ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Air Force plans to launch part of a converted Minuteman missile from Kodiak this week as part of its annual Northern Edge military exercises in Alaska.
The launch is planned for Wednesday afternoon, but could come as late as May 15 if weather or technical problems force a delay. The missile will fly 375 miles southeast of Kodiak's Narrow Cape before falling into the Gulf of Alaska.
Air Force Maj. Richard Williamson said the primary mission of the seven-minute flight is to simulate a battlefield ballistic missile attack against some of the 7,500 personnel participating in Northern Edge 2002, the state's largest joint training exercise.
This year, Northern Edge runs from today through May 3 and includes active-duty, reserve and guard airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from the United States and the Pacific Region.
The launch will also be used to test experimental batteries, a device to measure acceleration being developed at the University of Mississippi and airborne instrumentation system operated by the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command.
The missile is known as a Quick Reaction Launch Vehicle.
Williamson said the term ''quick reaction'' refers to the relatively rapid pace at which the missiles are taken out of storage, safety tested, fitted with tail fins and nose cones and programmed -- one year rather than the two or three years it normally takes. The launch will cost the government about $13.5 million.
A Navy team is responsible for launch safety, Williamson said. Federal officials have issued notices to mariners and pilots to avoid danger areas downrange during the time window when the launch might occur.
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