Pentagon nearly ready for crucial test of missile defense

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The glitch that doomed the Pentagon's last anti-missile test in January has been fixed and preparations for the next crucial test are proceeding on schedule, the Air Force general in charge of the project said Tuesday.

''If we don't have one of those glitches, we think the design we have will be successful on the next flight test,'' Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish said.

The test is scheduled June 26.

The previous test performed as expected until the final few seconds of flight. Heat-seeking devices aboard the interceptor rocket, which enable the rocket to ''see'' its target, malfunctioned because of a plumbing problem.

''That particular problem, I think -- barring a real stupid mistake -- is under control,'' Kadish said.

In the event the June test fails, there will be another attempt this fall -- probably in October, Kadish said.

The June test is especially important, however, because of a tight deadline for providing President Clinton with a recommendation on whether the missile defense system is ready to start deploying its interceptor rockets and radars.

Clinton must decide whether to proceed by November or December, Kadish said, if the Pentagon is to have the system ready for use by the end of 2005, as presently planned.

If Clinton put off the decision this year, then the 2005 target date would be missed by at least one year, Kadish said.

The anti-missile system is designed to provide protection for all 50 states against a ballistic missile attack from a country such as North Korea, which is developing long-range ballistic missiles.

A base with 20 interceptor rockets is planned for Alaska, probably at Fort Greely near Delta Junction. An advanced radar system would be built on Shemya Island in the western Aleutians.

Under the current schedule, the system would be expanded to 100 interceptor rockets by 2007.

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