Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Conducts 'Salvo Engagement' GMD Test

Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Conducts 'Salvo Engagement' GMD Test

Article excerpt

U.S. missile interceptors successfully destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 25 in the most realistic test so far of U.S. defenses against long-range missile attacks, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

After launching a "threat representative" ICBM target from the Kwajalein Atoll, the agency dispatched two ground-based interceptors (GBIs) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to destroy the target. It was the first time such a salvo engagement had been tried, and MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves called the test a "critical milestone."

The two interceptors launched exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKVs) to identify and destroy the mock warhead. The first EKV attacked the target. The second assessed the resulting debris field, determined that the initial target was no longer present, and then struck "the next 'most lethal object' it could identify," an MDA press release reported.

The test was "the most complex, comprehensive, and operationally challenging test ever executed," Greaves said in April 3 congressional testimony. The test's success in assessing the debris field meant that "any concept of operations which seek[s] to confuse our missile defense system by launching junk or debris would not be successful. That's why it was a success," he added.

Congress first required a salvo test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in 2001, passing legislation that said the "early stages of system development" should incorporate "events to demonstrate engagement of multiple targets, 'shoot-look-shoot', and other planned operational concepts. …

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