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As ABM expires, U.S. plans missile defense tests

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Freed from the restrictions of the just-expired Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the Bush administration is moving forward with an ambitious series of missile defense tests, including an attempt Thursday night to shoot down a missile with another missile fired from a Navy ship.

The next day the Pentagon will break ground at Fort Greely, Alaska, on a missile defense test facility that will include six interceptor missile silos. It is scheduled for completion by 2004.

In the Navy test, set for 9:20 p.m. EDT Thursday night, the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie will attempt to shoot down a target missile, fired from Hawaii, with a newly modified standard missile.

It's the first attempt by the United States to use the newly developed "SM-3" missile to shoot down a target, and represents a major step in the Bush administration goals quest for a "ship-based" missile defense.

The test window lasts four hours, and if all goes as planned, an "Aries Ballistic missile target" will be launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii.

Using its sophisticated "SPY-1" radar, the ship will attempt to track and then intercept the target missile in the "mid-course" of its flight.

On December 13, President Bush gave formal notice to Russia that the United States would withdraw from the ABM treaty.

The treaty requires six months notice to withdraw, so it will no longer be in effect as of June 13.




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