31 May 2017

News Story: GMD Missile Defense Hits ICBM Target, Finally


WASHINGTON: Two days after North Korea’s latest missile launch, the US conducted a successful test of its homeland missile defense system for the first time in almost three years. Codenamed FTG-15, today’s event was also the system’s first test ever against an “ICBM-class” target, as opposed to lesser surrogates, the Missile Defense Agency announced. The painful history of Ground-based Mid-course Defense (GMD) — which, as GAO notes, has cost $123 billion since 2002 — now stands at nine successful tests out of 18 since 1999, exactly 50 percent.

“Today’s intercept means that hit-to-kill deniers are going to have an even harder time contending that homeland missile defense doesn’t work,” said Thomas Karakomissile defense director at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “This is an important day for homeland missile defense, and a bad day for Kim Jung-un.”

How bad a day? If that 50 percent hit rate carried over into real-world operations — and critics like the Union of Concerned Scientists say the tests have been unrealistically easy — it means the current inventory of 36 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) could shoot down 18 incoming ICBMs before coming up empty. That’s probably enough to cope with North Korea or Iran, at least in the near term. US policymakers have emphasized for years that this “limited” missile defense system is not designed — or powerful enough — to be used against China or Russia, which have vastly more missiles.

The Missile Defense Agency will build up to 44 GBIs by year’s end, a marginal improvement, but it’s well aware that “two interceptors to stop one incoming” is ugly math. That’s why MDA has accelerated development of a Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV), which turns each interceptor into a kind of precision-guided shotgun, firing multiple warheads at multiple incoming targets from a single GBI rocket. Originally scheduled to enter service around 2030, the MOKV will now go on GBIs in 2025. Funding requested for 2018 is $259 million, out of a $7.9 billion MDA budget.

Read the full story at BreakingDefense