Posted at 2:24 p.m., Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Missile test postponed after small craft enters zone
By Audrey McAvoy
The military rescheduled the test for tomorrow because the vessel was unable to get out of the restricted area in time for the launch to go ahead as planned, said Chris Taylor, Missile Defense Agency spokesman.
Taylor did not specify what kind of craft entered the zone, but "small craft" is a technical classification that normally refers to sailboats, fishing boats and vessels of similar size.
The U.S. military's latest test for its sea-based missile defense program comes as international tensions brew over North Korea's apparent plans to test launch one of its long-range missiles.
The Missile Defense Agency says the test has been scheduled for months and was not prompted by indications North Korea has moved a Taepodong-2 missile to a launch pad and fueled it.
Experts say the North Korean missile has a range of up to 9,300 miles and is capable of reaching Hawaii, Alaska and parts of the U.S. mainland.
North Korea's last test-launch of a long-range missile, in 1998, sent a projectile flying over Japan's main island and splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Since then, Tokyo has agreed to jointly develop missile defense technology with the United States.
In tomorrow's rescheduled test, the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua'i is due to fire a medium-range dummy target into the air off Hawai'i. A Navy cruiser would then detect the target and launch a Standard Missile-3 interceptor to shoot it down.
A Japanese ship has been sent to practice tracking the target, the first time one of Tokyo's vessels has participated in a U.S. missile defense test.
The test is designed to gauge the Navy cruiser's ability to intercept a separating target in its midcourse of flight.
Another U.S. Navy cruiser is due to collect data the military plans to use to develop a new radar signal processor for the missile defense program.