The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and a Boeing-led industry team have tested the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system designed for long-range incoming threats.
The test demonstrates the country’s ability to defend itself against intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As part of the test, known as a ‘two-shot salvo’ engagement, two ground-based missile interceptors were launched in quick succession from Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) in California, US, to destroy a simulated target.
The ICBM target was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, located more than 4,000 miles from the Vandenberg AFB.
The first interceptor struck the re-entry vehicle on the mock missile target in space. The second interceptor observed the resulting debris and other objects.
As the interceptor did not find any other re-entry vehicles, it struck the next ‘most lethal object’ it could identify, according to MDA.
US MDA director lieutenant general Sam Greaves said: “This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone.
“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 defence.
“The GMD system is vitally important to the defence of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
Boeing vice-president and GMD programme director Paul Smith stated that the data collected from the salvo engagement test will enhance missile defence for years to come.
The company will work on enhancing the system’s reliability as the US Government plans to acquire more interceptors.
Boeing is the prime contractor for the GMD programme.
The interceptors were tipped with Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKV), which are designed to destroy incoming threats safely outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Raytheon’s Sea-Based X-band radar and AN/TPY-2 radar supported the test by providing tracking and targeting data to the EKV.
Another partner in the project is Northrop Grumman. The company provided the weapon task plans for the ground-based interceptors.
As a strategic partner, Northrop is responsible for providing direction to the interceptor and target rockets, identifying and tracking the target, as well as guiding the interceptor to the target.
Separately, the Boeing-led team has been awarded a potential $4.1bn contract modification to provide technical capabilities to expand and improve the GMD system.