DOD To Add Countermeasures To Target Vehicles
Tests of a proposed US missile defense system -- which to date,
pardon the pun, have been somewhat hit-or-miss -- are about to
become a lot more difficult.
Agence-France Presse reports following a successful test of the
system September 28, the Pentagon authorized use of countermeasures
in the target vehicle, to determine if such decoys will thwart the
interceptor missile. Critics contend such measures, such as decoy
balloons, could easily fool the system.
The last test -- the ninth conducted so far --
incorporated objects the warhead had to sort through to
identify the dummy target. In footage of the test shown to
reporters by US Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering, the
interceptor missile -- launched from Vandenberg AFB in California
-- successfully passed by unidentified debris, as well as the
target vehicle's booster rocket, to intercept the target.
"We did not have countermeasures on
this flight," he said, adding "we will put them on the next
flight," which might occur as early as February or March 2008.
The Air Force hopes a successful test next year will qwell
criticism of the defense system, as it works to install a missile
defense site in Eastern Europe -- to the consternation of
Obering said Russian officials watched the September 28 test
with him in Washington. "We do know we scored a direct hit on the
warhead," Obering said.
The target missile, launched from Alaska, was inflight for about
24 minutes, Obering said. The Interceptor flew for about seven
minutes, before locking onto the target via infrared imaging.
It was the sixth successful interception, of nine tests
conducted using the ground-based missile intercept system. "We have
not had a major problem now in over two years," Obering said (a
planned test earlier this year was halted
by failure of the target missile.)
Most heartening for proponents of the system, were the number of
associated tracking systems which also performed as designed during
the September 28 test. Those include the Upgraded Early Warning
Radar at California's Beale Air Force Base, the sea-based X-Band
radar, and the Aegis destroyer USS Russell and its SPY-1D
USAF General Gene Renuart, head of the US Northern Command and
North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command, said the test
also validated operation procedures to be used in the event of a
real-life attack -- including the method of obtaining launch
"We can’t go too far" [up the chain of command], Renuart
said, explaining a presidential order is not needed to launch a
defensive missile. "A response is needed in minutes.
"I’m fully confident that we have all of the pieces in
place that if we needed to, we could respond," he added.