The Heritage Foundation
Protecting America in the New Missile Age


Airborne Laser and Satellite Tests

September 21st, 2010

Earlier this month, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) tested the Airborne Laser Test Bed, designed to destroy a short-range ballistic missile during the boost phase. A Boeing 747 tracked the target, but the experiment ended early after a software malfunction. From the MDA:

“The Agency plans to resume flight experiments beginning with tests of the software repair on September 13 leading to a lethal shootdown experiment involving a solid-fuel target missile by the end of this month. A mid-October experiment is in the planning stages that will involve lasing a solid-fuel missile at three times the range of last February’s successful destruction of a liquid-fuel missile.”

In related news, UPI reports that an orbiting missile defense satellite successfully transferred target track data from its acquisition sensor to its tracking sensor.

Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector vice president of missile defense and missile warning programs Gabe Watson said, “This is a major success for the STSS program. We proved that the STSS satellites can autonomously transition from target acquisition and track mode using the acquisition sensor to target precision track mode using the multiple band track sensor. All of these operations occurred as intended, with no operator intervention. This is the same type and sequence of functions that will be performed on-board during subsequent MDA missile tests.”

MDA Awards Lockheed Engineers for Satellite Shoot Down

April 8th, 2010

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a team of engineers for defense contractor Lockheed Martin the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Award for helping to shoot down an errant satellite in 2008. (Source)

Had the efforts not been successful, the satellite would have made an uncontrolled and unpredictable reentry.

President of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Sensors business unit Orlando Carvalho said, “The success of this effort was a direct result of the enduring partnership between our engineers and our customers. The tremendous adaptability of the Aegis Weapon System, especially our SPY-1D radar, allowed us to perform flawlessly in the execution of this new mission.”

The MDA’s Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly said, “The success of this mission speaks to this team’s flexibility, ingenuity and drive to achieve the seemingly impossible. When the nation needed an extraordinary capability, they stepped up and delivered it.”

MDA Budget Briefing Transcript

February 9th, 2010

THAAD launcher

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has a released a transcript of a news briefing on the FY 2011 defense budget. MDA Executive Director David Altwegg informed his staff that the agency requested $8.4 billion, about $500 million more than requested for FY 2010. An excerpt:

“And the budget supports continuous emphasis on development, testing, fielding, sustainment. And we have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant.

“We also — as announced by the president on 17 September of ’09, we are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against, again, the short- and medium-range threat that exists, and hence our initial emphasis will be on Southeastern Europe.

“Now the objectives that we established at the start of the POM season were, in short, homeland defense; regional defense; proven, meaning adequate testing; and hedging against the future. And each of those enterprises has enjoyed an increase from ’10 to ’11, except for the hedge against the future, which has dropped off about a billion- plus (dollars).

“Now I want to say something about testing, not to ignore the other three objectives, but in ’09, in about December of ’08, we laid our testing program out on the table, and we developed some criteria to a number called critical engagement conditions, or CEC, and empirical management event, EME.

“And we required, and collectively we developed, criteria that became CECs or EMEs, and which led to almost a complete reordering of our test program.

“And why did we do that? Well, we can’t afford any more to conduct the number of flight tests that we used to, for instance, when I was a lot younger. At $200 million a flight test for a ground-based system, 80 (million dollars) to $90 million a flight test for a Aegis or THAAD, it’s just not affordable, for instance, to conduct 30 flight tests to determine a confidence level sufficient so that the director of operational test and evaluation would be comfortable.

“What we do now is we capture the right data so that we can develop high-fidelity models and simulations so that the warfighter in particular, and the testers to the same extent, have comfort that what we are fielding will, in fact, achieve the goals desired by the warfighter and the testers.”

Read the entire transcript here, and download the briefing slides here (PDF).

MDA Focuses on Early Interception

December 23rd, 2009

SM-2 Block IV

According to Aviation Week, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is focusing on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for tracking ballistic missile targets for early interception. The earlier missile interception occurs, the better.

In March, the Navy conducted a demonstration, code-named Stellar Daggers, in which two targets were intercepted by an SM-2 Block IIIA and an SM-2 Block IV. An excerpt:

“The test proved a need for more automation in the sensor’s tracking function to avoid the need for the sensor operator to manually follow the ballistic missile.

