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posted 18-7-2001 10:42    
US conducts successful missile intercept test

16 July 2001

The controversial programme to develop a missile defence framework to defend the shores of the United States from ballistic missiles, took another positive step late on Saturday when a mock warhead was destroyed under test conditions. Although the Department of Defence (DoD) played down the individual importance of this test, it will be a fillip to the Boeing led team after two of the previous three flight tests ended in failure.

The Air Force launched a Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) rocket, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, at 7:40 p.m. PDT carrying a suite of targets. Approximately 21 minutes later, A Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) lifted off from the Kwajalein Missile Range, in the Pacific, carrying an Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), which duly intercepted and destroyed the primary target.

The intercept occurred over the Pacific Ocean at approximately 11:10 p.m. EDT. The kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target by hitting body-to-body at an altitude of approximately 140 miles and a closing speed in excess of 15,000 miles per hour. The "kill vehicle" selected the target instead of a large, black mylar balloon, the temperature of which matched the mock warhead so as to act as a decoy.

The DoD will not know for some weeks whether all the objectives of the test have been successfully attained. Having confirmed the successful "kill", Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish described the test as ''One stop on a journey. '' Although he was quick to praise the team involved in Saturday's success, his thoughts were on the long-term goal. ''It's a series and a buildup of data, '' he said.

The Boeing Company is leading the programme, in association with sub-contracted companies. Both rockets used in the test on Saturday were adapted by Lockheed Martin from their Minuteman range of missiles, while Raytheon provided the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), the PAVE PAWS Early Warning Radar (EWR) and the Ground Based Radar-Prototype (GBR-P).

Watch Boeing's video of the launch and intercept here.

''This intercept is another step toward the ultimate validation of the GMDS system's technology and integration.'' said Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer, Boeing Space and Communications.

Four Greenpeace protesters were arrested after delaying the launch at Vandenberg, as the controversial programme continues to attract criticism over its potential global repercussions.

"As countries race to counter the Bush proposed shield with weapons of mass destruction, the US will be responsible for single-handedly destroying treaties of peace and arms control and creating a proliferation dynamic that will put us all at great risk," Greenpeace said in a statement.

With each flight test costing approximately $100 million, and after the last two tests flopped badly, this was an important success - even if a small one with regard to the long-term development of the layered missile defence framework. "This test was as easy as it gets," said Tom Collina, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' global security program.

The test came just days after Pentagon officials confirmed that President George W. Bush's missile defence plans would clash with the 1972 ABM Treaty in months rather than years. With the next missile test due in October, the determination to accelerate the programme continues apace.

[This message has been edited by Said (edited 18-07-2001).]

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