The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


GBI Capability Enhancement (CE)-II

There are two versions of interceptors that are currently fielded, the version with the initial kill vehicle, called Capability Enhancement (CE)-I, and the upgraded version, called CE-II. Both of these interceptor versions are paired with the first generation boost vehicle. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is developing a new interceptor version called CE-II Block I, consisting of new divert thrusters and an upgraded boost vehicle that addresses obsolescence issues and problems previously discovered during flight testing. In addition, MDA initiated the development of a Redesigned Kill Vehicle that is intended to address concerns about GMD’s fleet reliability. According to program officials, the Redesigned Kill Vehicles are not expected to begin fielding until 2022.

During the test 22 June 2014, a long-range ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. For this exercise, a threat-representative, intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70), with its Aegis Weapon System, detected and tracked the target using its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar, which provided data to the GMD fire control system via the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system. The Sea-Based X-Band radar also tracked the target, and relayed information to the GMD fire control system to assist in the target engagement and collect test data.

About six minutes after target launch, the Ground-Based Interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A three-stage booster rocket system propelled the interceptor’s Capability Enhancement II EKV into the target missile’s projected trajectory in space. The kill vehicle maneuvered to the target, performed discrimination, and intercepted the threat warhead with “hit to kill” technology.

Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), issued a statement June 19, 2014 concerning the FTG-06b CE-II Ground Based Interceptor test, planned for June 22, 2014. Ellison countered recent claims that CE-II two test failures in 2010 were caused by rushed deployment in 2004, saying "The responsibility of the failures and lack of annual testing of the CE-IIs is not due to the rush to deployment in 2004. It is directly related to misguided leadership by the previous MDA director and the lack of investment from the President's budget into this system since 2008."

Ellison called out poor decisions such as canceling the Multiple Kill Vehicle program in 2009, crafting industry contracts to "incentivize cost cutting rather than increased reliability and confidence in the system." Mr. Ellison also pointed out the steep funding cuts from "$1.4 billion to $761 million towards the development and research of these interceptors" beginning in 2009. "These leadership decisions and lack of adequate funding over this time period impacted confidence, reliability, maintenance and modernization of the entire GBI fleet and the system as a whole." Mr. Ellison stated.

In regards to GBI testing, Ellison pointed out that "None of the GBI interceptor tests have ever been operationally realistic because they just fire one interceptor at one missile." He went on to say that "this system was never designed to be reliant on one shot; it operates by firing multiple interceptors at one missile thereby mathematically increasing confidence of reliability to intercept above 95 percent."

In response to critics to claim the GBI tests are unrealistic because they are scripted, Mr. Ellison said that "we clearly know where the North Korean launches start from, what their exact speeds and trajectories are to strike the United States and what the most likely warhead configuration and countermeasures on their missiles will be. Of course we should be conducting scripted tests against those exact specifics within the limitations of our test ranges over and over again. This is what increases confidence in the system protecting the nation."

Ellison concluded his statement by emphasizing the importance of the test, saying it will "define the future for GMD, its investment, and its leadership.... Our ground based missile defense system represents the very best of our technology, requires the very best engineering and is the only system our nation has to defeat long-range ballistic missiles."

"Even if Sunday's test is successful, it would demonstrate little about the kill vehicle's capability and reliability," said Dr. Laura Grego, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) - which opposes missile defense. "It would be the first time in three tries that it hit its target, but 33 percent is still a failing grade — and not a good argument for buying more." Grego noted that the MDA considered the previous CE-I kill vehicle successful after two successful intercepts, but that was before last year's failure, which led to the discovery of a number of design flaws, some which are common to both the CE-I and II. The flaws in the system are so serious that the Obama administration has directed the MDA to redesign the kill vehicle to replace both versions.

Grego noted that despite the fact that the CE-II kill vehicle has thus far failed its only two intercept tests, the Missile Defense Agency has already fielded it. Approximately a third of the 30 GMD interceptors at Vandenberg and Fort Greely in Alaska are armed with the CE-II. The rest of the interceptors are equipped with the CE-I, whose track record is also less than reassuring.

According to UCS, many of GMD system's problems are rooted in decisions made more than 10 years ago. In 2002, the Bush administration mandated the MDA to field a system by the fall of 2004 to defend the United States against a theoretical missile attack. To facilitate this deadline-driven approach, the Bush administration and Congress loosened or set aside the normal requirements and oversight processes for new weapons systems, which allowed the MDA to field technology under development that has not passed the rigorous milestones normally required. Consequently, the MDA fielded equipment with completely unknown capability. Over the last decade, the MDA has conducted far too few tests to establish the GMD system's effectiveness and reliability. Moreover, the tests the agency has conducted have been highly scripted and held under unrealistic conditions.

As of May 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) had deployed 30 GMD interceptors and it planned to deploy 14 more by the end of fiscal year 2017. The GMD program had completed fielding 23 of the original GBI missiles with the Capability Enhancement I (CE-I) version of the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). The GMD program has also manufactured and delivered 13 of the GBI missile with the Capability Enhancement II (CE-II) version of the EKV, three of which have been used in flight tests. On March 15, 2013, the Secretary of Defense announced the U.S. will deploy 14 additional CE-II GBIs by fiscal year 2017, increasing the number of deployed GBIs from 30 to 44.

Flight testing intended to demonstrate the system’s capabilities and limitations was not scheduled to be completed until at least 2022. MDA failed both of its attempts in 2010 to demonstrate the upgraded GMD interceptor, called Capability Enhancement (CE)-II, causing MDA to fall several years behind on deploying new interceptors. The second CE-II attempt to intercept a target missile, called Flight Test GMD (FTG)-06a, occurred in December 2010. According to the Director, MDA, the test failed because of excessive vibration in the inertial measurement unit—a component of the kill vehicle’s guidance system. As a result, MDA halted deliveries of the remaining CE-IIs until the failure is resolved. Interceptor production will restart on 14 more in-progress missiles if FTG-06b is successful, in keeping with MDA's fly-before-buy philosophy. Additionally, the cost to demonstrate, as well as fix, the already produced CE-IIs increased from $236 million to $1.309 billion.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 21-08-2019 18:20:58 ZULU