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Missile Defense Test Set July 14

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2001 – The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will conduct a test of an anti-ballistic missile system July 14.

The test is the same as the one last year that was scrubbed a few minutes into the test because the kill vehicle and booster did not separate. The test window is 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time.

The test will use space-based sensors and ground-based radars, including the new X-band radar at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific -- to gather information on the target, officials said. The target will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The interceptor is expected to launch from Kwajalein and get the kill vehicle to an optimum interception point in space.

While in flight, the kill vehicle receives targeting updates from the X-band radar and adjusts course. BMDO officials said the kill vehicle is on its own in the last few seconds of flight. Onboard sensors locate the target and maneuver the kill vehicle to collide with it.

If all goes according to plan, the intercept will occur at an altitude of 140 miles at speeds around 15,000 mph. The impact alone will vaporize the target.

During a July 9 media availability at the Pentagon with French Defense Minister Alain Richard, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld downplayed BMDO's test as "one more in what is a reasonably robust test series."

"Of course, each one will be watched with interest," he said. "A number of the things that will be tested have been tested before and work. A number of the things they are undertaking to test have not been tested.

"My guess is the outcome will be unfortunately simplified when it's over as either 'succeeding' or 'not succeeding.' But, of course, in any advanced technology, it is seldom that simple. It is often -- most often -- a situation where a variety of things work properly and a variety of things may not and more information may be needed. I suspect that that will very likely be the outcome in this instance."

BMDO officials agree, saying 20 more tests are scheduled through fiscal 2005.

The test will use a surrogate booster for the kill vehicle. The booster for the kill vehicle is 18 months behind schedule. The second and third stages of the interceptor will be from Minuteman III missiles. Officials said the first booster test may be in late summer and may be ready for an intercept test in fiscal 2002.

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