The Pentagon successfully intercepted a long-range missile target in a simulated attack to test the defence system it wants to expand in Eastern Europe to counter attacks from North Korea or Iran.
“This was the largest, most complex task that we’ve ever done,” Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency said on Friday.
But the target missile’s counter-measures, intended to simulate decoys from enemy missiles — precisely what critics of the defence shield doubt the system could overcome — failed to deploy, he said.
“Counter-measures are very difficult to deploy,” he said, adding that “there are many threats today that don’t have
The interception took place at 2029 GMT, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, making the effort the eighth successful intercept out of the 13 tests conducted since 1999, with the last successful test taking place in September 2007.
The effectiveness of the defence shield has been questioned by some scientists who claim the programme would be unable to distinguish between a missile and a decoy — precisely what failed to be realised in Friday’s effort.
The test is seen as a crucial step towards a controversial anti-missile shield Washington plans to base in eastern Europe.
The Bush administration wants to install a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland by 2014.
The test of the project, which so far has cost the defence department some 100 billion dollars, comes at a critical time before president-elect Barack Obama moves into the White House on January 20.
Obama has so far not committed to the missile defence shield.