“Preliminary Findings” on the Failure of the FTG-07 GMD Missile Defense Intercept Test (July 11, 2013)

The website of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) is reporting that the cause of the failure of the July 5 FTG-07 Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) intercept test was a failure of the booster rocket of the interceptor.  Specifically, according to the MDAA, “preliminary findings” indicate that the final stage of the booster failed to separate.  As the MDAA article discusses, the consequences of this failure will depend heavily on whether the problem was an isolated quality control problem affecting only a single booster or was due to a more systemic problem that could affect the entire fleet of GBI interceptors (or some subset of them).

If the reported reason for the failure is correct, this will also likely mean that virtually no data on the performance of the kill vehicle was collected.  This would be a serious setback,  since as discussed in my post of July 5,  the primary purpose of the test was to check the performance of the refurbished CE-I kill vehicle after it had received “24 to 25” improvements (possibly some of these improvements were to the booster) and possibly also to test the kill vehicle against “countermeasures.”  Thus although the Missile Defense Agency will undoubtedly emphasize that many elements of the system,  such as the radars, worked well, this would mean that, as far as advancing the GMD program is concerned, the test is  essentially a complete loss.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Curt Conway

     /  July 11, 2013

    The administration should continue development of the SM-3IIB. Aegis Ashore is getting a shot in the arm. This was the lowest risk solution all along. It would not only render an excellent solution to the Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) problem ashore in Alaska and California, but applications of this technological development would be applicable aboard ship. The Aegis Ashore configuration is not limited by Vertical Launch System (VLS) cell lengths. We could literally make them as long as we want, and industry will build them. Aboard ship it get a bit more complex. Cruisers and Destroyers have a limited length of VLS cell to deal with so things that will fit is a limitation. However, if we build a new Ballistic Missile Defense Ship out of an San Antonio Class LPD hull a significantly longer VLS launcher could be used. that new longer VLS launcher could easily be designed for longer range and larger SM-3 for Aegis Ashore and the new BMD ship. We have got to get passed woulda-shoulda-coulda, and get on the stick. What is the evidence that this is the right track . . . the Russians don’t like it. The Russians know the US Navy Aegis technology and weapons systems is what beat them at sea before the wall fell, and it continues to shine and get better. GBI was a risk from day one, and is now a dark horse who continues to get worse. SM-3IIB should be back on the table of development and the warhead, if nothing else, will eventually migrate to the fleet as an interceptor upgrade for the front end of the SM-3II’s. This makes sense.

    Reply
  2. Blah

     /  July 13, 2013

    The SM-3 IIB wasn’t even on the schedule for another 5+ years. We need a defense now. Best to use what you have and make it work. BTW, Raytheon is the prime on all KVs. What makes you think they would do better with the SM-3?

    Reply
    • Curt Conway

       /  July 14, 2013

      The SM-3 works. How about that GBI?

      Reply
      • Blah

         /  July 14, 2013

        Depends on which SM-3 you are talking about. The Block II-B does not even exist yet outside of concepts. And the Block IA has some problems, hence the IB. And for ICBM killers, the GBI is all we have. It may not work great now, but we have to fix what we have.

      • Curt Conway

         /  July 14, 2013

        I’m an old Aegis Troop. I have watched the General Dynamics 13.5″ airframe Standard Missile grow from SM-1 Blk VI into the SM-3. I personally participated in over 200 launches of Standard Missiles with a high 90% success rate. It is the most successful example of a growth path in missile development of all time, and still growing. To curtail that growth is the height of hubris by those of another program that wish it had the same record, and desire the funding at the expense of the successful program. I’m not saying you are saying this. Your point is taken on making work ‘what we have’. Separation of spent stages seems to be a fairly fundamental key element of success for a multi-stage missile system. The GMD GBI is not overflowing with successes. Being a former Boeing employee I can tell you that I am more than disappointed.
        Land based systems are fixed in space. Seaborne systems can move. Seaborne systems can also be placed ashore (Aegis Ashore). Continued development of the SM-3 missile should not be curtailed, if for no other reason, we gain the greatest ground and coverage with every improvement (2/3 of the earth’s surface is water). One of the concepts of the next iteration is to develop a longer range SM-3 of greater length and size. That would necessitate a specific Ballistic Missile Ship (BMS) concept like a USS San Antonio (LPD-17) that can accommodate a longer/larger Vertical Launch System (VLS) cell, and support an 18’ or greater size AMDR array face. The missile/cell combination could also be integrated with land based systems. The newly developed and improved warheads, or kinetic kill devices, can be integrated on existing BMD ships.
        Nothing succeeds like success. It’s indicative of a mature, functioning, and capable development team. Failure can stimulate growth and improvement, but the operative word is “can”. Still waiting on the “CAN” in GMD GBI. We are looking for some professionalism, ownership, and light at the end of the tunnel. Every GMD GBI test seems to make that dark tunnel longer.
        Let us pursue paths that provide the greatest progress and most return for our investment. The Railgun BMD capability looks like it would come along sooner than some of the other technologies like directed energy. However, directed energy is beginning to grow exponentially given the number of contractors joining in the development effort.
        I sympathize with GMD GBI failures. Multiple opportunities to turn this program around have failed and at a considerable price tag, that could have been invested in other programs, and may have gotten us further down the road. So if you want me on your side . . . HIT THE TARGET . . . How about it.
        Just my two cents.

      • Blah

         /  July 14, 2013

        I hear you. Let’s go with what works. As an old GMD guy, I get a little defensive of the program, particularly when there were politics being played with the system. The current GBI/EKV were never intended to be production ready designs. It was after all just a Test Bed. Think breadboard circuits, duct tape, and superglue. These were forced into service because Bush wanted to make the system operational so that if Kerry won in 2004, he would have a hard time justifying cancellation of GMD. Then we had MKV which would have replaced the EKV, but that was cancelled under Obama in 2009. So we’re stuck with what we have until Next Gen EKV is built, or until the SM-3 Block IIB. No doubts about the versatility and capability of the SM-3. It’s just not an ICBM killer yet. Would be nice to get something on a ship for homeland defense vs. the icy tundra of Fort Greely, AK.

      • Anonymous

         /  July 14, 2013

        Hear Hear, I’m with you Brother!
        May G-d Bless You . . . And G-d Bless These United States of America

  3. Curtis Conway

     /  July 14, 2013

    Hear Hear. I’m With You Brother! May G-d Bless You, and G-d Bless These United States of America

    Reply

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