US anti-missile agency delays fielding more long-range interceptors
The deployment of more long-range interceptor missiles to defend the United States against North Korean ballistic missiles is being pushed back two years, to 2025, due to delays in developing an improved kill vehicle, according to the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
MDA plans to place 20 new Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) at Fort Greely in Alaska, bringing the total number of operational GBIs at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to 64. But the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), which will ride atop the new GBIs, saw its critical design review (CDR) slip from late-2018 to 2020, as officials decided more time would be needed to refine the design.
The RKV programme now intends to conduct its first flight test in FY2022, first intercept attempt in FY2023 and second shoot-down try in FY2024.
The Raytheon-built RKV is supposed to be more capable and reliable than the existing Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), also made by Raytheon.
The RKV will ‘help address the evolving threat, improve in-flight communications to better utilise off-board sensor data, and heighten combatant commanders’ situational awareness via hit/kill assessment messages,’ MDA said.
MDA, meanwhile, is proceeding with several new radar efforts to help GBIs, the centerpiece of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, find their targets. The agency expects to begin fielding the Long Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska in 2020 and the Homeland Defense Radar - Hawaii in FY2023. The Pacific Discriminating Radar, whose specific location has not yet been determined, is slated to be fielded in 2026.
MDA is also gearing up to conduct the first-ever test in which two GBIs will be fired at one target. The ‘salvo shot,’ designated Flight Test GBI (FTG)-11, is expected to happen in spring 2019. The GBIs will be launched from Vandenberg.
‘We’ll use a salvo of a newest version of GBI and an older version to characterize the interaction of those interceptors as they go after’ the intercontinental ballistic missile target, said navy RADM Jon Hill, MDA’s deputy director.
The recently deployed Space-based Kill Assessment (SKA), a network of small sensors hosted on commercial satellites, will operate during FTG-11, Hill said. SKA is supposed to help MDA improve its ability to determine whether an interceptor has destroyed a target.
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