Upcoming MDA flight and Intercept Tests (March 27, 2019)(Revised)

Now that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) budget materials are available, I have compiled a list of MDA’s planned flight tests and intercept tests out through 2024 (there is one test listed for 1Q FY2025).   These tests are listed in the two tables below, along with whatever other information about each test that I have been able to find (and sometimes some speculation). (Revision: at the end of the post I have repeated both tables in an easier to read (I think) format)

Two points about these tables:

(1) In the past several years, there have been very few Patriot tests listed, presumably because most of these tests are conducted by the U.S. Army, not by the MDA (except for Patriots participating in integrated intercept tests). This year, however, there are 13 Patriot flight or intercept tests listed.  All of the ones in FY 2020, and likely all of them except for the one in the integrated test FTO-03, appear to be associated with a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) Statement.  JEON is focused on near term improvements to U.S. missile defense in South Korea and the program was assigned to MDA, together with the U.S. Army’s Lower Tier Program Office (LTPO).  According the MDA’s FY 2020 Budget Overview: “Finally MDA continues development efforts associated with USFK JEON that provides enhanced THAAD capability against specific USFK threats, integrates THAAD’s capability to detect and track threat ballistic missiles at long ranges [for use] with the Patriot Advanced Capability – 3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) to take advantage of its full kinematic capability, integrate MSE launchers and missiles into the THAAD weapon system, and accelerates initial capability to [use] remote launchers and increase defended area.”  With the exception of FTO-03, I have put all the Patriot tests into a separate Table 2.

(2) The budget materials show one “Israeli Cooperative Intercept Flight Test” per year from FY 2019 to FY 2024. However, each of these “tests” span an entire year, and each is apparently a series of tests rather than a single test.  The FY 2020 MDA Budget Overview says:  “In FY 2020, the MDA budget will also support several flight tests across the Israeli portfolio.”  Since I cannot (yet, at least) associate tests with particular dates and systems, I have not included these in the tables.

Table 1: Upcoming MDA Flight/Intercept Tests

Designation Date (FY) Description/Comments
FS-19 E4 3Q 2019 DT intercept test as part of NATO Formidable Shield exercise in the Atlantic. Likely SM-6 or SM-3 Block IB.
FTM-31 E1 4Q 2019 DT/OT salvo intercept of MRBM by SM-6 Dual II interceptors
FTM-31 E2 4Q 2019 Aegis DT intercept test?
FTT-23 4Q 2019 THAAD intercept test demonstrating remote launch
FTM-32 2Q 2020 DT/OT salvo intercept of MRBM by SM-6 Dual II interceptors
FTM-33 2Q 2020 DT/OT SM-6 interception of multiple SRBMs
FTM-44 2Q 2020 SM-3 Block IIA intercept test.  Likely this is the Congressionally-mandated test against an ICBM.
FTM-30 4Q 2020 DT/OT SM-3 Block IIA intercept of MRBM with countermeasures
FTO-03 4Q 2020 OT integrated intercept test for EPAA Phase3. Patriot intercept +THAAD intercept of IRBM + 2 SM-3 Block IIA intercepts of IRBMs.  One Block IIA Launched from a ship, one from the test Aegis Ashore site in Hawaii.
GM BVT-03 4Q 2020 Flight test of GBI booster with 2/3 stage selection capability. No target.
TH CTV-01 1Q 2021 DT THAAD test flight.  No target.  Involves Army LTPO.  May be part of USFK JEON?
JMTF-07 E1 2Q 2021 US/Japan DT intercept test.  Possibly SM-3 Block IIA or SM-6?
JMTF-07 E2 2Q 2021 US/Japan DT intercept test.  Possibly SM-3 Block IIA or SM-6?
FTT-21 2Q 2021 DT THAAD intercept test.
FS-21 E4 4Q 2021 DT intercept test as part of NATO Formidable Shield exercise in the Atlantic.
GM CTV-03 2Q 2022 GMD flight test . First flight test of Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV).  No target.
FTM-38 4Q 2022 DT/OT Aegis intercept test
FTM-37 1Q 2023 OT Aegis intercept test
FTG-17 1Q 2023 DT GMD intercept test.  First RKV intercept test
FTT-24 3Q 2023 DT THAAD intercept test
FTM-43 4Q 2023 DT/OT Aegis intercept test
FS-23 E4 4Q 2023 DT intercept test as part of NATO Formidable Shield exercise in the Atlantic.
FTG-18 1Q 2024 DT/OT GMD intercept test.  Second RKV intercept test
FTM-40 2Q 2024 DT/OT Aegis intercept test
FTG-19 1Q 2025 DT/OT GMD intercept test

DT = developmental test, OT = operational test

Table 2: Patriot Tests

Designation Date (FY) Description/Comments
FTP-21 2Q 2020 DT Patriot intercept test
FTP-27 E1 2Q 2020 DT/OT Patriot flight test, demonstrating interoperability with THAAD system.
FTP-27 E2 3Q 2020 DT/OT Patriot flight test.  Same objective as E1?
FTP-17 3Q 2020 DT Patriot intercept test
FTP-22 3Q 2020 OT Patriot intercept test
FTP-23 3Q 2021 DT/OT Patriot flight test.
FTP-28 3Q 2021 OT Patriot intercept test
FTP-25 4Q 2021 OT Patriot intercept test
FTP-24 4Q 2021 DT Patriot intercept test
FTP-18 2Q 2022 OT Patriot intercept test
FTP-19 2Q 2022 DT Patriot intercept test
FTP-20 2Q 2022 OT Patriot intercept test


UpcomingFlights2-March 2019

Aegis SPY-1 Radar Upgrade (March 25, 2019)

The Navy plans to equip its new Flight III Aegis destroyers with its new SPY-6 radar.  The SPY-6 is made up of 37 self-contained Radar Module Assemblies (RMAs).  The SPY-6 is expected be at least 30 times more sensitive than the current Aegis SPY-1D radar (or 2.3 times the detection or tracking range against a given target).

A reader of my March 13 post noted that in the FY 2020 budget the Navy announced plans to upgrade the SPY-1D Aegis radar on its Flight IIA destroyers by replacing the current antennas and transmitters with a 24 RMA antenna, and asked how this upgraded radar would compare to the current SPY-1D radar and the new SPY-6.

Since the SPY-6 and the planned upgrade to the SPY-D will use the same radar technology, they will primarily differ only in their power, antenna area and gain.  Since each of these is proportional to the number of RMAs, the upgraded SPY-1 radar will have (24/37)3 = 0.27 of the sensitivity of the SPY-6.  However, it will have about (0.27)(30) = 8 times the sensitivity of the current SPY-1D (which is a pretty big improvement).

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.