Ballistic Missile Defense: What Happened with the Block IA intercept in FTI-01? (What Does a Yellow Check Mark Mean?) (March 6, 2013)


Integrated flight test FTI-01, conducted by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on October 25, 2012, involved the near-simultaneous interception of three ballistic missile and two cruise missile targets.  According to a MDA news release issued on the day of the test, four of the intercept attempts were successful.[1]  For the fifth intercept attempt, however, involving an Aegis Block IA interceptor against a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) target, it was reported that, although the interceptor appeared to fly out normally, “there was no indication of an intercept” of its target.  News reports have since described the intercept attempt as failure.[2] The BMDS section of  DOT&E’s 2012 Annual Report describes the engagement as unsuccessful.  And the MDA’s ongoing intercept test scorecard shows the intercept attempt as a failure, as shown below:


(From Missile Defense Agency, “Ballistic Missile Defense Intercept Flight Record,” Fact Sheet, February 13, 2013.)

However, in a February 22 2013 briefing, new MDA Director Vice Admiral James D. Syring presented a slide showing the outcome of the intercept as “Engaged: Intercept Not Confirmed” and scored with a yellow check mark.  The slide is below.


(From: VADM J. D. Syring (Director, Missile Defense Agency), “Ballistic Missile Defense Update,”  Briefing Slides, American Society of Naval Architects, February 22, 2013. 

What does this mean?  Does it indicate that, roughly three months after the intercept test, MDA still hasn’t determined if the target was successfully intercepted?  This immediately call to mind the situation with the FTG-02 NMD test, in which the fact that the “successful intercept” did not actually destroy the target was not publicly revealed until more than five years after the test.  However, even that test gets a green check mark in MDA’s intercept test scorecard:


So what does the yellow check mark mean?  If they don’t know what happened, why not a question mark?  Maybe as more information comes out, we’ll find out.

[1] Missile Defense Agency, “Ballistic Missile Defense System Engages Five Targets Simultaneously During Largest Missile Defense Flight Test in History,” New Release, October 25, 2012.  Available at:

[2] For example: “The MDA is studying why Aegis, a ship-based radar program led by Lockheed Martin, and its SM-3 Block 1A missile, manufactured by Raytheon, failed to shoot down its short-range ballistic missile target.” Amy Butler, “Countering the Raid,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 5, 2012, p. 37.

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