“While refining this concept, MDA also has issued a request for information (RFI) to industry to look at platform options to provide tracking ‘at or near threat burnout’ for early intercept, according to the RFI. The RFI looks at various risk scenarios centered upon fielding four systems in 2012 or 15 by 2015…Rich Matlock, MDA director for advanced programs, says MDA is not sold on the Reaper vehicle or its class and is open to ideas from industry.

“The operational concept for the system, once fielded, would be for the UAS to accept a cue from overhead nonimaging infrared satellites (such as the Defense Support Program or Space-Based Infrared System High) or ground-based radars that would be the first to detect a boosting missile. These UAS are being widely fielded to the Air Force and Army, and they are conducting daily operations in support of forces around the globe, including anti-improvised explosive device work and tracking of insurgents.”

Iran Tests Long-Range Sajjil-2

December 17th, 2009

Yesterday, Iran test-launched its longest-range, solid fuel missile, capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, a day after the House of Representatives voted for sanctions against the rogue state.

Iran’s Sajjil-2 is the kind of weapon missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic would have defended against. President Barack Obama dropped the Bush-era missile shield plans in Central Europe for one that deals with shorter-range missiles. The administration’s new missile defense policy doesn’t jibe with the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) goals. Stopping Iran’s long-range missiles will be the focus of the MDA’s simulated attack next month.

The Telegraph analyzes why Iran test-launched the Sajjil-2. Reporter Richard Spencer writes:

“[T]he most important response to Iran’s noise in recent weeks has been its mirror image: Israel’s silence…Since making his keynote speech to the Muslim world a week before the Iranian elections, President Barack Obama has urged negotiations, more diplomacy, and friendship with the Iranian people. That puts Mr Ahmadinejad in a dilemma. For the 30 years of the Republic, the US has been the enemy-in-chief, the Great Satan. Yet the more Mr Obama plays nice, the more that propaganda card fails to fulfil its purpose of uniting the Iranian people in a frenzy of support for the regime.”

Since Obama is going the diplomacy route, Iran needs an excuse to forge ahead with its defiant testing and nuclear development. Israel, which may pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear sites, is the “replacement bogeyman.”

“The Israelis have always said that military action is a possibility, but if Mr Ahmadinejad calls their bluff, have they got what it takes?”

The world may find out much sooner rather than later. Major General Amos Yadlin, Israel’s top intelligence chief, said Iran is close to developing a nuclear bomb, because it has enriched enough uranium.

In reaction to Iran’s missile test, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said, “Such actions will increase the seriousness and resolve of the international community to hold Iran accountable for its continued defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear program.” (Source)

US to Simulate Iran Attack

December 15th, 2009

MDA missile

Next month, the U.S. will simulate an Iranian attack to test its missile defense systems. The long-range “attack” missile would be fired from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and a missile fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base would intercept it.

The Missile Defense Agency’s Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly said the test will be different from a simulated North Korean attack, which would be slower and less direct.

“Previously, we have been testing the GMD system against a North Korean-type scenario…This next test … is more of a head-on shot like you would use defending against an Iranian shot into the United States. So that’s the first time that we’re now testing in a different scenario.”

In September, President Barack Obama dropped plans to build missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic, claiming he wanted to focus on proven and cost-effective technology that will aid in defending against Iran’s shorter-range missiles rather than long-range. The decision was seen as a move to placate Russia.

“The development of that (Iranian) long-range threat has been slower than what was originally estimated, and the pace of the medium-range missiles is dramatically higher,” O’Reilly said.

Next month’s simulated attack will cost about $150 million

(Source: Reuters)

MDA Announces Successful Tests

November 18th, 2009

MDA seal

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that the MDA and the U.S. Pacific Fleet successfully completed a series of exercises that tested the second-generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, which tracked and simulated engagements of ballistic missile targets. The targets were launched over several months at the Kauai Test Facility. (MDA)

The sea-based, midcourse Aegis is part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

In October, MDA successfully completed a Hardware-in-the-Looptheater-level ground test, conducted to integrate new capabilities into the BMDS architecture. From the release:

“Ground tests play a vital role in the development of new technologies for missile defense by providing program officials detailed information about emerging hardware and software system functionality, while reducing the cost and schedule demands that would be required to provide the same information through an extensive flight test program. These efforts enable actual flight test data to be reconstructed and injected into geographically distributed HWIL representations of BMDS sensors and weapon systems. They also support development and validation of BMDS simulations for component weapon and sensor performance, communications, and interoperability, as well as threat and environment simulations. In this test, FCE-C HWIL provided a demonstration of the ability to conduct a system-level, theater-centric defense of critical assets.”

