The US Department of Defense (DoD) has delayed a critical flight test of the National Missile Defense (NMD) system by two months, after a probe of the failed third test on 18 January.

The fourth test, planned for 27 April, has been delayed to 26 June. The DoD says this will still allow President Clinton to decide by the end of the third quarter on whether to deploy the anti-ballistic missile.

The third test failed because moisture blocked the cooling lines for the interceptor's infrared sensors, the Pentagon suspects. No major redesign is required before the next test, it adds.

The fourth test is critical as the DoD needs a second successful intercept before a 30-day deployment readiness review to determine whether the NMD can be fielded by 2005.

Source: Flight International