A Three-Stage Two-Stage GBI Interceptor (February 2, 2016)

One thing that was surprising (to me, at least) about Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Admiral James Syring’s January 19 2016 presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was his description of the MDA’s planned two-stage version of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI).[1]

The MDA has long had plans to eventually incorporate a two-stage version of the three-stage GBI currently deployed in Alaska and California into its Ground Based Midcourse GMD) national missile defense system.

The idea of using a two-stage version of the GBI first came to public attention in 2006 when the George W. Bush Administration announced plans to deploy two-stage GBIs in Europe to provide an extra layer of defense of U.S. territory against Iranian ICBMs.  Although an agreement was reached in 2008 to deploy ten of the two-stage GBIs on Polish territory, in 2009 President Obama cancelled these plans in order to proceed with his European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).  However, the possibility of deploying two-stage GBIs – this time on U.S. territory — was retained was retained as part of the GMD “hedge” strategy.[2]

As part of the GMD hedge, a two stage GBI would increase the GMD system’s battle space by allowing later intercept attempts.  The EKV kill vehicle cannot separate from its booster rocket and begin homing in on its target until after the booster burns out, and a two-stage version of the GBI would burn out about seventy seconds earlier than the three-stage version of the GBI.

In June 2010, MDA conducted BVT-01, a non-intercept test of a two-stage version of the GBI (with a CE-I kill vehicle) and classified it as a success.  Although the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation subsequently stated that : “A malfunction of the kill vehicle, unrelated to problems associated with FTG-06 above, may have degraded the quality of data collected,” he also stated that: “Data from BVT-01 suggest that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) two-stage interceptor could prove a viable boost vehicle in addition to the currently deployed three-stage interceptor.”[3]

A two-stage version of the GBI could be deployed beginning in about 2020 as part of a new C3 booster configuration that would include an option for a two-stage version.  As of early 2015, plans called for a non-intercept test of the two-stage booster in the third quarter of FY 2018 with an intercept test following in the third quarter of FY 2019.[4]

So what was surprising about Admiral’s Syring description of the two-stage GBI?  Previous public analyses of the two-stage GBI (in the context of the proposed European Deployment) had assumed that it would be produced by physically removing the third, smallest stage of the GBI booster, so that only the first two stages remained.  This approach would be consistent with the fact that the two-stage GBI was to have exactly the same length as the three-stage GBI, since the three-stage missile shroud (nose cone) covered both the kill vehicle and the entire third stage so that removing the third stage while retaining the original shroud would not change the missile’s length.

However, Admiral Syring’s presentation made it clear that the two-stage GBI would in fact be a three-stage missile in which one of the stages simply would not be used.  According to my transcription of the video of part of his talk, Admiral Syring stated that the two-stage GBI is:

“…not a different design from a booster standpoint.  It’s going to be done through software and the warfighter will be able to choose between a two-stage and a three-stage in terms of does it – does it – fly the two-stage or does it – second stage – or does it just drop.”

Thus all of the GBIs deployed in silos will actually have three stages, but at least some of the future ones will be configured so that the GMD command system has an option not to ignite one of the stages, instead simply dropping it off.   Moreover, the quote also suggests that the unused stage might be the second rather than the third stage (although that might be reading too much into a verbal quote).

Further, one of Admiral Syring’s slides (Figure 1 below) shows that a planned 2020 GMD intercept test will use a “2/3 Stage Selectable GBI.”



Figure 1. Screen capture from the CSIS video of Admiral Syring’s presentation.  (The CSPAN video has the full caption under each image, but the images are lower resolution.)

This approach to achieving a two-stage booster by simply not firing one stage of a three-stage booster results in an interceptor burnout speed that is significantly lower than that would be obtained if the unused booster stage was physically removed from the interceptor before it was deployed because the unused stage is now simply dead weight.  However, in the late-intercept, battle space-extending role the two-stage GBI is intended for, the burnout speed is less important than the boost time.    Thus this seeming wasteful (of a missile stage) approach might be attractive if it reduced costs by minimizing the design and testing work relative to producing a true two-stage interceptor, and it would also avoid having to decide how to allocate future deployments of GBI’s between the two and three-stage versions.

