The Missile Defense Agency and its joint partners completed the first intercept using the second-generation Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, or EKV, during a test over the Pacific Ocean on June 22nd, 2014.
All components seemed to perform as designed, MDA officials said in a statement, and program officials will spend the next several months assessing and evaluating system performance based on telemetry and other test data.
The test, called flight test ground-based interceptor-06b, or FTG-06b, will provide the data needed for the assessment and to assess the performance of many Ballistic Missile Defense System elements for homeland defense, officials said.
The MDA, the Air Force’s 30th Space Wing, Joint Functional Component Command, Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Northern Command and the Navy were involved in the integrated exercise.
“This is a very important step in our continuing efforts to improve and increase the reliability of our homeland ballistic missile defense system,” Missile Defense Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring said in a statement.
“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,” he added, after congratulating the government and industry team that conducted the test.
“Their professionalism and dedication made this test a success,” Syring said.
The BMDS is designed to counter ballistic missile threats of all ranges — short, medium, intermediate and long. The system has many integrated elements and a layered architecture that offers several ways to destroy incoming missiles and warheads before they reach their targets.
The architecture includes networked sensors and ground- and sea-based radars to detect and track targets, and ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles like the EKV to destroy a ballistic missile using the kinetic energy from a direct hit. This is called “hit-to-kill” technology. An explosive blast fragmentation warhead also can destroy a ballistic missile.
Yesterday’s successful test used the second-generation capability enhancement II, or CE-II, EKV. The architecture also includes a command-and-control, battle-management and communications network that gives operational commanders links between sensors and interceptor missiles.
Earlier this month, Syring testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the agency’s budget request for fiscal year 2015. “My highest priority remains the successful intercept flight test of the CE-II [variant] exoatmospheric kill vehicle,” he told the senators.
In December 2010, two intercept tests of the EKV failed, but in January 2013 the agency conducted a successful nonintercept flight test of the EKV and confirmed it was on the right path to return the ground-based midcourse defense element of the system to sustained flight testing.
During yesterday’s test, an intermediate-range ballistic missile target representing a threat to the U.S. homeland was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Navy destroyer USS Hopper, with its Aegis weapon system, detected and tracked the target using onboard AN/SPY-1 radar that sent data to the ground-based midcourse defense fire-control system via the command, control, battle management and communication system. The sea-based X-band radar also tracked the target and relayed information to the GMD fire control system to help with target engagement and to collect test data.
About six minutes after target launch, the ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Then an operational crew of soldiers from the Army’s 100th Missile Defense Brigade at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado remotely launched the interceptor, and a three-stage booster rocket system propelled the interceptor’s EKV into the target missile’s projected trajectory in space.
The kill vehicle maneuvered to the target, performed discrimination — or determined the difference between the warhead and a decoy — and intercepted the threat warhead using only the force of the direct collision to destroy it.
This was the first intercept using the second-generation EKV.
The test was the 65th successful hit-to-kill intercept of 81 attempts since 2001 for the Ballistic Missile Defense System, officials said. The system’s ground-based midcourse defense element has completed four intercepts since 2006 using the operationally configured interceptor.
Operational ground-based interceptors are deployed at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg, MDA officials said in a statement, to protect the United States and its allies and friends against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack.