Bright Light Signifies Missile Intercept Success
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2001 If the bright flash of light wasn't proof enough, the cheers that erupted in the Pacific Missile Range control room proved the success of the most ambitious U.S. missile defense test conducted to date.
At 11:07 p.m. Eastern time, an exoatmospheric kill vehicle launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands homed in on and destroyed a target warhead launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The interception took place more than 140 miles above the Earth. The kill vehicle slammed into the warhead at more than 15,000 miles per hour.
The exoatmospheric kill vehicle.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The early indications we have is that everything worked in a nominal mode," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
, during a brief Pentagon press conference after the shoot. "Nominal" means "acceptable" in rocket-speak.
Kadish was cautious. "These tests take several weeks to deduce the data, but we believe we have a successful test in all aspects at this time," he said. "This test, though, is one stop on a journey. We have a long road ahead in all the missile defense activities."
Kadish said he does not know for sure if the test met all objectives. "In all probability, some of them were not (met)," he said. "But the early indications are that we have performance in every one of the objectives of the test." He said full test results would be available in two months.
Kadish praised the crew at Kwajalein and the companies that built the system. "They took a difficult situation over the last year and made it a lot better," he said.
BMDO will add some complexity to the next test of the system.