Information on Cancelled Integrated Flight Test-16 for Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Element

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-05-08.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548

   May 8, 2003

   The Honorable Bill Nelson
   Ranking Minority Member
   Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
   Committee on Armed Services
   United States Senate

   Subject: Information on Cancelled Integrated Flight Test-16 for Ground-based Midcourse
   Defense Element

   Dear Senator Nelson:

   At your request, we are providing information on a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)
   element flight test known as Integrated Flight Test (IFT)-16. This test was planned for the
   third quarter of fiscal year 2004 but was recently cancelled by the Missile Defense Agency
   (MDA), the agency within the Department of Defense (DOD) responsible for developing the
   ballistic missile defense system and its elements. Specifically, you asked that we determine
   the original purpose of IFT-16, how the test differed from IFT-14 and -15, and what new
   information IFT-16 would have provided had it been conducted.

   We found that the primary objective of IFT-16 was similar to that of past flight tests. The
   test was planned to assess the ability of GMD components to work together as an integrated
   element, capable of engaging and destroying a mock warhead. However, as described in the
   enclosure to this letter, IFT-16 engagement conditions and components differ from those in
   earlier tests.

   Had the Missile Defense Agency conducted IFT-16, it would have accomplished the

      •     Increased the agency’s knowledge regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of
            GMD’s initial defensive capability, which DOD still plans to begin fielding in
            September 2004.
      •     Provided an opportunity to assess GMD’s capability under new engagement
            conditions. Also, IFT-16 would have tested the GMD element in another intercept
            region, designated as R15 (see the attachment for a depiction of the intercept
            regions). A test in this region will now be delayed until IFT-17.

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   •     Offered the first opportunity to flight test the radar at Beale Air Force Base,
         California, in an upgraded early warning radar configuration, and to flight test a new
         version of the battle management software. Flight tests of both the battle
         management software and the radar will be delayed until the radar certification
         flight—a non-intercept flight test denoted IFT-16A—which is scheduled for the fourth
         quarter of fiscal year 2004.

Additionally, with the cancellation of IFT-16, MDA expects to have a 13-month gap between
IFT-15, planned for January 2004, and IFT-17, scheduled for February 2005.

Our analysis of the near-term flight test program provided in this report and its enclosure is
based on the system-level GMD test document, Development Master Test Plan for the
Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Element (draft), 15 November 2002. We also received
MDA’s comments on our analysis and have incorporated them where appropriate. We
conducted our review during May 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards.

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense; the Chairman,
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Armed Services Committee; and the Chairmen
and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services
Committees. We will also make copies available to other interested parties upon request. In
addition, this correspondence will be available at no charge on the GAO web site at

Please contact me at (202) 512-4841 or Barbara Haynes at (256) 922-7535 if you or your staff
have any questions concerning this report. Randy Zounes was a key contributor to this

Sincerely yours,

Robert E. Levin
Acquisition and Sourcing Management


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Enclosure                                                                                          Enclosure


The Missile Defense Agency within the Department of Defense is developing and testing
components of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element, which is intended to
defeat long-range ballistic missile threats in the midcourse phase of flight. When fully
deployed, the GMD element will include (1) space- and ground-based sensors to provide
early warning and tracking of missile launches; (2) ground-based radars to identify and
refine the tracks of threatening reentry vehicles and associated objects; (3) ground-based
interceptors, each consisting of a three-stage booster and exoatmospheric kill vehicle, to
destroy enemy missiles through “hit-to-kill” impacts outside the atmosphere; and (4) fire
control nodes for battle management and execution of the GMD mission. Figure 1 depicts
the principal components of the GMD element.

Figure 1: Components Of The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Element

Source: GAO, based on MDA documents.

 The midcourse phase of flight refers to that portion of a ballistic missile’s trajectory between the boost phase
and reentry phase when the warheads and decoys travel on ballistic trajectories above the atmosphere.

