Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EDT
(Maj. Gen. Nance is Program Executive Officer for the Ground-Based Missile Defense Segment of BMDO)
ADM. QUIGLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, the second portion of this afternoon's briefing, again, is Major General Willie Nance from the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, to give a little bit more information, as best we know it today, I guess, on the shot, the Integrated Flight Test 6 from a few weeks ago.
GEN. NANCE: I guess many of you may have been here on the 14th of July, the day that we had the flight test. I know it got a little late here. The flight test was conducted at about 10:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the 14th. For those of us at Kwajalein, it was about 2:40 in the afternoon there.
That night after the test, General Kadish had a short press conference, and I think he mentioned then that at some point when we had a little more information about the performance of the system, we wanted to get back and give you some of that information.
We do have a lot of data. We're taking data -- we took data from all of the elements that were involved in the test as well as all the range assets that we used to monitor the test. So we had a lot of information to evaluate.
It normally takes us about 45 days to go through the process, but we have had a good look at the data and we think that we're pretty solid on the performance of the system.
In summary up front, it was a good test. The system and the elements performed for the most part as expected. We did have one anomaly, and I think you may have heard about that, the ground-based radar prototype, which is a prototype of the X-band radar. It is located at Kwajalein missile range. One of the last objectives, in fact the last objective that we wanted it to perform was to switch its track from the re-entry vehicle to the kill vehicle and report if it could hit, and so conduct as an objective its ability to perform hit assessment. It did not successfully do that. And it was a software issue. I'm going to spend a little time later on explaining that.
What I'd like to do is use a video to cover the conduct of the test, and then I have about 10 Viewgraphs that I can walk through the stages of the test and give you an assessment of how the system performed.
Matt, if you could, if we could run the video, please. (Video being shown.)
Again, conducted in the evening, Eastern Standard Time. This is the control center at Vandenberg Air Force Base. That is the launch silo at Vandenberg. The target launch was very nominal; in fact, a very good launch. Very good trajectory of the target. It met all the expected timelines for stage separations and targets deployment. Very good target deployment. And I'll give you some -- I'll have some discussion later on about performance.
About 60 seconds after launch, we had the first stage separation. Also involved in the test -- as a part of the component structure of the elements involved in the test, we used a deployed overhead sensor to perform early launch detection. That was performed successfully. After detecting the launch, the responsibility then was to send a quick alert message to the ground stations to provide information about detection. That went to the command and control facility at -- the Joint National Test Facility at Kwajalein, relayed to -- rather, to Colorado Springs, relayed to Vandenberg. This is the early warning radar at Beale, California.
After first-stage separation, the nose fairing was ejected, uncovering the reentry vehicle. About a minute into launch -- or two minutes into launch, rather, we had second-stage separation. And then about a minute after that, three minutes into launch, we had third- stage separation.
After third-stage separation, the Multi-Service Launch System, which is that bus you see, maneuvered to deploy the reentry vehicle, and it was the first object deployed in the target cluster. Shortly after that deployment, the Multi-Service Launch System deployed the decoy balloon.
And what you will see next is the relative position of the target array as it's flying along in space from Vandenberg to Kwajalein. And so that is the target cluster that we're trying to discriminate the reentry vehicle from. With the information that the system had, we were able to execute the human and control function and determine we had a launch and we wanted to engage. The mid-course range tracker is the FPQ-14 radar. We do not have an early warning radar or an X-band radar there, so we use that as a surrogate in the system.
At Kwajalein we have the prototype of the X-band radar. It is the ground-based radar prototype, and that is it there. That is the actual radar. Its function is to detect, track, after acquisition go through discrimination and select the reentry vehicle from the other objects, and classify all the other objects.
The Battle Management System, which is located at Kwajalein, took the data from the FPQ-14 on the track of the RV and formed a weapons task plan, basically directing the interceptor to launch to a trajectory that it can deploy or separate the kill vehicle at its proper point in space so that it can operate successfully and intercept the target.
We had some very good range support from Kwajalein missile range.
This is the optics of the fly-out of the booster. We had an on-time separation of the first stage -- very nominal performance, this test of the booster system.
After the first stage separation and while still under -- attached to the second stage, we omit the nose fairing, expose the kill vehicle, and then separate the kill vehicle from the booster. Now the kill vehicle will make a maneuver to move away from the booster, so we don't have any debris hitting the kill vehicle.
The first task that the kill vehicle does is to make sure it knows exactly where it is, and it used star navigation to do that. And so it will point and -- at two stars and get star references to upgrade its navigation.
The next function in flight is, we get an update of the target location from a ground in-flight interceptor communications system. And it sends the latest information through a burst of information on a beam that is received by the kill vehicle. And the kill vehicle then tells the ground station that it received the data properly.
