USIS Washington 

04 October 1999


Defense Department Report, Monday, October 4, 1999

(Successful missile intercept test)  (630)


The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's (BMDO) National Missile
Defense (NMD) Joint Program Office announced October 2 that it had
successfully completed the first test involving a planned intercept of
an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

The test took place over the central Pacific Ocean October 1. A
modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target
vehicle was launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base, California at
7:02 p.m. PDT, and a prototype NMD interceptor was launched
approximately 20 minutes later and 4,300 miles away from the Kwajalein
Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The intercept occurred at approximately 7:32pm Pacific Daylight Time.

The test successfully demonstrated "hit to kill technology" to
intercept and destroy the ballistic missile target. An exoatmospheric
kill vehicle (EKV) weighing about 120 pounds, equipped with two
infrared sensors, a visible sensor, and a small propulsion system,
located and tracked the target, guiding the kill vehicle to a
body-to-body impact with the target and resulting in the target
destruction using only the kinetic energy of the collision. This "hit
to kill" intercept demonstrates that a warhead carrying a weapon of
mass destruction-nuclear, chemical or biological - will be totally
destroyed and neutralized.

The U.S. has no active defense against a long-range ballistic missile
aimed at any of our 50 states. Numerous nations are developing or
seeking to acquire long-range ballistic missiles carrying weapons of
mass destruction which could reach the U.S. The current NMD program is
being developed to provide a defense of the 50 states in the United
States against a limited missile attack from a rogue nation able to
develop or acquire an ICBM, or an accidental or unauthorized missile
launch from a current nuclear power.

The Department of Defense is scheduled to conduct a deployment
readiness review beginning next summer to review the status of the NMD
program including potential program costs, an assessment of the
ballistic missile threat to the U.S., and the status of arms reduction
efforts involving Russia. After receiving the results of this review,
the Secretary of Defense will make a recommendation to the President
regarding whether or not to deploy the NMD system. If the President
decides to deploy, the NMD system could be operational in 2005. If it
appears more development and testing needs to take place, deployment
planning will continue and actual deployment would be held in

The NMD program consists of several different space and ground based
elements which are integrated to provide the means to detect a
ballistic missile launch, locate it high in space, track a warhead
directed at any of our 50 states, and destroy it before it can reach
its intended target. The successful intercept test October 1 was the
first of about 20 planned intercept tests to demonstrate NMD system
technology, effectiveness and reliability over the next six years.
Another test of the EKV is scheduled to take place in the first
quarter of 2000, followed by additional tests incorporating the
different elements of a proposed NMD system, including the
interceptor, space-based early warning satellites, ground based early
warning radars, ground based X-band radars for precise target
tracking, and a battle management, command, control and communications
network to operate the system.

The successful intercept used representatives or prototypes of these
other elements in a "shadow" mode. They did not provide information to
the interceptor as they would during a full system test or during an
actual missile attack. The rocket motors used to launch the
interceptor are test assets used for test purposes and will be
replaced later in the test program by commercial off-the-shelf
boosters selected by BMDO last summer.