Next Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) Intercept Test Could Be as soon as June 22. (June 6, 2014)

It appears that the next intercept test for the Ground-Based Midcourse national missile defense system is planned for Sunday, June 22 between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm U.S. east coast time. The target will be launched from Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands and the interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California

On Wednesday (June 4), Reuters cited two anonymous sources that the test, designated FTG-06b, would be held on June 22.[1]

However, today (June 6), the Pacific Islands News Association reported that, according to a warning issued by the U.S. Army, the planned test time was Monday June 23 between 4:00 am and 8:00 pm. The backup dates are June 24 and 25.

These two announced dates are not inconsistent because the of the 19 hour time difference between California and Kwajalein. Thus 4:00 am to 8:00 am on the 23rd at Kwajalein corresponds to 9:00 am to 1:00 pm on the 22nd in California. MDA usually specifies the date and time of a test using the time zone of the interceptor launch location. On the other hand, the U.S. Army warning was presumably intended for the local population near the target launch location, and thus likely uses Kwajalein time.

Thus from a U.S east coast perspective, the planned interceptor launch time is Sunday June 22 between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.

This test is the third intercept test of the new CE-II version of the GBI interceptor’s kill vehicle. The previous two CE-II intercept tests failed, although a successful flight test not using a target was successfully conducted about a year ago.

If this upcoming test is successful, MDA will likely be able to almost immediately resume production of the 14 additional GBI interceptors it plans to deploy in Alaska by the end of 2017. A failure, depending on its cause, would likely impose significant delays on any future deployments of CE-II interceptors and may make the end of 2017 deadline impossible to achieve. It is now over 41 months since the most recent CE-II intercept test attempt, which failed.

[1] Andrea Shalal, “U.S. Missile Defense Test Could Shift Timing to Add Interceptors,” Reuters.Com, June 4, 2014