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DATE=5/25/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249765 TITLE=MISSILE DEFENSE TEST FAILURE (S) (CQ) BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE TROUBLED U-S MISSILE DEFENSE PROGRAM SUFFERED ANOTHER DELAY (TUESDAY) WHEN A TARGET MISSILE WENT ASTRAY, FORCING CANCELLATION OF A KEY TEST OF THE ARMY'S ANTI MISSILE SYSTEM. CORRESPONDENT JIM RANDLE REPORTS, THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR PROGRAM HAS SEEN A STRING OF COSTLY AND EMBARRASSING FAILURES. TEXT: THE TARGET MISSILE ROARED INTO THE SKY FROM WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE IN NEW MEXICO AT DAWN, AND PROMPTLY WENT OFF COURSE. PENTAGON OFFICIALS SAY THAT FORCED SCIENTISTS TO MAKE A SPLIT-SECOND DECISION NOT TO FIRE THE THEATER HIGH ALTITUDE AREA DEFENSE MISSILE. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO TRACK, CATCH, AND DESTROY THE TARGET. THEATER DEFENSE MISSILES ARE DESIGNED TO DESTROY WEAPONS LAUNCHED FROM 13-HUNDRED KILOMETERS AWAY, LIKE THOSE BEING DEVELOPED BY IRAN, NORTH KOREA, AND PAKISTAN. A CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY SUPPORTS BUILDING U-S MISSILE DEFENSES AS SOON AS THEY ARE TECHNICALLY FEASIBLE, BUT CRITICS SAY THAT MAY BE A WHILE. THE LATEST PROBLEM MAY BE ALL THE MORE FRUSTRATING TO PROGRAM MANAGERS BECAUSE IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF THE DEFENSE MISSILE, BUT WAS A FAILURE OF A USUALLY RELIABLE TEST ROCKET. SIX PRIOR TEST FAILURES HAVE BEEN BLAMED ON POOR MANUFACTURING OR LAX SUPERVISION, LEADING THE GOVERNMENT TO FINE THE MANUFACTURER MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. (SIGNED). NEB/JR/RAE 25-May-99 11:10 AM EDT (1510 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .