Missile Defense: Next Steps for the USA’s GMD
GMD finally gets a kill in a scripted test, after many years.
November 14/17: Milestone Boeing has announced that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system now has 44 interceptors deployed at two sites on the continental United States. They added that the loading of the missile fulfils a US Department of Defense (DoD) requirement of increasing the inventory to 44 by the end of 2017, but did not reveal to which site the milestone load took place. An interceptor successfully took down an intercontinental ballistic missile during testing in May.
The USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program uses land-based missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, outside the atmosphere. The missiles are currently based at 2 sites in the USA: 4 at Vandenberg AFB in California, and 20 (eventually 26) at Fort Greely in Alaska.
The well-known Patriot missiles provide what’s known as terminal-phase defense options, while longer-reach options like the land-based THAAD perform terminal or descent-phase interceptions. Even so, their sensors and flight ranges are best suited to defense against shorter range missiles launched from in-theater.
In contrast, GMD is designed to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It depends on tracking that begins in the boost phase, in order to allow true mid-course interception attempts in space, before descent or terminal phase options like THAAD and then Patriot would be tried. In order to accomplish that task, GMD missiles must use data feeds from an assortment of long-range sensors, including satellites like SBIRS and DSP, some SPSS/BMEWS huge early-warning radars, and even the naval SBX radar.
GMD Program, Present & Past
According to the Director, Missile Defense Agency (MDA), GMD is expected to remain in service until at least 2032. At present, there are 30 GBI missiles in place: 26 at Fort Geely, AK, and 4 at Vandenberg AFB, CA. Within that set, there are 2 kill vehicle versions. The first kill vehicle, fielded since 2004, is known as the Capability Enhancement I (CE-I). The current production model is CE-II.
In 2009, the Secretary of Defense reduced the number of planned GBIs from 44 to 30, plus 22 more GBIs for testing and spares. In 2013, the Obama administration backtracked on its previous decision, restoring the planned number of deployed GBIs to 44.
In many ways, the GMD program is a poster child for temporary gain and long term pain. When the threat involves nuclear weapons, that’s a defensible choice, but there is a flip side.
The GMD system arose out of President G.W. Bush’s 2002 directive to deploy an initial set of missile defense capabilities by 2004. Meeting the date resulted in a very concurrent program, which did field 5 CE-I interceptors and a fire control system. That gave the President an important new option, and added uncertainty to hostile states for several years into the Global War on Terror.
The flip side is that the option had costs. A 2008 MDA briefing acknowledged that their approach led to very risky decisions regarding schedule, product quality, and program cost. One example that seems unnecessary involved a design that wasn’t set up for manufacturing ease, creating a long and continuous river of design changes once it came time to build it. Other consequences of this approach have included schedule delays, unexpected cost increases, variations between delivered CE-I EKVs, performance issues, the need for a refurbishment program, and sometimes-questionable infrastructure that eventually forced the USA to shut down Fort Greely, AK’s Missile Field 1.
The FY 2014 budget aims to begin rebuilding Fort Greely’s MF1, including full hardening against EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse, created by nuclear airbursts among other things).
GMD: The System
The GMD “system” includes far more than just the GBI missiles and the EKV kill vehicles they carry.
- The COBRA DANE Upgrade Radar at Eareckson Air Station (Shemya Island), AK.
- Upgraded BMEWS Early Warning Radars at Beale AFB, CA; RAF Fylingdales, United Kingdom; and Thule AB, Greenland
- Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) missiles at Fort Greely, AK, plus 4 silos at Vandenberg AFB, California.
- GMD ground system including GMD Fire Control (GFC) nodes at Schriever AFB, CO, and Fort Greely, AK; Command Launch Equipment at Vandenberg AFB, CA, and Fort Greely, AK; and In-Flight Interceptor Communication System Data Terminals at Vandenberg AFB, CA, Fort Greely, AK, and Shemya Island, AK.
- GMD secure data and voice communication system including long-haul communications using the Defense Satellite Communication System, commercial satellite communications, and fiber-optic cable (both terrestrial and submarine).