One issue this approach to producing a two-stage interceptor capability might resolve is whether or not the proposed but now cancelled two-stage interceptors in Poland would have been physically capable of intercepting any Russian ICBMs.  Outside analysts consistently assumed that two-stage GBIs would be produced by removing the third stages, and found that the resulting missiles would fast enough to catch up with at least some Russian ICBMs fired at U.S. territory.[5]   On the other hand, the MDA insisted, as shown in Figure 2 below, that the two-stage interceptors were too slow to even come close to catching up with any Russian ICBMs.



Figure 2.  MDA slide from 2007 showing that the proposed two-stage GBI interceptors in Poland cannot catch up with Russian ICBMs fired at the U.S. East Coast.[6]

Going back through the debate on this issue, I can’t find any statement from MDA regarding how the two-stage booster was to be configured.  If, however, the two-stage booster for the proposed European Defense was to have been produced in the same way as those proposed for deployment beginning in 2020, that is by simply not igniting one of stages of a three stage GBI, than the resulting missile would be much slower than the outside analysts calculated, possibly explaining the discrepancy between their and MDA’s results.  Slide 3 below, from 2008, may hint at this possibility, saying that the outside analysts had “optimistic assumptions in mass properties and propulsion” and that their models’ results “exceeds the thermal and structural limitations of the GBI.”  (Removing the third stage would lead to significantly higher accelerations, particularly during the second-stage burn.)  If this was the case, one can see why MDA may not have wanted to clarify the issue, since the Russians would almost certainly be even unhappier with the proposed deployment in Poland if it turned out the two-stage interceptors actually had three stages.


Figure 3: MDA slide with arguments about why the two-stage GBI is Poland could not intercept Russian ICBMs.[7]


[1] Vice Admiral James D. Syring, “Ballistic Missile Defense Update,” Presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 19, 2016.  Video of the presentation are available at http://csis.org/event/ballistic-missile-defense-system-update-0 and http://www.c-span.org/video/?403405-1/discussion-ballistic-missile-defense. (The two videos differ somewhat in their coverage of the Admiral’s slides.)

[2] U.S. Department of Defense, Ballistic Missile Defense Review, February 2010, p. 17.  Available at: http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/BMDR/BMDR_as_of_26JAN10_0630_for_web.pdf.

[3] Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD” in 2010 Annual Report, pp. 233-234.  Available at: http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2010/pdf/bmds/2010gmd.pdf.

[4] Scott Maucione, “MDA Puts $51 Million Into Budget To Develop Two-Stage GBI Booster,” Inside Missile Defense, March 18, 2015.

[5] Theodore A. Postol, “Why US National Intelligence Estimates Predict that the European Missile Defense System Will Fail: Technological Issues Relevant to Policy,” Slides from lecture to German Physical Society, Berlin, February 29, 2008.  Available at: http://thebulletin.org/sites/default/files_legacy_files/20080430_Postol.pdf;  U.S. Congressional Budget Office. “Options for Deploying Missile Defenses in Europe,” February 2009.  Available at: https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/111th-congress-2009-2010/reports/02-27-missiledefense.pdf.  The CBO study was based only on publicly available information.  While Figure 3-11 of the CBO report appears to show that the two-stage GBIs in Poland cannot cover any U.S. territory from Russian ICBMs, that Figure assumes a 3.0 km/s minimum collision speed difference at the intercept.  As shown in Figure 3-12, if this requirement is instead set at 1 km/s (2,200 mph), then the entire eastern half of the United States can be covered.

[6] Slide from MDA Executive Director Patricia Sanders, “Missile Defense Program Overview For The 4th International Conference on Missile Defense,” June 26, 2007.  Available at: https://mostlymissiledefense.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/bmd-overview-sanders-june2007.pdf.


[7] Slide from: MDA Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, “Ballistic Missile Defense Program Overview For The National Defense Industrial Association,” May 8, 2008. Available at:  https://www.ndia.org/Divisions/Divisions/MissileDefense/Documents/Content/ContentGroups/Divisions1/Missile_Defense/NDIA.pdf.

