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Vandenberg Launches Successful Missile Defense Test

System performance analysis goes off without a hitch

Vandenberg Air Force Base has announced the successful test launch Sunday of a ground-based interceptor (GBI) by the Missile Defense Agency.

While past tests have aimed the three-stage interceptor missiles at a target projectile, officials said this particular test was performed solely for system performance purposes, using a two-stage variant of the GBI.

At costs usually exceeding $100 million, MDA has launched 14 interceptor tests during the past several years, eight of which succeeded in hitting their targets. MDA’s last GBI test — launched from Vandenberg in late January — cost $125 million. It failed to hit its target because of a problem with a sea-based X-band radar unit.

MDA — which grew out of President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative — administers the testing, research and development facets of the U.S. missile defense program.

About two-thirds of this year’s $8 billion budget is earmarked for short- and midrange missile defense.

Ground-based interceptors, designed to intercept incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles while in midcourse, are part of the agency’s long-range defense program, although the Army’s 49th Missile Defense Battalion handles its operational aspects.

MDA’s Web site reports plans to deploy 30 GBIs to Vandenberg and at Fort Greeley, Alaska, with the majority to be located in Alaska. Current figures indicate that there are 24 GBIs at Fort Greeley and three at Vandenberg.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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