The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful test of its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system against an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) class target in a “two-shot salvo mode” for the first time, on March 25.
This test was the first salvo engagement of a threat-representative ICBM target by two Ground Based Interceptors (GBI), which were designated GBI-Lead, and GBI-Trail for the test. The GBI-Lead destroyed the reentry vehicle, as it was designed to do. The GBI-Trail then looked at the resulting debris and remaining objects, and, not finding any other reentry vehicles, selected the next ‘most lethal object’ it could identify, and struck that, precisely as it was designed to do.
The test was conducted in cooperation with the Boeing-led industry team, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (JFCC IMD), U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and elements of the U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSC)’s 30th, 50th, and 460th Space Wings. JFCC IMD is a component of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
The threat-representative ICBM target was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, over 4,000 miles away from the two GBI interceptors, which were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
During the test, space, ground and sea-based BMDS sensors – including Sea-Based X-band radar and AN/TPY-2 radar – provided real-time target acquisition and tracking data to the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system. The two GBIs were then launched and the Raytheon-built Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKV) successfully engaged the target complex, resulting in an intercept of the target.
Initial indications show the test met requirements. Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test, said an MDA statement.
“This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” said MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves. “The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the practicable use of the salvo doctrine within missile defense. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
This was the eleventh intercept for the GMD program overall, and the second intercept of an ICBM. The Raytheon kill vehicle family has a combined record of over 40 successful space intercepts.
The GMD element of the ballistic missile defense system provides combatant commanders the capability to engage and destroy intermediate and long-range ballistic missile threats to protect the U.S. The mission of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from limited ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.