Saturday, June 3, 2017
Ground-based Midcourse Defense
By Jim Emerson, staff writer
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific last Tuesday. The test revealed the efficacy of a new hit-to-kill vehicle meant to protect the United States against ballistic missile threats.
The interception of the mock ICBM fired from Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands validated the performance of the GMD interceptor missile which was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The test was necessary to move forward with US plans to add eight more interceptors to the inventory by the end of 2017, bringing the total to 44 fielded interceptors.
“All indications are that all our system performed exactly as designed,” Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters Wednesday at a Pentagon briefing. Syring said the threat scenario was specifically designed with North Korean and Iranian capabilities in mind. “I was confident before the test that we had the capability to defeat any threat that [North Korea or Iran] would throw at us,” he said, adding that the test confirmed just that.
Tuesday’s test was the maiden flight of the CE-2 block 1 interceptor, which uses extensive modified divert thrusters to correct previous problems with the guidance of the kill vehicle. Divert thrusters are the small servomotors that make course adjustments to improve the intercepting missile’s capability to destroy its target. The upgraded CE-2 block 1 focused on the boost vehicle, improved avionics and control that would make it a more reliable interceptor
The test demonstrated all aspects of the GMD--from threat launch and early warning, using multiple operational sensors providing real-world updates--to the ground based fire control system. Once airborne the interceptor was provided guidance to the incoming ICBM and self-guided to kill the target.
This highly public test of the missile killer was designed to send a strong message to emerging nuclear powers that the United States is capable of defending itself from external threats.