U.S. Missile Intercept Test Fails

Wed December 11, 2002 07:49 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Raytheon Corp.-built "kill vehicle" designed to destroy incoming warheads failed to separate from its booster on Wednesday in a test over the Pacific, setting back a multibillion-dollar system under development to shield against ballistic missiles from countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

"We do not have an intercept," said Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Lehner of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency. He said it was "frustrating and disappointing" that a glitch that had little to do with advanced missile technology had doomed the eighth, $100 million, flight test of a key leg of a planned U.S. layered defense against ballistic missiles.

Five of the flight tests have succeeded in shooting down the target vehicle launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force base. Wednesday's flight was the third failure, including a July 8, 2000, test in which Raytheon's so-called Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle also failed to separate from its booster because of an electronic module failure.

Separating boosters from their payloads is something the United States has been doing successfully for some 50 years, Lehner said.

Americans are ready to pay for the weapon billions of dollars

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