THAAD Successes Spur Faster Missile Defense Development
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 1999 After scoring two successive hits with a prototype Theater High-Altitude Air Defense System, DoD is poised to speed up development of the anti-missile system.
Army developers have twice hit their intended target after nine successive failures at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Now, the deputy director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization said DoD is ready to pursue the next phase of development.
"What we've been able to demonstrate twice in a row [is] that not only do we understand the technical design, but that when the system works and all components of that system work, we are able to actually hit the target exactly where we want to," Army Maj. Gen. Peter Franklin said at an Aug. 19 Pentagon briefing. "Based on a review of those tests, we believe we are ready to enter into the next phase."
Franklin's announcement represents a revision of initial plans for three successful "project definition risk reduction flights" before the program entered the engineering, manufacturing and development phase. Dropping plans for a third test will save the program at least $15 million, he said.
"Rather than spending millions of dollars and months on another prototype intercept, we have decided to focus on the future system and the engineering development of that future system," he said.
However, a decision to enter this second development phase will come only after DoD convinces Congress it has designed a viable new weapon system. To date, contractor Lockheed Martin's test- bed THAAD interceptors have been modified old missiles. DoD hopes to come up with a new, cost-effective design that's stable, supportable and can be operated by multiple users, officials said.
The decision to move into the engineering, manufacturing and development stage could come as early as next year, Franklin said.
"We are looking at the schedule in light of the necessary tests that are required: the necessary hardware in loop simulations, the necessary simulations, making sure that the risk in that program is the right amount of risk, and addressing how we can make sure we're meeting the evolving threat," he said.
The engineering, manufacturing and development phase will include up to 40 tests of the equipment the Pentagon plans to buy, Franklin said. Hardware testing and development will begin first, with the first new flight tests not occurring until at least 2002, he said.