GMD Flight Tests of Operationally-Configured Interceptors (May 9, 2012)

GMD Flight Tests of Operationally-Configured Interceptors of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system.

(Update added 12/28/2012: FTG-17, listed below as taking place in FY 2016, has been delayed until 4Q FY 2019.  It will be an intercept test of a two-stage GBI against an ICBM target.  SASC 4/13/2011, p. 244).

The have been seven flight tests (five intercept attempts) of operationally configured GBI interceptors so far.  These are briefly described below, along planned future tests as best as I can figure these out. I will update as I get more information.

FT-1, December 12 2005.  First flight test of operationally-configured GBI, more than a year after the first one was deployed.  It was the first flight of the CE-I version of EKV.  It was not an intercept test; the target was computer-simulated.  Test was reportedly successful.

FTG-02, September 1 2006.[1]  The first test of operationally-configured interceptor against a target.  Test was described as a success. Although an intercept was not a formal goal of test, MDA has stated that an intercept was achieved.  However, DOT&E says a kill was not achieved (see post of April 19, 2012).  Target was describe as a simple threat representative target.  The target was launched from Kodiak Island and the interceptor from Vandenberg AFB.  This was the first test to use an operational sensor to support a GBI weapon task plan.  The Beale, California PAVE Paws radar was primary (only) sensor used for planning the intercept.

FTG-03, May 25 2007 (no test).   Interceptor launch cancelled when target missile failed.  This test is classified by the MDA as a “no test.”

FTG-03a, September 28 2007.[2]  This test was a repeat of FTG-03 (the same interceptor was used) and is described as successful intercept test.  According to DOT&E, several aspects of test were “representative of an unsophisticated threat.”[3]  The target was launched from Kodiak Island, the interceptor from Vandenberg AFB.  The target flight time was 24 minutes and interceptor flight time about seven.  No countermeasures were deployed, but at least the third stage of the booster was in field of view of the kill vehicle as it homed in.  The Beale PAVE PAWS radar tracked the target and provided guidance information for the interceptor (in FTG-03 the target failed before tracking by Beale could begin).  The SBX radar participated in a data collection mode and a TPY-2 radar served as an interceptor range instrumentation sensor.

FTG-04 (canceled).  This test was cancelled in May 2008, due to telemetry problems with the interceptor (see post of April 24, 2012).

FTG-05, December 5, 2008.[4] This was third flight of operational interceptor against a target and reportedly resulted in a successful intercept.  However, the target’s countermeasures did not deploy.[5]  Target was launched out of Kodiak at 1504 Eastern Time, and the interceptor was launched from Vandenberg AFB.  According to DOT&E: “An interceptor malfunction, although not affecting achievement of test objectives, resulted in a hardware change to mitigate the risk of a similar GMD interceptor malfunction.[6]

Four sensors provided data that contributed to the intercept: the Beale, California PAVE PAWS early warning radar, an Aegis radar, a TPY-2 radar (at Juneau, AK), and the Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) radar.[7]    Beale was the primary radar for tracking and interceptor guidance.

BVT-01, June 6 2010.  This was a flight test of two-stage version of GBI (at one time planned for deployment in Europe), using a CE-I EKV.  It was not an intercept test, and the test was described as successful.  However, according to DOT&E: “A malfunction of the kill vehicle, unrelated to problems associated with FTG-06 above, may have degraded the quality of data collected.  The MDA is analyzing the data to determine the extent, if any of the degradation.”[8]

FTG-06, January 31, 2010.[9]  First flight and intercept test for new version of the GMD kill vehicle, the CE-II EKV.  There was a failure with the SBX radar, due to chuffing from the final stage of the target missile booster, however, the EKV was still able to attempt to home in on the target.  However, a failure with the EKV itself also occurred, and the target was not hit.    This problem was subsequently described as a quality control problem involving a connection that caused a thruster to fail.  The SBX was the only operational sensor to participate in the intercept attempt (Beale observed the interceptor flyout).  The IRBM target with a simulated reentry vehicle was launched from Kwajalein, and reportedly successfully deployed countermeasures.  The interceptor was launched from Vandenberg AFB.


FTG-06a, December 15, 2010.  This was a repeat of FTG-06, but the intercept attempt failed again.  According to a failure review board, “The EKVs guidance system had a fault related to outer space-related dynamic environments which caused the EKV to fail in the final seconds of the test.” And “There is no indication of any quality control problem as the source of the failure.”[10]  It also concluded that the CE-I EKVs did not have this design issue.  The SBX radar and a TPY-2 radar (Wake Island) tracked and provided real time data.  The target was launched form Kwajalein and reportedly successfully deployed countermeasures.  The interceptor was launched on TPY-2 data.  An Aegis radar also observed the test.

CTV-01 (Controlled Test Vehicle-01), July 2012.[11] This non-intercept test is intended to verify interceptor fixes developed in response to Failure Review Board on FTG06a.  This test will demonstrate mitigations to the problems that were discovered in FTG-06 using the existing, flawed part.  Until recently scheduled for May 2012, this test has now been delayed until July 2012.

FTG-06b, December 2012.  This is to be a repeat of FTG-06a, with a new part replacing the flawed CE-II EKV part identified by the Failure Review board.  Until recently scheduled for October 2012, this test has been delayed until at least December 2012.[12]  If CTV-1 is not successful, MDA “will be prepared to” do this test with a CE-I EKV. [13]  However, deliveries of new GBIs have been suspended until this test is successfully conducted with a CE-II EKV.

