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Troops Fire Pershing 2 Missile; Two Others Fail To Get Off Pad

January 13, 1988

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Army troops launched one Pershing 2 missile successfully Wednesday but were unable to fire two others because flight batteries failed to switch on in the final seconds before liftoff.

Soldiers stationed in West Germany and Fort Sill, Okla., brought four missiles here, intending to launch three to test new computer software. One was a spare.

The first Pershing 2 darted off a mobile launch pad and propelled an unarmed warhead to an Atlantic Ocean target several hundred miles away. Dave Harris, a spokesman for the Army Missile Command, reported ″everything looked fine.″

As the short countdown on the second missile reached the final seconds, a computer sensed that a battery that powers the weapon in flight had not activated and automatically halted the count, Harris said. The spare missile then was counted down, but the same thing happened, he added.

The Army postponed launch activity for the day as engineers examined the missiles and radio data. Harris said they were looking at the new computer software as a possible culprit. ″That can’t be ruled out,″ he said.

A total of 108 Pershing 2s, each able to hurl a nuclear warhead 1,200 miles, are based with U.S. troops in West Germany.

The missiles would be destroyed under terms of the intermediate range nuclear force treaty signed in December by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

That treaty must first be ratified by the U.S. Senate; the two nations would then have three years to dispose of the missiles covered by the pact.

″Since we will have Pershings for at least three years, we want to keep them up to date,″ Harris said. He said the computer software in the missiles launched today had been changed ″as a result of experience gained since the system was deployed.″

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