How Many SM-3 Block IIA Missiles? (January 25, 2016)

In a previous post, I projected the number of Aegis BMD ships, and in particular the number of ships with the “advanced” BMD capability, though 2045. I did this primarily because I was interested in the question of how many SM-3 Block IIA interceptors, which have a potentially significant capability to intercept intercontinental-range missiles, are likely to be deployed.  In this post, I turn to the question of projecting how many Aegis SM-3 block IIA interceptors the United States might eventually deploy on its ships and at its Aegis Ashore sites.

(1) Projection based on past and planned procurements.

Figure 1 shows the number of SM-3 Block IA, Block IB and Block IIA in inventory based on past procurements and planned future procurements.


Figure 1.  Number of SM-3 interceptors in inventory.  Diamonds are Block I/IAs, squares are Block IBs, and circles are Block IIAs.  Numbers do not include missiles expended in tests or retired because of reaching the end of their service lives.

The numbers in Figure 1 are based on Table 2 of Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program,” November 10, 2015, and the corresponding tables in earlier versions of this report dating back to 2011.[1]  Future deliveries of Block IB and Block IIA missiles beyond 2020 are based on FY 2016 MDA budget documents.[2]  Projections beyond 2020 assume an expenditure of one Block IB and one Block IIA per year in tests.  Block IA figures for 2009-2010 and Block IB figures for 2011-2013 assume the actual number of interceptors expended in tests in each of those years.

The numbers of Block IA interceptors (and earlier Block I interceptors) are shown by the diamond symbols in Table 1.[3]  The spike in the number in FY 2014 is due to an additional order of 23 Block IAs that was placed following delays in the Block IB program.  Beyond 2014, the number of Block IAs begins to decline as the missiles reach their service lifetimes of about ten years.  It is clear that by the early-to-mid 2020s all of the Block IAs will be out of service.

The blue squares in Figure 1 are for Block IB interceptors.   Current plans call for buying a total of 52 Block IBs per year for the next several years.   In September 2015, it was reported that the Department of Defense’s planned to buy a total of 396 Block IBs.[4]  Figure 1 shows that at the current rate of deliveries, this total number of Block IBs would be reached in 2023 (at that time, the total number of Block IBs delivered is greater than the number in inventory by about 20).

The red circles in Figure 1 show the projected numbers of Block IIA interceptors in inventory through 2023, the last year I could find any data for.  Since, as noted in the preceding paragraph, deliveries of the Block IB missiles could end after 2023, additional resources could become available for producing greater numbers of Block IIA interceptors.  We can project the number of Block IIA interceptors forward in time by making various assumptions.  (All the projections here assume that the Block IIA is not superseded by a more capable missile on time scale considered here.)

As a low estimate, assume that Block IIA deliveries remain at the same rate of 24 per year as currently planned for 2023.  This gives a total inventory of about 220 missiles in 2030, assuming a twelve year service life and one missile expended in tests per year.[5]  Assuming SM-3 Block IIAs continue in production beyond 2030, the Block IIA equilibrium inventory (in which new deployments are balanced by retirements) will reach a level of about 275 missiles by the mid 2030s.  This is shown by the red diamonds in Figure 2 below.

The low estimate above seems highly improbable, as the mid 2030s equilibrium number of Block IIAs is less than half of the number of total number of SM-3 missiles of all types that would be in inventory in 2030.  A more reasonable assumption is that total spending on SM-3 missile procurement of all types stays constant.   Assuming Block IB deliveries end in 2023, and that a Block IIA interceptors costs twice as much as Block IBs (and not attempting to account for inflation), and using 2022 as the baseline year for the total cost, then the Block IIA inventory would reach about 365 in 2030 with an equilibrium level of about 530 missiles in the mid 2030s.[6]  This is shown by the red circles in Figure 2.

A higher equilibrium figure of about 610 Block IIA interceptors, shown with red squares in Figure 2, is achieved if one instead assumes that beyond 2023 Block IIA interceptors are delivered at the same rate (52 per year) planned for Block IB Interceptors in the early 2020s.



