The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and its defense partners Sunday completed the first intercept test using second-generation exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) over the Pacific Ocean, potentially clearing the way for additional interceptors to be placed at Fort Greely, Alaska.

FTG-06b  Photo: Missile Defense Agency
Photo: Missile Defense Agency

After the test, MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring said, “This is a very important step in our continuing efforts to improve and increase the reliability of our homeland ballistic missile defense system.”

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense Subcommittee in both 2013 and 2014, Syring described the coming test as “the highest near term priority” for MDA.

On Monday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) praised the effort: “With ballistic missile threats rising from Iran and North Korea, an increasingly belligerent Russian regime under Mr. Putin, and the first sea-based nuclear threat to the United States from communist China, it is well-past time for the Administration to end its five-year assault on the missile defense budget and its programs.”

MDA said June 22 initial indications were that “all components performed as designed.” Program officials will assess and evaluate test telemetry and other data on the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) element performance for homeland defense over the next few months

The BMDS includes various sensors at sea, on land, in the air and in space linked to a command and control system and missiles on land and on ships. 

MDA asked for about $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2015 for homeland defenses.

Boeing [BA] is the GMD prime contractor.

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance applauded the test success, which it said not only validates and demonstrates a new capability–the Capability Enhanced-II EKV–(CE-II EKV) but reflects organizational and cultural change effected by system developer MDA.

Five of eight previous tests encountered problems, and if the Sunday test was unsuccessful, emplacing more missiles in Alaska would have come into doubt.

The Flight Test Ground Based Interceptor-06b (FTG-06b) showed a successful return to intercept of the CE-II EKV which was to demonstrate the ability to discriminate and intercept a lethal object from a representative ICBM target scene.

“We’ll continue efforts to ensure our deployed Ground-based Interceptors and our overall homeland defensive architecture continue to provide the warfighter an effective and dependable system to defend the country,” Syring said in the June 22 statement.

Thirty operational GBIs protect the United States from limited ICBM attack from potential regional threats such as North Korea and Iran.

Syring told the Senate Appropriations defense committee June 11 that last year MDA began refurbishing Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely, Alaska to add silos for additional 14 GBIs and would continue placing GBIs in Missile Field 2, and conduct GBI component testing and refurbishing deployed GBIs to improve their reliability.

The  Air Force 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command, Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Northern Command and the Navy also took part in the integrated exercise.

During the test a long-range GBI launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from the Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

For this exercise, an unarmed, threat-representative Lockheed Martin [LMT] LV-2  target was used. Preliminary analysis shows that the target met test requirements. Lockheed Martin configured the 45-foot-long target to closely mirror the capabilities of ground-launched enemy missiles that can travel 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers (1,800 to 3,400 miles). 

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70), with its Aegis Weapon System and able to conduct  the ballistic missile defense mission, detected and tracked the target using its on board AN/SPY-1 radar, which provided data to the GMD fire control system via the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system.

The Sea-Based X-Band radar, developed by Raytheon [RTN], also tracked the target, and relayed information to the GMD fire control system to assist in the target engagement and collect test data.

“We used available sensor data to execute the best engagement solution to guide the kill vehicle for target intercept,” said Mark Thornton, GMD deputy program manager for the Boeing /Northrop Grumman [NOC] industry team. 

Northrop Grumman is responsible for designing and deploying the fire control capability for GMD. Northrop Grumman also supported the test through its prime contractor role at the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center (MDIOC) and participation in the Lockheed Martin-led Missile Defense National Team providing software development and test execution in the Command and Control Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system.

About six minutes after target launch, the three-stage booster rocket system GBI propelled the interceptor’s CE-II EKV, developed by Raytheon, into the target missile’s projected trajectory in space.

The EKV maneuvered to the target using the Aerojet Rocketdyne [GY] divert and attitude control system (DACS), as it found the target among decoys and countermeasures and intercepted the threat warhead with its hit-to-kill technology.

“This successful test of the GMD system continues Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 100 percent mission success of the liquid DACS on GMD flight tests,” said the Missile Defense and Strategic Systems Business Unit Vice President, Michael Bright.

An Army operational crew from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, located at Schriever AFB, Colo., remotely launched the interceptor.