- External interfaces that connect to Aegis BMD; North American Aerospace Defense – U.S. Northern Command Command Center and Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications at Peterson AFB, CO; Space Based Infrared System/Defense Support Program at Buckley AFB, CO to relay data from early warning satellites; and the AN/TPY-2 radar at Shariki AB, Japan.
- The Sea-Based X-band radar can be operationally deployed as needed.
Contracts and Recent Events
November 13/17: Milestone Boeing has announced that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system now has 44 interceptors deployed at two sites on the continental United States. They added that the loading of the missile fulfils a US Department of Defense (DoD) requirement of increasing the inventory to 44 by the end of 2017, but did not reveal to which site the milestone load took place. An interceptor successfully took down an intercontinental ballistic missile during testing in May.
June 1/17: The US DoD has announced the successful test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor against a ICBM-class target. During the test, the US Missile Defense Agency launched an unarmed ICBM from Kwajalein Atoll, while the exoatmospheric hit-to-kill interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Various defense firms announced their involvement in the test, which saw Raytheon provide the interceptor as well as its sea-based X-band radar and AN/TPY-2 radar, Boeing with its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, while Orbital ATK provided its ICBM target rocket for the national security system test.
April 21/16: Canada’s government is considering joining the US-led Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system with Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, soliciting feedback from the public on the issue. In 2005, the previous Conservative government had rejected George W. Bush’s offer to participate in the program, and in 2014, a Senate committee had urged the former government to join the GMD system as a partner. If a decision is made to join the program, Canada could contribute sites for interceptors or radars for the system.
February 1/16: The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful non-intercept flight test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). A long-range ground-based interceptor was launched to evaluate the performance of alternate divert thrusters for the system’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. A USAF C-17 aircraft was used to to fire a a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile over a broad area of ocean near Hawaii. The missile was then detected, tracked and given a fire control solution to engage the target from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The test of the missile has involved cooperation from several parties alongside the MDA including the USAF 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and the US Northern Command.
June 1/15: A set of serious technical flaws have been identified in the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, with this the latest technical problem in a program which has cost over $41 billion.
June 22/14: FTG-06b Kill! After a gap lasting more than 5 years, the GMD system has killed an incoming target during a live test. The GBI interceptor was launched from Vandenberg AFB, CA to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The IRBM target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, then detected and tracked by the US Navy destroyer USS Hopper [DDG 70, with AEGIS BMD 4.0.2] and the Sea-Based X-Band radar, which provided data to GMD fire control using the MDA’s C2BMC back-end system. The intercept was achieved by an EKV CE-II model. Sources: US MDA, “Target Missile Intercepted Over the Pacific Ocean During Missile Defense Exercise” | Raytheon, “Raytheon kill vehicle destroys complex, long-range ballistic missile target in space”.
June 15/14. The LA Times writes a feature about the GMD system, whose $40 billion price tag and 8/16 success record (including just 3/8 successes since becoming operational in 2004) don’t inspire favorable treatment. That record suggests that the USA would need to volley about 4 missiles at each incoming missile, in order to have a high probability of success. Moreover:
“About a third of the kill vehicles now in use — the exact number is classified — are the same model that failed in the 2010 tests, according to people familiar with the system who spoke on condition of anonymity. That model has yet to intercept a target…. interceptors used in test flights burn up when they reenter the atmosphere or are lost in the ocean…. some of the system’s problems can be traced to the kill vehicles’ [inertial measurement unit]…. Scientists suspect that intense vibration during the interceptors’ ascent is the cause of some of the test failures…. It could take years of additional engineering work to solve this and other technical problems in the kill vehicles, scientists said.
Lehner, the Missile Defense Agency spokesman, said vibrations were successfully dampened in a January 2013 flight test [that]… did not involve an attempt to intercept a target…. Engineers who have worked with the system acknowledge that because each kill vehicle is unique, even a successful test might not predict the performance of interceptors launched in combat.”
Sources: LA Times, “$40 billion missile defense system proves unreliable”.
