First Aegis Ashore Intercept Test Aborted. Does this Raise Issues for Planned 2015 Deployment Date for the Romanian Aegis Ashore Site? (June 27, 2015)

On Friday (June 26) it was reported that MDA had aborted an intercept test of the Aegis Ashore system following a failure of the target missile.  Although not stated by MDA, the aborted test was apparently the one designated FTO-02 Event 1 (FTO-02 E1). According to the March 2015 prepared statement by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, FTO-02 E1 was to “…provide critical data needed for my assessment of Aegis Ashore’s capability to defend Europe as part of the President’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

FTO-02E1Patch

FTO-02 E1 Mission Patch. Available at http://missile.bigcartel.com/product/fto-02-e1-patch, but it’s sold out.

Background on Aegis Ashore Testing

Under President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach, Aegis Ashore sites were to become operational in Romania in 2015 and in Poland In 2018. The initial plan (2010) was that these two European deployments would be supported by a series of seven Aegis Ashore flight tests, including five intercept tests, conducted at the Aegis Ashore Test facility in Kauai Hawaii. According to that plan, shown schematically in the GAO figure below, all of these tests would have been completed by the end of 2015, paving the way for the activation of the Romanian Aegis Ashore site that same year.

GAOAegisAhore Tests

Source: Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability” GAO-11-372, March 2011, p. 65.

As the GAO figure above shows, by the next year (2011) that plan had already been reduced to a total of only four test flights, only two of which were intercept tests. However, at least all of these tests would have been completed by 2014, a year before the planned operational capability of the Romanian Aegis Ashore site.

However, this plan was subsequently reduced to only three tests flights, only two of which would have been intercept tests.[1] Further, only one of these two intercept tests would have been completed before the end of 2015. The first of these two intercept tests is intended to support the EPAA Phase 2 deployment in Romania and the second the EPAA Phase 3 deployment in Poland.[2]

The Aegis Ashore Tests

The first of these three Aegis Ashore flight tests was AA CTV-01, conducted on May 20 (local time) 2014. This non-intercept test involved the first launch of an SM-3 interceptor from an Aegis Ashore system. The test was described by MDA as successful, although it was subsequently revealed that “there was an issue with how the system steered the interceptor, that potentially resulted from differences between the sea-based and ashore versions of the system.”[3]

The second of these tests, now named FTO-02 E1, is apparently the test that was aborted yesterday. This test was intended to demonstrate an intercept by an SM-3 Block IB interceptor of an intermediate-range ballistic missile in support of the planned 2015 Aegis Ashore operational capability in Romania. A failure of the intermediate-range missile target apparently occurred before the interceptor could be launched.

[The FTO-02 E1 designation of the test indicates that this test was originally planned to be part of Flight Test Operational-02, which was to be an integrated operational test involving multiple types of missile defenses. As the figure below shows, the FTO-02 originally (as of 2011) included intercepts by Patriot, THAAD, Aegis (ship), Aegis Ashore, and the Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system in a test to be conducted in the third quarter of 2015. Several of the individual tests, including yesterday’s Aegis Ashore test, have apparently since been stripped out of the main event to be conducted separately. For example, the GMD test originally planned for FTO-02 is now FTG-11, a salvo test scheduled for 2017.]

AegisAshore2011planned tests

MDA planned testing as of 2011, showing planned FT0-02 test in 4th quarter of FY 2015. It also shows earlier planned Aegis Ashore tests that never took place. Image source: August 2011 briefing by MDA Director LTG Patrick O’Reilly.

Will the Test Delay Affect the Planned 2015 Operational Capability of the Romanian Aegis Ashore Site?

As noted above, the aborted test was intended to support the EPAA Phase II Aegis Ashore deployment at Deveselu, Romania, which was planned to be operational by the end of 2015. It seems likely that the test will be repeated, and if a suitable target is available, that this could be completed before the end of 2015. If this test was successful, it would allow the MDA to continue to maintain the illusion that it is sticking to a “fly before you buy” policy. As noted in a previous post, as with the GMD system, this process is actually at best a “fly before you declare operational” approach, since the Romania site will be fully paid for and nearly complete before a successful intercept test can occur.

If the test cannot be repeated by the end of 2015 (or if the repeat test fails) will the Romanian site still be declared operational during 2015?   The MDA deployed the GMD system years before a successful intercept of an operational interceptor, so there is a certainly a precedent for doing so. But doing so would certainly seem to contradict the MDA’s recent stated emphasis on sticking to a “fly before you buy” policy.

——————————————————-

[1] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Opportunities Exist to Reduce Acquisition Risk and Improve Reporting on System Capabilities, GAO-15-345, May 2015, p.44.

[2] GAO-15-345, p. 43.

