A Jan. 26 test of a three-stage ground-based missile interceptor was a success, the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a Jan. 26 press release. The test, which did not involve a target missile, was part of the MDA’s effort to recover from two failed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) intercept tests in 2010.
Initial indications from the test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California “are that all components performed as designed,” the MDA said.
The January test was designed solely to test the flight performance in space of the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), the portion of the interceptor that would separate from its booster and is intended to collide with an incoming warhead.
The trial was the first flight test following a guidance system failure in the missile during a December 2010 test and is part of a larger test series designed to pinpoint and correct design flaws in the Raytheon-designed EKV. The MDA described the test as “the critical first step” in returning to successful testing of the GMD system. Aviation Week reported that the MDA is planning to conduct a test with a target missile between March and June.
According to the MDA, the system has had seven successful intercepts out of 14 tests, not counting a partial test in 1999 and a “no test” in 2007, giving the system a 50 percent success rate. The existing GMD system was criticized as “fragile” and ineffective in a September 2012 report by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.
Separately, the MDA announced Feb. 13 that its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile in a flight test over the Pacific Ocean. The system used Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites to trace the target missile and guide the Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptor’s kinetic warhead, the release said. This was the system’s 24th successful intercept in 30 flight attempts since 2002, according to the MDA