News Release

No. 459-99
IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 2, 1999 (703)697-5737(public/industry)


The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's (BMDO) National Missile Defense (NMD) Joint Program Office announced today it has successfully completed the first test involving a planned intercept of an intercontinental ballistic missile target. The test took place over the central Pacific Ocean. A modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target vehicle was launched from Vandenburg AFB, Calif. 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 7:32 p.m. PDT.

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 abeyance.

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 yesterday 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 conducted yesterday 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.

For additional information, contact Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, BMDO External Affairs, at (703) 604-3186 or (703) 695-8743.