Missile Test

January 17, 2000, Monday

BRIT HUME, HOST: The Defense Department is ready to re-test a controversial new weapons system designed to meet and destroy an enemy missile before it can reach a U.S. city. It is known as the EKV, or Exo-atmosphere Kill Vehicle. And as FOX NEWS Steve -- excuse me. As Steve Centanni reports, some are questioning the weapon's feasibility.

STEVE CENTANNI, FOX NEWS : Seventeen years ago, lasers in space were envisioned as the best protection against enemy missiles.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies.

CENTANNI: Now a scaled-back version of that system, minus the space lasers, is ready for a second crucial test. In the first test last fall, a dummy warhead was fired from the California coast. Twenty minutes later, an interceptor was sent up from the Marshall Islands. It collided with the would-be warhead 140 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

But there are now questions about how well that first test really went. Technical problems put the interceptor off course. Then it homed in on a decoy before finally spotting the incoming missile. Some say that's not a very encouraging sign.

JOHN PIKE, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: In the real world, there are going to be a hundred objects out there. They're all going to look the same. And there's no way to tell which one's the real warhead. They got lucky in this test. They're not going to get lucky in combat.

CENTANNI: There are also diplomatic problems. Building the system point to a new CIA report that Iran might now be able to make nuclear weapons. And they say President Reagan's goal is now easier to reach.

AMB. KEN ADELMAN, FORMER REAGAN OFFICIAL: What Ronald Reagan's vision was right at the time, although questionable in its ambition. It's even righter today, and I believe it's easily attained.

CENTANNI (on camera): After a series of three tests, the Pentagon Either way, it'll be politically charged since the president will make his decision this summer, right in the thick of the presidential campaign.

In Washington, Steve Centanni, FOX NEWS.

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