After that, it'll make a maneuver to make sure it is properly oriented for acquisition. We will -- it does a second star shot. It wants to make sure, once again, that it has its proper location, because it must know where it is precisely to have precise targeting and engagement of the reentry vehicle.
After the second star shot, we send another update of target information, the latest from the ground-based radar prototype. And then the system -- the vehicle will go into acquisition and discrimination. So it orients itself, turns on the on the infrared invisible sensors, acquires the target complex, discriminates the reentry vehicle, and maneuvers through to intercept. And you see a couple of the range sensor assets at Kwajalein that was able to track and determine for us that we had a successful intercept.
I have a couple of Viewgraphs I'd like to use to give you some information about the performance of the system during the test. (To staff.) Next chart, please.
You saw the components that are involved in the test, and this chart shows you how they are arrayed. And so we do in fact -- if you move to the far right, upper right-hand corner, we do have participating in the test an overhead satellite, as an overhead sensor. Its function is to detect the target launch and send quick alert to the battle management system.
The battle management structure is located in Colorado Springs, and there's a ground station there that will pick up the transmitted message from the overhead sensor satellite.
Also participating in the test is an early warning radar. This one is located at Beale, California, and we host onto that radar for the purposes of testing the new software that we use for the operations of the system.
The objective of that radar is to detect the target launch, track the objects of the booster and the target complex, and report that track information to the battle manager.
Target launch, as we talked about, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and then the location of the FPQ-14 radar in Hawaii. Again, that is not an operational radar. It is not a radar that is a part of the component set that we will use for the system. But because we do not have a radar positioned in that location, we have to use it as a surrogate for the early-warning radar, position forward, to give us early track information that we can use for the weapons task plan.
The results of the tracking from the FPQ-14 radar is provided to the battle management system at Kwajalein, and there is a full battle management node there, that it has full responsibility to launch the interceptor, get the sensor information, provide target information to the interceptor and kill vehicle as it flies, and really manage the fly-out trajectory and execution of the mission.
Q: General, is that battle management thing at Kwajalein a duplicate of the one that's in Colorado?
GEN. NANCE: It is a prototype of what would be a battle management system that would be co-located with the interceptor field that you would have in a deployed infrastructure. So we really used multiple battle management nodes for the system. You would have one co-located at Colorado Springs with NORAD and U.S. Space Command in the mountain. Then you would have one located at the interceptor site. And you may have another one that is located at another command location so that if -- you would have devolution of command. That means another opportunity to run the operation if you had a problem with any one of the battle management nodes.
Q: You could have one at sea, couldn't you?
GEN. NANCE: You could have one at multiple locations, that's true. It depends on how you determine and how, after we decide, if we decide to employ, what would be the architecture. So there are a number of opportunities to locate battle management structures.
Q: General, I realize this is a lay person's term, but the beacon that's been put on the warhead, that's because of the limitations of the radar in Hawaii and at Beale, California, is it not? So that you'll have some idea where the target will be in the final phase.
GEN. NANCE: Yes. It is put on the reentry vehicle. There's a couple of reasons that it's on the reentry vehicle. One, it provides truth data about the reentry vehicle. It is a way of tracking so that we have information about its location. For the purpose of this test, using the FPQ-14 radar, it tracks the C-band transponder, the beacon that's on the reentry vehicle. And it uses that data, as I said, as a surrogate for radar because we don't have one there.
And we need -- if you look at the fans that you see, the fan of the FPQ-14 radar and the other fans, we don't have radar coverage for the complete trajectory from the early warning radar to the ground- based radar prototype.
So this fits in and provides coverage of that area that we don't have radar coverage.
Q: General, you need to address the issue, though, that's become in the pop culture of the last month that the beacon directed the warhead to destroy it. This has become an object of ridicule all over the place. There was a Defense Week article that differentiated it fairly well, but that article's distinctions have been lost in the pop culture repeating of it. Can you give us a clear explanation of what happened?
GEN. NANCE: And I'm going to do that as I step through, later on, the performance. But let me go ahead and quickly now talk about that.
The radar -- FPQ-14 radar does get the information from the C- band transponder, and that gives it enough information so that it knows the relative position of the reentry vehicle and it knows its track. In other words, it knows its velocity in a projected track. That information is sent to the battle management node that is located at Kwajalein and is used to determine the weapons task plan that we launched the interceptor on. So when it sends the information to the interceptor at Kwajalein for a launch, it tells, based upon the information from the FPQ-14, which is using the transponder information, what the projected track of the target reentry vehicle will be. And so it computes a launch trajectory of the interceptor so that it can position the kill vehicle properly ahead of that trajectory so the kill vehicle is in the basket to do the intercept.
