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Pentagon Says Missile Test Fails

July 8, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. missile interceptor launched in a burst of flame Saturday from a Pacific island missed its intended target _ a dummy warhead gliding through space, the Pentagon said.

``We failed to achieve an intercept,″ said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. Details were not immediately available.

The failure raised the possibility of a substantial delay in the Pentagon’s timetable of having a national anti-missile defense system ready for use by the end of 2005.

The next attempted intercept is scheduled for this fall, but depending on the severity of the problem with Saturday’s test, that could be pushed back a number of months.

Pentagon officials planned an early-morning news conference after further evaluating the failure. Officials gave no indication on what went wrong.

If the test had succeeded, it could have moved the United States a step closer to building a national missile defense that Congress says is urgently needed, but that critics decry as unworkable.

After fixing a last-minute technical glitch that delayed the start of the test by about two hours, a modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile with a dummy warhead atop its third stage rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 12:19 a.m. EDT.

The rocket headed toward the central Pacific.

Twenty-one minutes later, at 12:40 a.m. EDT, an interceptor missile carrying a warhead-blasting ``kill vehicle″ launched from Kwajalein Atoll.

The interceptor was supposed to have collided with the mock warhead after about 10 minutes of flight over the Pacific, but television monitors showed now flash indicating a collision.

Nearly a half hour passed before officials who monitored the flight test from a basement office in the Pentagon reported that the interceptor missile had missed.

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