Pentagon Spokesman's Regular Briefing, Sept. 28

DoD News Briefing September 28, 2000 - 1:33 p.m. Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD ...The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will announce later today, if they haven't already, that they have completed two risk reduction flights, which are not intercept flights, but are designed to test various components of the national missile defense system that's currently under development. Each flight involved firing a Minuteman III from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California into the Kwajalein missile test range in the Central Pacific Ocean. The first flight was designed to test the radar's ability to discriminate among objects in space, and 20 objects were released from the payload, and the ground-based radar then tried to discriminate among them. We don't have the results yet; obviously, they have to be analyzed. And then the next flight, which also took place today, was designed to test some of the components of integrated flight test six, which will take place sometime early next year. I bring this to your attention to highlight the fact that although President Clinton did not make a decision to -- an affirmative decision to move ahead with building any part of the system at this stage, the testing of the system and the development of the system continues apace, and we're on our normal schedule to continue development of a national missile defense system. .... Q: Well, I might have missed this, then, but just to go back to the missile test, when precisely did these two missile tests take place? And is there a reason that they weren't announced ahead of time? Bacon: They took place at 1:01 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, and 3:01 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time. Q: Today? Q: Which was the one that tested the discrimination? Bacon: The one that tested the discrimination was Risk Reduction Flight Number 9. And that took place at 1:01 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time. That was the one that tested the discrimination capability of the ground-based radar. Q: And what kinds of objects, and how many were there? Bacon: Ask BMDO [Ballistic Missile Defense Organization] for that. They'll have that information. Yeah? Q: Well, maybe you're going to say the same thing to this, but were these -- I don't remember these being on any schedule, and -- or where did these come from? They sort of do what some of the earlier tests that were going to look at a number of targets sets, which were simplified, and it seems like they're sort of a replacement for those. But when did they come up with the idea to do this? Bacon: Well, first of all, these were piggybacked on Minuteman flights that the Air Force already had planned. Q: Verification flights or whatever they are? Bacon: Yeah. So they clearly have been planning to do this for some time, but I can't tell you exactly how long they've been in the schedule. I mean, there are a whole series of tests that have been in the schedule for a long time, and I assume these are among them. Q: So -- Bacon: Not every test we do is an intercept test. There have been a lot of tests that test various components of the system without intercepting. Q: This didn't do anything except for -- this was just from targets from Vandenberg and ground situation -- Bacon: Right. Q:-- nothing being launched for elsewhere? Bacon: Exactly right. Q: Okay. Bacon: Exactly right. Q: So why were -- why wasn't this announced ahead of time or -- Bacon: I don't know. I just learned about it this morning myself. I mean, I don't think there's anything nefarious about this. Q: Well, the other thing is, there was -- you know, we had -- the last test, the last intercept test, wasn't fully successful. And there were some problems identified with the boosters. I mean, was anything about these two tests designed to look at any problem that developed in the last test? And was there anything about this that was testing any new fixes or anything that might have been aimed at -- because you said this was a -- what was it? -- risk reduction flight. Bacon: Right. Q: And it seems to imply that you're testing things to make the system more reliable or something. I'm just wondering whether -- Bacon: Well, clearly in the first part we're testing the discrimination capability of the ground-based radar, which is important; the phased array radars. But the problems we've had have been with the interceptors and they've been with the kill vehicles. And we didn't test an interceptor or a kill vehicle in this case. Q: Well, last time the problem was with the booster. The booster failed to separate -- Bacon: Right. We didn't test that. It was the booster on the interceptor; it wasn't the booster on the target rocket. Q: And that doesn't use a -- this kind of booster? Bacon: No. Q: Okay. Bacon: We're developing a new booster, as a matter of fact. I mean, this booster is on its last moments of its life -- the booster that didn't work is in the last moments of its life and we're developing a new booster. Q: And on -- Q: Ken -- excuse me. You said these two tests were previously scheduled so -- Bacon: I said I assume they were previously scheduled because they were piggybacked on -- I mean, I don't think somebody woke up this morning -- (laughter) -- and said let's have a couple of risk-reduction flights. Q: You said they were previously scheduled. Bacon: Right. I said I assume they were previously scheduled, you know. Q: Do you know how much they cost? Bacon: No. Q: These aren't part of the 19 in the series at all? Bacon: Give me a break. (Laughter.) I know everything I've told you about these tests. Ask the BMDO; they'll have the rest.