GMD Testing Update (March 19, 2019)

The FY 2020 RDT&E budget documentation for the Missile Defense Agency is now out, and unlike the previous year’s materials it includes currently planned quarterly dates for flight and intercept tests of the Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) system.  Through 2024 it appears that there are three intercept tests and two (non-intercept) flight tests planned.  Here they are:


Date as of May 2017

Current Date



4Q 2018

2Q FY 2019

Salvo intercept test. One CE-II and one CE-II Block I GBIs against an ICBM-range target.



4Q FY 2020

Flight test of upgraded GBI booster with selectable 2 or 3 stage capability.  It will be launched from  Vandenberg.


1Q 2020

2Q FY 2022

Flight test of Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV)


1Q 2021

1Q FY 2023

First RKV intercept test.


1Q 2022

1Q FY 2024

Second RKV intercept test.


The testing schedule for the RKV shows a slip of about two years.   This is consistent with the two year delay (from 2023 to 2025) in RKV deployment that was announced at the March 12 MDA press briefing on its FY 2020 budget.




MDA Briefing on FY 2020 Budget (March 13, 2019)(Updated March 14)

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) presented their proposed budget for FY 2019 yesterday.  Although there is not yet any information about the budget posted on their website, a video of the briefing was posted today. I have put the slides shown at the briefing into a Word file, which is here: MDA-Budget_Briefing-Slides-03122019

(The first slide was not shown on the video, but it is probably just a title slide as there was no discussion of it.)

I expect that a transcript of the briefing will be available soon.  If so, I will add a link to it.

[Added March 14: The transcript is here.]

The two most interesting (to me) things I learned in the briefing:

(1) The RKV is delayed.  The development and deployment of Redesigned Kill Vehicle, intended to be more reliable than the current kill vehicles deployed on the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) of the current U.S. national missile defense system, has been delayed by two years, from 2023 to 2025.  Since the RKVs were to be deployed on the 20 additional GBIs (bringing the total to 64) that were scheduled to begin deployment in Alaska in 2023, the beginning of the deployment of these additional GBIs has also delayed by two years from 2023 to 2025.

(2) The Neutral Particle Beam is back.  Much discussed during the “Star Wars” days, the state of technology at the time ultimately was shown to be far from allowing an actual neutral particle beam weapon to be built. However, in FY 2020 MDA plans to initiate a new program to develop a neutral particle beam that will “offer new kill options.”  MDA claims that this program could lead to an on-orbit demonstration as early as 2023.