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Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies


The Use of "Hera" Missile Violates the INF Treaty"

November 20, 2000

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Working on the development of theater ABM system, the United States recently put in use as a target a newly designed missile.

The nature of the development of a tactical ABM system determines that intermediate range missiles are the most suitable for the role of targets. However, according to the 1987 INF Treaty, the US and Russian Federation are not allowed to have such missiles.

However, simply and unpretentiously Pentagon took the path of creation of such a missile using the second and third stages of Minuteman-II missile (with certain modifications), and, according to some sources, guidance components from the eliminated under the INF Treaty Pershing missiles. Intentionally or not, they developed a new intermediate-range missile Hera with launch weight of about 10.8 metric tons and maximum range of 1000 km. Designers estimates are that the missiles characteristics are close to optimal for this range at minimum expenses.

Naturally, Russian Federation could not pass by this obvious, from the Russian point of view, violation of the INF Treaty and expressed concerns via diplomatic channels. Such addressing practices exist within the framework of all international arms control agreements. The party that received this kind of concerns have to either correct the problem, or substantiate their position. The practice of such addresses and answers on them is, as a rule, confidential, however in this case the patience of one of the parties was apparently exhausted, which triggered numerous publications in the media on this subject. The history of the INF Treaty doesn't know such a gross violation indeed.

To answer the Russian concerns, the US try to justify their position attributing Hera missile to "booster systems" existing at the time when the Treaty was signed, which the parties have the right to produce and use (paragraph 12 of Article VII). However, that very paragraph specifies that "such booster systems are used only for research and development purposes to test objects", which meant payloads launched to upper and exo-atmosphere.

At the same time the tactical ABM system is tested against missile rather than payload. The most convenient way to refine the notification, tracking, selection and interception means is to test them against a regular intermediate range ballistic missile, and such a missile -- Hera -- was delivered for flight tests in violation of the INF Treaty.

Of course, there is another way for this kind of testing work: to use ballistic missiles allowed by the Treaty (with the range under 500 km), aviation boosters, modeling, etc., however all these options evidently appeared more complicated and more expensive to the authors of the project.

What is done, is done. We can consider this as sloppiness, which can quite often be seen in Pentagon's actions, or as disrespect to Russia, the party in the Treaty. We don't have to wait too long to see the policy of the new American administration, meanwhile one should keep in mind that Russia has the ability to take certain reciprocal measures in this situation.

Gennady Khromov
participant to the INF Treaty negotiations,
contact address: www-start@armscontrol.ru.

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