[3] GAO-15-345, p. 43.

Updated List of Claims about GMD Effectiveness (June 16, 2015)

This is an updated list (previous version was January 16, 2014) of claims by U.S. government officials about the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system. It adds four additional claims (#29, #30, #31, and #32).

(1) September 1, 2000: “… I simply cannot conclude, with the information I have today, that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system to move forward to deployment. Therefore, I have decided not to authorize deployment of a national missile defense at this time.” President Bill Clinton, at Georgetown University, September 1, 2000.

(2) March 18, 2003:Effectiveness is in the 90% range.[1]   Edward Aldridge, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Read the full post »

Saudi Arabia Shoots Down a Scud? June 6, 2015.

Saudi Arabia is claiming that it used two Patriot missiles to shoot down a Scud ballistic missile launched from Yemen early in the morning of June 6. The Patriot battery was likely located at the King Khalid Air Force Base, which is about 100 km from the nearest point in Yemen. It seems likely that either the Airbase or the nearby city of Khamis Mushait was target of the attack. If this report is correct (and this seems like a very big if), I believe this would make Saudi Arabia only the second or third country to claim to have shot down a ballistic missile with a range as long as a Scud (a baseline Scud has a range of about 300 km) in an actual attack, and possibly the only one to actually successfully do so.

Read the full post »

Can the GMD System Defend Against a Chinese Attack? Three Answers (sort of). June 5, 2015.

The most interesting information to come out of a Congressional Hearing sometimes is contained in the responses to written questions submitted by members of the Congressional Committee.  Usually you have to wait until the full hearing is printed up by the Government Printing Office to see these questions and answers but frequently the answers are worth waiting for.  Here’s one example from the March 25, 2014 House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Ballistic Missile Defense, in which Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Representative Mike Rogers asks three witnesses whether or not the U.S. national missile defense system could defend the United States against a (accidental or unauthorized) Chinese ballistic missile attack.  To summarize their responses: (1) It’s classified; (2) It’s complicated (and classified); and (3) No, it’s not technically financially feasible to defeat a full-scale Chinese attack, but the defense would be employed to defend against a limited attack from China (or from anywhere else).

The three witnesses were Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General David L. Mann, Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Strategic Command, and Elaine M. Bunn, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy.

Representative Rogers asked Admiral Syring and General Mann, “The National Missile Defense Policy Act of 1999 requires that we deploy national missile defenses capable of defending the United States from ‘‘accidental or unauthorized’’ ballistic missile attack, among other attacks. Can you please tell me, are we protected from an accidental or unauthorized ballistic missile attack from a Chinese ballistic missile submarine, which, as you know, the Chinese are now deploying? If not, when will we?” (Another way to view these questions is: “When will be able to defend ourselves against the most survivable portion of China’s nuclear deterrent?)

Admiral Syring’s response is printed as: “The information referred to is classified and is retained in the committee files.”

General Mann’s response is somewhat more expansive, but still ultimately relies on classification: “It is difficult to provide a specific assessment. The Ballistic Missile Defense System is not designed to counter peer or near-peer ballistic missile threats. The level of residual capability to defend against such an incident would be influenced by the degree of indications and warnings, the location of the launch and target impact area, and the accessibility of sensors and interceptors. Upon request, further details could be provided via a classified session or paper.”

Representative Rogers asked Secretary Bunn a somewhat different question: “From a policy perspective, can you please help me understand why we deploy missile defenses to protect our aircraft carriers from Chinese ballistic missiles but we do not deploy missile defenses to protect our cities from Chinese nuclear missiles?”

Her response: “We have the capability to protect our aircraft carriers from ballistic missiles in order to ensure freedom of action and the ability to project power around the globe to protect U.S. interests. The DOD is committed to ensuring defense of the U.S. homeland against limited long-range missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. With regard to China and Russia, our homeland missile defenses are not designed to counter their advanced long-range missile capabilities because defending against the quantity and quality of their ICBMs would be technologically impractical and cost prohibitive. We remain confident that Chinese and Russian ballistic missile attacks on the U.S. homeland are deterred by other means. Despite not being capable of coping with large-scale Chinese or Russian missile attacks, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system would be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches from any source.”

Updated BMD Overview and GMD Presentations (May 27, 2015)

This post updates my post of  June 26, 2013, in which I collected together a number of the publicly available MDA Overview  and GMD System type briefings by MDA or other military/government officials (if you have one I missed, please send it to me).  Thanks to Laura Grego at the Union of Concerned Scientists for obtaining the Todorov slides and most recent Syring briefing (one by FOIA, the other just by asking MDA).

