APL contributions are integral part of missile defense test

11/18/05

Thursday's successful Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) intercept test was due, in part, to the critical engineering and technical direction provided by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md. This milestone event was the first Aegis BMD engagement against a medium-range ballistic missile target with a separating warhead/reentry vehicle.

This flight test of the Block 2004 Aegis BMD system, Flight Test Mission (FTM) 04-2, provided a live event to continue verification of the Aegis BMD 3.0 weapon system, including the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block I missile, against a more difficult threat. This test is a further demonstration of the Aegis BMD capability to respond to short-notice ballistic missile defense missions.

This intercept test involved an SM-3 Block I missile fired from the Aegis BMD cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) against a target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, resulting in a direct hit and kill of the target payload. This was the sixth successful intercept for the Aegis BMD program. The test also helped evaluate the overall performance and effectiveness of the weapon control system which guides and controls the SM-3 missile to its target. Additional data was collected during the test to validate real-time kill assessment techniques being developed by the Weapon System Effectiveness Team in Aegis BMD.

The flight test was one of a two-part campaign -- referred to as "Stellar Valkyrie" -- conducted by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, to verify the Aegis BMD weapon system's performance in an operationally realistic, scenario-driven environment. Additional elements within this campaign include a ballistic missile tracking and data exchange exercise with other BMDS test elements that participated in the event. These tests provided an opportunity to assess the ability of the Aegis cruiser and its crew to plan and conduct a ballistic missile defense mission under conditions they might well expect to see as part of fleet operations within this new mission area.

"For nearly half a century, APL has played a major role in the Aegis and Standard Missile programs," says Joel Miller, APL's program manager for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. "Today's successful intercept reflects our critical role in air and missile defense, helping our nation's military forces create a deterrent against an increasing ballistic missile threat." As Technical Direction Agent for the Aegis BMD program, which includes SM-3, APL plays a key role in flight tests. APL works with the larger Aegis BMD community, including Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, and Raytheon Missile Systems, to engineer any necessary system modifications to fulfill the Aegis BMD mission. APL representatives are among the leaders in the joint community for link communications systems connecting Aegis ships and other sea-, space-, and ground-based assets.

In preparation for flight test mission events, APL performs preflight predictions of the Aegis BMD system's performance using high-fidelity simulations of the AN/SPY-1 radar, as well as the SM-3 missile. Actual missile computer programs are tested in labs on the APL campus. Laboratory teams simulate hundreds of missile flights before each flight test to ensure robust missile performance.

Additionally, APL defines mission requirements; establishes test scenarios (including identifying locations for air-, ground-, and sea-based units); conducts debris analysis for range safety; and determines acceptable launch windows to avoid orbiting satellites. In the field, on test day, APL technical experts support the Raytheon SM-3 launch team and man test control consoles at the Pacific Missile Range Facility to support the target instrumentation and operations.

Following each flight, APL performs a post-flight reconstruction of the mission and analyzes the flight test data to update and validate the radar and six-degree-of-freedom performance simulations, and participates in any post-flight investigations associated with the tests.

MDA and the Navy manage the Aegis BMD Program. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the development of the SM-3 missile. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., manages the development of the Aegis Weapon System installed in Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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