MDA Announces Successful Test FTO-01 (September 11, 2013)

Yesterday the MDA announced the successful completion of test FTO-01.  As illustrated in Figure 1 below (made before the test), in this test, conducted on and near Kwajalein Atoll,  two medium-range ballistic missile targets were intercepted, one by an Aegis SM-3 Block 1A interceptor launched from an Aegis  cruiser and the other by a land-based THAAD interceptor.   In both intercepts, cuing from a TPY-2 X-band radar operating in its forward-based mode was used.  The MDA News Release described the test as an “operational” test that demonstrated a “layered defense architecture.”  The “layered defense architecture” here refers to the launch of a second THAAD interceptor that would have attempted to intercept the target hit by the SM-3 if the SM-3 had failed to destroy the target.  Since the SM-3 hit its target, this second THAAD interceptor did not attempt an intercept, although it likely collected some interesting data on the intercept scene.  

FTO-01-1

Figure 1.  The plan for test FTO-01.  From slide 17 of an August 14, 2013 briefing by MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, available at: https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2013/09/10/mda-overview-briefings-september-10-2013/.

It is interesting to compare this test to the previous, arguably even more complex, combined test, FTI-01, held in October 2012.  This test is shown in Figure 2 below (from after the test).  In this test, five interceptors (two SM-3 Block IA, one THAAD, and two Patriot) attempted to intercept five ballistic missile or aircraft targets in one-on-one engagements (all apparently occurring within a short period of time.)

 FTI-01-1

Figure 2.  Geometry of test FTI-01.  From briefing by MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, February 22, 2013.  Available at: https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2013/09/10/mda-overview-briefings-september-10-2013/.

Unlike yesterday’s test, which was called an operational test, FTI-01 was described as a combined developmental-operational test (precisely why it was not a fully operational test is unclear to me).  The results of FTI-01 are shown in Figure 3 below.

 FTI-01-2

Figure 3.  Results of FTI-01 (October 2012).  From briefing by MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring, February 22, 2013.  Available at: https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2013/09/10/mda-overview-briefings-september-10-2013/.

As shown in Figure 3, four of the five intercept attempts in FTI-01 succeeded (in the fifth, although shown on the slide as “not confirmed,” the intercept attempt failed).  The failed intercept in this test was the attempted intercept of a short-range ballistic missile by an Aegis SM-3 Block IA interceptor (as far as I know, the cause of this failure has not yet been publicly revealed – the MDA fact sheet on testing  (updated yesterday) still lists the failure as “pending investigation”).  It would have been interesting if this test had involved a THAAD backing up an SM-3 as was done for the first time in yesterday’s test – in the case  of TFI-01 the THAAD missile would have had a target to attempt to intercept.

 

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