98273. Theater Defense Missile Fails 5th Test
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON -- The Theater High Altitude Air Defense System failed
a fifth test May 12, but DoD is determined to make the program work,
said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.
The missile, designed to intercept and destroy ballistic
missiles, blew up five seconds into a test flight. Debris landed two
miles down range from the launching pad at White Sands Missile Range,
Each of the five tests of the system have failed in different
ways, Bacon said, leading DoD to conclude there is "no single systemic
reason apparent from these tests as to why the failures took place."
Officials will study this latest failure and try to find out why it
happened. Bacon said once this occurs, Defense Secretary William S.
Cohen, Acquisition Undersecretary Jacques Gansler, and Air Force Lt.
Gen. Lester Lyles, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization, will discuss the program and its future.
Bacon said every piece of intelligence indicates the United
States needs a system to protect U.S. service members from theater
ballistic missile attack. "[The Theater High Altitude Air Defense
System] is a program designed to address an important and growing
threat, and therefore we will continue on the program to make it
work," he said during a press conference.
A booster malfunction caused the first test failure. Officials
attributed the second to a miscommunication between a range radar
system and the missile. The third test failed because a system that
was supposed to change the attitude of the missile didn't work right.
The fourth failed because an "eye" in the missile became blurred.
Officials do not believe the fifth failure is related to the others.
Bacon said DoD still has faith in Lockheed Martin Co., the prime
contractor of the system. "I think the program has strong managers,
but one of the things that happens after every failure is that people
sit down and look at the entire program, and we'll do that again this
time," Bacon said. "But the fact is that we need a program that does
what this one is designed to do. And that's a powerful reason for
DoD is working on other theater missile defense systems. The Army
also is developing the Patriot III system; the Navy effort is called
the Theater Wide system.
U.S. experience during Desert Storm focused attention on the need
for theater ballistic missile defense. While U.S. forces had some
success in knocking down Iraqi Scud missiles, more needed to be done,
according to a DoD lessons learned report. DoD has spent $3.2 billion
on the Theater High Altitude Air Defense System.