27 January 2010
Missile-defense test scheduled for VAFB
By Janene Scully, Associate Editor
A missile-defense system test set for Sunday at Vandenberg Air Force Base will involve a different scenario, this time gauging how the system would react to an Iran-like attack, officials said. The test, which will occur Sunday afternoon, will involve a target weapon set to take off from the Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,200 miles southwest of Vandenberg.
That launch will be followed about 20 minutes later by a ground-based interceptor launched from an underground silo on north Vandenberg. During an interview with Reuters news service reporters last month, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, Missile Defense Agency director, said the scenario would involve “a class of long-range missile technology we might expect in the future from a country like Iran, as well as from a country like North Korea,” according to spokesman Richard Lehner.
The approximately $120 million test marks the first time for a target to be launched from Kwajalein when the interceptor is launched from Vandenberg, Lehner noted.
While the complexity of the test is “generally the same” as any others, this will involve “more of a head on intercept vs. more from the side as in previous tests,” Lehner added.
The team initially had been aiming for launch last Friday, but needed more time to review data, Lehner said.
The test will take place “when we’re ready to conduct it,” Lehner said earlier this month.
Missile Defense Agency officials are especially tight-lipped about the test dates for the controversial system, and only confirmed Sunday is the launch date once the notices to pilots and boaters were sent. Those notices advise of a military operation occurring near the northern end of Vandenberg.
When the launch had been scheduled for last week, the test reportedly was expected between 2 and 5 p.m.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system’s last intercept test occurred in December 2008, when the target launched from Kodiak, Alaska, was successfully hit by a Vandenberg interceptor. At the time, MDA officials called it the 37th successful hit-to-kill intercept out of 47 attempts against missiles of all ranges since 2001.
Operational interceptors currently are deployed at Vandenberg and Fort