Once that information is passed by the FPQ-14 radar, using the transponder, to the battle manager, we do not use that information any longer. Now, it continues to track, but we filter that information out of the system because we want to transition and start using the ground-based radar prototype information. So as soon as the target complex flies into the band and the range of the ground-based radar prototype, we start getting track information for that. The track information that is transmitted by the battle manager through the in- flight interceptor communication system, which you see here, to the kill vehicle while the kill vehicle was in flight, is purely based upon the information, track information it gets from the ground-based radar prototype.
Q: General, on that same point, the information from the transponder forms the basis of the initial weapons task plan, as you just said.
GEN. NANCE: That's right.
Q: And basically it aims for a point in space, with some margin for error around it.
What I'd like to get a clearer answer to than I've gotten so far -- maybe it's just because I didn't understand it -- is, what's the distance between the initial point in space that it was ordered to go to, based on the beacon data, and the actual impact point? Was it a hundred mile? Fifty miles? Ten feet?
GEN. NANCE: Are you talking about the distance from the --
Q: It had a point in space that it aimed at, based on the initial weapons task plan, and it had a point in space where it actually collided with the RV. Can you give us some rough idea of apart those two points were?
GEN. NANCE: The point of separation to where the impact point is -- I don't have that specifically, but let me give you some way points in between there. The point at which we start acquiring with the kill vehicle the target complex, when the kill vehicle opens up the sensor suite it has and starts looking for the target complex, is about -- is just over 450 miles.
Q: From where it actually ended up?
GEN. NANCE: From where -- from the kill -- from the reentry vehicle. When it opens its eyes and starts to acquire, to look, it is 450 miles away from the...
Q: (Off mike) -- the information as to how far the original task plan point in space was from the actual impact point. We'll follow up on that. But one more on this issue. You talk about the importance of this -- of an X-band radar in the middle, somewhere in the Central Pacific. But as far as I understand, there's no money in the '02 budget to buy the radar, despite the fact you're buying a $2 billion new test infrastructure in Alaska. Why not? I mean, this would obviate the need for the beacon. You could have more realistic tests if you bought an X-band radar.
GEN. NANCE: The timing to get a radar there -- we think that we can, if we start that radar work in '03, that we can have it there by the late '04, '05 time frame, to start participating -- not at Shemya, a radar that's in the midcourse. And that's why we don't have any money in the '04 budget.
Q: Okay. So all the tests -- this is my last question -- all the tests between now and when would use the beacon?
GEN. NANCE: That's right. So until the late '04, '05 time frame, we will continue to -- we will not have the radar in the midcourse. We will continue to use the beacon, I believe, for about another year, until late summer of next year.
At that point, the software will have evolved for the battle management system. We believe that we can start using what we call cluster track. Rather than having to have a specific track on the reentry vehicle or a specific object, we can take the data off the early warning radar track that we get from the Beale early warning radar, and that will be accurate enough for us to project the track of the target complex, and we can form a task plan to launch the interceptor. But that's about another year into the maturity of the battle management software before we'll be able to do that. Until then, we're going to have to have some way to track objects and provide that information to the system.
Q: (Off mike) -- more tests?
GEN. NANCE: I think about maybe four more tests.
QExcuse me, General. You said the X-band radar, the prototype X-band radar, that there was an anomaly and it wasn't able to switch from the reentry to the kill vehicle, but at the same time, you said that the data from the beacon isn't used in the final phase. So I guess my question is, how did the kill vehicle hit the warhead if the X-band radar -- (inaudible)?
GEN. NANCE: I'm going to walk through that, if you don't mind, and I'll explain exactly how that worked. But it got -- the kill vehicle did get updates based upon the performance and the tracking of the ground-based radar prototype that was sent to it in flight. That occurred before we had the problem. We had a software problem about 64 seconds before intercept, where we locked up a database in the object track file for the radar. And that last 64 seconds is where we were then sort of on the tracks that were internal to the system, we didn't accept any more tracks because of the lockup. But it already had -- the GBRP [Ground Based Radar Prototype] had already discriminated, acquired and discriminated the targets and discriminated the reentry vehicle and sent that information up to the kill vehicle. So the kill vehicle did have its information about -- the updated information about the location of the reentry vehicle.
Again, continuing on this chart, as we said, we used the battle manager to launch the interceptor and really run the execution and performance of the test and the components that are involved in the test at that point. The Inflight Interceptor Comm [Communications] System sends the updated information to the kill vehicle. The kill vehicle, after flying to its proper point in space, will separate from the payload launch vehicle and then maneuver for intercept.
