Preliminary results show that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency scored three of five attempted missile intercepts in a first-ever integrated flight exercise combining engagements from the area defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense ( ) system and an SM-3IA-equipped ship.
Both non-intercepts were targets that were engaged by the Aegis ship USS Fitzgerald employingSM-3IA missiles. Despite what MDA officials call a “nominal” SM-3IA flight, the missile failed to intercept an Aegis Readiness Assessment Vehicle-B short-range ballistic missile. A second SM-3IA attempt was to counter a BQM-74 cruise missile target. Rogers says only that the interceptor “engaged” the target, but she could not confirm actual intercept. Officials are exploring what went wrong, and Raytheon officials did not provide comment following the test.
These were two of five engagements in Flight Test Integrated (FTI)-01, MDA’s largest ever flight test, which was conducted at the Kwajalein Atoll and Reagan Test Site in the Pacific Ocean. It took place late Oct. 24 local time. It was designed to stress the budding U.S. missile defense system, which includes a variety of sensors and interceptors.
A first for this test was the inclusion of so many targets and three different interceptor types. The trial was a rudimentary representation of what Pentagon officials call a “raid” threat, when an adversary launches multiple missiles of different types at once in an effort to overwhelm defenses.
The Army’s PAC-3 successfully detected, tracked and intercepted two separate targets, a short-range ballistic missile, thought to be a foreign military asset (meaning it was an actual threat missile acquired from abroad), as well as an MQM-107 cruise missile. The interceptors were the standard PAC-3 design, which is now fielded, not the Missile Segment Enhancement model still in testing.
TheThaad system also successfully detected and tracked — with its AN/TPY-2 radar — a dropped medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) called an Extended, Long-Range Air-Launched Target. The system intercepted and destroyed this target, a first for Thaad engaging an MRBM.
Exercising against a raid threat has been a goal of MDA for years and of personal interest to MDA’s departing director, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly. He is slated to retire next month, when Adm. James Syring is slated to assume control of the agency.
The next MDA test, expected by year’s end, will be the first flight trial for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system using its three-stage interceptor since December 2010. This flight will be for characterization only, with an intercept attempt slated for the spring. The last successful intercept for GMD took place nearly four years ago.