With increased scrutiny into a low success rate, the military’s ground-based missile defense system will try to intercept a mock target on Sunday during a test involving Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Missile Defense Agency is scheduled to conduct a flight test of a Ground-based Interceptor missile from Vandenberg between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, base officials announced Wednesday.
For the test, a mock target will take off from the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. Twenty minutes later, the interceptor is set to launch out of an underground silo on north Vandenberg.
Somewhere high above the Pacific Ocean, the interceptor will try to identify the decoy objects and hit the mock warhead.
Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, will give the final permission for the Vandenberg launch to occur.
"The 30th Space Wing has a long and proud history of working diligently alongside our Missile Defense Agency partners to provide safe launch operations for missile defense tests," McArthur said. "It's an honor for the wing to work with the Missile Defense Agency and other mission partners on this test mission which is extremely important to our national security."
This is a do-over test after two failures in 2010 involving the second-generation “Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle.”
The missile defense system’s string of failures amid a $40 billion cost through the years was the focus of a recent Los Angeles Times story that declared it unreliable. Even the eight successes of 16 tests should be viewed with skepticism because some of the failures occurred despite highly scripted scenarios, critics told the Times.
Although the system has been declared operational, some say it’s essentially still a prototype under development.
Thirty interceptors are on alert at Vandenberg and Fort Greely, Alaska.