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U.S. hikes budget for advanced Patriot missile program

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The Bush administration plans to increase funding for the PAC-3 program in an effort to accelerate development and procurement of the missile interceptor.

The Defense Department plans to increase allocations for the PAC-3 as part of a $9.1 billion budget request for missile defense in fiscal 2004.

The PAC-3 underwent a series of tests-firings in 2002 with mixed results. Still, the Pentagon has ordered accelerated development and procurement of the interceptor and transferred its first PAC-3 battery to Kuwait, Middle East Newsline reported.

The increase for PAC-3 represents what officials termed a new stage in the program.

"Why are we spending more?" a senior defense official asked. "Well we've moved from the research side to the development side in a much bigger way."

The Pentagon's request calls for $739 million for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 program. Officials said this would include procurement of 108 PAC-3 systems to protect against cruise missile and tactical ballistic missile attack.

The Pentagon, in the first such move, has deemed North Korea as a threat that requires additional funding for missile defense. In December, senior defense officials refused to cite North Korea as an impetus for U.S. missile defense programs.

"It does give you a capability against them," the senior official told a Pentagon briefing last week. "That doesn't mean we're going to use them against them. I don't think I mind if [North Korean ruler] Kim Jung Il worries."

The Pentagon request contains $7.7 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. Officials said the money would be used to continue research, development and testing of initial capability in 2004 and 2005.

The initial capability, officials said, would be directed against missile threats from the Middle East. They said the United States wants to deploy 10 ground-based interceptors in fiscal 2004 for what was termed initial modest capability against North Korean missiles.

The following year, the United States plans to add another 10 interceptors as well as up to 20 sea-based interceptors. This would include land, sea and space sensors as well as command and control upgrades.

"This would add modest capability against Middle East threats," the senior official said.

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