US defence bill boosts funding for missile defence to $11.8 billion

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A compromise defence bill proposed on Monday by US lawmakers would boost spending on missile defence by US$358 million (S$447 million) to $9.5 billion, mandating an additional homeland defence radar and increasing funding for US-Israeli cooperative efforts.

Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives Armed Services committees released details of a slimmed-down defence authorisation bill for fiscal 2014 late on Monday, calling for a final vote on the measure before Congress leaves for the year.

The bill includes $80 million in additional funding to address the problem that caused a missile defence test flight failure in July, and $30 million for design and development of a new, enhanced "kill vehicle," the part of the rocket that is used to hit the target missile and destroy it on impact.

In addition to added funding, the measure requires the Pentagon to develop options and plans to improve the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system run by Boeing Co.

The compromise measure also calls for the Missile Defense Agency to deploy another radar to protect the United States from long-range missile threats from North Korea, and to ensure that other sensors could be deployed on the Atlantic side of the United States to defend against missile threats from Iran.

It earmarked $20 million to fund efforts under way to evaluate a possible additional US interceptor site.

The measure authorises $173 million in added funding for US-Israeli cooperative missile defence programs, including nearly $34 million to improve the Arrow weapon system and $22 million for work on developing an upper-tier interceptor.

Boeing has worked with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on the Arrow II and Arrow 3 interceptors.

It also includes $117.2 million for development of the David's Sling short-range ballistic missile defence system, which is being developed jointly by Israel's state-owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd and Raytheon Co, one of the largest US arms makers.

A new interceptor being developed by Israel and the United States to counter missiles that are held by Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas passed a second live trial last month, according to a summary released by the committees.

The measure also backed President Barack Obama's request of $220 million for Israel to buy additional Iron Dome short-range interceptors and batteries, and added $15 million to establish a US co-production capability for Iron Dome parts.

Raytheon has a joint marketing agreement with Israeli state-owned manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd for the Iron Dome system.

In addition, the measure requires a report on US-Israeli missile defence cooperation, and better reporting by the Missile Defense Agency on the full cost of operating and maintaining missile defence systems.

The measure also explicitly bans the use of fiscal 2014 funds to integrate Chinese missile defence systems into US missile defence systems, a move aimed at putting further pressure on Turkey to change its mind about choosing a Chinese system over those proposed by US and European firms.

US and NATO officials have said the Chinese system could not work together with existing US and NATO systems.