Interceptor Test May Push Missile Defense Forward

A long-range ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

A long-range ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

August 14, 2017 | Source: National Defense, nationaldefensemagazine.org, 1 August 2017, Henry Kenyon

The Missile Defense Agency in its long-time quest to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles scored a success May 30 when the ground-based mid-course defense system’s kill vehicle directly collided with its intended target.

As the first major demonstration of the system in more than three years, and the first to be declared a success since 2008, experts interviewed now say the agency appears on course to meet its acquisition targets for interceptors and ground infrastructure.

In the long term, this may also mean additional budget increases for interceptors, sensors and ground facilities, they added.

The May test demonstrated the capabilities of the new CE-II Block I Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle and a new three-stage booster rocket. The agency has been steadily increasing its ground-based interceptor fleet, with 16 delivered to Northern Command between 2015 and 2016, Syring told Congress.

The agency will begin deliveries of nine of these new kill vehicles with new thrusters and three-stage boosters in 2017, he said. Funds were also spent to refurbish and expand the missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, with six additional silos.

One of the system’s key challenges has been the development of the kill vehicles, which have gone through several iterations since the interceptors were initially deployed. While the agency is building its fleet up to its initial operating levels, it has several different versions of the kill vehicle, each with varying degrees of technological upgrades and advances.

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