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. A Dream Month For Ballistic Missile Defense

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency also carried out their second successful test of the first stage rocket motor of the new Kinetic Energy Interceptor, or KEI, missile (pictured).
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Sep 21, 2006
September has turned out to be a banner month for the U.S. ballistic missile defense program. First, on Sept. 1, a Ground-Based Midcourse Interceptor fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California successfully hit and destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile fired from Kodiak, Alaska.

The incoming ICBM was flying at a speed of around 13,000 miles per hour. The Ground-Based Interceptor, or GBI, that hit it was traveling even faster, at 15,000 miles per hour. The test was the first successful test of the much-criticized, long-delayed and problem-plagued ground-based interceptor program in four years.

As we noted in these columns last week, "The success of the test automatically gives the GBIs already deployed far more credibility. And it will also give a timely boost to the GBI program's champions in Congress. U.S. allies who have committed themselves to supporting and developing missile defense, especially Japan, may accelerate their orders for systems and speed up their deployment plans. A new chapter in the history of the BMD program has begun."

Indeed it has. Only four days after those words were published Marshall S. Billingslea, NATO's assistant secretary-general for defense investment, announced that the 26-nation alliance had approved the construction of a $90 million BMD command and control system over the next six years, as well as an integrated test bed for the security of all its member countries.

The sum of $90 million, or 75 million euros, is peanuts in the multi-billion dollar world of BMD acquisition and development. But the event was nonetheless a highly significant one. It followed a series of NATO feasibility studies that reported to alliance headquarters in Brussels that a BMD system to defend the alliance's European members was both desirable and feasible.

"The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program will put in place an inter-operable and integrated command/control center that provides individual member country's missile defense assets to be used for the common protection of NATO and her territory," the Italian AKI news agency reported.

And on Sept. 14, a far less heralded, but potentially equally significant event occurred at Promontory, Utah. Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency carried out their second successful test of the first stage rocket motor of the new Kinetic Energy Interceptor, or KEI, missile.

The engine is designed to launch the three-stage booster rocket system that will carry the projected advanced interceptor missile that is being designed for "boost phase" interception of a hostile intercontinental ballistic missile right after it has been launched and before it can accelerate to its maximum speed.

The test firing was the second of a five-test series to prepare for the program's first booster flight in 2008. Northrop Grumman heads the U.S. industries developing the KEI for the MDA. And the Raytheon Company is responsible for developing and integrating the KEI system's interceptor.

"The rocket motor burned successfully to completion, demonstrating proof-of-concept of the motor assembly and its thrust vector control nozzle for this high-acceleration, high-velocity, and highly maneuverable missile," said Bill Condas, vice president, Strategic & Commercial Systems, ATK Launch Systems Group. "Initial test results matched expectations for rocket motor performance and integrity."

"This test, following on the heels of our second-stage test in January, is another key step in the development of this next-generation, multi-use booster," Condas said.

The static test firing at Promontory, Utah, included the successful ignition of the rocket motor, a full-duration "burn," and demonstrated the proof-of-concept for what will be a very high acceleration, high velocity and extremely maneuverable interceptor missile, according to Rikki Ellison, president of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance of Arlington, Va.

Ellison said in a statement that that the Missile Defense Agency would also conduct research "to determine the potential of the interceptor missile to destroy hostile missiles in the midcourse phase of flight as well."

"The NATO decision in Brussels and the successful test in Utah served notice that BMD development is forging ahead at both the developmental and the grand strategic-political levels. We anticipate more developments in the weeks and months to come." he said.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
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US Navy Certifies Latest Version Of Aegis Missile Defense System
Washington (UPI) Sep 19, 2006
The U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency have certified the latest version of the Lockheed Martin-developed Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. The move, which was announced by Lockheed Martin on Sep 11, means that the upgraded Aegis BMD Weapon System, version BMD 3.6 has been approved for tactical deployment by the Navy.

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