Air Defense: May 17, 2002


The new Homeland Defense Strategy is due to be unveiled on 1 July, and there is fierce debate over what should be in it. Homeland defense includes many things (counter-terrorism, military defense, stopping drug smugglers, stopping illegal immigration, and more) and involves more than 125 federal agencies and hundreds of state and local police organizations. Some want to include a system to defend against cruise missiles (which would cost $20 billion to construct and $1 billion per year to operate). Others want an extra $1 billion per year to provide for an improved air defense system. The cruise missile defense concept is the most complex and extensive. In a relatively simple system, new bases with new high-speed long-range air defense missiles would be built every 200 miles along the coast. To provide something closer to air tight protection, it would require such a base every 50 miles (four times as many bases). Deploying more fighters to air defense is expensive. There are only 75 fighters regularly assigned to air defense, but many more have been assigned to that job. One-sixth of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have been on active duty, and this rate is not sustainable. Providing more anti-aircraft missiles would reduce the strain on the fighter components.--Stephen V Cole


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