Some data. The range from Vandenberg Air Force Base to Kwajalein is about 5,000 miles. The total time of test from the time the target is launched at Vandenberg until intercept is about 29 minutes and 42 seconds. And the closing velocity is about 16,500 miles per hour, the velocity of the reentry vehicle and the KV closing together for intercept. And our intercept occurs at about 144 miles altitude.
Next chart, please.
I'd like to talk real quick about surrogates. And the point was, while we used the FPQ-14, but we do have some other surrogates in the system. Early warning radar. A surrogate in the nature of it is not truly representative of where we would want the early-warning radar to be located. As you saw, it was located in California, so it was tracking the out-bound target. Clearly, for operations, we would want it to be positioned so we're tracking targets that are coming at us. So it is not operationally representative in its location.
The FPQ-14 radar is a surrogate for the early-warning radar, positioned there so that we can radar track data, we can provide it to the system, that we can launch the interceptor from. And it does track the C-band transponder.
So this radar is not an operationally representative radar that is involved in the test.
The ground-based radar prototype is smaller than the projected operational radar. It's about a third of the size. And it too is not operationally representative in its location because it is located at the same area as the interceptor. Operationally, we would place an X- band radar much further forward, get early track information that we can use to operate the system from.
The payload launch vehicle is a surrogate. It is a two-stage booster. Our operational boosters will be three-stage boosters.
The reentry vehicle, very typical of reentry vehicles that we would see, however, it is instrumented for a couple of reasons. One, truth data. To measure the performance of the system, we want to know exactly how the reentry vehicle is performing. Number two, it's there for safety reasons. And it's also instrumented for telemetry.
We use range assets as well to help us in the test to get information about how the system performed. The first reason we use them is safety. We have a safety corridor that we fly in. We've got to keep the target and the interceptor in that corridor. So we evaluate the location of these components for safety reasons. And also, we must know, as I said before, precise information so that we have truth. If we want to measure the performance of the system, we need to know where the reentry vehicle is, how it's performing. We need to know where the other objects that are flying are and how they're performing, and we use instrumentation to measure truth.
And we also will use those systems, those range assets, as contingency if in a case we were to have a component fail. For example, if the battle management system not work, or one of the tested radars does not work, we can substitute a range asset so that we are able to continue the test. They're expensive tests; once we start them, we want to get as much information out of the test as we can, and so they can be used as contingency backup.
A little bit about the target. We use a standard Minuteman II as the booster stack for our target. It's about 63 feet in length. What you see on the right is the target cluster and the relative position of the target cluster as it's flying towards Kwajalein. The medium reentry vehicle, the decoy balloon, and the Multi-Service Launch Systems payload launch vehicle. I have some examples over here, and these are virtually the actual size. On your right you see a mock-up of the reentry vehicle. It's not to the exact curvature, but it is the right size.
The reentry vehicle's about 6 feet in height and about 2.5 feet in diameter, at the base. It is traveling at a speed of about 14,500 miles per hour as it is flying towards Kwajalein.
What you see here is the balloon decoy. This is as it is packaged in the Multi-Service Launch System before deployment. Once it is deployed, it will expand to about 5-1/2 feet in diameter. So that's the size of a balloon that's in the array.
And this is an actual size of the kill vehicle -- about 55 inches in length, about 24 inches in width, weighs about 120 pounds.
So these are the two objects in tests that are principally involved in the hit-to-kill: the reentry -- the kill vehicle that is seeking out the reentry vehicle and trying to hit with precision for a hit-to-kill intercept.
(To staff.) Next chart.
Now results and how the system performed:
In the boost phase, at target launch, when the target was launched at 10:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the overhead sensor detected the launch within 35 seconds after launch. That was earlier than required and a little earlier than we predicted, so we had very good performance.
It had enough information to send a quick alert message within one minute and 49 seconds. And that was track information that was predicting the fly-out and the trajectory of the target complex.
The early warning radar at Beale, California, had detection of the target launch 59 seconds after the target was launched. We had predicted about 60 seconds. It was well within the operational expectation of the early warning radar.
It established the track on 11 objects, to include the boosters, the stage separation devices, and the target complex. It tracked two of those objects to a range of 2,883 miles, for a total track time of just over 17 minutes. So we got good information about the track capability of the software for the upgraded early warning radar.
The booster burnout was right as we expected; each stage burned for 60 seconds. So we had full three-stage booster burnout at three minutes.
The full target was deployed -- target array was deployed at seven minutes and 30 seconds. And again, that was as we expected.
We had no anomalies with the target. We had a full inflation of the balloon, we had good deployment and good trajectory of the reentry vehicle.
