The Washington Times - February 15, 2008, 07:41PM
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Maj. Gen. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson Jr., U.S. Air Force, retired\ \ \ In 1982, under a mandate signed by then-President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Pearson’s team used the F-15 to launch a specially designed, two-stage, anti-satellite missile that would sense the target and hit the center of the satellite at a high velocity, achieving a “kinetic kill.”\ \ \ The Air Force used “an infrared sensor that could sense a heat source from very far away,” Mr. Pearson said, to target the satellite. The sensor was a byproduct of the Reagan-era “Star Wars” antimissile defense program, he said, and was able to differentiate between the heat signature of a satellite and those of any nearby stars, even though the two signatures were similar. This was done by programming\ the sensor with information about the stars in the satellite’s vicinity; any extra signatures would have to suggest a target.\ \ \ “We put our eggs in the basket of being very precise and make it a kinetic kill, which would involve a very small vehicle,” Mr. Pearson recalled. “But you had to actually hit it. If you missed by just an inch or two, it just went whizzing by. The sensor had to guide precisely to the center of the satellite and hit at a high velocity and would destroy the target,” he added.\ \ \ “And that’s exactly what happened,” Mr. Pearson said. “There were 210 individual items that had to be correct to get a successful launch, and I said we got 210 miracles.”\ \ \ — Mark Kellner, The Washington Times