 FTG-07 (cancelled).[14] This test was planned as a two-stage GBI intercept test against an IRBM target.  As of June 2009, it was scheduled for 4Q of FY 2010.[15]  However, after failure of FTG-06, this test was cancelled in order to conduct FTG-06a.[16] 

FTG-08, 3Q14 (formerly 4Q14.)[17] Intercept test with two-stage version of booster.[18]

FTG-09 (cancelled).  This was to be a salvo test (two interceptors fired at one target) scheduled for FY 2011.  Following the failure of FTG-06, this test was cancelled in order to conduct FTG-06a.[19]  The objectives of this test were moved to FTG-06a and FTG-08.

FTG-10.  A March 2010 MDA briefing slide shows this test occurring in 3Q FY 2013, but it has apparently been cancelled or significantly postponed.[20]

FTO-2, (no longer GMD test).[21]An operational test, until recently scheduled for 4Q FY 2015 that would involve intercepts by Patriot, Aegis, THAAD and GMD.  The GMD test would have involved two interceptors fired at a single (ICBM?) target (that is, as salvo test).  However, the GMD portion of this test has now been eliminated, and moved to FTG-11.[22]


FTG-11, 4Q of FY 2015.[23]  A salvo test of two GMD interceptors against a single (ICBM?) target.[24]  This test was apparently at one point cancelled as a separate test in order to merge it with FTO-02, but has since been split out again as a separate test.

FTG-13, 4Q FY 2016 (until recently 4Q 2013).[25]   FTG-08 had previously been an intercept test using a two-stage GBI booster.  It is now also an operational test.  It now possibly involves two interceptors fired at two (ICBM?) targets.

FTG-15, 4Q FY 2017 (until recently 4Q 2016).[26] 

FTG-17, 4Q FY 2017.[27]  As of 2010 was scheduled as an intercept test of two-stage GBI in FY 2016.[28]  Currently scheduled for same quarter as FTG-15.  Possibly merged with FTG-15?[29]

FTO-03, 4Q 2018?.  As of May 2011, this test was scheduled for 4Q FY 2018.[30]  It would be an operational test involving multiple intercepts by different systems, possibly involving two GMD interceptors against different target.

FTG-12, 4Q FY 2021 (until recently 4Q17).[31]    Test against ICBM target?[32]

FTG-14, 4Q FY 2022 (until recently 4Q21).[33] 

[1] Figure from Patricia Sanders, Executive Director, MDA, “Missile Defense Program Overview For The 4th International Conference on Missile Defense,” June 26, 2007.

[2] Figure from Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director, MDA, “FTG-5 Flight Test Overview,” December 5, 2008.

[3] DOT&E, GMD, 2007.

[4] Figure from Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director, MDA, “FTG-5 Flight Test Overview,” December 5, 2008.

[5] “DoD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly,” December 5, 2008.

[6] DOT&E, GMD, 2009.

[7] DOT&E, Sensors, 2009

[8] DOT&E, GMD, 2010.

[9] Figure from MDA, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Test Program,” Briefing Slides, DSC Industry Week, March 8-9, 2010.

[10] “Outer Space Environment Causes MDA Flight Test Failure, Board Finds,” Space and Missile Defense Report, October 24, 2011.

[11] Figure from Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director MDA, “Ballistic Missile Defense Overview,” 10th Annual Missile Defense Conference, March 26, 2012.

[12] John Liang, “Missile Defense Agency Delays GMD Intercept to December,” Inside Missile Defense, March 7, 2012.

[13] Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, Opening Statement, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, April 18, 2012. 

[14] Figure from Albert D. Hemphill II, Director of Operations, MDA, “Ballistic Missile Defense Update For The National Defense Industrial Association, June 4, 2009.

[15] Hemphill Briefing slides.

[16] GAO-11-372, p. 27.

[17] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011

[18] As of March 2010, FTG-08 was a test of a two-stage booster scheduled for the 4th quarter of FY 2012.  MDA, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Ground Systems (GS) DSC Brief,” for DSC Industry Week, March 8, 2010.

[19] GAO-11-372, p. 87.

[20] MDA, “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Ground Systems (GS) DSC Brief,” for DSC Industry Week, March 8, 2010.

[21] Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director, MDA, “Phased Adaptive Approach Overview For The Atlantic Council,” October 12, 2010.

[22] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011

[23] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011 (

[24] J. Michael Gilmore, in his Opening Statement, Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, “FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for Missile Defense,” March 6, 2012, stated that: “We now have ICBM tests planned.  The first one will be in the fourth quarter of FY ‘15.   That will be a salvo shot, two GBIs at an incoming ICBM target.  One year later, there will be a multiple simultaneous engagement of two ICBMs.”

[25] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011.

[26] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011.

[27] Exhibit R-4A, RDT&E Schedule Details: PB 2013 Missile Defense Agency, Project ND22: Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center (MDIOC), p. 44.

[29] FTG-17 is not listed by  “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011.

[31] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011.

[32] Shown as an ICBM test in 4Q FY 2017 in LTG Patrick J. O’Reilly, “Ballistic Missile Defense Overview: Phased Adaptive Approach,” briefing to the 2011 Space and Missile Defense Conference, August 17, 20111.

[33] “Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD),” DOT&E Annual Report 2011.

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