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Missile Defense Test Score Goes Three-in-a-row

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2002 – A ballistic missile interceptor successfully destroyed a test target March 16 in what Missile Defense Agency officials hope is becoming an almost routine occurrence.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense System's exoatmospheric kill vehicle vaporized a mock nuclear warhead on impact 140 miles over the Pacific. The hit-to-kill vehicle distinguished the mock warhead from decoys and other debris. The March 16 test was the third success in a row and fourth out of six tries.

Missile Defense Agency officials said the test was in keeping with the program's intent to make each test more challenging than the last.

Specialists began the test by launching a modified Minuteman ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 9:11 p.m. EST. A prototype interceptor took off from the Ronald Reagan Missile Range on Kwajalein Atoll about 20 minutes later. The interceptor hit the warhead about 10 minutes after launch.

The test demonstrated the ability of system elements to work together and with other systems that watch for potential offensive launches and that alert early warning radar, officials said.

Each test of the missile defense system costs about $100 million, Defense Department officials have said. The Missile Defense Agency is aiming to conduct quarterly tests. The next is set for June or July, officials said.

This system is just one piece of the total U.S. missile defense effort. The Defense Department is also working on an airborne laser to hit missiles in the boost phase and the Patriot Advanced Capabilities 3 system for terminal phase defense. The Missile Defense Agency finished the research and development phase of the PAC 3 and turned it over to the Army, which is scheduled to test the PAC 3 before the end of March.

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