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Enclosure                                                                                           Enclosure

Integrated Flight Tests

To assess its progress in the development of the GMD element, MDA conducts integrated
flight tests (IFTs). These tests are demonstrations of system performance during which an
interceptor is launched to engage and intercept a target reentry vehicle (mock warhead)
above the atmosphere. Currently, integrated flight tests are limited to target launches out of
Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), California, and interceptor launches out of Reagan Test
Site (RTS) in the western Pacific. The Missile Defense Agency is progressing with the
development of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Test Bed so that future
integrated flight tests can be tested under new engagement conditions—different closing
velocities, crossing angles, and interceptor flyout ranges.

Building on the existing infrastructure, the BMDS Test Bed adds an interceptor launch site
at Vandenberg Air Force Base; target launch facilities at Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska; a
GMD fire control node at Fort Greely, Alaska; upgraded communication links between test
bed components; and test infrastructure to support five new intercept regions (see Figure 2).
In parallel, the early warning radar at Beale Air Force Base, California, and the Cobra Dane
radar at Eareckson Air Station in Shemya, Alaska, are being upgraded for the missile
defense mission. Finally, the ship-based Aegis AN/SPY-1 radar is available as a forward-
deployed asset for early target tracking.

Figure 2: Intercept Regions Of Integrated Flight Tests


                                 Cobra Dane


                                                                    15             VAFB

                             2                20

                                                                    #     Intercept Region
                   RTS       XBR-P                                        GBI Launch
                                                                          Target Launch

        Source: Missile Defense Agency.

    Reagan Test Site (RTS) was formerly known as Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR).

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Enclosure                                                                                   Enclosure

Near-Term Integrated Flight Tests

To address how IFT-16 differed from earlier flight tests, we compared IFT-16 to past and
near-term GMD flight tests. The results of our analysis are shown in Table 1 at the end of
this enclosure, which contrasts the engagement conditions and hardware / software
configuration of IFT-16 with those of IFT-10, IFT-14, and IFT-15. To better understand the
table, we have defined its terms below.

Engagement Conditions
      •    Target Launch Location. The location from which the target missile, which
           deploys the mock reentry vehicle and decoys, is launched. The test bed will enable
           target launches out of VAFB, California, and Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC), Alaska.
           In all flight tests to date, the target launch location has been VAFB.
      •    Interceptor Launch Location. The location from which the ground-based
           interceptor, which deploys the kill vehicle to engage the threat, is launched. The test
           bed will enable interceptor launches out of either RTS or VAFB. In all flight tests to
           date, the interceptor launch location has been RTS.
      •    Intercept Region. The area over which an intercept is to occur. (Refer to Figure 2
           for a pictorial representation of defined intercept regions.) In all intercept flight tests
           to date (IFT-3 through IFT-10), the intercept region has been “R1”, which is about 700
           kilometers from RTS.
      •    Closing Velocity. The relative speed at which the kill vehicle approaches the
           designated target (mock warhead). In early integrated flight tests (e.g., IFT-3), the
           closing velocity was roughly 7 km/sec (15,600 miles/hr). The closing velocities of
           recent and future integrated flight tests are classified.
      •    Crossing Angle. The geometric angle between the velocity vectors of the kill
           vehicle and designated target. A head-on collision has a crossing angle of 180
           degrees, whereas a “tail-chaser” is any engagement with a crossing angle less than 90
           degrees. In early flight tests (e.g., IFT-3), the crossing angle was roughly 100 degrees.
           The crossing angles of recent and future integrated flight tests are classified.
      •    Weapon Task Plan / Engagement Category. A weapon task plan consists of pre-
           launch instructions for generating an interceptor flyout solution that guides the
           interceptor toward the target. Associated with the weapon task plan is the type of
           engagement category, either “A”, “B”, or “C”, under which the mission will be
           executed.3 A weapon task plan is required before an interceptor is launched, and in
           all flight tests to date, the mission was conducted under a Category-A engagement.

    The detailed definitions of Category A, B, and C engagements are classified.

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Enclosure                                                                                          Enclosure

    •    Fire Control Radar. The primary radar for providing the necessary targeting data
         to the fire control node that are used for generating a weapon task plan. Pending the
         outcome of ongoing analysis, the use of the Aegis SPY-1 radar in future flight tests for
         engagement planning (fire control) is under consideration. In all flight tests to date,
         the fire control radar had been a surrogate midcourse “radar”, which was a
         combination of a C-band transponder and the FPQ-14 radar.
    •    Midcourse Radar. The midcourse radar provides refined targeting track data to the
         fire control node for the generation of in-flight target updates.

