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Low tech missile defense threats grow

FARNBOROUGH, England -- Low budget armies can't afford to buy brand new fighter jets. They want the cheaper unmanned aircraft and cruise missiles. Air defense systems have to adjust and keep up with what might seem like low tech threats, said Tim Glaeser, a Raytheon vice president for Integrated Air and Missile Defense.

The focus has shifted away from combating the stealth bombers. Military leaders want systems that can protect them from helicopters and those lawn mowers in the sky that can fire a Hellfire missile just like the most advanced bombers or fighters.

That's not to say countries like the U.S. can afford to ignore the threats posed by ballistic missiles or those stealth aircraft. Glaeser urged military leaders here at the Farnborough International Airshow to pursue an integrated defense even though budgets are tight.

His company got a bit of good news when Raytheon was awarded a $636 million development and sustainment contract to build the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle to Boeing's Ground-based Midscourse Defense program. The kill vehicle is designed to eliminate high-speed ballistic missile warheads in space.

The Global Patriot program also appears strong, especially as Congress continues to blast the Medium Extended Air Defense System built by Lockheed Martin that was supposed to replace the Patriot missile defense system. U.S. Army officials expect to keep the Patriot deployed all the way to 2040.

Glaeser said the list of countries interested in buying Patriot systems continues to grow. He listed Turkey, Qatar, Poland, Kuwait and India.

The discussions with India remain tenuous. Raytheon is waiting to get approval from the U.S. government to take the next step toward allowing India to purchase Patriot. The sensitive diplomatic discussions between the U.S. and Pakistan might further push back those talks. Helping to sell a missile defense system to India might not exactly help negotiations after Pakistan recently reopened their border to U.S. convoys.

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