New Missile Defense Test Boosts Confidence of Developers

Washington - A successful missile defense test intercept over the Pacific Ocean September 1 increases “confidence in the approach to developing an initial missile defense capability” against a long-range missile, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The U.S. military test launched an interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and intercepted a target missile sent aloft from Kodiak, Alaska.  The test had been delayed one day due to fog.

While pronouncing the September 1 test a success, Rumsfeld said in a written statement that the test program is far from complete.  “Tests will continue, some of which will be successful and some will not,” he said.

The defense secretary said the ground-based midcourse interceptor test was challenging and that additional tests will be even more so.  The next test will be scheduled in December and program officials are hoping to add countermeasures, or decoys, to the scenario to add to the test’s complexity.

The last test was a huge step forward in the planned development of a missile defense system for the United States, its allies and U.S. military forces deployed worldwide, according to Lieutenant General Henry “Trey” Obering.

Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters at the Pentagon shortly after the test concluded that it was conducted against “a very threat-representative target.”  He said MDA employees and contractors cheered when they learned the test results.

This was the 21st successful intercept using hit-to-kill technology since 2001, Obering said.  “We did intercept the re-entry vehicle,” he said, “and we did use the operational radar data to provide the initial track for that intercept.”

He said the success of the test gives him confidence that the United States would have a good chance of shooting down in incoming ballistic missile from a country like North Korea.

"If we had to use the system in an operational mode [today], it would be very capable," Obering added.

The transcript of the briefing is available on the Defense Department’s Web site.

For more information on U.S. missile defense, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.