True Grit

February 01, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

On a perfect sunny winter afternoon in California standing on the flat rocks of the Ronald Reagan Memorial overlooking the missile silos on the Pacific shoreline at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) engines light up with brilliance and the rocket disappears for a few seconds in the clouds of exhaust. The rocket reappears, accelerating and ripping through the clear sky with a single white vapor trail arching overhead as the low thunder sound doesn’t catch up to what you are watching.

The GBI interceptor had been perfectly cued by the Space-Based Infrared System (SBRIS) and the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) thousands of miles away that an incoming Polaris type two-stage target missile was launched 4,200 miles away at 3:40PM Pacific Standard Time from Kwajalein Atoll, heading east.

Five Colorado Army National Guard Soldiers of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade at Shriver Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado that reports to North American Combat Command recognized the ballistic missile threat and executed procedures flawlessly to release the GBI at Vandenberg Air Force Base at the incoming target missile.

The target missile was tracked by the SBX located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; which debuted a new concept of both launching and engaging an interceptor from the information of a remote based sensor thousands of miles away.  Two new space-based sensors, part of the STSS (Space Tracking and Surveillance System) launched in fall of last year, also observed part of the test and will look to prove out space sensor integration to the Missile Defense Systems in advancing this new remote sensor concept.

The concept of “Launch on Remote�? and “Engage on Remote�? is an integral part of President Obama’s Missile Defense plan that protects Europe and the United States and must be proven out to provide the protection promised.

This was the first integrated test of the SBX as the primary sensor for the GBI as the previous tests were reliant on the Beale Radar in California within the range of the Interceptors at Vandenberg. Critical updates are given from the SBX to the EKV (Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle) on top of the GBI for the exact location of the target missile. Both the target missile and the GBI performed exceptionally well, there was a problem with the SBX and the root cause has not been determined as of yet. As a result the GBI missed the target missile; failing to intercept.

Though there is great disappointment in the failure of the GBI to intercept, a new concept of launching and engaging on remote sensors requires numerous tests and applied adaptive engineering. With both come failures and successes as steady progression leads to a reliable and effective system. Our nation needs to have steadfast determination to continually test robustly as to ensure with reliability our homeland’s protection and defense from long range missiles. The last GBI test was in December 2008. It is inherent for success of this system to have at least two robust GBI tests a year.

The Ground-Based Interceptors in Vandenberg, California and Fort Greely, Alaska are our only defense against the long-range ballistic missile threat fast coming upon us. As President Obama said to our nation last week, “the greatest danger to the American people… is the threat of nuclear weapons.�?

We need more than ever “True Grit�? and determination for Missile Defense.

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