No. 638-97
IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 24, 1997 (703)697-5737(public/industry)


After extensive analysis, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lester L. Lyles, Director, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), has decided that the preferred method of launching target missiles in the Gulf of Mexico for Theater Missile Defense (TMD) testing will be from aircraft instead of from land sites in the Florida Keys.

This decision was made after review of factors including cost savings, testing requirements, projected budgets, as well as consideration of environmental concerns expressed by the public during the course of the analysis.

For more than two years, (BMDO) has been studying the potential environmental impacts associated with launching HERA target missiles and interceptor missiles from areas in the north and south Gulf of Mexico. One of the options studied included launching HERA missiles from one of two land sites in the Florida Keys: Saddlebunch Key and Cudjoe Key.

Instead, the alternative will be to launch the target missiles from aircraft flying over the southern Gulf of Mexico. BMDO intends to develop an air launch target missile capable of being deployed from an aircraft like a C-130. Interceptor missiles now being developed will be launched from sites in the Florida Panhandle near Eglin AFB, and from aboard Navy Aegis-class cruisers in the Gulf of Mexico to intercept the target missiles.

The TMD test program is designed to develop and evaluate the U.S. Army's Patriot PAC-3 and Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors, as well as the U.S. Navy's Area and Theater Wide systems launched from Aegis-class ships. The TMD program will provide defense against ballistic missile attack to our forces deployed overseas, and to our friends and allies.

Contact Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, BMDO External Affairs, at (703) 695-8743, Ext. 6129.