MDA Deputy Director Brigadier General Kenneth Todorov, April 2015: Todorov-CSIS-April72015

MDA Program Executive for Advanced Technology Richard Matlock: SMDC2014–Matlock-Adv-Tech

MDA Director Vice Admiral J. D. Syring, August 13, 2014: Slides: SyringAugust2014SMDC-Slides  Transcript: SyringAugust2014SMDCtranscript

MDA Director Vice Admiral J. D. Syring, August 2013: SyringAugust2013SMDC

MDA Program Executive for Advanced Technology Richard Matlock, August 2013: 2013-08-15-Matlock-AdvancedTechnology

MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, February 2013: BMD-Update-Syring-February2013

MDA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Randall M. Hendrickson, August 14, 2012: BMD-Update-Hendrickson-August 2012

“U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense,” Moscow, May 2012: US-BMD-Moscow-May2012

MDA Director Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, March 2012: BMD-Update-O’Reilly-March 2012

MDA Director Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, August 2011: BMD-Overview-O’Reilly-August2011

MDA Director Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, September 2009: BMD-Overview-O’Reilly-September2009

MDA Director Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, May 2009: BMD-Update-O’Reilly-May 2009

MDA Director Lt. General Trey Obering, May 2008: OberingMay2008NDIA

MDA Executive Director Dr. Patricia Sanders, June 2007: BMD-Overview-Sanders-June2007

MDA Director Lt. General Trey Obering, March 2007: BMD-Overview-Obering-March 2007

MDA Deputy Director Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly, January 2007: BMD-Overview-O’Reilly- January 2007

What Is a Robust National Missile Defense Capability? (May 20, 2015)

In looking back at a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from last July, I was struck by its statement that, as part of its Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) planned “to deliver a robust defense capability in 2019.”[1]  I hadn’t noticed such a statement before, and it immediately raised two questions: In the context of the GMD system, what does a “robust defense capability” mean?  And what happens in 2019 to mark the “delivery” of this robust capability?  As discussed below, I have been unable to uncover an answer to either question, so if anyone knows the answers, I would be interested in hearing from them.

The GAO Report itself does not answer these questions.  All it says is that in order to reach 44 operationally deployed interceptors by 2017 and to deliver this robust capability by 2019, “many concurrent efforts must be completed including successful testing, restarting CE-II production, and developing and acquiring interceptors with new components.”  However, all of these steps are necessary to achieve the 44 deployed interceptors by 2017 alone.

The word “robust” is often used in discussions of missile defenses, frequently in the context of steps that are said to make defenses “more robust.”  It is much rarer to see the word used to denote a specific capability of a defense system, and in particular when that system is the GMD system.  But I have found two examples, both from 2011.

In March 2011, then MDA Director Lt. General O’Reilly, speaking in the context of both the GMD systems and regional defenses, told Congress that: “Our objective is to a field a robust missile defense by providing at least two intercept opportunities, by two or more different interceptor systems, against every threat missile in flight by the end of this decade.”[2]

The MDA’s 2011 Program Update, in a section headlined Developing the BMDS Over the Next Decade: Robust Homeland Defense Against Limited Attack, similarly stated that: “By the end of the decade, we will have in place a two-layered ICBM defense consisting of the GMD system. BMDS sensor network, and the Aegis system with the SM-3 IIB to provide multiple intercept opportunities of potential ICBMs targeting the United States by current regional threats.”

These two statements seem to be clearly defining a robust defense as one that provides multiple intercept opportunties by at least two different types of interceptors, specifically the GMD system’s GBI interceptors and the Eurpean Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA)’s SM-3 IIB interceptors.  The apparent idea here is that not only does having two different types of interceptors in two different locations provide more possible intercept opportunities, thus reducing the risk of a failure due to reliability issues, but also that the different nature of the two interceptors (and the different parts of the target’s trajectory at which they attempt to intercept) might allow one type of interceptor to succeed even if the other type failed (for example, due to an unexpected countermeasure).  The latter argument does not seem very convincing in this case, as both types of interceptors work in basically the same way.  In any event, the SM-3 IIB was cancelled in 2013.  While GMD system can still make multiple intercept attempts, they would all use GBIs with very similar kill vehicles (and all the intercept attempts would occur in roughly the second half of the target’s trajectory).

More recently, in his presentation to the 2014 Space and Missile Defense Conference, MDA Director Admiral J.D. Syring showed a slide with the title: Robust Homeland Defense (2020-2025 Timeframe).  This slide shows a number of planned GMD improvements that are planned for 2016 onwards.  Thus this slide appears to be arguing that the GMD system will gradually become more robust as capability enhancements are made rather than indicating that a specific defined “robust defense capability” will be achieved at some point between 2020 and 2025.

