On Friday (June 26) it was reported that MDA had aborted an intercept test of the Aegis Ashore system following a failure of the target missile. Although not stated by MDA, the aborted test was apparently the one designated FTO-02 Event 1 (FTO-02 E1). According to the March 2015 prepared statement by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, FTO-02 E1 was to “…provide critical data needed for my assessment of Aegis Ashore’s capability to defend Europe as part of the President’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).
FTO-02 E1 Mission Patch. Available at http://missile.bigcartel.com/product/fto-02-e1-patch, but it’s sold out.
Background on Aegis Ashore Testing
Under President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach, Aegis Ashore sites were to become operational in Romania in 2015 and in Poland In 2018. The initial plan (2010) was that these two European deployments would be supported by a series of seven Aegis Ashore flight tests, including five intercept tests, conducted at the Aegis Ashore Test facility in Kauai Hawaii. According to that plan, shown schematically in the GAO figure below, all of these tests would have been completed by the end of 2015, paving the way for the activation of the Romanian Aegis Ashore site that same year.
Source: Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability” GAO-11-372, March 2011, p. 65.
As the GAO figure above shows, by the next year (2011) that plan had already been reduced to a total of only four test flights, only two of which were intercept tests. However, at least all of these tests would have been completed by 2014, a year before the planned operational capability of the Romanian Aegis Ashore site.
However, this plan was subsequently reduced to only three tests flights, only two of which would have been intercept tests. Further, only one of these two intercept tests would have been completed before the end of 2015. The first of these two intercept tests is intended to support the EPAA Phase 2 deployment in Romania and the second the EPAA Phase 3 deployment in Poland.
The Aegis Ashore Tests
The first of these three Aegis Ashore flight tests was AA CTV-01, conducted on May 20 (local time) 2014. This non-intercept test involved the first launch of an SM-3 interceptor from an Aegis Ashore system. The test was described by MDA as successful, although it was subsequently revealed that “there was an issue with how the system steered the interceptor, that potentially resulted from differences between the sea-based and ashore versions of the system.”
The second of these tests, now named FTO-02 E1, is apparently the test that was aborted yesterday. This test was intended to demonstrate an intercept by an SM-3 Block IB interceptor of an intermediate-range ballistic missile in support of the planned 2015 Aegis Ashore operational capability in Romania. A failure of the intermediate-range missile target apparently occurred before the interceptor could be launched.
[The FTO-02 E1 designation of the test indicates that this test was originally planned to be part of Flight Test Operational-02, which was to be an integrated operational test involving multiple types of missile defenses. As the figure below shows, the FTO-02 originally (as of 2011) included intercepts by Patriot, THAAD, Aegis (ship), Aegis Ashore, and the Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system in a test to be conducted in the third quarter of 2015. Several of the individual tests, including yesterday’s Aegis Ashore test, have apparently since been stripped out of the main event to be conducted separately. For example, the GMD test originally planned for FTO-02 is now FTG-11, a salvo test scheduled for 2017.]
MDA planned testing as of 2011, showing planned FT0-02 test in 4th quarter of FY 2015. It also shows earlier planned Aegis Ashore tests that never took place. Image source: August 2011 briefing by MDA Director LTG Patrick O’Reilly.
Will the Test Delay Affect the Planned 2015 Operational Capability of the Romanian Aegis Ashore Site?
As noted above, the aborted test was intended to support the EPAA Phase II Aegis Ashore deployment at Deveselu, Romania, which was planned to be operational by the end of 2015. It seems likely that the test will be repeated, and if a suitable target is available, that this could be completed before the end of 2015. If this test was successful, it would allow the MDA to continue to maintain the illusion that it is sticking to a “fly before you buy” policy. As noted in a previous post, as with the GMD system, this process is actually at best a “fly before you declare operational” approach, since the Romania site will be fully paid for and nearly complete before a successful intercept test can occur.
If the test cannot be repeated by the end of 2015 (or if the repeat test fails) will the Romanian site still be declared operational during 2015? The MDA deployed the GMD system years before a successful intercept of an operational interceptor, so there is a certainly a precedent for doing so. But doing so would certainly seem to contradict the MDA’s recent stated emphasis on sticking to a “fly before you buy” policy.
 Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense: Opportunities Exist to Reduce Acquisition Risk and Improve Reporting on System Capabilities, GAO-15-345, May 2015, p.44.
 GAO-15-345, p. 43.
 GAO-15-345, p. 43.