Table of Future Aegis Intercept (mostly) Tests (April 30, 2013) (Updated May 16, 2013)

Projected future intercept tests for Aegis SM-3 (with a few significant non-intercept tests).  Dates and descriptions are highly subject to change.  Most data from FY 2014 (April 2013) budget documentation.

Key for targets: S = short-range (<1,000 km), M = medium range (1,000-3,000 km), IR = intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 km), U = Unitary (warhead does not separate), Sp = separating warhead.  For Aegis BMD version, all or some 4.0.1 are now likely 4.0.2, CU = Capability Upgrade.   ? = don’t know/not sure.

Click on the table from a more readable version.AegisFutureTestsTable

Table of Aegis SM-3 Intercept Tests (April 27, 2013) (Updated May 16, 2013)

Below is table of Aegis SM-3 intercept tests since testing resumed in 2002.  Subsequent posts will discuss the Aegis system configurations and individual tests in more detail.  Click on either half of the table for a more readable version.

Key for targets: S = short-range (<1,000 km), M = medium range (1,000-3,000 km), IR = intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 km), U = Unitary (warhead does not separate from rocket booster), Sp = separating warhead.  For ships, (J) = Japanese destroyer (versions of Aegis BMD weapon may be somewhat different from equivalent US versions listed).   ? = don’t know/not sure.



GMD Testing Update (April 17, 2013)

The recently released FY 2014 Missile Defense Agency (MDA) budget justification documentation provides some new details on the MDA’s plans for future tests of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system.  In particular, it raises the possibility of carrying out a second non-intercept flight test (CTV-02) before resuming intercept testing using the new CE-II version of the interceptor’s kill vehicle.

As discussed in my previous post on GMD testing, following the failure of the FTG-06a intercept test in December 2010, MDA removed the ten deployed Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) equipped with the CE-II version of the kill vehicle from operational status and suspended deliveries of new GBIs.  Deliveries of new GBIs and repairs to the deployed CE-II equipped GBIs were to begin following successful completion of a return-to-intercept (RTI) flight testing program.   The RTI program was to consist of a non-intercept flight test (CTV-01) which if successful would be flowed by an intercept test (FTG-06b).

The non-intercept test CTV-1 was conducted on January 26, 2013 and was described, based on preliminary information, as successful.  The FY-2014 budget justification states that “Initial results indicate very robust performance of the CE-II kill vehicle.”[1]

However, the budget justification also states that: “In implementing a less concurrent technical approach for the CE-II program, we plan to execute a CTV-02 non-intercept flight test in second quarter 2014 followed by FTG-09 CE-II intercept test in fourth quarter 2014.”[2]    On the other hand, the budget materials also indicated that if the success of CTV-01 was assessed to “conclusive,” then instead “we will eliminate CTV-02 in FY 2014 and instead fly the next CE-II intercept flight test (FTG-06b) in 1st quarter FY 2014, and plan to then conduct a second GBI intercept test  in late FY 2014.

Note that the CTV-01 test in January was with a CE-II kill vehicle that still contained the part believed to be defective but used mitigations for the problems resulting from the part.  Presumably, CTV-02, if it takes place, would use a kill vehicle with the new replacement part (as FTG-06b was planned to do).

At the Pentagon’s March 15 press conference, it was announced that an intercept test using an older CE-I kill vehicle would be conducted this summer.  The budget documents state add that this test will be conducted in “in third quarter 2013 to validate reliability improvements made to the CE-I fleet over the last several years. [3]  As discussed in a previous post on GBI cost, the GAO estimated that each of the original CE-I GBIs needed repairs and refurbishments that were estimated to cost between $14 and $24 million per interceptor.

Thus the GMD flight tests plans, as far as I have been able to reconstruct them (which may not be completely) now appears to be as follows (all are intercept tests except for CTV-02):

FY 2013, 4th Q:  CE-I intercept test.

FY 2014, 1st Q:  CTV-02 (non-intercept) or FTG-06b (intercept) test of CE-II GBI.

FY 2014, 4th Q (or FY 2015, 1st Q): FTG-09 CE-II intercept test.

FY 2015, 4th Q: FTG-11, salvo (two interceptors) test against ICBM target.

FY 2016, 4th Q: FTG-15:

FY 2017, 4th Q: FTG-13: (possibly two stage booster?)

FY 2018, 4th Q: FTO-03: Operational test with Aegis, THAAD and Patriot.

FY 2019, 4th Q: FTG-17 (possibly two-stage booster?)

FY 2021, 4th Q: FTG-12

FY 2022, 4th Q: FTG-14



[1] Vol. 2a-107.

[2] Vol. 2a-xviii.

[3] Vol. 21-xviii.

Cobra Dane Power Cutback Cancelled (April 10, 2013)

As discussed in a recent post, as a result of sequestration, the Air Force had planned to reduce operations at several large radars used for space surveillance and ballistic missile defense.  One of the radars expected to have its operations cut back was Cobra Dane, a large phased-array radar on Shemya Island at the western end of the Aleutians.  According to General William Shelton, Commander of the Air Force Space Command, as a cost saving measure, the plan had been to cut the radar’s operation to one-quarter power for the rest of the year, which would save about $5 million.[1]  This reduction would likely be accomplished by reducing the radar’s duty cycle (the fraction of the time it emits radar energy) from 6% to 1.5%, as has been done previously

Cobra Dane, originally built to gather intelligence on Soviet ballistic missile tests, is now also part of the U.S Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which has 30 interceptors deployed in Alaska and Hawaii.  It is also an important part of the U.S. space surveillance system, as it can detect and track objects in low Earth orbit down to sizes of about 5 centimeters, significantly smaller than any other radar in the network.  Shelton stated that this cutback in power would have temporarily eliminated the radar’s space surveillance role, but that the U.S. had ways to compensate for this loss.  Prior to 2003, Cobra Dane had operated at one-quarter power (also for cost reasons), with the ability to return to full power in 30 seconds if a missile test occurred.  When full power operation was restored in March 2003, Cobra Dane was able to begin operating a high-elevation space surveillance “fence,” significantly  enhancing the space surveillance system’s capabilities.

