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Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Watrous told Inside the Ring that the delays are the result of the technical problems with the missile destruct mechanism that were found after the successful flight test of a Minuteman III in April and led to the delays in the next test. That flight test was the only one so far this year and, unless the November test occurs, could be the last.

Asked if arms control concerns were behind the delays, Col. Watrous said: “There has been no discussion of any of that. It is simply a range safety issue.”

The Strike Command statement said the “test-unique instrumentation component on the missile” being replaced is solely for test launches for safety and tracking and “does not have any role or impact on the operational reliability or effectiveness of the ICBM itself.”

“The test-unique component, which is being replaced, is part of a larger flight termination system, which provides Airmen the ability to monitor and safely terminate the missile in flight,” the statement said.

The tests program is designed to “to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system,” the statement said, noting that “we have several other tests by which we obtain the data necessary to confirm the operational readiness of the ICBM fleet.”

MISSILE DEFENSE SUCCESS

The Pentagon announced Wednesday the successful intercept flight test of an advanced version of the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile system - the heart of the Obama administration’s European-based missile defense plan.

A Missile Defense Agency statement concluded after a preliminary review test data that the exercise was “a very accurate intercept.”

The statement describing the test said the missile defense ship USS Lake Erie fired the Navy’s newest Standard Missile-3 Block 1B interceptor that slammed into a separating ballistic missile target in space over the Pacific Ocean.

A target missile launched from Kauai, Hawaii, at 11:15 p.m. local time and was detected and tracked by the ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar on the ship.

The Standard Missile-3 was launched and “maneuvered to a point in space, as designated by the fire control solution, and released its kinetic warhead,” the statement said.

“The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the threat in a hit-to-kill intercept,” it stated.

It was the second consecutive intercept for the new missile.

The Block 1B is more advanced than the earlier and less-capable Block 1A missile. The new missile has a longer range, improved capability for identifying true targets from decoys, and more power to kill sophisticated ballistic missiles. The Block 1B missile is being used with the upgraded system BMD 4.0.1.

The SM-3 Block 1B is slated for deployment in ground silos in Romania in 2015, plans that have upset Moscow and prompted a Russian general to threaten pre-emptive attacks on U.S. missile defenses in Europe.

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