An interceptor missile failed to hit a target missile over the Pacific early Saturday, botching a test that was supposed to decide whether the controversial 60-billion-dollar US missile defense system was ready for deployment, reported AFP.
Pentagon officials said the failure occurred in the interceptor's boost phase when the "kill vehicle," which is designed to seek out and destroy the incoming warhead in space, failed to separate from the booster rocket's second stage, said AFP.
"We did not intercept the warhead that we expected to have tonight," said Lieutenant General, Ronald Kadish, director of the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. "We're disappointed with that."
It was a major setback for a project that is designed to protect the United States against a limited attack by ballistic missiles but which has aroused a storm of criticism from experts who said it could not work, added the agency.
President Bill Clinton is to decide before the end of the year whether to go ahead with construction of the initial phase of the system so that it will be ready by 2005, reported Reuters.
Pentagon officials would not say whether the failure doomed the chances of declaring the system technologically fit for deployment by 2005.
Saturday's test was likely to be the last one before the president makes his decision, though Gansler said another test was scheduled for October or November, Reuters added.
Despite calls by scientific critics and former US government officials for the president to pass any NMD decision off to his successor, who will be elected in November and take office next January, Crowley said "the election is not a factor in the president's decision-making process," said Reuters – (Several Sources)
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