    The configuration of an integrated flight test refers to the description of hardware and
    software assets used during a particular test. The GMD element tested to date has been
    a functional representation of the GMD element, but all tests included some surrogate
    and prototype components.

    •    Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV). The kill vehicles used in flight tests so far
         have been prototype articles. Beginning with IFT-14, a production-representative kill
         vehicle will be flown that is similar to the configuration to be fielded as part of Block
    •    Booster. The payload launch vehicle (PLV), a two-stage booster system consisting
         of modified Minuteman II motors and supporting subsystems, has been the surrogate
         for the interceptor booster in all integrated flight tests to date. It is scheduled to be
         replaced with two operationally representative test bed boosters that are currently
         under development – the Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) booster and the Boost
         Vehicle plus (BV+). These boosters will first be used in intercept attempts in IFT-14
         and IFT-15, respectively.
    •    Fire Control Node. The fire control software is evolving to achieve more
         functionality and to address interfacing issues (i.e., linking the fire control
         component with other GMD components).
    •    Beale Radar. The early warning radar at Beale Air Force Base has participated in
         integrated flight tests in a missile-defense role using legacy hardware and
         developmental software. The conversion of the early warning radar (EWR) at Beale
         to an upgraded early warning radar (UEWR), which consists of hardware and
         significant software upgrades, is planned for completion sometime during the middle
         of fiscal year 2004.
    •    X-Band Radar. The Ground Based Radar Prototype (GBR-P), located at RTS, is a
         prototype of an X-Band radar that supports integrated flight tests. A sea-based X-
         band radar is under development to support flight-testing as a midcourse tracking
         and discrimination radar and is planned to become available in late 2005.

 A C-band transponder was placed on the target reentry vehicle during previous flight tests. It was essential
for the execution of flight tests, because in conjunction with the FPQ-14 radar located on Oahu, Hawaii, there
were no other non-artificial options available to track the reentry vehicle with sufficient accuracy for executing
the mission.

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Enclosure                                                                         Enclosure

   •     Cobra Dane Radar. Cobra Dane is a phased array radar located at Eareckson Air
         Station in Shemya, Alaska. After planned software and hardware upgrades, which are
         scheduled to be completed in fiscal year 2004, Cobra Dane will have the additional
         mission of performing real-time acquisition and tracking—functions critical for
         ballistic missile defense, especially for engagements out of northeast Asia. There are
         currently no plans to demonstrate the capabilities of the Cobra Dane radar during an
         integrated flight test.

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Enclosure                                                                                              Enclosure


                                                 IFT-10            IFT-14           IFT-15            IFT-16
        Integrated Flight Test                 (Conducted         (Planned         (Planned        (Previously
                                                  12/02)            10/03)           01/04)       Planned 4/03)

                                              ENGAGEMENT CONDITIONS

        Target Launch Location                     VAFB             VAFB             KLC              KLC

        Interceptor Launch Location                 RTS             RTS              RTS              VAFB

        Intercept Region                             R1              R2               R2               R15

        Closing Velocity5 (km/sec)                   —               —                —                —

        Crossing Angle6 (degrees)                    —               —                —                —

        Engagement Category                          A                B                B                B

        Fire Control Radar                        FPQ-14           Beale            Aegis            Aegis
                                                                   Radar            SPY-1            SPY-1

        Midcourse Radar                           GBR-P            GBR-P            GBR-P         Beale Radar


        Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle                              Production       Production       Production
                                                Prototype       Representative   Representative   Representative

        Booster                                     PLV             OSC              BV+           OSC / BV+

        Fire Control Node
                                                   BI-2L            V4.0             V4.0             V4.1
        (Battle Management)

        Beale Radar                                EWR              EWR              EWR             UEWR

        X-Band Radar                              GBR-P            GBR-P            GBR-P            GBR-P

        Cobra Dane Radar                            N/A              N/A              N/A              N/A


    Closing velocities of listed flight tests are classified.
    Crossing angles of listed flight tests are classified.

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