NATO Sees Growing Threat of Missile Strike on Europe; Urges Defenses to Iran, N. Korea Systems

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Europe faces a growing threat of ballistic missile attack from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea and needs missile defenses to counter the threats, a NATO report says.

"The study concludes that there is a present and growing threat of long-range missile attack on NATO territory and it is timely to examine ways and means of addressing that threat," said Marshall Billingslea, NATO assistant secretary-general for defense investment.

Mr. Billingslea said the assessment is the result of a four-year study ordered by NATO heads of state at the Prague summit in 2002 and represents a significant step forward in providing defenses for the continent.

The 10,000-page report, which is mostly classified, was produced by a consortium of defense contractors led by Science Applications International Corp., based in McLean, Va.

The report examines missile defenses to protect population centers, military forces and NATO member territory from all types of ballistic missiles. It includes proposals for effectively intercepting enemy missiles before takeoff, in early and midflight and as they near ground targets.

The report's key conclusions are:

* The threat of long-range missile attack on NATO territory is growing.

* Territorial missile defense is technically feasible and can provide protection from a full spectrum of missile threats.

* The current NATO missile defense program the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense cannot protect all of its population centers and territory.

* Defenses that can hit enemy missiles in midcourse at very high altitude or in space are needed, but only a small number of interceptor sites are needed. …