Russia sees U.S. space threat, builds new rocket

MOSCOW Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:27am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States will be able to hit any target in Russia from space by 2030, the commander of Russia's air force said on Tuesday, announcing that Moscow will develop a new air defense system to avert the threat.

"The development of air and space offensive weapons by foreign states demonstrates that by 2030 radical changes will take place in the exploration of air and space as an integral sphere of armed struggle," Russian news agencies quoted three-star General Alexander Zelin as saying.

"Air forces of foreign states, primarily that of the United States, will gain an opportunity to make coordinated, high-precision strikes on a global scale at practically all targets on the territory of the Russian Federation," he said.

He did not specify what kind of strike Russia could be threatened with from space or which other countries might pose a threat.

Russia is negotiating a new nuclear arms deal with the United States to replace the 1991 START-1 pact which expires in December -- part of an effort by both countries to improve their thorny relationship.

Russia's Defense Ministry said in June it hoped that U.S. President Barack Obama would not pursue his predecessor George W. Bush's plan to deploy weapons in space, warning that Moscow was ready to respond appropriately to such a move.

The Bush administration ordered the Pentagon to start researching new anti-missile systems to guard against a launch from North Korea or Iran.

Medvedev has said a ban on deploying weapons in space was a condition for further arms cuts as were mutual limitations on the creation of ground-based anti-missile systems.

Medvedev is trying to persuade Obama to give up plans for a ground-based anti-missile system with components deployed in Europe, a project viewed by Moscow as a direct threat.

Zelin said that by 2020 Russia would create its own new air and space defense.

"In coordination with all kinds of troops of Russia's armed forces it must be ready to deter potential aggressors at regional and global levels in peaceful times and to rebuff an armed aggression by its entire arsenal of conventional and nuclear weapons during a war," he said.

Zelin said Moscow was now developing a fifth-generation, surface-to-air rocket, the S-500. "It is able to implement in full the tasks of air and space defense and is capable of engaging ballistic hypersonic targets flying at a speed of 5 km (3 miles) per second," Zelin said.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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