The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will conduct a developmental flight test to include the planned intercept of a long-range ballistic missile target in support of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) test program on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2002.
The test will involve the launch of an Orbital Suborbital Program (OSP) long-range missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The OSP, a modified Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile, will carry a mock warhead and decoys. About 20 minutes after the target missile is launched, and about 4,800 miles away, a ground-based interceptor carrying a prototype exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) interceptor will launch from the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Facility at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. About 10 minutes later the intercept is planned to take place at an altitude of approximately 140 miles above the central Pacific Ocean during the midcourse phase of the target warhead's flight.
This will be an integrated system test, with all representative system elements participating: space-based missile warning sensor; ground-based early warning radar, the prototype X-Band radar at Kwajalein Atoll and the GMD battle management, command, control and communications system located at Kwajalein Atoll and the Joint National Integration Facility in Colorado Springs, Colo. Since the system is in its research and development phase, these elements serve as either prototypes or surrogates for system elements which are in the developmental stage and have not yet been produced for actual operational use.
A U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser, the USS Lake Erie, will also participate in the test, using its SPY-1 radar to gather data about the target and interceptor missiles. While the cruiser's radar will not take part in directing the interceptor to its target, the data gathered will be used to confirm the potential role the SPY-1 radar and the Aegis weapon system could play against long-range missile targets.
This will be the seventh intercept test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense element (formerly National Missile Defense) research and development program. The first test on Oct. 2, 1999 resulted in the successful intercept of a ballistic missile target. The second test took place on Jan. 18, 2000, and did not achieve an intercept due to a clogged cooling pipe on the EKV, but did successfully test the integrated system of elements. The third test, on July 8, 2000, did not result in an intercept due an unsuccessful separation of the EKV from the booster rocket. The fourth test, on July 14, 2001, achieved a successful intercept of a ballistic missile target, as did tests on Dec. 2, 2001 and, March 15, 2002. These last three tests used all GMD components as part of a fully integrated flight test.
News media point of contact is Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, MDA External Affairs, at (703) 697-8997 or Cheryl Irwin, Office of the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), at (703) 697-5331.