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DATE=5/24/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249739 TITLE=U-S MISSILE TEST (L-ONITER) BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: MISSILE TEST SCHEDULED FOR 2 P.M. EDT TUESDAY /// INTRO: THE U-S MILITARY IS HOLDING AN IMPORTANT TEST (TODAY/TUESDAY) OF A SYSTEM TO SHOOT DOWN BALLISTIC MISSILES AIMED AT THE UNITED STATES. AMERICAN SCIENTISTS HAVE SPENT DECADES, AND ABOUT 100-BILLION DOLLARS, TRYING TO SHOOT DOWN SUCH WARHEADS, BUT HAVE RARELY SUCCEEDED. SOME CRITICS SAY ANOTHER FAILURE COULD THREATEN THE TROUBLED PROGRAM. V-O-A'S JIM RANDLE HAS THIS PREVIEW. TEXT: THE GOAL IS TO DESTROY NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL WARHEADS BEFORE THEY GET ANYWHERE NEAR THE UNITED STATES. TO DO THAT, ANTI-BALLISTIC MISSILE SYSTEMS USE POWERFUL RADARS TO DETECT AND TRACK INCOMING MISSILES. SMALL, SWIFT, MISSILES ARE THEN SUPPOSED TO STRIKE AND DESTROY THE WARHEADS. MILITARY OFFICERS SAY IT IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT -- MUCH LIKE TRYING TO HIT A BULLET WITH ANOTHER BULLET. OF SEVERAL U-S SYSTEMS UNDER DEVELOPMENT, THE MOST ADVANCED IS CALLED THE THEATER HIGH ALTITUDE AREA DEFENSE SYSTEM, OR "THAAD." SO FAR, "THAAD" INTERCEPTORS HAVE MISSED THEIR TARGETS SIX TIMES, IN A STRING OF COSTLY AND EMBARRASSING FAILURES. THE OFFICERS WHO HEAD THE PENTAGON'S BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE ORGANIZATION SAY THEY HAVE CORRECTED THE PROBLEMS. BUT DEFENSE ANALYST JOHN PIKE, OF THE FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS SAYS THE TECHNOLOGY IS NOT YET UP TO THE TASK. /// FIRST PIKE ACT /// WELL, WE'VE BEEN TESTING THIS SORT OF ANTI-MISSILE INTERCEPTOR FOR 15 YEARS NOW, [AND] HAVE HAD A VERY HARD TIME HITTING ANYTHING. I DON'T THINK WE ARE GOING TO HAVE CONSISTENT SUCCESS WITH THESE INTERCEPTORS ANY TIME SOON. BUT WE CONTINUE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON THEM. THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE A RELIABLE WEAPONS SYSTEM ANY TIME SOON. /// END ACT /// OTHER ANALYSTS SAY ANOTHER MISS [ANOTHER UNSUCCESSFUL TEST] WOULD WEAKEN CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS NEEDED TO COMPLETE DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT OF THE "THAAD" SYSTEM. MEANTIME, THE U-S NAVY IS WORKING ON A COMPETING ANTI-MISSILE SYSTEM, WHICH WOULD BUILD ON AIR-DEFENSE WEAPONS NOW DEPLOYED ON AMERICA'S MOST ADVANCED WARSHIPS. THE IDEA IS TO STRENGTHEN THE NAVY'S "AEGIS" [PRON: 'EE-DZHISS] SYSTEM WITH MORE POWERFUL RADARS, STRONGER COMPUTERS AND BETTER MISSILES. BUT THE NAVY'S SYSTEM IS EVEN FARTHER FROM COMPLETION THAN "THAAD." SOME REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SAY WASHINGTON SHOULD DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK, BECAUSE MORE AND MORE NATIONS ARE DEVELOPING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND THE MISSILES TO DELIVER THEM. PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN CURT WELDON POINTS TO LAST YEAR'S LAUNCH OF A NORTH KOREAN MISSILE OVER JAPAN AS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE GROWING THREAT FROM REGIMES HOSTILE TO THE UNITED STATES. /// REST OPT /// EVEN CRITICS OF MISSILE DEFENSES, LIKE JOHN PIKE, SAY THEY ARE A VERY APPEALING IDEA. /// SECOND PIKE ACT /// IT WOULD BE VERY NICE IF IT DID WORK. IT WOULD BASICALLY MAKE THE THREAT FROM NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS LAUNCHED ON BALLISTIC MISSILES GO AWAY. IT WOULD CERTAINLY TO THE ALTERNATIVE WE HAVE LIVED WITH FOR THE LAST HALF CENTURY, THREATENING TO BLOW UP ANY COUNTRY THAT TRIES TO BLOW US UP. /// END ACT /// BUT SUPPORTERS OF MISSILE DEFENSES SAY DETERRING ATTACKS ON THE UNITED STATES BY THREATENING DEVASTATING RETALIATION MIGHT NOT WORK IF AMERICA IS THREATENED BY IRRATIONAL ROGUE STATES, TERRORISTS, OR ACCIDENTAL MISSILE LAUNCHES. (SIGNED) NEB/JR/WTW 24-May-99 7:10 PM EDT (2310 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .