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US Missile Test Failure Caused By 'Minor' Glitch: General

File photo of an earlier flight test of the ground-based midcourse defense development program, from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Washington DC (AFP) Jan 12, 2005
The first flight test of the US ground-based missile defense system in more than two years failed last month because of a "very minor software glitch," the head of the US Missile Defense Agency said Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Henry Obering said the Pentagon plans to repeat the test as early as mid February but he indicated there currently are no plans to set a date for putting the controversial system on alert.

"I cannot tell you there is going to be a date certain when we will to declare anything. I can tell you we do have a capability that is out there. We continue in the process of improving it, and we continue in the process of exercising with it... and we will continue in that mode."

President George W. Bush had set a goal of putting the missile defense system on alert by the end of 2004, but it slipped after the December 15 test failure.

The test was aborted after a built-in internal check detected an anomally in the interceptor missile, shutting it down moments before launch from an atoll in the Pacific.

Obering said an assessment had determined that the anomally was a rare gap in the flow of electronic messages between the flight computer and the interceptor's thrust vector controller, which guides the missile.

"In the aggregate, this is a very minor software glitch," he said in a teleconference with reporters. He said the problem was being fixed by relaxing the limits on the number of dropped messages allowed before the missile is shut down automatically.

Fixing the problem did not require removing interceptor missiles from silos in Alaska and California, he said. Obering said he expected adjustments but no major changes in its schedule of five flight tests this year, including at least two attempted intercepts.

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