Northrop Grumman [NOC] yesterday said it successfully completed the first test to demonstrate real-time cueing of the Airborne Infrared (ABIR) sensor for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) with the Integrated Sensor Manager (ISM).

The company’s ISM completed the early intercept proof-of-concept exercise by participating as an associated operation in the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) FTX-17 test on July 8.

ISM is a prototype capability Northrop Grumman is developing for MDA to enable more accurate tracking and threat identification for intercepting a missile earlier in flight.

These improvements are required for the MDA’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) that is expected to integrate incremental capabilities over several years to enhance defense against emerging ballistic missile threats.

During the test, ISM received 2-D measurements from space-based sensors observing the FTX-17 target, which was drop-launched from the rear of a C-17 cargo aircraft over the Pacific Ocean Test Range off the California coast.

ISM formed and provided 3-D tracks to MDA’s Experimentation Laboratory (X-Lab).

After receiving a command from the X-Lab, ISM sent a cue to the ABIR sensor at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and continued to provide cue updates as new measurement data was received.

"ABIR is a critical element for the PAA and our successful test shows we can command that sensor to generate actionable information to enable earlier intercept," said Kelley Zelickson, vice president of air and missile defense systems for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. "It’s a significant achievement to execute the ISM’s first-time live cueing of an ABIR sensor to bring us closer to the desired Aegis launch-on-remote capability."

MDA’s current operational concept envisions the ABIR platform and sensors forward in theater for early detection and surveillance of the threat.

The ISM FTX-17 exercise used a ground-based ABIR sensor. Complexity will be added in future experiments with the addition of multiple airborne sensors and more complicated scenarios over the next two years.

ISM is being developed under an MDA Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract task order. The task order requires participation in flight and ground tests to validate performance. The prototype capability will demonstrate improved ability to task sensors for acquisition, correlation and tracking; generate position, velocity and acceleration data of objects in flight; perform target feature extraction and discrimination for early identification of threats; and optimize the use of limited sensor and interceptor resources to defend against growing missile threats.