However, as a result of the ongoing tensions with North Korea, this planned cutback in Cobra Dane’s operations has been cancelled.  This reversal is unlikely to affect the other two systems that had been scheduled to have their operations cut back, the large phased array radar at Cavalier Air Station in North Dakota and the Air Force Space Surveillance System at multiple sites in the southern United States, as neither is part of the current U.S. missile defense system.


GMD National Missile Defense System Costs over the Last Ten Years (April 5, 2013)

In a recent post, I cited the GAO estimate that the total cost of  the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system, projected through FY 2017, was now $40.9 billion (in FY 2013 dollars).  I thought it would also be interesting to look back over previous GAO reports to see how the cost of the GMD system has increased over the last decade.

The $40.9 billion figure was reported in the GAO’s March 28, 2013 version of its report on Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs.   The GAO began releasing this annual report in 2003, although the GMD system was only included starting with the 2004 report.  Each report includes a “Latest” cost figure, which is total cost of the GMD system including future costs not yet incurred, projected several years ahead. 

The GMD costs appear to include the GBI interceptors and their fire control system, the Sea-Based X-Band radar, and the GMD upgrades to the Cobra Dane and early warning radars, but (probably) not the forward-based TPY-2 X-band radars.  It is unclear (to me) to what extent operations and sustainment costs are included (in at least one year they are explicitly excluded).   Figure 1 below shows the GMD costs for the ten years the GAO report has been released, starting with the 2004 report (click on the graph to get a larger image).


Figure 1: GAO Total Cumulative Cost for the GMD System, including some future projected costs.

On Figure 1, the x-axis is the date of the data used in the cost estimate.  For example, the first point, from the 2004 report, is based on data up to February, 2003 and is thus plotted as x = 2003.17.  The y-axis is GAO’s “Latest” cost projection, which is in dollars corresponding to the year of the report and includes costs projected several years ahead.[1]  For example, the $22.5 billion point for 2003 is in FY 2004 dollars for costs through FY 2009. The last point is from August, 2012 and is for costs through FY 2017.  However, costs associated with the March 15, 2013 announcement of plans to increase the number of deployed GBI interceptors from 30 to 44 are not included in that total.

There are several problems with Figure 1.  First, the numbers of years each annual estimate projects ahead varies from year to year.  Second, inflation is not taken into account.  Figure 2 below attempts to compensate for these two problems by subtracting out the projected funding and by then converting the remaining costs to FY 2013 dollars.[2]  Figure 2 is thus a plot of the amount spent on the GMD system through the date shown in constant FY 2013 dollars.


Figure 2: GMD actual costs (no future projections) in FY 2013 dollars.

If we assume the zero point for GMD costs is February 1996, which the GAO takes as the starting date for their cost estimates, then as Figure 3 below shows, the data fits surprisingly well to a linear increase over time.


Figure 3.  GMD actual costs fitted to linear plot with a February 1996 starting date.

Nevertheless, it is clear from looking at the ten plotted data points that the rate of GMD spending has slowed up somewhat in the last four or five years relative to the five previous years.  This is hardly surprising, since much of the system was deployed by 2010 (for example, the 30th GBI interceptor was deployed in September 2010). 

[1] For the 2005 and 2006 estimates, the GAO gives projections for both FY 2009 and FY 2011.  The FY 2011 figures are used here, since these are more consistent the numbers of years projected ahead used in other years.

[2] The correction for inflation is based on data from table 10.1 of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, Historical Tables (  The chained price index (which the table states is what used for constant dollar research and development outlays) was used.

First THAAD Deployment Is to Guam (April 3, 2013)

Less than three weeks after Department of Defense officials incorrectly stated that Guam was covered by the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile system, the Department announced today that a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery would be deployed to Guam.  The U.S. currently has two deployable THAAD batteries with a third undergoing training, all at Fort Bliss, Texas, and currently plans to buy a total of six, although this number could increase.  Each battery consists of a TPY-2 X-band radar, up to six launchers (although the current batteries only have three each), each of which can carry as many as eight interceptor missiles, and a fire control system.

This would be the first operational deployment of a THAAD battery away from Fort Bliss.  In June 2009, in response to indications of North Korean plans to test a long-range missile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that a THAAD battery had been deployed to Hawaii.[1]  However, this was only a temporary activation of THAAD components that happened to be in Hawaii at that time for testing purposes.[2]  As of late 2009, the U.S. Army planned to deploy both Patriot and THAAD batteries to Guam, but this never took place.

One interesting question that announcement raises is: Once the system is deployed in Guam, under what circumstances could it ever be removed?

[1] Viola Glenger and Tony Capaccio, “Gates Order Measures Against North Korea Missile (update2),”, June 18, 2009; Peter Foster, “N. Korea May Fire Missile At Hawaii, Report Says; U.S. Prepared: Gates,” National Post (Canada), June 19, 2009, p. A15.

[2] Amy Butler, “THAAD Turnaround,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 17, 2009, p. 38.