JOE DAVILA / U.S. AIR FORCE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
This U.S. Air Force image shows the launch yesterday of an intercontinental ballistic missile interceptor at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The ground-based test missile successfully intercepted a target launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska in a test of the nation's defense system, officials said.
Flights avoid missile test
A defense rocket launched near Los Angeles diverts two Hawaii-bound planes
The Federal Aviation Administration says two Hawaii flights were affected yesterday by an $85 million high-altitude missile test conducted over the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles west of Los Angeles.
A ground-based missile successfully intercepted a target missile in a test of the nation's defense system, the Missile Defense Agency said.
Passengers on United Flight 1, a daily direct route from Chicago to Honolulu, had to fly back to San Francisco yesterday morning to take on more fuel to avoid the missile test area.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 21 from Seattle to Kahului was forced to take a 20-minute detour to avoid the test area, passengers reported.
Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman, said the federal agency had published notices earlier warning pilots to avoid the test area.
Gregor said only United Flight 1 was adversely affected, and its arrival was delayed by nearly five hours. The FAA said the Hawaiian Airlines detour was not classified as a disruption of the flight.
A passenger on the United flight said the aircraft was on the ground for about an hour before it resumed the journey to Honolulu at 1:30 p.m. (Hawaii time).
The Missile Defense Agency said the target missile was launched from Kodiak, Alaska.
Crews manning missile defense command centers were not told what time the target launch would occur. The ground-based interceptor missile was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles 17 minutes after the target missile was launched.
Rick Lehner, Missile Defense Agency spokesman, said the intercept occurred at 10:24 a.m. (Hawaii time) over the Pacific Ocean "several hundred miles" west-northwest of Los Angeles. Lehner said he could not give the exact intercept location because of security restrictions.
The Missile Defense Agency, in a written statement, said "the flight test results will help to further improve and refine the performance of numerous Ballistic Missile Defense System elements able to provide a defense against the type of long-range ballistic missile that could be used to attack an American city with a weapon of mass destruction."
The target missile was successfully tracked by the Sea-Based X-band radar and the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Russell. The SBX, with its domed radar housing, was located in the northern Pacific between Alaska and California, said Lehner, who also declined to pinpoint the floating platform's location.
The test marked the sixth successful downing of a target in 10 full-fledged intercept tests since October 1999 in which knocking down the target was the primary objective, said Lehner.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.