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Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment [FLAGE]
Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided [FLAG]
Small Radar Homing Intercept Technology (SRHIT)

The Strategic Defense Initiative Program, announced by former President Reagan on March 23, 1983, is an extensive research program designed to determine the feasibility of developing and effective ballistic missile defense systems. The program includes research of tactical or theater missile defense technologies necessary for the protection of ground forces from attacks by enemy tactical missiles. One aspect of such technology is defense against tactical missiles accomplished by intercepting and destroying a missile before it can reach its designated target.

The purpose of the endo-atmospheric non-nuclear kill program was to establish a coordinated technology base to demonstrate a homing guided intercept and nonnuclear kill of representative reentry vehicles in the endoatmosphere. The BMD Advanced Technology Center (BMDATC), faced with budget cuts and other priorities for fiscal years 1981 and 1982, reduced this program to development of critical component hardware. Development of critical component hardware progressed, as did the effort to upgrade the three-degrees-of-freedom simulation to a six-degrees-of-freedom high fidelity simulation. BMDATC initiated design and validation of a gas reaction maneuver control system and began warhead-target interaction ground rocket sled tests.

Lockheed Martin's Edward D. Walters was responsible for the development of hit-to-kill technologies that ultimately resulted in the fielding of the battle-proven Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile. Walters and his team began developing an agile interceptor for the U.S. Army's Advanced Ballistic Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL, in the early 1980s. The Army Strategic Defense Command restructured the agile interceptor demonstration plan to include a Small Radar Homing Interceptor (SRHIT) that could conduct hit-to-kill, kinetic energy intercepts within the atmosphere. With a contract in hand to conduct hit-to-kill demonstrations, Walters and his team developed flight hardware utilizing a Ka-band seeker and off-the-shelf propulsion hardware.

Walters, as the SRHIT deputy program manager and chief engineer, developed the plan and managed the effort that was ultimately successful in completing three hit-to-kill intercepts. Originally designed to test technologies for a point-defense system to protect ICBM fields from strategic ballistic missile attack, the proof-of-principle test vehicles demonstrated small, transportable defenses well suited to tactical missile defense. SDIO funded a test series which demonstrated the use of radar seekers and thruster/attitude control rockets required for hit-to-kill guidance against tactical ballistic missiles. In 1984 year the Small Radar Homing Intercept Technology (SRHIT) completed its first flight test. The SRHIT program sought to assess guidance and control technology to develop a missile capable of intercepting small high-velocity targets (tactical ballistic missiles) at low altitudes.

The program was subsequently renamed the Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment (FLAGE). The purpose of the FLAGE program included developing hit-to-kill technology and demonstrating the guidance accuracy of a small, agile, radar-homing vehicle. During flight, the FLAGE's on-board millimeter wave radar would lock onto a target. To maneuver the interceptor toward the target, 216 shotgun shell-sized motors, located in a band behind the radar, were fired selectively.

On 27 June 1986, in the sixth test of Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment or FLAGE, the GTV-3 vehicle destroyed a target that was traveling over 2,100 miles per hour at an altitude of 12,000 feet over White Sands Missile Range. The target was launched by a U.S. Navy F-4 aircraft. Having demonstrated successful intercepts against a stationary sphere and an air-launched target in 1986, the FLAGE was tested against a Lance shortrange surface-to-surface missile on May 21, 1987. After launch, the FLAGE received input from White Sands Missile Range radars and, for the last two seconds of flight, its on-board millimeter wave radar system acquired the target. Sixty of the FLAGE's 216 solid rocket motors fired to cause the FLAGE to intercept the Lance missile at an altitude of 16,000 feet. In what was described as "stunning success", a Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment (FLAGE) intercepted the LANCE missile in its second attempt at White Sands Missile Range. The intercept occurred at an altitude of 16,000 feet. This marked an important milestone in the development of hit-to-kill TMD interceptors because the Lance missile replicated the radar signature and performance of a tactical ballistic missile.

After completing the third successful intercept against a Lance TBM target, budget restrictions forced the cancellation of further tests. But the technological achievements of the FLAGE would provide a basis for more advanced efforts. The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization advanced the endo-atmospheric hit-to-kill interceptor focus on intercepting TBM targets at much higher altitudes, but still within the atmosphere. Now called the Extended Range Interceptor Technology (ERINT) program, the team led by Walters continued to mature hit-to-kill technology and work towards a fielded kinetic energy air defense capability.

The principles of the technology to be evaluated in the Extended Range Intercept Technology (ERINT) program were initially demonstrated at lower altitudes in the successful Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment (FLAGE). The Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment program is credited by BMDO for laying the foundation for key PAC-3 interceptor technologies. Like the proposed PAC-3 interceptors, the experimental missile contained a radar system for guidance when in close proximity to the target and operated at a relatively low altitude. Three guided flight tests were conducted during 1987, and all were claimed to have hit the target.




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