DATE=7/6/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUNDER TITLE=MISSILE PREVIEW NUMBER=5-46622 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: Test scheduled for sometime between 10pm edt Friday and 2 am edt Saturday. /// INTRO: The U-S Military is preparing a crucial test of the controversial National Missile Defense (N-M-D) system Friday. Designers hope to destroy a dummy warhead streaking through space at thousands of kilometers per hour - and prove the worth of the expensive system. Critics say the test is too flawed to tell the President if the 60-billion dollar N-M-D is worth building. V-O-A's Jim Randle has this preview from the Pentagon. TEXT: It will be the third time the U-S Military has tried to detect, track and destroy a dummy warhead on an intercontintental ballistic missile in mid-flight. Previous attempts hit one target and missed the other. In this case, they will launch a target missile from California and launch an interceptor rocket from a Pacific island 7-thousand kilometers away. Satellites are supposed to detect the target rocket's launch by `seeing' its fiery exhaust. Moments later, high powered radars are supposed to give `battle management' computers data predicting the impact point and time. Once the target's course and speed are calculated, the interceptor thunders into the sky, seeking its target 160 kilometers above the ocean. Seconds later, the interceptor and the warhead are supposed to collide at 24-thousand kilometers per hour - an impact powerful enough to vaporize both machines, and create a bright flash in the sky. Pentagon spokesman Craig Quigley says this test is more difficult than previous efforts. /// Quigley act /// This is a walk before you run process. This is the way to evolve a system of this complexity, and we think that it's the right path to take. /// end act /// President Clinton will use information from this test in a few months when he is scheduled to decide to either build or scrap the system. Critics say the system is too crude to tell the difference between a deadly warhead and decoys designed to fool the instruments. Such fakes can be made by cluttering the space near the warhead with balloons of similar size. Tom Collina of the Union of Concerned Scientists says even if the interceptor hits the target in Friday's test, officials will not know enough to make a sensible decision on the fate of the system. /// Collina act /// Particularly not these tests which are, again, not rigorous enough, not realistic enough. Now the tests may get more realistic, but we should wait to see the outcome of those tests and not be deciding on the system now. /// end act /// But Pentagon officials say they must hurry because North Korea may be able to build a ballistic missile that could hit the United States by two-thousand and five. To meet that threat, engineers will have to start building the ten-story tall radars and other facilities on a desolate Alaskan island next June. /// opt /// Other critics in Moscow, Beijing, and in some NATO capitals say the missile defense will violate the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty with Russia. Top officials in Moscow say they will respond by scrapping arms control treaties that removed thousands of nuclear weapons from the arsenals in the United States and Russia, and ignite a new arms race. /// end opt /// Friday's focus is on the National Missile Defense project, one of several efforts to counter what many U-S officials say is a growing threat from the growing number of countries that are developing ballistic missiles. The National Missile Defense, if it works, is a large umbrella designed to protect all 50 U-S States from attack. `Theater' missile defense is supposed to be a medium sized umbrella to protect an area, like U-S bases in the Persian Gulf or the country of Japan from medium range missiles. But the theater missile program has serious technical and manufacturing problems and seems unlikely to be deployed anytime soon. U-S Patriot missiles provide a still smaller umbrella, covering an air field or a small city. Patriots were used in the Gulf War against crude scud missiles with limited success. Since then an improved version has been deployed by U-S and allied forces around the world, and further improvements are under development. (Signed) NEB/PT 06-Jul-2000 17:50 PM EDT (06-Jul-2000 2150 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .