VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE – The Air Force plans to launch two Scuds this year to hone its ability to shoot down the missiles, which are commonplace in the arsenals of many countries, including Iraq.
The military denied the planned tests are in response to the situation with Iraq.
Two of the 33-foot missiles recently arrived at this oceanside base, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported Saturday.
The missiles will be launched over the Pacific Ocean sometime in the next few weeks as part of a $13 million test program, Lt. Col. Rick Lehner said.
After launch, the Air Force will track the missiles and study their flight characteristics. They will be destroyed before they strike the water, Lehner said.
That data will be used in developing an advanced version of the Patriot missile, which was used to shoot down larger, modified versions of the Scud launched by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, Lehner said.
Scuds gained notoriety during the Gulf War, when Iraq fired 39 of the missiles on Israeli cities. Today, Iraq has up to a few dozen Scud-type, short-range ballistic missiles.