RobustHomelandDefense

Is there anything planned for 2019 that could significantly enhance the GMD’s systems capabilities?  The slide “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Fielding” also shown by Admiral Syring at the 2014 SMDC Conference, does not show any new GMD capability being deployed in 2019.

GMD PlannedFielding

As far as I can tell, the most significant events currently planned for the GMD system in 2019 are two tests:

— The first intercept test for the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV).

— The first intercept test using the two-stage GBI booster.

The year 2020 could see a number of new capabilities added to the GMD system, such as the deployment of the Long-Range Discrimination Radar, and the possible first deployment of both the RKV and the two-stage version of the GBI.  However, there does not seem to be anything happening in, or even by, 2019 that would justify labeling the GMD system’s capability as robust.

———————————————————————

[1] Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: MDA Report Provides Limited Insight on Improvements to Homeland Missile Defense and Acquisition Plans,” GAO-14-626R, July 17, 2014, p. 4.

[2] Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, House Armed Services Committee, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, March 31, 2011.

When is “Fly Before You Buy,” Actually “Buy Before You Fly”? When it’s the MDA’s Acquisition Process for New Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs). (May 10, 2015)

Everyone seems to agree that “fly before you buy,” is a good idea, particularly for complex military systems.  The failure to follow such an approach by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is now widely acknowledged as a primary cause of the many problems that have befallen its Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) program.  Nevertheless, as a recent GAO Report shows, MDA appears determined to continue to with its “buy before you fly” approach for the GMD system.

Some claims on “fly before you buy.”

The current MDA Director, Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, told Congress in March 2015 that for the GMD system, “We will adhere to our “fly before you buy” approach…”[1]   Similarly, during the February 2, 2015 press conference on the release of the MDA FY 2016 budget, he stated that for the GMD system “So the way I have structured the test program is to fly before you buy…”[2] (I’ll give you the rest of these two sentences below.)

Such claims are not new for MDA. In April 2010, Syring’s predecessor as MDA Director, Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “We have submitted a comprehensive integrated master test plan — signed by Dr. Gilmore, the services’ operational test agencies and the commander of U.S. Strategic Command — to ensure we fly our missiles before we buy them.”[3] (Somewhat amazingly, at the time O’Reilly made this statement, MDA was deploying GBIs equipped with the new CE-II kill vehicle, which had failed its only flight and intercept test.)

In 2008, Gen. O’Reilly’s predecessor at MDA, Lt. General Henry Obering III, told Congress that: “Our capability-based acquisition model actually follows a “fly-before-you-buy” construct.”[4]  However, he practically contradicted himself with his next sentence: “We have in place a disciplined process to deliver early, partial, and full capabilities, with significant developmental and operational testing events throughout.”

At least Gen. Obering’s predecessor at MDA, Lt. General Ronald Kadish, seemed to get a correct description of MDA’s GBI acquisition process when in March 2004 he told Congress that: “The idea of fly before you buy is very difficult for this system.” Instead, he described the GBI procurement process as: “Fly as we buy is basically the way we have done that.”

Fly Before You Buy and the CE-II Block I interceptor

There are two versions of the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) currently deployed on GBIs, the CE-I and CE-II. (CE stands for “Capability Enhancement.”)  Both of these began deployment years before they were successfully intercept-tested.[5]  See my post of April 26, 2015 for a description of the various versions of the EKV.  The buy before you fly approach used for the CE-I and CE-II is widely acknowledged to be a major reason for the problems these weapons have caused the GMD system, in particular the more than six year delay and more than $1.7 billion cost overrun in demonstrating a successful CE-II intercept.[6]

The next version of the EKV is the CE-II Block 1.  The Block 1 is intended to be an improved version of the CE-II, with greater reliability.  It will include the fixes for the problems encountered in the failed FTG-06a and FTG-07 intercept tests, as well as the alternate divert thrusters to be tested in CTV-02+ in late 2015.  The CE-II Block 1 GBI will also include the new C2 upgraded booster, which has avionics upgrades and is also intended to increase reliability.

Currently the MDA plans to conduct intercept FTG-15 in fourth quarter of FY 2016.  This test will be the first flight test and intercept test for both the CE-II Block 1 EKV and the C2 booster. Following this test (assuming it is successful), MDA plans to deploy ten CE-II Block 1 GBIs by the end of calendar year 2017.  The rapid deployment of these CE-II Block 1 GBIs is necessary if MDA is to meet the politically-established deadline of deploying 44 operational GBIs by the end of 2017.

While the process of testing and deploying the CE-II Block I GBIs might appear to be a fly before you buy approach, since the intercept test precedes the first deployment, in fact this deployment plan requires buying the CE-II Block 1 GBIs long before they are tested.