March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The MDA has decided on a full redesign of the missile’s kill vehicle, which will involve an initial $99.5 million in FY 2015; overall interceptor improvements are budgeted to cost around $700 million from FY 2015 – 2019. MDA adds the usual boilerplate, though executing on these promises does make a difference to long term costs:
“The redesigned EKV will be built with a modular, open architecture and designed with common interfaces and standards, making upgrades easier and broadening our vendor and supplier base. The redesigned EKV will increase performance to address the evolving threat; improve reliability, availability, maintainability, testability and producibility; and increase in-flight communications to improve usage of off-board sensors information and situational awareness to combatant commanders for enabling new tactics such as shoot-assess-shoot.”
See above for an updated chart of GMD budgets, which is still entirely made up of RDT&E funds. The logic when they were deployed was “get the prototypes up, and at least create uncertainty in enemies.” That was actually a logical step; every trader knows that you have to hedge sometimes, in order to manage risk. Every hedge also has a cost. In this case, the end-product isn’t as good, and the USA will pay more over time.
March 4/14: Updates. At an MDA Q&A session, they say that an EKV redesign is needed because of test failures. The Failure Review Board is still ongoing, so they’re not commenting on that, except to say that it’s “not a quality issue.” With respect to the ELV’s path forward, they’re not sure they’re going to compete it, or what the acquisition approach is going to be. A test of the newer CEII EKV is reportedly coming in the summer. That would be a step back from the March 2014 date reported by DOT&E (q.v. Jan 17/13).
Jan 17/13: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). For GMD:
“The MDA continues to make progress on the return-to-intercept for the CE-II EKV [final-stage kill vehicle], but will need to successfully conclude its investigation of the CE-I EKV failure before returning the CE-I EKV to intercept flight testing…. The MDA has started, but not completed, the FY11 recommendation to repeat the FTG-06a [CE-II] mission to verify (1) failure root causes, (2) Failure Review Board results, and (3) permanent fixes for the deficiencies found during the flight test. They have identified root cause issues, implemented solutions, and successfully completed the first (CTV-01) of a planned two-flight test series designed to demonstrate the fixes. The MDA has scheduled the second flight test in the series, FTG-06b…”
They’re also trying to figure out what went wrong in the July 2013 “FTG-07” GMD test that included an older CE-I EKV, but used a more challenging scenario than previous tests. The preliminary Failure Review Board report was delivered in August 2013. The finish by saying that:
“The flight test failures that have occurred during the past three years raise questions regarding the robustness of the EKV’s design…. Consider whether to re-design the EKV using a rigorous systems engineering process”
FY 2012 – 2013
Program slammed for slippery accounting; Boeing/NGC win big support contract; Flight tests resume.
July 5/13: Testing. A GBI missile launched from Vandenberg AFB, CA fails to intercept a long-range ballistic missile target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. US MDA | Pentagon.
April 26/13: GAO Report. The GAO looks at the Missile Defense Agency’s full array of programs in report #GAO-13-342, “Missile Defense: Opportunity To Refocus On Strengthening Acquisition Management.” Through fiscal year 2012, about $36.5 billion has been spent on GMD, with another $4.5 billion planned between FY 2013-2017. GMD is expected to remain in service until at least 2032. Given those figures and timelines, MDA’s biggest concern is the slippery accounting that makes ovdersight impossible:
“GMD is moving activities and costs from a currently reported baseline to one that will be reported in the future, thereby obscuring cost growth. The GMD program’s current baseline represents activities and associated costs needed to achieve an initial defense of the United States…. Despite significant technical problems, production disruptions and the addition of previously unplanned and costly work in its current efforts, the GMD total cost estimate as reported in the resource baseline has decreased from 2010 to 2012. We reported last year that GMD had a flight test failure in 2010 which revealed design problems, halted production, and increased costs to demonstrate the CE-II from $236 million to [$1.174 billion, and delayed CE-II by 5.5 years]. This cost increase includes retrofit costs to already-delivered CE-II interceptors. Instead of increasing, the total costs reported in the BAR resource baseline have decreased because the program moved activities from out of its reported baseline. By moving these activities, MDA used the funds that were freed up for failure resolution efforts instead.53 In addition, because the baseline for its next set of capabilities will be defined after these activities have already been added to it, the additional cost for these activities will not be identifiable. The full extent of actual cost growth may never be determined or visible for decision makers for either baseline because of this adjustment.”
