* Radar system malfunctioned in test over Pacific
* Pentagon report shows growing Iran missile capability
(Updates with Pentagon report on Iran missile threat)
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, Feb 1 A U.S. attempt to shoot down
a ballistic missile mimicking an attack from Iran failed after
a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co (RTN.N), the
Defense Department said.
The abortive test over the Pacific Ocean coincided with a
Pentagon report that Iran had expanded its ballistic missile
capabilities and posed a "significant" threat to U.S. and
allied forces in the Middle East region.
The Missile Defense Agency said that in Sunday's test both
the target missile, fired from Kwajalein in the Marshall
Islands, and the interceptor, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California, had performed normally.
"However, the Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as
expected," the agency said on its web site. Officials will
investigate the cause of the failure to intercept, it said.
The SBX radar is a major component of the ground-based
midcourse defense, the sole U.S. bulwark against long-range
missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or
It was the first time the United States had tested its
long-range defense against a simulated Iranian attack.
Previous drills have imitated a flight path from North
Korea, another country in a standoff with the international
community over its nuclear program.
The Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Review released on
Monday said Tehran had developed and acquired ballistic
missiles capable of striking targets from the Middle East to
Eastern Europe and had fielded increasing numbers of mobile
regional ballistic missiles.
The Iranian program has received support in the past from
Russia, China and North Korea, and Tehran still depends on
outside sources for many missile components and parts,
according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
DEFENSES AGAINST IRAN
To counter the Iranian threat, the United States has
expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and
around the Gulf, according to U.S. officials.
The deployments include expanded land-based Patriot
defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and
Bahrain, as well as Navy ships with missile defense systems in
and around the Mediterranean, the officials said.
The Pentagon's Ballistic Missile report also singled out
Syria's short-range missiles as a "regional threat". It said
Damascus may have chemical warheads available for some of its
After Sunday's failed Pacific test, Raytheon and Boeing,
which manages the overall system, had no immediate comment.
Harris Corp (HRS.N), which provides systems engineering for the
SBX radar, said their technology was not involved.
Speaking at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in
Washington in December, Army Lieutenant General Patrick
O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, said the test,
costing about $150 million, would break new ground.
He described it then as "more of a head-on shot like you
would use defending against an Iranian shot into the United
States." It was the first time such a scenario was being
tested, he said.
Experts have compared the simulation to a bullet hitting
another bullet in space. O'Reilly said the goal was to destroy
the target over the north central Pacific when the missiles had
a combined closing speed of more than 17,000 miles per hour
"Whenever we have a situation where we're taking on a
missile more head on than from the side, that increases the
challenges," O'Reilly had said.
The SBX radar is mounted on a mobile, ocean-going
oil-drilling platform designed to provide the layered U.S.
missile defense system with a powerful sensor that can be
positioned to cover any spot on the globe.
(Additional reporting by Adam Entous)
(Editing by Alan Elsner and David Storey)