A 2014 GAO Report states that GBI production “must begin at least 2 years before delivery” and a 2015 report by the same agency says that MDA “planned to start production of CE-II Block I interceptors for operational use almost two years before it conducts Flight Test GMD (FTG)-15.”[7]

In fact, production of these GBIs started much earlier.  MDA budget documents show that acquisition of the eleven Block 1 interceptors began in fiscal year 2012.[8]  Specifically, acquisition of GBIs 48-52 began in FY 2012 and acquisition of GBIs 53-58 began in FY 2013, with GBIs 48-57 designated for deployment as CE-II Block 1s and with GBI 58 specifically designated for the CE-II Block 1 intercept test.[9]  Some of the components for these GBIs were purchased even earlier.  The topline budget numbers for the midcourse defense segment of MDA’s RDT&E budget show a very similar picture, with five GBIs being bought in FY 2012, five in FY 2013, one in FY 2014, and none in the following years.  (MDA will start acquiring 2 GBIs per year in its procurement budget starting in FY 2018 and is separately developing the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle under the Improved Homeland Defense Interceptors budget item.)

Block 1 purchases

From the FY 2014 budget materials.

Moreover, MDA has stated that by the time the FTG-15 test takes place, production and assembly of two of the CE-II Block 1 GBIs intended for deployment will have been be completed.[10]  If the test is delayed, as often happens with GMD tests, than it is likely that even more of the Block 1 GBIs will be completed before the test occurs.  MDA argues that waiting until after FTG-15 to complete the manufacturing and assembling of these GBIs would “unacceptably increase the risk to reaching the Secretary of Defense Mandate to reach 44 emplaced interceptors by the end of CY 2017.”[11]  However, MDA argues that it can “ensure a sound acquisition approach” simply by not putting these interceptors into their silos until after a successful FTG-15 test.[12]

Fly Before You Deploy

Here are the full quotes from Admiral Syring that are given partially at the beginning of this post:

“We will adhere to our “fly before you buy” approach, testing elements of the system to demonstrate they work before we commit to their fielding in order to ensure the warfighter will have cost-effective and reliable weapon systems.”

and:

“So the way I have structured the test program is to fly before you buy, and each test has a purpose, and there is development that needs to go on so you can’t just rush to it test to test; that in our constrained resources and everything else we’re constrained by, I think it’s important the structure of the program on this pace to inform fielding for a — with successful intercept test.”

Both of these quotes make it clear that the current MDA commitment is only not to deploy (“field’) new types of GBIs until after a successful intercept test.  But such a commitment has little meaning if it only limits the last step in deploying the interceptors – lowering them into their silos.  The discussion above shows CE-II Block 1 interceptors have already been bought and MDA will be deep into their production and assembly process by the currently planned time of the FTG-15 intercept test.  This is far from a knowledge-based process advocated by the GAO in which “testing is conducted before production.”[13]

When the GAO sent the draft of their May 2015 report to MDA for review in March 2015, it recommended that MDA “delay production of CE-II Block I interceptors intended for operational use until the program has successfully conducted an intercept flight test with the CE-II Block I interceptor.”[14] While the MDA labeled its response as “partially concur,” it said that it would continue to produce and assemble the CE-II Block 1 GBIs before conducting FTG-15 (MDA also argued that it had or would test some Block 1 components on earlier flights), leading the GAO to simply repeat its recommendation in its final report.[15]

However, it’s already too late. The CE-II Block 1 GBIs are already under production and MDA cannot stop this process without endangering its mandate to deploy 44 GBIs by the end of 2017.

[1] Prepared Statement of Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency, House Armed Service Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, March 19, 2015. http://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/ps_syring_031915_hasc.pdf.

[2] “Department of Defense Briefing by Vice Adm. Syring on the Fiscal Year 2016 Missile Defense Agency Budget request in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” February 2, 2015. Available at: http://www.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=5584.

[3] Senate Armed Services Committee, April 10, 2010.  Available at: http://www.mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/ps_sasc042010trans.pdf.

[4] Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering III. Director, Missile Defense Agency, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, April 30, 2008.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

[5] The first CE-I equipped GBI was deployed in July 2004.  However, the first flight test for a CE-I was more than a year later, in December 2005 (FT-1) and the first intercept test was more than two years after deployment began.  (In the wacky world of missile defense test scoring, MDA claims this intercept test, FTG-02 in September 2006, as a successful intercept even though it says hitting the target was not an objective of the test and DOT&E says that while the kill vehicle may have hit the target, it did not “kill” it.  See my post of October 18, 2012.)  The first CE-I intercept test that actually scored a kill was FTG-03a in September. For CE-II, deployment see the next footnote.