Meanwhile, the report also clarifies the status of GMD’s companion SBX floating radar, which was moved to “limited test support” status in order to save money. It was recently sent to sea again, in the wake of North Korean threats. They acknowledge that “there is a difference in how the BMDS operates without SBX, the details of which are classified.” As the September 2009 NRC report (q.v.) explains, poorer ability to pick out warheads from debris and decoys is one near-certain consequence, due to differences imposed on UHF radars by the laws of physics.
March 15/13: Following North Korea’s 3rd nuclear test attempt, the new US Secretary of Defense announces that the USA will add 14 more ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, AK and Vandenberg AFB, CA, boosting the total number from 30 back to the 44 planned by the previous administration. At the same time, they’re conducting Environmental Impact Studies for a potential additional GBI site in the United States, which fits with the NRC’s September 2012 report (q.v.) recommendations. They’re looking at 1 West Coast and 2 East Coast sites, but no decision has been made yet. It’s an open secret that Fort Drum, NY, is one of the locations being surveyed.
They’re paying for all this by “restructuring” the SM-3 Block 2B “Next Generation Aegis Missile” program, whose 2020 deployment date was never realistic. In English, they’ve eliminated it.
Japan will continue to collaborate with the USA on the SM-3 Block 2A program, and will get a 2nd AN/TPY-2 radar on its territory. Pentagon AFPS | Full Speech Transcript | Later Q&A transcript answers a reporter re: GMD changes | Boeing.
Backtrack: GMD will grow to 44
Jan 26/13: Testing resumes. The GMD system begins flight testing again after almost 2 years, though it isn’t an interception test. Flight testing had been halted in early 2011, after a guidance error resulted in a failed December 2010 intercept test. The existing set of missiles have remained operational during that time.
The diagnosed fault is related to what Raytheon’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) experiences in space, so the flight measured the redesigned EKV’s performance in navigating to its designated position in space, and performing set maneuvers. The flight test was successful, but it will take another couple of intercept tests to be sure. US MDA | Boeing | Raytheon.
Flight tests resume after 2 years
September 2012: NRC recommends improved GMD. The US National Research Council publishes “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives.” The report staff have deeply impressive backgrounds related to missile defense, and their main conclusion is that very fundamental reasons of geography and physics make boost-phase defense systems a waste of time. A secondary conclusion is that geography and physics mean that the European EPAA program won’t be able to help protect the USA. To handle that, they propose an important upgrade to the USA’s midcourse defense sensors, by substituting sets of stacked AN/TPY-2 radars (GBX) for the proposed PTSS satellite constellation, in combination with improved GBI interceptors. First, the core problem:
“…the midcourse discrimination problem must be addressed far more seriously if reasonable confidence is to be achieved… While the current GMD may be effective against the near-term threat… the committee disagrees with the statement… that this capability can be maintained “for the foreseeable future.”1… little help in discrimination of decoys or other countermeasures…. The synergy between X-band radar observations and concurrent optical sensor observations on board a properly designed interceptor (which could be a modified ground-based interceptor) closing on the target complex has not been exploited.”
The affordable sensor fix involves 2 elements. On the ground, 5 FBX (stacked and integrated, rotatable TPY-2 derivative) adjunct X-band radars would be added, with uplink and downlink modes. Four would be co-located with current SPSS ballistic missile early warning sites at Clear AFS, AK; Cape Cod, MA; Thule, Greenland; and Fylingdales, United Kingdom. The 5th would be placed at Grand Forks, ND, which currently houses the 10th Space Warning Squadron. See also NY Times | “Ballistic Missile Defense: Why the Current GMD System’s Radars Can’t Discriminate” for an in-depth technical explanation of why even the huge UEWR radars aren’t suitable for discriminating between warheads, and the decoys used by more advanced missiles.
