In the news...

July 8, 2013

Interceptor test failure is setback for National Missile Defense program

Tags:
Peter W. Merlin
special to Aerotech News

The GBI missile leaves the silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Like a belated Independence Day skyrocket, a Ground-Based Interceptor missile roared from its silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on the morning of July 5 as part of an integrated exercise and test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the National Missile Defense program.

The GBI punched through coastal fog and arced over the Pacific Ocean on its way to intercept a dummy warhead that had been launched five minutes earlier from the U.S. Armyís Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The complex experiment, dubbed FTG-07, required an exoatmospheric kill vehicle to separate from the GBIís upper stage booster and maneuver to a collision course with the target.

The $214 million test was part of a multibillion dollar effort by the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense and U.S. Northern Command.

In the minutes following the dual launches tension mounted as officials waited for word on the results beneath the watchful bronze gaze of the Ronald Reagan Memorial overlooking the still-smoking silo at Vandenberg. They had reason for concern; previous tests have included a frustrating mix of success and failure.

As the moment of an expected collision between the warhead and EKV came and went, a mission controller somberly intoned, There is no indication of sep[aration].î Failure was confirmed when he added, No data is to leave this room, indicating that all mission data and telemetry would be impounded pending an investigation. A spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency announced that program officials planned to conduct an extensive review to determine the cause or causes of any anomalies that may have prevented a successful intercept.

An exoatmospheric kill vehicle similar to the one used in the July 5 test.

The GBI is designed to intercept missile threats outside Earthís atmosphere and destroy them by the kinetic force of impact with the EKV during the midcourse phase of the enemy missileís flight. After launch, the three-stage booster carries the†EKV toward the targetís predicted location in space. As the GBI closes in on its target it releases the EKV, which uses a high-sensitivity infrared seeker to detect and discriminate between incoming warheads and decoys. The self-propelled EKV is equipped with a communication link, discrimination algorithms, guidance and control systems and targeting computers but contains no weapon or explosive elements. Once separated, the 152-pound kill vehicle uses data received from ground-based radar and its own onboard sensors to close with and destroy the target using only the force of impact.

Ground-based Midcourse Defense program testing began in 1997 and has included an incremental series of integrated flight tests made to demonstrate system capabilities. Not all experiments involved intercept of a target warhead; many were demonstrations of specific components and technologies. So far, half of 16 intercept attempts have ended in failure. Though the exact cause of the FTG-07 anomaly is not yet known, the EKV has failed to separate from its booster on two previous occasions, first in July 2000 and again in December 2002. Other failures resulted from sensor and guidance problems with the Raytheon-built EKV, and two GBI launch aborts were due to software and mechanical malfunctions. Three of five successful attempts used operationally configured interceptors. The last successful intercept occurred in December 2008 but was followed by two failures in January and December 2010. Earlier this year, the Missile Defense Agency successfully tested an EKV that had been improved based on lessons learned from previous failures. Although that test did not involve a target missile, it produced engineering data that gave engineers confidence to proceed with the July 5 intercept attempt.

The interceptor is a key component of a system designed to shield the U.S. against missile attacks such as that threatened by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year. Currently, more than 20 GBI missiles are deployed in California and Alaska, and an additional fire control center has been established in Colorado. Several existing early warning radars located around the world, including one on Shemya Island in Alaskaís Aleutian chain, were upgraded to support flight-testing and to provide tracking information in the event of a hostile missile attack. Ultimately, as many as 30 GBIs are scheduled for deployment in an effort that the Government Accountability Office estimated would cost approximately $40 billion from 1996 through 2017.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 28, 2014

News: After F-15 jet crash in Virginia, rescue helicopters search for pilot - Helicopters are searching for an Air National Guard pilot after his F-15 jet crashed in the mountains of Virginia this morning, military officials said.   Business: U.S. Air Force 3DELRR contract expected soon - The U.S. Air Force could award the contract for its...
 
 

News Briefs August 28, 2014

Russian directing new offensive in Ukraine The Obama administration believes Russia is leading a new military counteroffensive in Ukraine. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says Russia has sent additional columns of tanks and armored vehicles into its neighbor’s territory. She says the incursions suggest a ìRussian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in the contested e...
 
 

F-15C crashes in mountains of Virginia

An Air Force jet based in Massachusetts crashed in the mountains of western Virginia Aug. 27, shaking the ground and frightening residents, and officials said the pilot’s status was unknown. No injuries were reported on the ground, but authorities were still trying to reach the crash site ó located through its heavy smoke coming from...
 

 

Headlines August 25, 2014

News: U.S. sends second carrier to Asia amid tensions with China - The Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region amid new tensions with China over a dangerous aerial encounter between a Chinese interceptor and a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft. SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight - A SpaceX rocket...
 
 

News Briefs August 25, 2014

China says U.S. plane intercept was professional China’s Defense Ministry has rejected U.S. accusations that a Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace. The ministry issued a statement Aug. 23 attributed to spokesman Yang Yujun calling the U.S. accusations groundless. It...
 
 

Headlines August 22, 2014

News: GAO: Pentagon violated law with Bergdahl swap - Congressional investigators say the Pentagon violated the law when it swapped five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner in Afghanistan for five years.   Business: U.S. Air Force issues RFI for new rocket engine - The US Air Force is officially looking into...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>