Senator Daniel Inouye Seeks Aegis Funds

November 10th, 2009

Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is seeking funds for a missile defense project in Hawaii. He wants $68.5 million from last year’s budget to build an Aegis Ashore test facility, bypassing the defense authorizers. (Source)

One of the defense authorizers, Senator John McCain, tried to block Inouye’s request by introducing an amendment that would require formal approval. We’ve blogged about reports that North Korea possess a long-range missile capable of reaching Hawaii. The U.S. has been testing the Theater High-Altitude Area Defenses in Hawaii in preparation for a Taepodong-2 attack. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) seeks to use funds that were intended for missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic for the project in Hawaii.

An excerpt:

“[MDA Lt. Gen. Patrick] O’Reilly called the establishment of the Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii a ‘priority.’ The test facility could also provide an operational ballistic missile defense capability when needed, O’Reilly argued. The test launcher could provide continuous protection for the region, he added…Japanese intelligence officials have warned that North Korea could launch a long-range ballistic missile toward the Hawaiian islands, which are roughly 4,500 miles away, but U.S. intelligence analysts do not believe that North Korea has the ability to hit Hawaii.”

Missile Defense Quick Links for Tuesday

August 18th, 2009

>>  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highlighting challenges to the U.S. establishing missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic and recommendations on actions needed to implement the plans. For example, the GAO notes that neither country’s parliament has ratified the agreements, signed last year; and the Department of Defense hasn’t established roles and responsibilities of the main U.S. stakeholders for the missile defense shield sites. Among the GAO’s recommendations are:

“[T]he Secretary of Defense should direct MDA, the Army, and the Air Force to finalize the Overarching Memorandums of Agreement and element-specific annexes that detail the specific roles and responsibilities for the European sites and define the criteria that must be met before the transfer of those sites from MDA to the Army and Air Force.”

Download the 44-page report. (PDF).

THAAD >>  Aviation Week reports that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) seeks to increase the range of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. The booster is currently 14.5 inches long, and the MDA wants to increase it to 21 inches.

MDA’s THAAD project manager William Lamb said, “The concept behind the 21 inches is that it significantly increases the interceptor range, and by increasing range that significantly–three to four times–increases the defended area we have on the ground with the system.”

Additionally, a longer booster would give commanders more time to make the decision to fire at a target.

“It allows you to shoot one interceptor, assess whether or not you have killed the incoming reentry vehicle,” Lamb said, “and [possibly] precludes having to ripple-fire to launch several interceptors. So, you shoot, assess and then–if you didn’t get it–you would shoot again.”

>>  South Korea intends to launch its first space rocket this week. The $405-million Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 is on the launch pad at Naro Space Center and prepped for fueling. The launch has been delayed twice. (Source)

(Image source: Army Technology)

Missile Defense Contract Awards

August 4th, 2009

MDA missileThe Missile Defense Agency awarded MircoTech a contract extension of over $25 million to continue operating and maintaining telecommunications support services.

MicroTech president and chief executive officer Tony Jimenez said, “We are honored that Missile Defense Agency has selected MicroTech to support Missile Defense Agency’s objective of building the largest and most advanced classified video teleconferencing network in Defense Department.” (Source)

The U.S. Navy awarded defense contractor Raytheon a $9.9 million contract to perform concept studies for the Air and Missile Defense Radar. (Source)

Robert Martin of Raytheon said, “We will leverage our experience and expertise with our scalable family of naval radars as a distinct advantage in helping the Navy to develop this next-generation radar. The envisioned commonality and scalability for the AMDR will help reduce costs across the fleet while its advanced capabilities will provide no doubt-reliability and effectiveness for naval forces around the world — today and tomorrow.”

The radar suite will include S-band radar, X-band radar, and a suite controller. Read more about the radar system in the press release.