Figure 2.  Projected numbers of SM-3 Block IIA interceptors (red symbols) under low, medium and high assumptions and number of Block IB interceptors assuming a total buy of 396 and a fifteen year service life.

Figure 2 also shows (with blue squares) the projected number of Block IB interceptors assuming a fifteen year service life with deliveries ending in 2023.[7]  The numbers of Block IIA interceptors would likely be lower if deliveries of Block IB missiles continue beyond 2023 (or if their service life is significantly greater than fifteen years).  Because of the lower cost of the IBs, it may be desirable to keep a mixed force of IBs and IIAs, however, as will be discussed in the next post in this series, there are strong reasons  why the Navy may choose to procure more IIAs over any additional IBs.

(2)  Projecting by Deployments

One data point that we have is that the United States plans to buy 182 Block IIA interceptors solely for the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).[8]  These missiles, to be deployed at the Polish and Romanian Aegis Ashore sites (up to 24 each) and on the four U.S. Navy destroyers now based in Spain, would support the EPAA though 2040. With a Block IIA lifetime of twelve years, not all of these would be deployed simultaneously, with the total deployed at any one time likely between 96 and 144.

It seems likely that a similar or even larger number of Block IIA interceptors will eventually be forward deployed in Japan.  Currently eleven U.S.  Aegis Ships are forward deployed at Yokosuka, Japan, seven of which are BMD capable.[9]  In addition, it can be expected that Japan, which is co-producing the Block IIA, will deploy a substantial number of them on its eight planned Aegis BMD capable ships, although I do not include these in my count here.[10]

As noted in my previous post, the current Navy requirement (which will not be met until about 2026) is for 40 BMD “advanced” capability Aegis ships (capable of conducting air defense and ballistic missile defense simultaneously)  – four of which are for the EPAA and nine of which are for forward deployment in Japan.  Including the 21 Aegis Flight I and Flight II destroyers with a basic or intermediate BMD capability gives a total of 61 BMD capable ships in 2026. (No cruisers are included in this count be it is unclear/unlikely if any BMD capable cruisers will be in service in 2026)

If we then  make a seemingly very conservative assumption that the remaining 48 of the 61 BMD capable ships will eventually deploy as many Block IIAs as the thirteen  forward deployed BMD ships (plus the two Aegis Ashore sites), we get a total of 4*(96-144) =  384 – 576 deployed Block IIAs.

The point of this very rough projection by deployments is simply to show that medium and even the high projection in Figure 2 are more than plausible and that the United States is ultimately likely to deploy as many as 500 or even many more Block IIA interceptors.  If the lifetime of the Block IIA interceptors is extended beyond twelve years, these projected numbers could be much higher.  For example, if the Block IIA’s service life was extended from the presently planned twelve years to the twenty years intended for the now cancelled Block IIB missile, the medium equilibrium level in Figure 2 would increase from about 520 missiles to about 870.[11]  My next post in this series will consider some of the implications of deployments of such large numbers of strategic-capable interceptors.


[1] Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report 33745, November 10, 2015, pp. 14-15.  Available at: http://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL33745.pdf.

[2] Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 President’s Budget Submission, Missile Defense Agency, Procurement, Vol 2b, February 2015, p. 2b-14.  Available at: http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2016/budget_justification/pdfs/02_Procurement/MDA_PROCUREMENT_MasterJustificationBook_Missile_Defense_Agency_PB_2016_1.pdf.

[3] A totals of eleven Block I missiles were built.  Two were expended in intercept tests in 2005.  The others had reached the end their service lives by 2009, although two were expended in intercept tests in 2011 (one of which failed).

[4] Jason Sherman, “DOD Reinstates Plan To Buy Nearly 400 SM-3 Block IB Interceptors,” Inside Defense SITREP, September 10, 2015.

