[quote][b][b]US missile defence test flounders again[/b]
13:47 15 February 2005
A test of the controversial US missile defence system failed on Sunday - the second time this has happened in recent months. The failure has once again drawn condemnation of the programme from critics.
An interceptor missile sited on an island base in the Pacific Ocean was meant to obliterate a test ballistic missile in mid-flight, but it failed to launch, officials from the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) revealed on Monday. "Preliminary indications point to a fault with the ground support equipment, not the interceptor missile," it says.
The target missile, carrying a mock warhead, did launch from Kodiak, Alaska at 0922 local time. But the interceptor missile - a rocket carrying a "kill vehicle" that detaches and homes in on the target - failed to get off the ground at the Ronald Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Island in the central Pacific.
The US defence shield was to go live in September 2004, but the programme has fallen months behind schedule. A test in December 2004 also failed because the interceptor failed to launch.
Oversensitive to errors
The MDA revealed on 14 January 2005 that this was caused by the interceptor's internal safety system preventing lift-off. The safety software was found to be oversensitive to small errors in data flowing between the missile and the flight computer. The last test prior to the two failed attempts was in 2002.
"It's clear that the programme is being pushed ahead for political reasons regardless of its capability," says David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. "This interceptor has never been tested in an intercept test. Yet the Pentagon has already put eight of them in silos and is building at least another dozen before even knowing if they work."
[b]"This administration has bought a lemon and there is no way to make lemonade," adds Stephen Young, senior analyst at UCS. "Congress should not spend another dime of the public's money until it can show this system would have some capability against a real attack."
The missile defence system was endorsed by President George W Bush in December 2002 with the aim of countering ballistic missile attacks on the US by any "rogue nations". [/b]
I can see the need, with North korea and all - but doesn't it make basic sense to make sure that the s--t works before you buy it?