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General Backs U.S. Missile Defenses After Test Failure

The United States' No. 2 military officer yesterday said it is not yet apparent why a long-range missile interceptor failed to take out a dummy ballistic missile in a test this week over the Pacific Ocean, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Dec. 16).

Despite the second successive test failure this year of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- the United States' only defense against a long-range ballistic missile attack -- Gen. James Cartwright said he was not worried about the system's reliability.

"I'm not the least bit concerned that we don't have a capability to defeat, should we need to, that rogue threat that the system's been designed against," said Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While the interceptor was launched successfully and was able to fire off its "kill vehicle," the weapon did not connect with the intermediate-range target missile. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency will not schedule another test until the cause of the failure has been determined.

Cartwright said Wednesday's test used an "upgraded version" of the interceptor, but that older versions already fielded in California and Alaska were dependable.

"We test in order to find out if something works," he said. "The question now is ... was it two failures that were of the same ilk or was it two very different failures?"

The January test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system failed due to technical issues with the radar equipment.

To date, eight of the 15 tests held on the system have been successful, as judged by the Missile Defense Agency (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Dec. 16).

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