One of the functions of the battle management structure is to determine what we call human in control activity, and that is to determine that we have a threat and that we grant authority to the system then to operate autonomously to conduct the engagement. And so we tested that as a part of this test. The system, the battle management structure had enough information, based upon the overhead sensor and the early warning radar, that the human in control function was completed at 4 minutes and 46 seconds after target launch, and that was about a minute and a half before we needed it. So we got good information, was able to meet our time line there.
The FPQ-14 radar did pick up the target at horizon break, had a good track on it, and had enough information to send track information on the reentry vehicle to the battle manager at about 11 minutes and 38 seconds into flight.
Now, the mid-course phase, how the system performed. The ground-based radar prototype located at Kwajalein detected the target complex at a range of 2,800 miles from the radar at 16 minutes and 53 seconds after launch of the target. It defined the reentry vehicle in terms of its acquisition as a part of that cluster at about 2,610 miles from the radar, at a time of about 18 minutes and 28 seconds after target launch. The radar performed those functions of detection, acquisition, track and discrimination very well. It was able to properly discriminate all of the components -- the balloon decoy, the reentry vehicle, the MSLS [Multi-Service Launch System] bus, and the debris that was flying along; it properly classified that as non-threatening debris. So we had very good discrimination function.
I will tell you that these are not stressing discrimination tests. We don't intend that. These tests are principally focused on demonstrating we could do hit-to-kill. But we do have the balloon in the array so that we can exercise the discrimination algorithms, to make sure that the software on the kill vehicle will go through those functions, and the software for the radars will go through their discrimination function.
We launched the interceptor based upon the information from the FPQ-14 radar track information at 21 minutes and 34 seconds. It was virtually right on time, when we expected.
We had a good fly-out, as you saw in the video. We had kill vehicle separation at 24 minutes and 11 seconds. Again, that was virtually right on time, and it was in the location. And, John, again, I'll get the information of the distance. [The distance between the separation of the booster rocket and the use of the beacon and the intercept is just under 500 miles]
The in-flight interceptor communication system. This was the first time that we've had the component in test, and we had to see its performance in sending information to the kill vehicle. We tried it for the previous flight, but as you're well aware, we never got KV separation, so we could not exercise that.
The first update of information that it provided to the kill vehicle was at 25 minutes and three seconds after target launch. And the second update was provided at 27 minutes and 30 seconds. What we were very concerned about in performance here was measuring the accuracy that it could point to the kill vehicle, and the kill vehicle is flying at about -- a little over 5,000 miles per hour. So it had to be able to project the kill vehicle location and accurately point to the kill vehicle to send the message. The first comm [communications] event, the first event it sent at 25 minutes, the beam width was about three-quarters of a mile in width. The accuracy of the kill vehicle to the center of that beam was right at 282 yards. The kill vehicle was within 280 yards of the center of the beam.
The second event, the beam width was about 1.4 miles in diameter. The accuracy of the IFICS in pointing at that time was just over 150 yards in kill vehicle location to the center of the beam. So for this test, the IFICS [In-Flight Interceptor Communications System] met one of its real objectives, its ability to track and point to the kill vehicle.
Q: Just to be clear, at no point was the beacon honing -- sending out a message to the kill vehicle?
GEN. NANCE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. There was never in this flight test nor in any flight test we've every run any kind of link directly between the reentry vehicle and the kill vehicle. There's nothing that is being radiated from the reentry vehicle that's telling the kill vehicle "Here I am."
Q: But it does tell the interceptor rocket before it takes off, "Here I am."
GEN. NANCE: That's true. We use it as a surrogate early-warning radar, John, and it -- we get its trajectory of the RV based upon the FPQ-14. And so we launch the payload launch vehicle, the booster -- the interceptor booster based upon that data. And it positions the kill vehicle for separation based upon that information. That's true.
Q: So General, I'm a little confused here.
GEN. NANCE: Yes, please.
Q: If it sent up the target updates at 25:03, that was after the kill vehicle separation, was the kill vehicle then able to take that stuff and correct --
GEN. NANCE: Yes.
Q: -- correct its flight from that?
GEN. NANCE: Yes. If you remember the video, you had the transmission of the data up. And as soon as it received that information, it made a course correction. It fired its on-board thrusters and corrected its position based upon that data.
Kill vehicle intercept of the reentry vehicle occurred as expected at 29 minutes and 42 seconds.
Now, I have a couple of charts on performance of the kill vehicle and the end-game.
Separation of the kill vehicle, as I said, occurred based upon the information sent by the weapons task plan. The location was where we expected. Separation occurred at 24 minutes and 11 seconds. We went through the functions you saw in the video. The star sighting was on schedule. When the KV maneuvered to do the star sighting, it had to do no extra looks. When it opened the visible sensor to do the star sightings, the stars were in the field of view. So it was a very good maneuver, very good star sighting, good update of information. The KV then adjusted again, firing its thrusters to make sure it was very precise in location.
