Missile defense program failed second test in a row, U.S. says

Thursday, December 16, 2010; A21

A test of the U.S. missile defense program failed Wednesday, the second in a row involving the system, the Defense Department said.

The Missile Defense Agency provided no preliminary explanation of the failure, the seventh out of 15 tries for the program.

"This is a tremendous setback for the testing of this complicated system," Riki Ellison, head of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a booster group, said in a statement. He said it raised troubling questions about the reliability of the 30 or so interceptor missiles deployed in silos in Alaska and California.

A spokeswoman for Boeing, which manages the missile defense project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The multibillion-dollar, ground-based bulwark is designed to shoot down a limited number of long-range ballistic missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. The system is part of a layered hedge against countries such as North Korea and Iran.

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