The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Boeing conducted a successful launch of a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) flying a mock-up of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).
The test included launching a GBI into space with a three-stage booster in two-stage mode, allowing the GBI to release the kill vehicle earlier in flight, providing an earlier opportunity to intercept and defeat a missile threat.
“This test was the first flight test of a three-stage booster operating in two-stage mode meaning the third stage was not ignited, allowing earlier release of the kill vehicle providing increased battlespace. This new capability is known as a 2-/3-Stage selectable GBI. This capability gives the warfighter greater flexibility in executing the defense of the homeland while significantly increasing the battlespace for successful threat engagement. Using a mock-up of an EKV provided a significant reduction in cost of the test and spared critical defense assets that were not required in this non-intercept test,” the MDA said in a release.
Initial indications show the test met requirements. Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
"This was the first flight test of the new selectable stage booster configuration in two-stage mode," said MDA Director Vice Admiral Jon Hill." The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the greatly increased battlespace the selectable booster brings to the Warfighter. The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we continue to provide enhanced capabilities for our existing Ground Based Interceptor fleet while we rapidly design and deliver the leap ahead technology of the Next Generation Interceptor."
The new selectable stage booster provides the warfighter with more engagement time and space; providing for a greater defense in depth. Future upgrades to sensing and tracking capabilities when coupled with the selectable stage booster will provide the warfighter with a robust ability to assess the threat after initial engagement while retaining the time to engage again if necessary. “This is our first step toward a robust ‘shoot-assess-shoot’ capability,” added Vice Admiral Hill.
The new capability, made possible through digital system modelling software upgrades, gives operators the real-time choice between a two-stage or three-stage interceptor, depending on the threat’s location and speed. The stage mode determines when the kill vehicle is released from the GBI. This achievement will allow GBIs to be modernized and fielded with this critical capability as a part of the MDA’s Service Life Extension Program.
The GMD element of the Missile Defense System provides combatant commanders the capability to engage and destroy intermediate and long-range ballistic missile threats to protect the U.S. The mission of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop and deploy a layered Missile Defense System to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from limited ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.