MDA scores another successful ballistic missile defense test

In an exercise scenario simulating an attack with a single ballistic missile, the MDA successfully destroyed a target in space.

The Missile Defense Agency announced Dec. 5 that it had completed a successful test of a Ground-Based Interceptor missile designed to protect the United States against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack -- the sort of threat that might be posed by a North Korean ballistic missile launch.

For the exercise, a threat-representative target missile was launched from Kodiak, Alaska, at 3:04 p.m. Eastern standard time. The long-range ballistic target was tracked by several land- and sea-based radars, which sent targeting information to the interceptor missile.

At 3:23 p.m., the Ground-Based Interceptor was launched from the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle was carried into the target’s predicted trajectory in space, maneuvered to the target, performed discrimination and intercepted the threat warhead.

The flight test results will help to further refine the performance of numerous Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) elements able to provide a defense against the type of long-range ballistic missile that could be used to attack the nation with a weapon of mass destruction.

This was the first time an operational crew located at the alternate fire control center at Fort Greely, Alaska, remotely launched the interceptor from Vandenberg AFB. In previous interceptor launches from Vandenberg, military crews at the fire control center at Schriever AFB, Colo., remotely launched the interceptor.

The target was successfully tracked by a transportable AN/TPY-2 radar located in Juneau, Alaska, a U.S. Navy Aegis BMD ship with SPY-1 radar, the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and the Sea-Based X-band radar. Each sensor sent information to the fire control system, which integrated the data together to provide the most accurate target trajectory for the interceptor.

The interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle 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 all components performed as designed. Program officials will evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

This was the 37th successful hit-to-kill intercept out of 47 attempts against missiles of all ranges since 2001. Operational Ground-Based Interceptors are currently deployed at Fort Greely and Vandenberg AFB.