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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 26, 2002

Navy test intercepts rocket off Kaua'i

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — The Navy test-crashed a prototype anti-missile interceptor warhead into a target rocket yesterday afternoon in the skies off Kaua'i.

Although the Navy had warned that contact between the missiles was not the primary goal of the exercise, officials clearly were pleased by the accurate showing.

"It was not the objective, but it will give us better information," said Air Force Maj. Cathy Reardon of the Missile Defense Agency, who was on Kaua'i for the test. She said previous tests all had involved no-contact fly-bys. The main purpose of this shot was to test guidance, navigation and control of the interceptor warhead.

The project is part of a Missile Defense Agency and Navy program to develop reliable U.S. defense against enemy missiles. The Bush administration has made such research a high priority, and has informed the Russians it will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to continue testing. However, Reardon said this test did comply with the treaty requirements.

The military calls the project the Sea-Based Midcourse Ballistic Missile Defense System. It aims to intercept enemy missiles in mid-flight, when they are at their highest elevation.

In yesterday's test, an ARIES target rocket was launched about 4 p.m. from the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on West Kaua'i.

More than 300 miles away at sea, the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie tracked the target with its Aegis SPY-1 radar. After eight minutes, the Lake Erie launched a specially equipped Standard Missile-3 at the target. The ship's missile took a course that intercepted the target outside Earth's atmosphere and collided with it.

The Standard Missile, developed by Raytheon Missile Systems, is used on more than 50 operational Aegis cruisers and destroyers. The Aegis weapons system is developed by Lockheed Martin Naval Electronic and Surveillance Systems.