The 2nd sensor fix involves the GMD-E kill vehicle (EKV), most especially a 30cm aperture, 256 x 256 long-wavelength infrared (LWIR) sensor that can see threat objects at room temperature at a range of 2,000 km. NRC believes it would provide as much as 200 seconds (3.5 minutes) of observation in most first-shot engagements. The EKV’s DACS maneuvering rockets would be sized for a divert capability of 600 m/sec, which, with the almost-1-degree sensor field of view, can handle handover uncertainties of ±30 km or more. A dual-band X/S communication transponder would offer a 2-way encrypted link with either X- or S-band radars, and their associated command centers. Battery capacity would be 1,100 sec.
The interceptor would also change to a GMD-E/ GBI Block II configuration: a smaller, 2-stage interceptor based on the (terminated) boost-phase KEI program’s 1st stage rocket motor, plus a similar but less demanding 2nd stage. Those motors had been deemed ready for flight when KEI was terminated. Together, they’d offer a boosted burn time of 70 sec., and burnout velocity of 6 km/sec. A 3rd interceptor site would be established on the east coast, possibly at Fort Drum, NY, in order to improve coverage of certain inbound trajectories.
NRC’s BMD Report proposes GMD-E, plus new radars
Dec 30/11: Team Boeing wins. The 7-year, $3.48 billion Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Development and Sustainment Contract (DSC) is awarded to Team Boeing, based in Huntsville, AL. This is about more than just the missiles. It also includes radars, other sensors, command-and-control facilities, communications terminals, and a 20,000-mile fiber optic communications network.
The Pentagon describes the scope of work as including future development; fielding; test; systems engineering, integration and configuration management; equipment manufacturing and refurbishment; training; and operations and sustainment support for the GMD Weapon System and associated support facilities. Northrop Grumman is Boeing’s only announced team member.
Work will be performed at multiple locations, including: Huntsville, AL; Fort Greely, AK; Vandenberg AFB, CA; Schriever AFB, Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, and Colorado Springs, CO; Tucson, AZ; other government designated sites; and other contractor designated prime, subcontractor, and supplier operating locations. Contract work will run from December 2011 through December 2018, with initial funding coming from FY 2012 RDT&E funds. The US Missile Defense Agency in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-12-C-0004).
Boeing wins sustainment contract
April 20/12: GAO report. The US GAO releases report #GAO-12-486, “Opportunity Exists to Strengthen Acquisitions by Reducing Concurrency.” Its implications for missile defense belie the bland title. After noting the GMD program’s deliberate sacrifices for fast fielding, and the long echo of its consequences, they get to current issues:
“The discovery of the design problem while production is under way has increased MDA costs, led to a production break, may require retrofit of fielded equipment, delayed delivery of capability to the war-fighter, and altered the flight test plan. For example, the flight testing cost to confirm the CE-II capability has increased from $236 million to about $1 billion [not including costs already expended during development of the interceptor and target].
In addition, the program will have to undertake another retrofit program, for the 10 CE-II interceptors that have already been manufactured…. MDA has restructured the planned multiyear flight test program in order to test the new design prior to an intercept attempt…. expects the cost to retrofit the CE-II interceptors to be around $18 million each or about $180 million for all 10. Intended to be ready for operational use in fiscal year 2009, it will now be at least fiscal year 2013 before the warfighter will have the information needed to determine whether to declare the variant operational.
High levels of concurrency will continue for the GMD program even if the next two flight tests are successful. GMD will continue its developmental flight testing until at least 2022, well after production of the interceptors are scheduled to be completed. MDA is accepting the risk that these developmental flight tests may discover issues that require costly design changes and retrofit programs to resolve.”
Nov 25/11: Support competition. Revised proposals are in to maintain the USA’s GMD system (vid. Jan 28/11). Boeing (existing contract holder) and Northrop Grumman (GBI missile) are one bid team, but they have not detailed their full team of sub-contractors. This proved to be the winning team.
Lockheed Martin (prime contractor and systems integrator) was teamed with Raytheon (GMD Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, systems engineering, development, modeling and simulation, operations and sustainment, manufacturing, testing and training), and its supporting team included:
- Alaska Aerospace Corporation (local maintenance)
- ARES Corporation
- ATK Aerospace Systems (Ground-Based Interceptor missile)
- Bechtel National Inc. (engineering support for operations, maintenance and upgrades of launch site, schedule integration for the operational asset management system)
- Bluespring Software
- CohesionForce Inc.
