Index

04 December 2001

Pentagon Says Experimental Missile Defense Test A Success

(Result clears the way for more advanced testing, officials say) (510)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- An experimental missile interceptor successfully shot
down a mock warhead 140 miles over the Pacific Ocean December 3 in the
fifth U.S. missile defense test in the past two years, Pentagon
officials say.

After the launch was postponed for two nights because of poor weather
conditions, a successful launch of the experimental interceptor from a
U.S. test facility on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands occurred
30 minutes after a modified Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM), carrying a dummy warhead, was launched from Vandenberg
Air Force Base, California at 9:59 p.m. EST (0259 GMT), Pentagon
officials said.

"This was the third successful intercept for the Ground-based
Midcourse Defense (GMD) Segment, formerly known as National Missile
Defense," officials from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
(BMDO) said in a prepared statement. The BMDO said it was specifically
testing a ground-based missile interceptor designed to hit and kill an
incoming ballistic missile in mid-flight.

The success of this test now permits the BMDO, which is the Defense
Department agency tasked with developing a limited ballistic missile
defense program for the United States, to begin more complex and
realistic trials of the system.

"Tonight's test is a major step in our aggressive test program, and is
the third successful intercept in five attempts," BMDO officials said.
"We will continue to pursue this testing regime to achieve a layered
approach to missile defense, using different architectures to deter
the growing threat of ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass
destruction."

Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, BMDO director, said during a recent
Pentagon briefing that the current test was designed only to evaluate
certain aspects of the interceptor system. For one thing, he said, it
will allow missile system engineers to begin using a wider array of
decoys in the test scenarios.

"This was an important achievement," he said. "It means we can take
the next step and make the tests more complex."

The missile defense program is also studying ways to hit and kill
ICBMs during the initial boost phase and the terminal, or in-bound,
phase of an enemy missile attack. The Bush administration has said it
wants a missile defense system that can protect against the possible
threat of a terrorist attack, or an attack by a rogue nation, using
missiles tipped with nuclear weapons or chemical and biological
weapons of mass destruction.

Kadish said at the Pentagon briefing that this test, which cost
approximately $100 million, is in compliance with the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The United States and Russia have
been in serious negotiations in recent months over the terms of the
Treaty and what the Bush administration has described as the need to
move beyond the treaty that outlaws anti-ballistic missile systems.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)