The head of U.S. "Star Wars" research said today that technological progress on the project is moving more quickly than expected, and the United States may decide whether to deploy the system before the early 1990s target date.
Air Force Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson also told a news conference that NATO defense ministers were discussing the possibility of creating a defense against Soviet missiles aimed at Western Europe that would be linked to Star Wars.
Abrahamson spoke on the first day of a two-day NATO planning session. The meeting in this Bavarian city is expected to focus on the Star Wars program, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI.
He said a decision on the feasibility of deploying the space-based defense against Soviet missiles is still expected by the early 1990s.
'Could Have Earlier Decision'
"But if our great progress continues, we could have a decision earlier than that," he said, adding that technological progress is being made more quickly than expected.
Abrahamson said he had brought along examples of Star Wars technology that he showed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers.
While declining to be specific, Abrahamson said he briefed the ministers on advances in fiber optics, lasers and infrared detectors.
"I'm startled that the technical side of SDI is proving much easier than the political side," he said.
So far, Britain is the only government to join the program. West Germany said Wednesday that it has reached basic agreement for private German companies to take part.