Aegis BMDS, THAAD Successful In Complex MDA Flight Test

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) successfully completed Flight Test Operational-01 (FTO-01) on Sept. 9, proving the Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense could work together to intercept two medium range ballistic missile targets, MDA said yesterday. 

The test at the Army’s Reagan Test Site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands began by launching two missile targets toward the test range, which an AN/TPY-2 radar detected and relayed track information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, according to the MDA statement. Sailors aboard the USS Decatur (DDG-73) detected and tracked the first missile target with the ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar, launched a Standard Missile-3 Block IA missile from the Aegis BMD system and successfully intercepted the target.

Aegis-equipped ship
The ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and the Army's THAAD system successfully coordinated and intercepted two missile targets in a Sept. 9 test by the Missile Defense Agency.

The THAAD weapon system’s TPY-2 radar detected and tracked the second target missile, launched an interceptor missile and successfully shot down the target. It shot a second interceptor at the Decatur’s target “as a contingency in the event the SM-3 did not achieve an intercept,” according to the MDA statement, proving the effectiveness of the “integrated, layered, regional missile defense capabilities.”

Representatives from Lockheed Martin [LMT], which is the prime contractor for Aegis, said at a media briefing in Washington they could not elaborate on the details of the test, but added that the positive results go a long way in proving the systems’ effectiveness in an operational environment.

Soldiers from the Alpha Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, sailors aboard the Decatur and airmen from the 613th Air and Operations Center ran the systems during the test. Doug Graham, vice president of advanced programs for Lockheed Martin’s Strategic & Missile Defense Systems, said “this was the first time it was a real operational test and evaluation mission for the [Ballistic Missile Defense System], so it was real important that all the systems were operated by the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines if you will who will be operating these things in a real-life engagement. So that was important.”

The company will use this test to learn more about its Enhanced Medium-Range Ballistic Missile target, which flew its maiden flight as part of the MDA test. The target is dropped out of a C-17 aircraft with a parachute, which severs before the target’s motor lights off to begin the test mission. Lockheed Martin has a contract for five of these targets, the first of which was used this week. Graham said the company would take a close look at the data from the test but was pleased with the positive performance.

Lockheed Martin also hopes the test will boost THAAD sales internationally. The company is delivering units to the United States and the United Arab Emirates, and there is also “significant interest globally.” Qatar has expressed formal interest in THAAD, and MDA is in talks with Saudi Arabia and South Korea for the system, Mike Trotsky, vice president of Air and Missile Defense in Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control, said during the same media briefing yesterday.

“Whenever you run a complicated test and you show what the system can do and you’re successful, it keeps the momentum up in these kinds of programs,” Trotsky said. “I think it just confirms the suspicions around the world of what the system can do and its desirability.”

Several of the systems used in the test this week have additional tests coming up this fall. Aegis BMD has a live-fire anti-air warfare test set for this week on the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), and as it joins the USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) in coming out of its modernization period, there are a slew of tests to complete before returning the ships to the fleet, Jim Sheridan, Lockheed Martin’s director of U.S. Navy Aegis programs, said at the media briefing. The materiel for those tests is already being procured with fiscal year 2013 funding, and though they will require some FY '14, he said he didn’t believe sequestration or a continuing resolution would hinder the ships’ “very robust test plan” or return to the fleet.

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