- Dynetics Inc. (information assurance, cyber support training, modeling, systems engineering)
- Harris Corporation (In-Flight Interceptor Communications System Data Terminal)
- Imprimis Inc.
- IroquoiSystems Inc.
- Mission Solutions Engineering
- NANA Development Corporation’s ASTS-Akima Logistics Services Joint Venture
- Northrop Grumman Information Systems (GMD Fire Control and Communications)
- Orbital Sciences Corporation (GMD Orbital Boost Vehicle)
- Oregon Iron Works Inc.
- Quadrus Corporation
- QuantiTech Inc.
- TDX Power Inc.
Nov 16/11: Support. The Missile Defense Agency awards a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising a $36.7 million option with Boeing Co. in Huntsville, AL to continue GMD sustainment and operations support from Dec 1/11 through Feb 29/12. That brings the total contract value to $729.6 million, as the US MDA continues to delay awarding a new contract.
Work will be performed in Fort Greely, AK; Vandenberg AFB, CA; Colorado Springs, CO; and Huntsville, AL. FY 2012 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used. The US Missile Defense Agency in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0007, PO 0049).
Test failure creates program delays.
Aug 26/11: Delays. Aviation Week reports from the annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, AL, and discusses the GMD system’s delays. More design reviews are needed to iron out problems with the EKV kill vehicle, which has failed the 2 tests since December 2008 that pitted it against a target using countermeasures:
“Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly… acknowledged the grounding of the Boeing-led program as the “600-lb. gorilla in the room.” A failure review board has finished its analysis of the latest flight-test flop in December 2010, although he declined to identify the root cause. He says a team is giving the Raytheon EKV Capability Enhancement 2 (CE-2) a second design review, and there is time to conduct a third, if needed, before returning to flight in about a year. At that point, the MDA will conduct its third attempt at a challenging 90-deg. hit-to-kill intercept, geometry simulating a North Korean launch scenario. EKV production will remain suspended pending the outcome of that flight.”
July 15/11: Support. The US MDA exercises a $36.7 million, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for 3 months of GMD operations and maintenance support, from September through November 2011, in Fort Greely, AK, and Colorado Springs, CO. That brings the Boeing support contract’s total awarded value so far to $697 million (HQ0147-09-C-0007).
Note that this is an extension of existing support arrangements, not the award for the new support contract competition.
June 7/11: Support competition. US MDA:
“The pending Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) development and sustainment contract undergoing proposal evaluation is now planned for award late this fall. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have each submitted proposals to compete for the contract award. The award amount will be proposed by the companies in their respective proposals. The Source Selection Authority has determined that it is in the best interest of the government… [to extend] the anticipated award date into November of this year.”
April 15/11: 2011 Budget. H.R.1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, becomes Public Law 112-010 after passing the House and Senate. This ends reliance on continuing resolution funding.
April 9/11: Notice sent. Northrop Grumman has sent 100 of its Huntsville, AL employees notices they could be furloughed in 60 days, after the current GMD development contract ends on May 31/11. Another 19 employees are also affected: 17 in Colorado Springs, 1 in Florida and 1 in Washington state.
Furloughed employees remain Northrop Grumman employees, with benefits, on a “company-initiated unpaid leave of absence.” If the firm wins the new GMD Development and Sustainment Contract at the end of May 2011, the firm expects to recall all of these employees to work. Huntsville Times.
April 4/11: Continuing resolutions are having an effect on the GMD program, as the 2010 baseline effectively removes planned funding ramp-ups. So, too, is the January intercept failure, which may be traceable to Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).
Boeing’s VP of strategic missile defense efforts, Greg Hyslop, says that orders for some components are on hold. Obbital Sciences interceptor rockets are still being built, but they are then stored, in order to avoid retrofits if the EKV turns out to need modifications. Hyslop is putting his priority on getting the GBI missiles flying again, which means the major hit could happen in construction – especially work on missile field 2 at Fort Greely, AK. Aviation Week.
