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Автор Тема:   Saturday's Success Could Lead To More Countermeasures In NMD Tests     (просмотров: 1)
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posted 18-7-2001 10:54    
Saturday's Success Could Lead To More Countermeasures In NMD Tests

By Jim Mathews

16-Jul-2001 8:53 AM U.S. EDT

U.S. missile defense engineers and technicians will spend the next two months analyzing Saturday night's hit-to-kill intercept of a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, which was apparently successful after a year's pause to evaluate the previous test's failure.

Results of the analysis could lead program managers to add more countermeasures to the next test shot.

"We do not know for certain that every [test] objective was met. In all probability some of them were not. But early indications are that we have performance in every one of the objectives of the tests that we set," Ballistic Missile Defense Organization Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish told reporters early Sunday morning following the intercept.

This same test set-up succeeded once and failed twice, so BMDO is now two-for-four on hit-to-kill intercepts. Kadish says lessons learned from last July's failure - which led the then-Clinton Administration to declare that the technology wasn't mature enough to press forward with work toward deployment - paved the way for Saturday's success.

"We knew what was wrong with the last test within about a month and a half, based on our statistical and detailed analysis," Kadish said. "The major changes that [lead contractor Boeing] made as well as the program is that we insisted on testing on the ground what we were going to fly, and fly what we tested. That brings us to the next step away from prototype hardware into the type of hardware we want to use."

Last year the kill vehicle failed to separate from the Lockheed Martin payload launch vehicle. Six months earlier a Raytheon-built infrared sensor went bad just seconds away from an intercept. The program made its other successful intercept on its first shot, in October, 1999.

Kadish says Saturday's test was deliberately staged in exactly the same way as the previous three attempts, replicating the difficulty "so that we can get competence in the reliability of the hit-to-kill technology."

Depending on the outcome of analyses of this weekend's test, BMDO could consider "more countermeasures, possibly" for the integrated flight test-7, or IFT-7, shot slated for October, Kadish said.

"We'll have some decisions to make," he said, but "if we increase our competence on the reliability of the hit-to-kill we probably will add some complexity."

The test began at 10:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., when technicians launched a modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile from the base toward the Pacific Ocean. Twenty minutes later, technicians working at the Kwajalein Atoll test facility in the Marshall Islands, some 4,800 miles away, launched the interceptor toward the Minuteman.

The exoatmospheric kill vehicle, or EKV, separated from its rocket booster more than 1,400 miles from the target warhead, officials said. The EKV used its on-board infrared and visual sensors - with an assist from its Battle Management Command Control and Communications (BMC3) linked to the vehicle through the In-flight Interceptor Communications System (IFICS) - to find the target and avoid being spoofed by a large balloon sent up as a decoy.

Pentagon officials note that Saturday's test was more than just a success for the interceptor. Space- and ground-based sensors and radars, along with the BMC3 system, worked in concert to detect the Vandenberg launch and to cue an early warning radar to get more details on the missile's trajectory. A prototype X-band radar at Kwajalein was able to supply precise target data to the EKV through the IFICS, officials said.

The EKV intercepted the Minuteman in the midcourse phase of its flight - once the missile's propulsion has stopped and the payload has been thrown off its booster, so it begins to arc down toward its target from more than 140 miles above the earth.

Assuming all has gone well, Saturday's test should kick off an intense development program for a range of ballistic missile defense technologies in which officials expect to have some sort of major test event every other month.

"We expect to get four to six tests off next year - between now and the end of next year," Kadish told reporters in a briefing preparing for Saturday's shot. "I think our ultimate goal on the land-based side is to get to eight a year."

This is in part because BMDO has been criticized "for not doing enough testing," he said, "so we've laid in" a more robust testing program. "We all didn't want to rely on our models and simulations as much as we were planning, but affordability here becomes an issue."

The weekend's testing cost about $100 million.

"If we are going to have a robust research and development program, we're going to have to pay for it," Kadish said.

Making good on a campaign promise, President Bush asked Congress recently for a $3 billion hike on missile defense spending in fiscal 2002, to $8.3 billion.

Reaction to the weekend's testing fell along predictable lines - missile defense boosters in Congress pointed to the apparent success of the intercept as proof that the time is ripe to move ahead aggressively; skeptics on Capitol Hill weren't so sure, and Russia slammed the test as one more step toward a new, de-stabilizing arms race.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko repeated Moscow's warning that the Bush team's missile defense efforts "threaten all international treaties in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation."

But Bush's vice-presidential opponent in last year's presidential campaign, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), told CNN's Late Edition program that he hoped "we can convince the Russians what is the truth, which is that we are developing a national defense to protect our people, our kids, our grandkids, not against Russian attack but against attack from rogue nations. They're as much potential targets of those kinds of attacks as we are."

One of Capitol Hill's leading skeptics, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.), echoed Pentagon officials in assessing Saturday's events - "it's not a real-world test yet. And we have a long way to go, and we should continue to pursue it."

Kadish, though pleased with the intercept, also cautioned reporters during the weekend that "we've got a long road ahead in all the missile defense activities," adding that "this test is just one on a journey. One stop on a journey."

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