Again, the IFTU [In-Flight Target Update] -- it has to maneuver, to position itself to receive the IFTU. It did. Got the information, made guidance corrections to get itself in good position for continued track.
After passing through or continuing and executing the second star sight and the second IFTU, it entered acquisition at about 28 minutes and 8 seconds after the target was launched from Vandenberg. Again, the range at initial acquisition of the cluster that it picked up the target complex, was just over 450 miles from the kill vehicle.
Q: (Off mike) -- is that farther than you expected?
GEN. NANCE: That was within the expected range that we had expected. So it was within the predicted performance that we wanted to see the kill vehicle execute to.
The range at which it acquired the reentry vehicle -- initially it acquired the cluster. And by the way, I will tell you that when it opened its eyes to look for the cluster, the cluster was in the field of view. It had to do no extra searches, what we called previously "stair steps," it did not have to do that. It acquired the separate reentry vehicle -- not -- "separate" is the wrong term here. We want to get a clear acquisition of the reentry vehicle as a component of the cluster. That was completed at about 300 miles distance between the kill vehicle and the reentry vehicle. Again, that was within the range that we had expected for the performance of this kill vehicle.
After acquisition and then discrimination, it tracked the reentry vehicle as the discriminated threatening object and went into terminal homing and maneuver and intercepted the reentry vehicle.
Next chart, please.
A couple of charts on, then, how did it perform through the acquisition and position of intercept.
This is the -- I know this is a little hard to see the objects, but I wanted to give you a sort of a sense of what it's seeing at some distance. The picture you see on the left is the target array in the field of view, and this is the actual sighting through the kill vehicle of the target array. And you can see that it's in the field of view. You have the decoy, the MSLS and the target.
The middle picture is the last frame. Clearly we had identified, discriminated the reentry vehicle, tracked to the reentry vehicle, and we were on a course to impact and intercept the reentry vehicle. And then the last one on the right is the intercept as seen by one of the range tracking optical sensors at Kwajalein.
Part of the assessment that we've been able to do so far is how accurate were we at intercept. And we have used all the data that we have from all the radars at Kwajalein plus the data that we get off of the kill vehicle. We had some other observation sensors, such as Observation Island, HALO-IRIS. These are airplane observation platforms that we use as a part of the test to get the data -- as much data as we can.
Also, to measure how accurate we are, the reentry vehicle is instrumented with what we call a photonic hit indicator. It is a mesh of fiber network that runs throughout the reentry vehicle. The purpose is that whenever the kill vehicle intercepts the reentry vehicle, wherever that mesh is broken, we are able to determine, then, the intercept point. And that information is transmitted, before we lose all signal, back to the ground station and we can get precise location of impact.
We have asked MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], Lincoln Labs to do an independent assessment of performance, and one of those is performance of intercept. The intercept occurred at a closing angle of about 30 degrees RV to target. The intercept occurred just behind nose of the reentry vehicle, about a foot and a half in. That's not exactly precise, but that's about where we intercepted. The objective of the intercept is to make sure we intercept so that the center mass of the reentry vehicle will close on center mass -- of the kill vehicle will close on center mass of the reentry vehicle. And we were very effective at precise point of intercept to be able to accomplish that. The MIT's assessment with the data they have seen thus far is that the severity of the intercept on IFT-6 was more severe than the intercept on IFT-3.
A little information about the size of debris. The largest piece of debris that we saw, based on all the radar tracks and data that we had, was about a six-inch size piece of debris in any dimension. And that's debris that's left over from the kill vehicle and the reentry vehicle after the intercept. Now, you can see the severity of the intercept. This is one of the range radars at Kwajalein that was tracking the intercept point.
Q: How much bigger were the sizes of debris in the IFT-3?
GEN. NANCE: About the same. About the same size. We had a few more pieces in IFT-3 of that size than we had in this.
We had less than 10 pieces, if I remember right, of that size in this intercept.
Q: Is that how you determine the severity of this, or --
GEN. NANCE: Well, the severity is accomplished in a couple of things in terms of what we want to make sure of. Number one, we want to make sure that we intercept at a point, very precise point, that we are going to destroy what would (have), for the purpose of the test, been the sweet spot of the reentry vehicle. Then we want to measure the size of the debris, so that we know if there's any large objects that are left. And so that's the reason we get all the radar data, and we measure that precisely. And we get very good measurements about the size of the debris.
So given those two -- did we hit it in the right location, did we hit it in a position that we can destroy what would be the physics package or the sweet spot of the target, and then what is left over after the intercept n terms of size -- gives us the information about the lethality of the intercept.