March 24/11: GAO Report. The US GAO issues report #GAO-11-372: “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability.” Key excerpts:
“MDA finalized a new process in which detailed baselines were set for several missile defense systems… [but] GAO found its unit and life-cycle cost baselines had unexplained inconsistencies and documentation for six baselines had insufficient evidence to be a high-quality cost estimate… DOD has not yet determined the [GMD] system’s full capabilities and limitations. In January and December 2010, GMD experienced two flight test failures. In addition, GMD is just beginning to take actions necessary to sustain the capability through 2032… GAO makes 10 recommendations for MDA to strengthen its resource, schedule and test baselines, facilitate baseline reviews, and further improve transparency and accountability. GAO is also making a recommendation to improve MDA’s ability to carry out its test plan. In response, DOD fully concurred with 7 recommendations. It partially concurred with 3…”
March 1/11: Support. Boeing in Huntsville, AL receives a $109 million sole-source cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to continue operation and sustainment services for the GMD program ($72 million), and for sensors $37.9 million) in Fort Greely, AK, and Colorado Springs, CO.
The interim award runs from March through August 2011. The Sensors portion of the work is from March through December 2011. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds will be used to incrementally fund $10.5 million, and contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. The US Missile Defense Agency manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0007, P00031)
Jan 28/11: Support competition. The Boeing/ Northrop Grumman team, and the Lockheed Martin/ Raytheon team, submit their GMD development & sustainment bids. A win is expected to be worth around $600 million per year, but the announcement isn’t expected until May 31/11. Boeing | Lockheed Martin.
Dec 15/10: Missed. A GBI interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg AFB, CA misses a target missile fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The participating SBX radar and the interceptor’s own sensors worked, and the EKV kill vehicle was deployed, but it missed. The cause of the failure will be investigated before another test is scheduled. US MDA | Washington Post.
Missed – testing halted
Dec 2/10: Support competition. The US MDA releases its RFP for the GMD maintenance contract. The submission date is Jan 28/11. Lockheed Martin.
Oct 26/10: Support competition. Lockheed Martin announces its final GMD support contract team, as it prepares for its own bid.
Oct 12/10: Support competition. Boeing and Northrop Grumman announce their final GMD support contract team, as an outgrowth of the bid partnership they announced in June 2010.
The support contract’s dates have slipped somewhat. At present, the final RFP is expected before the end of 2010, with the contract award itself in early 2011. At this point, Lockheed Martin looks like they will be leading the sole competing bid team. According to Boeing’s release, the team includes Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the following firms:
- Alaska Metrology Calibration Services Inc. in Anchorage, AK
- All Points Logistics Inc. in Titusville, FL
- Davidson Technologies Inc. in Huntsville, AL
- Delta Industrial Services Inc. in Delta Junction, AK
- DESE Research Inc. in Huntsville, AL
- Dynetics Inc. in Huntsville, AL
- Harris Corp. in Melbourne, FL
- Issac Corp. in Colorado Springs, CO
- Jeskell Inc. in Seattle, WA
- nLogic in Huntsville, AL
- Orbital Sciences Corp. in Chandler, AZ
- Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas, OR
- Penta Research Inc. in Huntsville, AL
- Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ
- Trident Group Inc. in Madison, AL
- Victory Solutions Inc. in Huntsville, AL
Layoffs; Early intercept study; Support competition ramps up.
Aug 16/10: Testing. Raytheon announces that it successfully demonstrated a 2-stage flyout of the GMD’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). The EKV is designed to engage high-speed ballistic missile warheads in the midcourse phase of flight and destroy them using only the force of impact. EKV consists of an infrared sensor used to detect and discriminate the incoming warhead from other objects, as well as its own propulsion, communications link, discrimination algorithms, guidance and control system, and computers to support target selection and intercept.
June 17/10: Support competition. Alaska Aerospace Corporation in Anchorage, AK joins Lockheed Martin’s team, bidding for the new GMD Development and Sustainment Contract. The MDA is currently expected to issue a final RFP in summer 2010, and award the contract in 2011. It will cover support activities at Fort Greely, AK; Vandenberg AFB, CA; Huntsville, AL; Schriever AFB, CO, and at Eareckson Air Station, AK.
