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U.S. Scores Missile Defense Success

October 15, 2002

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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) _ An interceptor rocket destroyed a Minuteman II missile high above the Pacific in the latest test of the nation’s missile defense system.

Monday night’s test was the seventh such test for the Missile Defense Agency and the fourth consecutive success, said Lt. Col. Rick Lehner in Washington. Of the seven tests, five in all have succeeded.

The test provided a colorful light show for much of California as the launch of the Minuteman II created a fiery trail seen by people from as far north as the San Francisco Bay area and south to Los Angeles.

The modified Minuteman II, carrying a mock warhead and an unspecified number of decoys, was launched from this central California base at 7 p.m., sent on a 4,800-mile path toward the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

At 7:22 p.m., an interceptor missile was launched from the Kwajalein Atoll, and it hit the Minuteman six minutes later.

``It directly collided with the Minuteman,″ Lehner said.

President Reagan had proposed building a national missile system two decades ago. The concept gained momentum recently with the Bush administration’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had banned such systems.

The ongoing tests cost roughly $100 million each and are part of the Pentagon’s drive to develop such a missile defense network.

Construction is under way in Alaska on a simple version of the system, which the administration hopes to complete by fall 2004. Critics say the program _ which the Pentagon will spend more than $7 billion on next year _ is too expensive and the technology too uncertain.

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