By Dave Ahearn
The Ground-based Midcourse missile Defense (GMD) system aced a test Friday against a long-range ballistic missile target, just as Congress is poised to decide the financial fate of plans to extend the GMD system to Europe.
In the test, a target missile was sent aloft from the Kodiak Launch Complex at Kodiak, Alaska, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) reported.
Then a GMD interceptor took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The test involved an operationally configured rocket booster system and an exo-atmospheric, or above the atmosphere, kill vehicle that slammed into the target, an old but refurbished intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and annihilated it.
The upgraded early warning radar at Beale AFB, Calif., was the primary engagement radar for the test, conducted by operational crews at the Missile Defense Integrated Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
This was a re-run of an abortive test in May that had to be canceled because the target missile in that attempt failed to achieve sufficient altitude, resulting in a "no- test."
In the latest, successful test, the exercise was designed to evaluate the performance of several elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), MDA stated after the test concluded.
Mission objectives included demonstrating the ability of the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Beale to acquire, track and report on objects. The test also evaluated the performance of the interceptor missile's rocket motor system and exoatmospheric kill vehicle, which is the component that collides directly with a target warhead in space to perform a hit to kill intercept using only the force of the collision to totally destroy the target warhead.
Initial indications are that the rocket motor system and kill vehicle performed as designed. Program officials will evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
The target also was tracked successfully by the Sea-Based X-band (SBX) radar and an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ship using onboard SPY-1 radar. The Missile Defense Agency is developing and deploying an extensive network of land and sea-based radars to detect and track all types of ballistic missiles and to provide targeting information to interceptor missiles through the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system.