First Successful Missile Intercept Test Since 2008

Missile DefenseThis week marked the U.S.-missile defense system’s first successful intercept test since 2008. Five of the past eight attempts had failed. According to the U.S. Defense Department, the system, which is managed by Boeing  Co, hit a simulated enemy missile over the Pacific. The test was an important step in efforts to increase the reliability of our homeland ballistic missile defense system, said Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring.

Engineering consultant Walter H. Delashmit, Ph.D., P.E. (PA, FL) says, “This system is a required system for defense to protect our country. It will have development problems since it is a very difficult task to accomplish. However, we should not stray from the development.”

Competitive intelligence expert Cameron Mehin explains, “The U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program successfully intercepted a simulated threat off the coast of California on Sunday. This comes as Boeing and the Pentagon seek to validate the $40B program which has been troubled by cost overruns and a string of intercept test failures primarily due to the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) since 2010.

Aegis BMD (Naval) capability and the more recent Aegis Ashore (Land) have shown not just continued success, but also growth in its capabilities. Internationally the Aegis system and the SM-3 interceptor have been adopted by, and in some cases invested in by other allies including Japan, Spain, Australia and Norway. The Aegis network benefits with each additional installation, and with naval assets that can be distributed all over the world you start to see the added benefit of strategic mobility.

While GMD meets BMD requirements for land based defense, Aegis Ashore has the advantage of its allied networks and sensors on multiple domains. As part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to BMD, the first international installations of Aegis Ashore will be located in Romania and Poland as the program continues deployment through 2018. This leaves us with the question: should we be placing more emphasis on Aegis and SM-3, a proven program, rather than trying to make GMD viable?”

Randal Cordes is a missile defense threat analyst, campaign modeler, war game and exercise designer/participant and J-9 forecaster. “I believe the multi-year drought since the last successful US missile defense intercept is symptomatic of the necessity of having nuclear-armed interceptors to ensure killing an intercepted threat warhead,” shares Cordes.

“The serious consequences of a missile with a WMD warhead hitting a city, as well as the expense of developing and maintaining missile defense systems, require a serious warhead. The idea of having a subtle interceptor strategy withkinetic kill or a small conventional warhead belies the seriousness of the threat and the resources required to stop it.

“The most difficult part of a missile defense intercept is knowing exactly where a threat warhead will be along its trajectory at the moment when the interceptor crosses. And a threat missile with a WMD warhead would likely have countermeasures, including dummy warheads, and might be modified to wobble or corkscrew around a center line of trajectory–so that the US interceptor might pass through the very center of the trajectory of the threat warhead, and at exactly the right moment, and still miss the target warhead, because of uncertainty deliberately induced by the design of the threat and its associated countermeasures. A small nuclear warhead would address this problem and show real US commitment to active missile defense.”