 IB, which is the phase two interceptor, will be ready by 2015 for deployment at the AEGIS shore site in Romania. By 2018, when we establish the site in Poland, we would have the next generation SM3 missile available, the one that we are co-developing with Japan, the SM3 IIA. The Romanian cycle will start out in 2015 with the SM3 IB; that system is in fly testing now and doing quite well. We are very confident it is on track and on budget, with very good test results. We are fully confident the missile we are co-developing with Japan, the SME IIA, will have proved in fly testing, once we get to that phase. Assuming success in that fly testing, then we will have ready the option of upgrading the Romanian site to the SME IIA, either all of the interceptor tubes or we'll have a mix. We have to make that decision. But both options will be there,' the US defence official added.

The US Administration on March 15 announced the Romanian authorities that cancelling the phase four of the EPAA would not affect Romania in any way.

'US Department of State's Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller clearly and firmly underscored that this decision to adjust the EPAA does not affect Romania in any way, as phase 2 entailing commissioning the Deveselu Base in Romania around 2015 will be carried out according to plans, without modifications or delays. As a matter of fact, the US official reconfirmed that the type of interceptor that was to be introduced in phase 4 had not been planned to be deployed at Deveselu from the beginning of the project,' Romania's Foreign Ministry said in a press release issued on March 15.

 

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