MDA lays out 2013 testing plans

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is planning another major flight trial involving multiple targets and multiple interceptors to increasingly challenge its young missile defense shield’s ability to handle “raids,” or multiple threats launched simultaneously.

The Pentagon’s interceptors downed four of five threats in the first such trial, which took place Oct. 25. MDA officials have not yet said what caused an Aegis-ship-based SM-3 Block IA to fail in intercepting its short-range ballistic missile target. However, a ship-launched SM-2 Block IIIA did intercept an anti-ship threat during the trial.

The Lockheed Martin Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system destroyed a single medium-range ballistic missile target and the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 destroyed two threats – a short-range ballistic missile as well as a cruise missile.

Pentagon officials are planning the next such test to take place by the end of June. A scenario has not yet been outlined, but officials say that Thaad will again be one of the elements.

This will be a linchpin for the MDA’s busy testing schedule in 2013.

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is slated to return to flight early next year for a flight trial; an intercept test could come by the summer if the first flight is successful.

Mating of Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI, made by Orbital) with the Raytheon Exoatmopsheric Kill Vehicle Capability Enhancement 2 (an upgraded hit-to-kill mechanism) is still on hold pending a successful intercept. Boeing is the overall GMD integrator for the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the agency is also planning two intercept tests for the Raytheon SM-3 Block 1B missile The first, slated between January and the end of March, will involve a separating short-range ballistic missile target, an Aegis Readiness Assessment Vehicle-C. Details of the second have not yet been planned.

MDA does not have any specific trials of Thaad on the schedule for next year other than the system’s participation in the big integrated operational exercise.

Meanwhile, officials overseeing the Army-led Medium Extended Air Defense System (Meads) are planning for their second flight trial at the end of next year. In the first, on Nov. 29, Meads successfully shot down an MQM-107 air-breathing target after executing an “over the shoulder” engagement. The upcoming test will pit Meads against its first theater ballistic missile defense target.

Though the U.S. leads the multinational program with 58% of its funding, Washington plans to end participation after development wraps up at the end of next year. Germany, which paid 25% of the cost, and Italy, which provided the remaining 17%, are assessing whether they will procure all or parts of it.

U.S. Army officials have expressed interest in the 360-deg. surveillance radar, but lack funding in the near term.

— By Amy Butler

— This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

  • TonyC

    The MDA is working diligently towards meaningful missile defense, this is a good thing. The enemy would attack in swarms and the defenses will have to handle an attack in mass.

  • bigfingo

    Don’t give this one away ala SALT I . We had a working system in the early 60’s using technology from the 50’s (as a boy I saw it work) and gave it up during SALT I to appease the Rooskies. Don’t do it again.

  • zolar

    Ronald Reagan was right, yet again!

  • ddd

    Define “working system” in the 60s…not that your point isn’t valid.

  • SJE

    Lets guess: owing to the very real missing threat faced by Israel, we share this technology with the IDF. “Bedouin scrap merchants” enter IDF bases and walk off with the entire kit because the IDF did not pursue them once they got back outside the perimeter fence. Two years later, similar technology is fielded by China.

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    But aren’t these programs near the top of the chopping block if the DoD is required to cut billions of dollars from their budget?

    • SJE

      Which is why they are loudly announcing their plans. If it’s getting attention, it will be harder to cut it.

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    Arent these among the first programs to be cut if fiscal cliff concerns are not addressed?

    • zolar

      Gotta make sure we can pay for those Obama Phones! Who cares about the government’s Constitutional obligation to protect its citizens….

  • blight_

    The DSP will detect aberrant launches, and upon first strike the target will be obvious: The Russian Federation.