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Australia's Missile Defence Research Hits Target

Missile Defence Research Takes Off

Preliminary trials of the possible application of Australia's world-leading Jindalee over the horizon radar to missile defence had proved successful in detecting a target, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.

Senator Hill made the announcement on the eve of the annual Australia-United States Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN) in Washington where Senator Hill and the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, will sign a joint Memorandum of Understanding that provides a 25-year framework for Australian-US cooperation on missile defence.

Senator Hill said the trials, led by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and conducted in April around Darwin with US officials present, examined the potential of high frequency radar to improve the detection of ballistic missiles at launch.

"Although the report on this research is still being finalised, the trials demonstrated the feasibility of applying JORN to missile defence," Senator Hill said.

"The research examined whether Australia's over the horizon radar technology could improve the detection of ballistic missiles during the early boost phase, therefore allowing earlier interception.

"This is precisely the sort of work the Howard Government envisaged when committing to the missile defence program. While there is no immediate threat to Australia from ballistic missiles, this collaborative work puts Australia and its scientists at the forefront of leading edge research and development. It is also a prudent investment in potential future capabilities for the defence of Australia - a fact that Labor has ignored with its short sighted and anti-American opposition to the missile defence program."

Existing missile detection systems that depend on infra-red detection from spacecraft, for example, may not always detect the missile until it breaks cloud cover.

The latest trials were aimed not only at detecting the target but also whether additional and more accurate information about the trajectory of the missile could be obtained using multiple receiving systems.

For convenience the Darwin trials used an aircraft as a target rather than a missile. Given that missiles are a more demanding target than an aircraft in level flight, a further trial of the technology is proposed for later this year using missile launches from a test range in the United States as targets of opportunity. Subsequent work would investigate the automatic detection and tracking of the missile signatures and the fusion of this information with information from other sources.

Australia and the US will decide whether to develop these promising beginnings into a joint research project.


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