Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Army defense missile to
be tested on Kauai

Sen. Inouye says the Theater High
Altitude missile will test at
the Pacific Missile Range

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> The Army plans to bring its Theater High Altitude Air Defense missile to the Navy's Pacific Missile Range on Kauai for testing, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye said yesterday.

In a telephone interview, Inouye confirmed what had been rumored for at least two years: The THAAD missile, which was last fired in 1999 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, will undergo more extensive testing at the Pacific Missile Range, which has 42,000 square miles of open ocean northwest of Kauai as available range area.

"THAAD coming here is very good news," said Vida Mossman, Pacific Missile Range spokeswoman, although the Army has not yet made an official announcement.

The Pacific Missile Range is the largest single employer on Kauai with 800 workers, most of them civilian. The base population increases during tests when civilian contractors and military technicians working on specific missiles arrive.

The addition of the Army's THAAD in the testing program will mean added job security for missile range workers and continued income for hotels and restaurants that benefit from the almost $8 million spent annually on Kauai during test flights.

The news comes on the heels of a Pentagon decision Friday to scrap the Navy Area Missile Defense Program, which was expected to be the subject of the next major series of missile tests conducted on Kauai.

Before then, the Army and Navy each had two missile defense programs under development. All are intended to protect troops and ships within a theater of operations, as well as civilian populations.

All are smaller cousins of the National Missile Defense Program, which had a successful test Dec. 3 when a missile fired from Kwajalein atoll in the central Pacific knocked down an intercontinental ballistic missile fired from California.

The Navy's two missile defense programs were the Theater Wide defense system, which has been undergoing tests at the Pacific Missile Range for the past year and a half, and the now-defunct, shorter-range Area Missile Defense Program.

Both were designed to be fired from Navy cruisers. Two Pearl Harbor-based cruisers, the USS Lake Erie and the USS Port Royal, were modified to fire the test missiles and control them with new computer software.

The Theater Wide system is designed to hit enemy missiles above the atmosphere. It has undergone test flights off Kauai to analyze its flight characteristics. Shots at rockets fired from Kauai toward offshore ships are expected to begin in the coming year.

The Navy Area program has been stalled at White Sands. According to the Pentagon, the program breached the Nunn-McCurdy Act, which requires Defense Department certification that a program is essential to national security when cost overruns exceed 25 percent.

The program was 56 percent over budget and the cost per missile was 65 percent above original estimates.

Defense officials refused to certify the program is in the national interest.

"It was going to cost $5 billion more than anticipated." Inouye said yesterday. "There also were technical and classified problems that were valid reasons to kill it."

Cancellation of the Navy Area program will free up money to be spent on the Theater Wide program, some of which ultimately will end up being spent on tests at the Pacific Missile Range, Inouye said.

The loss of the Navy Area program will have no real effect on Kauai because it is so far behind schedule that no one on Kauai had been hired to work on the program.

"No jobs will be lost," he said.

Of the two Army missiles, THAAD has the longer range and is designed to intercept missiles at high altitudes. Tests of the missile at White Sands were completed two years ago, and a second round of tests was scheduled for Kwajalein Missile Range. Those tests now will be conducted on Kauai, Inouye said.

The second Army missile defense program, the Patriot PAC-3, has the shortest range of all the systems but is the most advanced.

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