Q: So you're saying that IFT-3 -- you didn't hit it at the sweet spot, or --
GEN. NANCE: No, we did a very good job. That's a good question. IFT-3 was a very good intercept. The ITF-3 intercept was just slightly further -- closer to the nose than on IFT-6. But it was a very lethal intercept as well.
What this shows is that the KV is performing quite well at intercept. We are tasking the contractor not just to hit the reentry vehicle, we are tasking the contractor to hit in a precise location and make sure that we have lethal destruction of the reentry vehicle. And so this kill vehicle, as it's flying towards the reentry vehicle, has to compute where it must hit to be able to accomplish that.
Now remember that we're closing at a speed of 16,500 miles per second. That's a little over -- I'm sorry -- hour. That's a little over five miles per second -- I'm sorry -- 4.6 miles per second that we're closing. So in that last second, closing that distance, it's got to do a lot of very precise maneuver to hit a precise location on the reentry vehicle to destroy it.
Q: So what you're saying is that basically there were some -- a few more larger pieces in the last test than there are now?
GEN. NANCE: No, there were less large pieces -- there were not any large pieces. The largest piece was about six inches in size, and there were fewer of those in this test than there were in the last test.
Q: Dr. Postol at MIT was saying that the kill vehicle is programmed to discriminate two objects and to hit the less bright of the two objects. Is that true, and --
GEN. NANCE: This kill vehicle is programmed to use a couple of sets of information. It is -- I would use the term we -- A priority information, meaning that as much as we know about an object, we want to use that. I'm talking about in a tactical situation.
And so we will use what intelligence we have about objects. And then it uses also physics-based information about objects as well, features, though it may not have the a priori knowledge, it will recognize that there are certain features that are associated with certain objects, and we can use that. And that's how the kill vehicle will use the sets of data that we have. So it uses what it knows, and it will use what it doesn't know in terms of specifics, but it has certain feature characteristics that it wants to look for as it starts to try to discriminate a reentry vehicle from other objects.
So for this test, it had feature information that it was tasked to look at in terms of brightness of objects and certain others. And so that is part of the information that it uses to discriminate. Not all the information, but part of the information it uses.
Q: And it was told to hit the less bright of the two?
GEN. NANCE: It was not told to hit the less bright of the two. It was given certain feature expectations of the reentry vehicle in terms of brightness, and it had to match that feature expectation to the target array. And so the reentry vehicle certainly was less bright than the balloon. And the reentry vehicle was less bright than the MS-LS front section. And so its signature characteristics in terms of its brightness was less, and the reentry vehicle expected that.
Q: And could you explain a little bit about if the debris was larger than six inches, what the implications of that would mean? (Off mike) -- what the dangers might be of larger debris?
GEN. NANCE: We will continue to -- one of the reasons we want to collect the information about the size of the debris is we want to learn from that and use that information to determine what will be the reentry characteristics of any debris. Will it burn up in reentry, or will it not burn up in reentry? And so that's the reason that we collect the data to use.
Q: You were talking a little bit about where you plan to build the X-band radar, and it just occurred to me, looking at your range, if you had the prototype radar on Hawaii now, you would have -- you'd be in much better shape for these tests, wouldn't you, than where you have it in Kwajalein? Why was it built in Kwajalein in the first place? And where are you planning to put the new one?
GEN. NANCE: We haven't determined yet the location of the new one. We have proposed that, as we look at a -- if we can update the test bed, that it would be very beneficial to us to have a mid-range radar that was more operationally representative. And so we're looking now at potential locations of a radar.
Why it was put at Kwajalein? That -- I will tell you that occurred before my watch here. I'm not sure. Kwajalein is a test range that we use for the system, and very likely it could have been decided that was the test range and that was an appropriate location to put the radar. But we have learned since we have started testing that it would be better suited if that radar was much further forward. It would be more operationally representative and give us better data on how to measure the performance of the system.
Q: Could you talk about the schedule ahead over the next couple years in terms of how many IFTs [Integrated Flight Tests]; and most importantly, when does the booster verification test begin; and what's the very first time you're going to fly a production model booster on a production model EKV?
GEN. NANCE: Okay. First, regarding the booster, we are working now to get the first booster verification shot off within the next couple weeks. Now, we have some more data analysis to do, and I believe it will probably be about Tuesday of next week to make an exact determination of when we will fly that. We have shipped the booster for the first booster verification shot to Vandenberg. It is there. It is in the silo. We're going through the checks now. The crews are there. And we expect to have another assessment later this week about precisely when we're ready to fly. So we're making progress towards that launch date.
The question about the production booster and a production kill vehicle that will be involved in flight test. We believe that the first production kill vehicle that we will fly will be Integrated Flight Test 13. And that will probably be about a year and a half from now that we will fly that. We've always been looking at sometime in the 2003 time frame, and I think we're fairly close to being on that track.
