23 April 2002
Military proposes test-range extension
By Janene Scully
Santa Maria Times


LOMPOC -- Army missile defense officials will hold a meeting here Thursday to gather a laundry list of items to study in an environmental review of a proposed extended test range that encompasses a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean.

The scoping meeting begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in Lompoc City Council chambers, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

This meeting, plus two in Alaska last week, comes as the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency gets ready to prepare a draft environmental impact statement on an extended test range. The Army Space and Missile Defense Command, based in Alabama, is managing the preparation of the document.

The extended test range is a newly designated test bed that goes from the north Pacific -- Kodiak Island, Alaska -- and southwest to include Vandenberg Air Force Base, Hawaii and the Kwajalein Missile Range, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a Missile Defense Agency spokesman.

"It just allows us to do things we can't do now," Lehner said.

Military officials are proposing various test scenarios for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense segment, a system supporters say would defend against limited long-range missile attacks.

Currently, the test program is confined to launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base and interceptors from the Kwajalein Missile Range, about 4,200 miles southeast of the Central Coast.

The extended test bed aims to establish different flight paths to shoot down missiles to provide what Lehner called "operationally realistic" tests. For instance, it could include launching the "kill
vehicle" from Vandenberg in an attempt to shoot down  a target weapon fired from Hawaii, Alaska, Kwajalein or even an aircraft.

Public comments on what should be included in the statement will be accepted until May 10. Comments can be addressed to

U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command,
Attn.: SMDC-EN-V (Julia Hudson-Elliott),
106 Wynn Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805.

Staff writer Janene Scully can be reached at (805) 739-2214 or by e-mail at janscully@pulitzer.net.


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