[5] Twelve year service life from: Justin Doubleday, “Pentagon Will Buy Extra Block IIA Interceptors for European Missile Shield, Inside Defense SITREP, August 4, 2015

[6] In 2022, deliveries are projected to be 52 Block IBs and 19 Block IIAs, so the constant cost assumption gives a total of 26 + 19 = 45 Block IIAs per year.  Assuming one missile expended in test per year and a twelve year service life, the equilibrium number is then 12 x 44 = 528.  Block IB interceptors cost about $10-11 million each, while Block IIA interceptors are usually described as costing $20-25 million each.

[7] I have not seen a published figure for the Block IB service life, but it is likely to be significantly longer than the roughly ten year life for the Block IB.  The projection does not include any Block IBs expended in testing beyond 2023.

[8] Doubleday, “Pentagon Will Buy Extra Block IIA Interceptors.”

[9] Ships at Yokusuka from “Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet” at: http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/Pages/PacificTheaterShips.aspx#.VqFISI-cGM8, plus the Barry which replaced the Lassen in early 2016.  The BMD capable ships are the Shiloh, Barry (which is an advanced BMD capability, Baseline 9 ship), Wilbur, McCain, Fitzgerald, Stethem and Benfold.

[10] Japan currently plans to have eight BMD capable ships and has also expressed interest in deploying one or more Aegis Ashore sites. (http://news.usni.org/2015/05/18/house-paves-the-way-for-japan-to-buy-aegis-ashore-adds-anti-air-warfare-to-european-sites.)

[11] Prior to the cancellation of the Block IIB, the United States intended to buy only 50 Block IIAs for the EPAA.  The increase to 182 Block IIAs after the cancellation suggests that prior the Block IIB cancellation, the plan was that relatively few Block IIAs would be built compared to the number of Block IIBs which would eventually replace them.  In this situation the relatively short service life of the Block IIA may not have been a serious limitation on the number of Block II missiles the Navy could deploy.  But unless a successor missile to the Block IIA is eventually built, a longer lifetime version of the IIA could be highly desirable.

How Many Aegis BMD Ships in 2040? (December 13, 2015)

For another project, I was interested in how many SM-3 Block IIA interceptors and ships capable of launching them the United States would have in the future.  This post is the result of attempting to estimate how many Aegis BMD ships the United States would have by about 2040.  In the next post, I’ll look at the numbers of interceptors.


How Many Aegis BMD Ships Today?

The U.S. Navy currently has 22 Aegis cruisers and 62 Aegis destroyers.  Five of the cruisers (CGs 61, 67, 70, 72 and 73) have a BMD capability.  Of the destroyers, all of the Flight I and Flight II ships (28 ships, DDG 51 through DDG 78) have a BMD capability.  None of the 34 Flight IIA destroyers (though DDG 112) have yet been given a BMD capability.  Thus the United States currently has 33 BMD capable ships.  These numbers are reflected in Figure 1 below.

AegisShips2015Figure 1. Planned (the chart was made in 2013) deployments of BMD capable ships as of 2015. Chart from:  https://www.navalengineers.org/ProceedingsDocs/ASNEDay2014/Day1/AEGIS_CS2.pdf.


Updated list of launch times for GMD Intercept Tests (August 10, 2015)

This post updates my post of June 3, 2013 by adding FTG-07 and FTG-06b.  The table shows that MDA has still not conducted a GMD intercept test in which the target was not illuminated by the Sun.


Location Key:  VN = Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

KD = Kodiak, Alaska

KW = Kwajalein Atoll.

All times are local (either standard or daylight savings, whichever is in effect).

Kodiak is four hours behind east coast time.

Kwajalein does not use daylight saving time and is 17 hours ahead of EST and 16 ahead of EDT.

The table shows the launch locations and times (extracted from MDA press releases and news reports) for the seventeen intercept tests of both prototype and operationally-configured GMD ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs).    Data for intercepts claimed as successful are in black and data in red is for failed intercept attempts.  As the table shows, the latest interceptor launch time for a successful intercept is 3:19 pm local time (IFT-7).  Taking into account the relative time and location of the target and interceptor launches, it is clear that all the successful intercept attempts took place with the target directly illuminated by the Sun.

