National Missile Defense Test Delayed to June
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2000 The next flight test of the National Missile Defense System has been delayed to June 26, DoD officials announced March 21, 2000
Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, told reporters during a Pentagon news conference that an exhaustive review of data from the failed Jan. 18 test showed the missile needed "no major design or redesign" before the next flight test. He said the fixes could be completed by April 9.
The test was originally set for April 27. "We've resolved all of the problems that resulted in the failure to intercept in our last flight test," he said. "Integrated flight test 5 will now be targeted for June 26 and will be our third attempt at a successful intercept."
In addition to delaying the test, DoD will also adjust the schedule for the Deployment Readiness Review, Kadish said. This is the department's internal technical review of the National Missile Defense System. Kadish said the review would take 30 days, rather than the 60 days originally planned. It will be delivered to the defense secretary 30 days after the flight test. "This will allow us to gather 85 percent of the data from the flight test and analyse it," Kadish said.
Taken with all the other information, Kadish estimated it would mean more than 95 percent of the technical information would be available 30 days after the flight test. "We can still meet our commitments to meet the right amount of data and assessment," he said.
He said this would have "minimal" effect on the schedule of the presidential decision process later this summer.
Officials determined the missile test failed because of a blockage in the system that cooled the infrared sensor system. There are two cooling systems in the kill vehicle - - one krypton and one nitrogen. Both use the same plumbing but operate at different times. Kadish said the blockage was probably caused by moisture.
He said there was no particular fault with the blockage, the process needed to be changed. "The people did exactly what they were supposed to do, it just wasn't good enough," he said.
Each flight test costs $100 million. The 20-year life cycle cost of the National Missile Defense System is estimated at $38 billion. If the president were to give the program the green light it would be operational in fiscal 2005.
The Deployment Readiness Review is keyed to that operational date, Kadish said. "If you start with the idea that we want to meet a threat in 2005, ... and you back up all the things that we need to do to make sure that we can accomplish our goal of deploying the system in 2005," he said, "it turns out that the construction contracts in Alaska, specifically Shemya Island, where we're going to put the radar, is the long lead effort."
To be operational in fiscal 2005 construction on that radar in Shemya, Alaska must begin in spring 2001.
Construction contracts need to be let in October or November 2000. "When you back up from that as to all the things we would like to do to make sure that we make the right types of technical assessments in support of those decisions to let those contracts, it turns out that June  was the right date [to make the decision]."