The Michigan Daily - Monday, Oct 4, 1999 - 7A
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - For some years
now, the Pentagon has insisted that the
best way to defend against enemy bal-
listic missiles would be to fire volleys
of ground-based interceptors.
Space-based interceptors went out of
fashion - and the realm of affordabili-
ty - with former president Ronald
Reagan. And laser devices, popular
with some missile defense enthusiasts,
have a long way to go before they are
ready for prime time.
But the ground-based interceptor
approach wasn't working very well
either - until lately. After years of suf-
fering many more misses than hits, the
Pentagon has scored a string of suc-
cesses in recent months shooting at
mock enemy missiles using a new gen-
eration of prototype interceptors.
The latest triumph came Saturday
night when the most advanced of these
model devices - the one that would be
used to defend all 50 U.S. states against
missile attack - flew its first intercept
attempt and pulverized a dummy war-
head about 140 miles above the central
The test involved higher altitudes
and missile speeds at least three times
faster than earlier intercepts this year by
two Army prototypes the Patriot 3
and the Theater High-Altitude Area
Defense, or THAAD - meant for
shorter-range battlefield systems.
Together, these trial runs have provided
critical validation of the 'hit-to-kill"
concept pitting one speeding missile
But can these interceptors succeed
While ecstatic over the successful
Pacific test, defense officials cautioned
Sunday that it marked only a first step,
with many more to go before the
United States could be confident of
having a reliable protective umbrella.
Critics, having decried the effort to
build a national shield as unworkable,
risky, too costly and dangerously dis-
ruptive of relations with Russia and
China, appeared not about to be
One leading skeptic - John Pike of
the Federation of American Scientists
- granted that Saturday's hit, even
under the test's carefully controlled
and limited conditions, was no small
achievement. But he remained doubtful
of the system's reliability under combat
"What they've done is the equivalent
of shooting a hole-in-one," Pike said.
A Kosovo Liberation Army soldier holds up his pistol after being asked by journalists if NATO had taken away his
weapon at a KLA checkpoint near Pec, Yugoslavia-
mand, Maj. Roland Lavoie, estimates that troops have Serbs. Lavoie said it often takes weeks to trace
been confiscating illegal weapons, ammunition and weapons and determine whether they came from
explosives at the rate of 100 per day. former KLA fighters or may have been left behind
He said he had no figures on how many were by departing Yugoslav forces so Serbs could defend
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