There is one intercept attempt that clearly took place at night (IFT-10), in which the interceptor was launched at about 8:45 pm local time and in a direction generally heading away from the Sun.  However, the intercept attempt failed when the kill vehicle failed to separate from the final booster stage.

Two other intercept attempts were conducted in which the interceptor launch would have occurred shortly before local sunset, IFT-13c and IFT-14.  However, in both these cases, the interceptor failed to launch.  Without knowing where the intercepts were planned to take place (and I haven’t tried to find out),one cannot be certain if the targets would have been sunlit, but give the targets’ launch locations (Kodiak) and typical intercept altitudes (250 km) in earlier tests, it seem likely they would have been.

Updated Table of Radar Participation in GMD Intercept Tests Using Operationally-Configured Interceptors. (August 3, 2015)

–The PAVE PAWS radars in AK and MA are not yet part of the GMD system.

–Because of its location and orientation, Cobra Dane has never participated in a GMD intercept test.

–The BMEWS radars in Greenland and Britain are unable to observe GMD intercept tests.


Aegis Ashore vs THAAD (July 27, 2015)

In a comment to my post of July 16 about the THAAD deployment in Guam being made permanent, a question was raised about why THAAD was proposed for South Korea and Aegis Ashore for Romania and Poland (and why not vice versa).

There are two main technical issues that almost certainly drove the decision of which system went where:

(1) Europe can be almost completely covered by two Aegis Ashore sites but achieving similar coverage with THAAD would require a prohibitive number of THAAD batteries.  On the other hand, S. Korea is small enough to be covered by one or two THAAD batteries.

A single Aegis Ashore site (with the Block IIA interceptor) can cover a much larger geographical area than a single THAAD deployment.  The Block IIA interceptor is scheduled to begin deployment in 2018.  This larger coverage area occurs because the Aegis Block II interceptor has a much higher burnout speed (likely about 4.5 km/s) than a THAAD interceptor (likely about 2.6-2.8 km/s) and thus can reach out to make intercepts at much greater ranges.

This is illustrated in two 2007 Missile Defense Agency Briefing slides.  The yellow “footprints” in Figure 1 below shows the area that could be covered by three THAAD batteries in eastern Turkey against Iranian ballistic missiles.  For THAAD, this situation — in which the attacking missiles are launched from a country bordering the country targeted – is closely analogous to the North Korea-South Korea situation.  However, the three THAAD batteries together cover only a small fraction of Turkey.


Figure 1.  Coverage of Europe against Iranian ballistic missile by THAAD, Aegis (Block IB), and two-stage GBI interceptors.  Slides from MDA Executive Director Patricia Sanders, “Missile Defense Program Overview For The 4th International Conference On Missile Defense,” June 26, 2007.  Available at: https://mostlymissiledefense.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/bmd-overview-sanders-june2007.pdf


THAAD Battery to be Permanently Deployed in Guam (July 16, 2015)

The U.S. Army has announced plans to make the deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in Guam permanent. This would be the first permanent deployment of a THAAD battery outside the continental United States.  The Army has released a fact sheet and draft environmental assessment about the proposed permanent basing and has already held two public meetings in Guam about it.

The THAAD battery was first deployed to Guam on an “expeditionary” basis in April 2013, following North Korean threats to the Island.  The Google Earth image below shows the initial deployment of the THAAD battery’s TPY-2 radar and other equipment. (A THAAD battery consists of a TPY-2 X-band radar and associated equipment, a command and communications unit, and a number of truck-mounted launchers (typically as many as six) each of which can carry eight THAAD interceptors.)


The picture above, from February 2014, shows the original (“expeditionary”) deployment of the THAAD TPY-2 radar on Guam.  The radar equipment is at the top of the image, just left of center.  The antenna unit is the thinner object at the top.  Immediately behind it is the electronic equipment unit.  Perpendicular to and to the right of the electronic equipment unit is the cooling unit.  Perpendicular to and to the right of the cooling units are two electrical power units.  One or more of the three objects behind the power units may be additional THAAD equipment (truck-mounted missile launchers or the command and communications unit). Google Earth image, February 4, 2014.


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-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.


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.


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.



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