- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

From combined dispatches
The latest test of America's missile-defense system was a success Monday night, as an interceptor rocket destroyed a Minuteman II missile high above the Pacific Ocean.
It was the seventh test for the Missile Defense Agency and the fourth consecutive success, said Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the agency in Washington. Of the seven tests, five have succeeded.
The test provided a colorful light show for much of California as the launch of the Minuteman II from Vandenberg Air Force Base created a fiery trail seen by people from as far north as the San Francisco Bay area and south to Los Angeles.
The modified Minuteman II, carrying a mock warhead and an unspecified number of decoys, was launched from the California base at 7 p.m. Monday, sent on a 4,800-mile path toward the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands.
At 7:22 p.m., an interceptor missile was launched from the Kwajalein atoll, and it hit the Minuteman six minutes later.
"It directly collided with the Minuteman," Col. Lehner said.
To hit the incoming warhead in space, the U.S. military relied on a so-called exoatmospheric kill vehicle, which separated from its rocket booster more than 1,400 miles from its target and used on-board infrared and visual sensors, as well as signals from a Kwajalein-based X-band radar to home in on the mock warhead.
Sensors aboard the kill vehicle were able to successfully select the warhead from among five objects in the target area, including three decoys, Pentagon officials said.
When President Reagan proposed building a national missile-defense system two decades ago, critics scoffed and dubbed the idea "star wars." But the concept gained momentum recently with the Bush administration's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had banned such systems.
Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty meant the United States was for the first time able to use a Navy Aegis destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones, in the missile tests. The ship was positioned "somewhere between Hawaii and California" and used its SPY-1 radar system to track the warhead, according to Pentagon officials.
"It's a very valuable addition," Col. Lehner said. "Possibly in the future we can incorporate that radar in the missile-defense system. It gives us an alternative we could not test under the ABM Treaty."
The ongoing tests cost roughly $100 million each and are part of the Pentagon's drive to develop a missile-defense network.
"What these tests do is they greatly improve our knowledge of missile-defense technology for our development of a missile-defense system against long-range ballistic missiles," Col. Lehner said.
Last week, Senate and House negotiators earmarked $6.9 billion for missile-defense programs in fiscal 2003, which began Oct. 1.
Construction is under way in Alaska on a simple version of the system, which the administration hopes to complete by fall 2004.


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