Yesterday, out of California off the Pacific Coast at Vandenberg Space Base, the United States demonstrated a capability that will exponentially increase its ability to defend the United States Homeland from North Korea with its current fleet of Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs). The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated through its test of the Ground Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system with a launch of a new version of Booster software that can enable for the first time, a two stage capability to intercept with its current three stage baseline capability. This new software provides a significant force multiplier in shot opportunities that are not there with purely a three stage capability, significantly increasing the Battle Space available to intercept incoming ICBMs from North Korea. This new capability adds tremendous flexibility to the Warfighter, offering dramatically increased battlespace, which offers opportunities for shoot-asses-shoot capabilities, flexible options for shot doctrine, and provides additional time to gather more accurate data from sensors.
Today, the Kill Vehicles of the 44 current three-stage GBIs cannot be released to commence intercept operations until after the entire three stages of the boosters are completed burning. With the new software demonstrated yesterday, the United States will now have the option of releasing the Kill Vehicles on any of the entire fleet after the second-stage of the booster has burned out, providing significant additional time and battlespace to perform engagements. This capability can be deployed to the entire current fleet of GBIs via a simple software upload, rapidly bringing this capability to the Warfighter. With the current three generations of GBIs that are ageing and deteriorating, this new second stage booster intercept adds tremendous confidence in the performance of the entire aging fleet of GBIs reducing risk over the time that the NGI will take to be operationally deployed (Assured and Certain). This test is a milestone iconic achievement that was propelled by the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to add reliability, confidence and exponential battlespace to the oldest rocket motors of our GBI fleet.
“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the greatly increased battlespace the selectable booster brings to the Warfighter,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said following the successful test (MDA News Releases).
Our 44 GBIs, with interceptors stationed at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, are the only operationally deployed defense against intercontinental ballistic missile threats to the homeland specifically from North Korea. Vandenberg Space Force Base is the core testing facility for the GBI, including a landmark test in 2006 when a “threat-representative” target from Kodiak, Alaska was intercepted, marking the first time that operational radar was used to capture targeting information. Vandenberg’s successful testing facility has proven it to be an outstanding location for missile defense leveraging the span of the Pacific Ocean and U.S. Missile Defense assets across the Pacific, Hawaii and Kwajalein Islands.
The success of this test exemplifies the vitality and reliability of the GMD System. This most recent test is a tangible example of the importance of continuing to invest in the sustainability of the GMD system through the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), to ensure this unique and critical capability continues its relevance in providing our only defense of the US Homeland against the ICBM threat. The success of this test exemplifies the quality and winning culture of the testing team of MDA, the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG -54) and the Industry community that supports them. Since 2017, there have now been three successful different types of tests of the GMD System in demonstrating its overarching goal to defend against an incoming ballistic missile from North Korea. This success of this test and the testing team, the ones before it enhances the credibility and legitimacy of the GMD System.