The head of U.S. Strategic Command said that the command, control and communications component of the nation’s nuclear force is in need of improvement, as reported by the Air Force Times.Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is uncomfortable with the network.
Updating the system has been problematic after the newest military communications satellite suffered a near-devastating malfunction.
Part of a $14 billion system designed to give the military more communications capacity and resist signals jamming, the first of six Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites reached orbit more than a year late in October.
The AEHF system will eventually replace current Milstar system (first launched in 1994), but the program is currently $250 million over budget and two years behind schedule. The second AEHF satellite is scheduled to be launched next month.
Kehler said that the system’s capabilities will not be seen immediately because there have been issues with ground control terminals and command will have to use older terminals at first.
The setbacks come at an active time in terms of non-nuclear missle defence and nuclear arsenals as the U.S. is placing a system of “defence only” missiles in Romania and state-of-the-art destroyers off the coast of Spain as parts of a sophisticated missile defence system in Europe while Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions and Russia bolsters its nuclear arsenal in response to what they see as national threats.
On Wednesday Reuters reported that the United States is also seeking to build regional shields against ballistic missiles in both Asia and the Middle East (akin to the defence system in Europe).
President Obama has asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wait until after the November election before making decisions on how to deal with the missile defence issues and a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Additional issues brought up by Gen. Kehler included ensuring a secure communications connection with bombers and upgrading the ground-based part of nuclear command and control.
The administration’s fiscal 2013 budget includes a $7 million increase for the Air Force’s nuclear weapons support and $80 million for nuclear weapons modernization, along with $161 million for new Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
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