[6] According to the GAO, the first intercept test of the CE-II, FTG-06, was originally scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2007.  This test was eventually conducted in January 2010 and the intercept attempt failed.  The GAO estimated that FTG-06 cost $0.236 billion.  A successful CE-II intercept was finally achieved in FTG-06b in June 2014.  The GAO estimated that the additional cost (beyond that of conducting the original FTG-06 test) of demonstrating a successful CE-II intercept was $1.745 billion, a figure it believes may continue to increase.  Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Opportunities Exist to Reduce Acquisition Risk and Improve Reporting on System Capabilities,” GAO-15-345, May 2015, p. 63.

[7] GAO-15-345, p. 22; Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: MDA Report Provides Limited Insight on Improvements to Homeland Missile Defense and Acquisition Plans,” GAO-14-626R, July 17, 2014, p. 4.

[8] By budgetary materials, I mean the annual MDA RDT&E Budget Justification Books available on the Department of Defense’s Comptroller’s website.  For example, the FY 2016 materials are at: http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2016/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/MDA_RDTE_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2016_1.pdf.

[9] The FY 2014 budget materials list under FY 2012 accomplishments: “Initiated acquisition of 5 Interceptors (GBIs 48-52) that are supported by the completion of the booster and EKV component purchases.” It also states that acquisition of GBIs 53-57 is to be initiated in FY 2013 and the “Addition of 1 GBI (58) for testing of Capability Enhancement-II (CE-II) Block I GBI per Integrated Master Test Plan (IMTP).”  The FY 2015 budget materials confirm that acquisition of GBIs 53-58 began in FY 2013.  The FY 2016 budget materials confirm that these GBIs are the CE-II Block 1 interceptors, listing as an FY 2014 accomplishment: “Continued acquisition of CE-II Configuration 2 (C2) integrated boost vehicle with Consolidated Booster Avionics Upgrade (CBAU) and CE-II Block I Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKV)) GBIs 48-58 to support both operations and testing, including a flight test to demonstrate the capability of the CE-II Block 1 EKV with C2 CBAU booster GBIs.”

[10] GAO-15-345, p.35.

[11] GAO-15-345, p.35.

[12] GAO-15-345, p.35.

[13] GAO-15-345, Highlight Page.

[14] GAO-15-345, p. 29.

[15] GAO-15-345, pp. 30, 35.

Estimating the Composition of the 44 Deployed GBIs in 2017 (May 5, 2015)

Under current plans, the total number of deployed Ground-based Interceptors (GBIs) of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system will reach a total of 44 by the end of 2017.  Three different types (and likely several sub-types) of Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKVs) will be deployed on these GBIs.  These are the original Capability Enhancement-1 (CE-I) version, deployed between 2004 and 2007, the follow-on CE-II version deployed between 2008 and 2015, and the new CE-II Block 1, which will be deployed starting in 2017.  The differences between these types of EKVs are described in my post of April 26, 2015.

In this post I try to estimate the composition of the deployed GBI force when the 44th GBI is deployed in 2017.

It seems clear that ten of the deployed GBIs will be the new CE-II Block 1 version. This assumes that the first flight and intercept test of a CE-II Block 1, currently scheduled for the third quarter of calendar year 2016, is successful. The MDA currently plans to deliver eleven CE-II Block 1s by the end of 2017, one of which will be expended in the intercept test  — FTG-15.

According to the Department of Defense’s Inspector General, through 2015, the U.S. has bought a total of 33 CE-I and 24 CE-II EKVs, for a total of 57.[1]  This numbers appears to be the final totals for each of these EKV versions, because by 2016 production will have switched over to the CE-II Block 1.  Under current test plans, by the end of 2017, seven CE-Is and six CE-IIs EKVs will have been expended in test flights.[2]  These tests will reduce the number of remaining EKVs to at most 27 CE-I and 18 CE-IIs.

According to the 2015 prepared statement of MDA Director Admiral Syring for Congressional committees, “Four previously fielded CE-II GBIs will be used for flight and Stockpile Reliability testing.”  Removing these four GBIs  leaves 16 deployable CE-II GBIs, since two of the CE-IIs (CTV-02+ and FTG-11) to be withdrawn for testing were already subtracted out of our count in the previous paragraph.

A total of 16 deployed CE-IIs is consistent with Admiral Syring’s statement in his 2015 prepared testimony that eight new CE-IIs would be deployed in 2015 and that eight currently fielded CE-IIs would be upgraded in FY 2016.

With sixteen CE-IIs deployed, the breakdown at the end of 2017 would be:

10 CE-II Block-1s

16 CE-IIs

18 CE-Is

Thus at that point more than half of the deployed GBIs would be CE-Is.

An alternate method of attempting to count the number of deployed CE-II GBIs is included at the end of this post.

 

Continuing out past 2017:

The further out one goes in time, the more speculative attempts to estimate the EKV stockpile become. However, several general points can be made:

(1) MDA budgetary materials suggest that few if any new GBIs will be deployed using funding from its RDT&E account from 2017 to 2020.[3]  All the currently deployed GBIs as well as those planned for deployment through 2017 have been bought through the MDA’s RDT&E account.  GBIs usually require several years from initial procurement to deployment, and there are no indications in the RDT&E budget materials of plans to procure additional GBIs for deployment in the near future.

Specifically, in the Ground Based Interceptor Manufacturing budget element for FY 2016, MDA cites only three projects:

— Completing the planned deliveries of CE-II equipped GBIs.

— Continuing the manufacturing of the eleven CE-II Block 1 GBIs planned for deployment (and use in a test) by the end of 2017.

— Beginning acquisition of two new GBI boosters.  These are likely the two boosters that will be used in the flight and intercept tests of the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) planned for FY 2018 and FY 2019.

(2) Beginning in FY 2018, MDA will begin procuring two GBIs per year under its Procurement account.  These GBIs are needed to provide additional GBIs to support flight testing, stockpile reliability, and spares requirements associated with the increase from 30 to 44 deployed GBIs.  Under previously announced plans, a total of ten GBIs will be bought over five years for these purposes.  Initially, these GBIs will likely be equipped with CE-II Block 1 EKVs and be deployed to free up older deployed GBIs for testing.  Thus by about 2019-2020, the numbers of deployed CE-1s will likely to begin declining in favor of CE-II Block 1s.  It is possible that starting in 2020, these GBIs will start to be equipped with RKVs — if not, then it seems that both CE-II Block 1 EKVs and RKVs would have to be in production at the same time.

(3) Under current plans, MDA plans to begin deploying RKV-equipped GBIs in 2020.  There has been no public indication of how rapidly such new GBIs might be deployed.  One possible factor might be that the EKV-equipped GBIs are said to have a twenty-year lifetime, and the last CE-I equipped-GBIs were deployed in 2007.  Replacing all of the deployed CE-Is by 2027 would only require an RKV deployment rate of somewhat over two per year.  Of course, if it was decided to establish an East Coast interceptor site, the rate of RVK production would have to increase very significantly.

An alternate attempt estimate of the number of CE-II GBIs at the end of 2017:

Another way to try to estimate the number of deployed CE-IIs is by the numbers assigned to individual GBIs in MDA budget documents.  These numbers are the same as those used in the slide entitled “GBI Fleet Deployment History,” in Admiral Syring’s 2015 SMDC Conference presentation, as shown below (click on image for larger version).  As Admiral Syring’s slide shows, the first twenty four deployed GBIs were CE-1s that were deployed before the end of September 2007.  These GBIs were designated GBI 1 through GB 24.  The slide makes clear that at that time only GBIs intended for deployment are included in this numbering scheme.

GBIDeployments

Deployment of GBIs resumed with the first CE-II GBI — GBI 25 – in October 2008.  The first six CE-II GBIs – GBI 25 through GBI 30 – were deployed into empty silos, bringing the total number of deployed GBIs to the objective total of thirty.  Admiral Syring’s slide shows three additional CE-II GBIs (GBI 31 to GBI 33) were deployed by the end of FY 2010.  These three GBIs replaced existing deployed CE-I GBIs.  Thus at the end of FY 2010, there would have been twenty one deployed CE-I GBIs and nine deployed CE-II GBIs.

In addition to the nine deployed CE-IIs, by the end of 2010 there appear to be two or three CE-II EKVs that were outside of this numbering scheme.  These are the EKVs used in intercept test FTG-06, which took place in January 2010, and one or both of the EKVs intended for intercept test FTG-09, which was a salvo test (two interceptors against one target) scheduled for FY 2011.  Following the failure of FTG-06, FTG-09 was cancelled in order to conduct FTG-06a, which also failed.

Following the failure of FTG-06a, deliveries of CE-II EKVs were suspended.  MDA budget documents show that the first of the suspended deliveries was GBI 34.  Thus at the time of this suspension, there would have been nine deployed CE-II GBIs (GBI 25 – GBI 33) and two CE-IIs expended in intercept tests.  However, the GAO has stated that, at the time of the suspension, twelve CE-II GBIs had been delivered and ten of these had been deployed.  The reason for this discrepancy is unclear (to me).  One possible, although speculative, resolution to this discrepancy would be that the both of the interceptors for the planned FTG-09 salvo test were CE-II GBIs (as opposed to what is now planned as the first salvo test, FTG-11 in FY 2017, which will use one CE-I and one CE-II).  Both of these CE-II GBIs would be outside the GBI numbering scheme, and the EKV not expended in FTG-06a could have been subsequently deployed, bringing the total number of deployed CE-II GBIs up to ten.

In 2013 and 2014, two CE-II EKVs were expended in the flight test CTV-01 and the intercept test FTG-06b.  According to MDA budget documents, both of these CE-II EKVs were pulled from the ones that had already been deployed, bringing the number of deployed CE-IIs down to seven or eight.

Following the successful intercept test FTG-06b in 2014, MDA once again began accepting deliveries of CE-II-equipped GBIs.  According to MDA budget documents, the next batch of eleven CE-II GBIs (GBI 34 to GBI 44) will be delivered before the end of FY 2016, bringing the total to eighteen or nineteen deployed.  Taking into account the four deployed CE-II GBIs that in 2015 MDA Director Syring said would be withdrawn from deployment, the total number of deployed CE-II GBIs would then be fourteen of fifteen.

This counting scheme only totals twenty three CE-II EKVs.  Given that the DoD Inspector General reports total of twenty four CE-IIs were delivered, and the conclusion above that sixteen CE-IIs will be deployed by 2017, it appears likely that there is one more CE-II GBI that is for some reason outside the GBI numbering system. (In addition, there is no reference to GBIs 45, 46 and 47 in the MDA budget documents.)

Production and delivery of GBIs will subsequently continue with eleven CE-II Block 1 GBIs (GBIs 48-58).  This Block 1 numbering of GBIs appears to differ from the previous GBI numbering scheme in that it includes GBIs both for deployment and testing, and in particular it includes the GBI for the FTG-15 intercept test, scheduled for 2016. This would leave ten CE-II Block 1s for deployment by the end of 2017.

[1] Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense, “Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle Quality Assurance and Reliability Assessment – Part A,” DODIG-2014-111, September 8, 2014, p. 7. Available at: http://www.dodig.mil/pubs/documents/DODIG-2014-111.pdf.

[2] For the CE-Is, these are FT-1 (2005), FTG-2 (2006), FTG-3a (2007), FTG-5 (2008), BVT-1 (2010), FTG-07 (2013), and FTG-11 (2017). For the CE-IIs, These are FTG-6 (2010), FTG-6a (2010), CTV-01 (2013), FTG-06b (2014), CTV-02+ (2015) and FTG-11 (2017).

[3] By budgetary materials, I primarily mean the annual MDA RDT&E Budget Justification Books available on the Department of Defense’s Comptroller’s website. For example, the FY 2016 materials are at: http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2016/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT_and_E/MDA_RDTE_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2016_1.pdf.

EKVs, RKVs, CKVs, MOKVs and More. (April 26, 2015)

There have been at least as many acronyms and designations assigned to current, past and future kill vehicles of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system as there have been successful intercept tests of such kill vehicles.  Below I summarize the most important of these kill vehicle designations.

EKV CE-0: This designation covers the kill vehicles used in the first seven GMD intercept tests, from 1999 to 2002, as well as the IFT-1a and IFT-2 fly-by tests in 1998-99.  The first, and so far only, place I have seen this designation is on the slides used by MDA Director Admiral Syring during his August 13 presentation at the 2014 Space and Missile Defense Conference.  (These slides were obtained via FOIA by Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists.)  These kill vehicles are sometimes referred to as “prototypes” although this term is sometimes also used for the later CE-I and CE-II kill vehicles as well.  The “CE” stands for Capability Enhancement, so the CE-0 designation seems to be both a retroactive designation as well as a catch-all for all the early GMD kill vehicles, as indicated by its use for both the fly-by tests, which used two completely different competing kill vehicle designs.

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The Long Range Discrimination Radar at S-Band? (April 20, 2015)

It appears likely that the Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) Defense’s new Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) will operate at S-band instead of at X-band. This raises the question of whether the better range resolution that would have been available at X-band is being sacrificed in order to keep the initial cost of the LRDR down to about $1 billion. Or is there some other reason?

Although the current Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system nominally provides coverage of all 50 states from limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack, it is well known that the system is severely lacking in its discrimination capabilities. In particular, the primary sensor infrastructure (aside from the infrared seekers on interceptor kill vehicles) for the GMD system consists of five radars — seven within a few years — in the United States, Greenland and Britain that were originally built for ballistic missile early warning purposes.[1] These radars date to the 1970s-1980s, but have subsequently received (or will soon receive) relatively minor upgrades that allow them to detect and track incoming missiles as part of the GMD system.[2] However, the relatively low operating frequency of these radars (about 440 MHz, corresponding to a wavelength of about 0.68 m) limits their bandwidth, resulting in a minimum range resolution of no less than about 5 meters.[3] This low resolution limits these radars to at best being able to only classify objects as potentially threatening (warheads, decoys, booster stages, etc…) or non-threatening (small pieces of debris).[4]

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