THAAD Test Aborted

A critical flight test of the U.S. Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at White Sands Missile Range was aborted on May 25 after the Hera ballistic missile target malfunctioned. This would have been THAAD's 10th flight test overall and seventh attempt to intercept a missile target. All six previous intercept attempts, the most recent of which took place on March 29, have failed. (See ACT, March 1999.) The THAAD test will most likely be rescheduled for early June.

The Senate's version of the fiscal year (FY) 2000 defense authorization bill, which was approved on May 27, requires the United States to accelerate the deployment of both THAAD and its sea-based counterpart, Navy Theater Wide (NTW). It also retains separate funding for both of these "upper-tier" systems through FY 2005 based on each system's individual performance. This provision would reverse current policy, as articulated by Defense Secretary William Cohen on January 20, whereby THAAD and NTW will compete for funding so that one of the systems can be deployed by 2007.

Meanwhile, the first official intercept attempt of the Army's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system will take place in mid-summer rather than during the week of May 10-14 as originally planned. The test was delayed because of the possibility of forest fires in the vicinity of the White Sands testing grounds.