The number of flight tests. We want -- first of all, the next IFT, we are on track to fly the next IFT in October. But I would caution that, just like any IFT, as we move through the decision reviews and the preparations for flight, we're very -- we're a little cautious. We want to make sure that it's ready to fly. And so we'll have probably a review in about a month from now are we ready to fly in October.
QWhen in October; do you know?
GEN. NANCE: Right now I have very candidly told Boeing that if they fly in October, whether it's mid-October or towards the end of October, I'm okay with that.
Q: And then total, test program in general.
GEN. NANCE: In terms of flight tests, good point. We hope to get to a point next year where we fly four flight tests.
Q: Fly what, sir?
GEN. NANCE: Four. Four flight tests. Now, you know very well that in the past we had hoped to fly more than one flight test in a year, and we sort of took a delay getting ready for this one because we felt we had some quality and reliability things that we had to check and improve on.
But we are positioned right now, in terms of hardware, to fly in October, if we can get through the process and determine we're ready. We're looking maybe the next one in the second quarter of '02, to fly that; and then the summer, early summer, fly the following one; and then before the end of the year, fly the fourth one this year.
Q: So a total -- the July 14th test was the fourth in a series of X tests. What is X?
GEN. NANCE: I need to get you the exact number. I'll do that. [There will be a total of 26 flight tests in the program as baselined today, which extends until the end of FY06. This includes the six flight tests conducted to date.]
Q: Excuse me. You said four in October -- you meant four a year. You're talking about four by the end of next year, including IFT-7?
GEN. NANCE: Including IFT-7.
Q: Yeah, well that's in October, which is actually next fiscal year, right?
GEN. NANCE: Yeah, that's what I'm talk about. In fiscal year, four flight tests. And we have laid out the program so that we are planning to fly four flight tests per year.
Q: Is there any added additional complexity that will be present in the October test that wasn't present in the July test?
GEN. NANCE: We want to fly the same test in terms of the target, target complex, and the structure of the elements in the test that we've flown here. We did have the problem with the hit assessment. We have determined the cause of that problem, and that cause was that we had about 64 seconds before the intercept -- as I mentioned earlier -- a database locked up when we tried to enter and delete a single track file in the same cycle, and the software did not permit that. We have determined the software fix, and that fix is allow a track to be entered and deleted in the same cycle. So it was a software adjustment. We've already made the adjustment. We're in ground- testing in that, and we want to test that in Integrated Flight Test 7.
Q: I just want you to clarify a little bit more on the reason that you won't need the beacon in about four tests, because you're going to have an improved software that can find a cluster instead of just the RV? That's --
GEN. NANCE: The sensors now can find clusters and they can find objects.
Q: That's (inaudible) Beale Air Force Base and --
GEN. NANCE: The early warning radar and the ground-based radar prototype that is in Kwajalein.
The battle management software that we have right now that we use testing, uses an object track -- "an" object, not the cluster track -- to develop the weapons task plan.
It is where we expected to be with our software development at this point.
So about a year from now, with the continued maturity of that software, we'll be able to use cluster tracks. So at that point, if we have a cluster definition or determination by the early warning radar that we can project a track, we can put that into the system, and it can compute the weapons task plan to fly to the cluster, and the kill vehicle then does discrimination on the cluster and selects the reentry vehicle.
But it's not a shortcoming of the battle management system right now in terms of where we expected to be. This is where we expected to be with our battle management software development.
Q: If you can do all that with the existing radars, do you really need a new X-band radar or Y or wherever in the middle?
GEN. NANCE: Well, one of the objectives of the early warning -- of the radars, whether it's an early warning radar forward or the X- band radar forward, is to get early discrimination capability. We want to measure the performance of the radar. That's part of our component set, and it's part of our system that we want to test. So we would like to get acquisition earlier, we would like to get discrimination earlier, and positioning of radar there greatly helps us to do that.
Q: Okay. So this new, improved software can't discriminate; it can just say, "Here comes a cluster bomb."
GEN. NANCE: Remember, the software will just -- the battle management software will take the information that's provided to it by the sensors. And so right now the sensors are providing both object and cluster tracks, but it's looking for the object track. It's what it operates on. And so we'll upgrade the software so it can operate off cluster track information as well.
Q: Is the cost of each test still a hundred million (dollars)?
GEN. NANCE: The cost of the test is about $83 million. The number "a hundred" is an approximate, but -- and that includes the target. That includes, clearly, the kill vehicle, participation of all the elements, the prep, and all the data analysis that is involved in the test. So that's the complete cost that we associate with the test -- about $83 million.
Q: Thank you. Thank you very much.
GEN. NANCE: Thank you.
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