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Star Wars General Says System Would Destroy Missiles Shortly After Liftoff

January 21, 1987

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ If parts of the ″Star Wars″ system are deployed years early, they would be able to destroy hostile missiles shortly after liftoff, protecting both cities and military bases, the head of the program indicates.

Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson hinted at the strategy Tuesday in answering a question about a dispute that arose last week when Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said any early deployment of Star Wars would protect people, while President Reagan’s arms control adviser, Edward Rowney, was saying an initial system would shield missiles.

″If it is an area defense, such as an ability to destroy a booster in the early boost phase, well then nobody knows what the target is - whether a city or a military installation - in that phase of the flight,″ Abrahamson said.

″If we do that, we will protect both people and important military installations,″ he said. ″I think the secretary wants to emphasize that we’re not talking about starting with the terminal defense that would be put around a particular target that you want to protect.″

A terminal defense would be a network of land-based rockets intended to intercept warheads that made it through the first two space-based layers of defense. In his remarks, Abrahamson likened it to a ″cleanup hitter.″

Abrahamson, head of the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars, was the opening speaker at a four-day international space symposium that has drawn experts from several nations.

Under the original Star Wars plan, a decision was to be made in 1992 on whether technology was well enough in hand to proceed toward an operational system. But recently stories have circulated that the Reagan administration is considering deploying SDI elements which have reached technological maturity as early as 1991 or 1992.

Some members of Congress, including Democratic Sens. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana and William Proxmire of Wisconsin, have accused the administration of playing politics by releasing information about possible acceleration of SDI, a charge that Abrahamson strongly denied.

″What we’re doing is responsibly going through and fleshing out what the concept of deployment is,″ he said. ″There is no policy decision about when and how that might be implemented. That’s to be made at some time in the future by an appropriate level, and obviously it’s going to depend on the world situation as well as other factors.″

Among those factors, he said, are ″funding, how successful we are in the research, what level of effectiveness we think is an appropriate place to start, and finally, it depends on the threat.″

Congress deeply cut SDI funds in the current fiscal year, and opponents have said they will try for even more drastic cuts in the $5.22 billion the administration has requested for fiscal 1988.

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