Alaska Aerospace will provide operations and maintenance support at Fort Greely, AK, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. The firm has strong experience with arctic support operations. It developed, owns and operates the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, AK, which provides government and commercial satellite launch services and target missile launch services for missile defense testing. The State of Alaska established the corporation in 1991 to stimulate a high-technology aerospace industry in the state. Lockheed Martin | Alaska Aerospace.
June 14/10: Support competition. Boeing and Northrop Grumman will pursue the GMD maintenance contract together. As part of the strategic partnership, Boeing VP and GMD program director Norm Tew will serve as the joint team’s program manager. Northrop Grumman GMD program director Steve Owens will be the team’s deputy program manager.
Boeing is the current prime contractor incumbent for GMD support, while Northrop Grumman is responsible for designing and deploying the command-and-control systems that form the backbone of the GMD Fire Control/Communications (GFCC) ground systems. Boeing | Northrop Grumman.
June 6/10: Testing. A 2-stage configuration of the GBI’s Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) is successfully flight-tested in the Booster Verification Test-1 (BVT-1) mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA. The new rocket offers a shorter boost phase than the original 3-stage OBV design, but is designed to demonstrate similar performance.
This was very much a flight test, therefore, rather than an interception test. Mission objectives included pre-launch built-in test, launch and fly out of the 2-stage GBI missile, flight telemetry, verification of fairing and stage separation systems, and accurate delivery of its payload to a point in space. US MDA | Orbital Sciences | Boeing.
May 4/10: Training. Boeing announces the delivery of a 2nd GMD System Trainer (GST) at Fort Greely, Alaska. Paul Smith, Boeing director of GMD Ground Systems:
“Having two GMD system trainers at Fort Greely opens up new avenues for the warfighter. As we continually upgrade the GMD system, they now can train with either the current or upgraded software versions, use single or dual fire-control nodes, and engage in more realistic training conditions…”
Feb 1/10: 2011 Budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget request. It includes $1.346 billion for the GMD system, and would see the eventual deployment of 26 GBIs at Fort Greely, AK and 4 GBIs at Vandenberg AFB, CA. It also provides for improvement and expansion of the GBI fleet, including an additional 5 GBIs with (Fleet Avionics Upgrade/ Obsolescence Program (FAU/OP)) upgrades, to support a new test program and a Stockpile Reliability Program. Missile Field 2 is scheduled to be complete in a 14-silo configuration by FY 2012.
The FY 2011 request is a consistent with recent budgets: $1.03 billion in FY 2009, and $1.47 billion in FY 2010.
“A target missile was successfully launched at approximately 3:40 p.m. PST from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Approximately six minutes later, a Ground-Based Interceptor was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Both the target missile and Ground-Based Interceptor performed nominally after launch. However, the Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as expected.”
The left-wing Center for Defense Information claims that this test cost about $120 million, and says that it leaves the program with a record of 8 successful flight intercepts in 15 attempts since 1999:
“There have been six flight intercept tests where the interceptor did not hit its target, although the reasons have varied. For example, in one test the cryogenic cooling system on the exo-atmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) did not work properly, in two tests the EKV failed to separate from the interceptor booster, in two tests the interceptor failed to release from its launch silo, and in the Jan. 31, 2010 test the SBX did not perform properly. One of the attempts, on May 25, 2007, was considered a “no test” because the target did not fly out as expected and so the interceptor was never launched. The main purpose of the otherwise successful Dec. 5, 2008 test was not achieved when the target decoys failed to deploy, but the interceptor hit its target… Counting from late 2002 there have been eight flight intercept attempts and three successful intercepts, including the test on Dec. 5, 2008 where the decoys failed to deploy. The five tests where results were disappointing, include four tests where the interceptor missed its target, and also includes the test where the target did not fly out properly…”
Companion SBX problems, GMD Test history
Dec 11/09: Support competition. As expected, Boeing also responds to the Missile Defense Agency’s GMD RFP.
Boeing has been the prime contractor for the GMD system since 2001, overseeing an industry team including Orbital Sciences, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Bechtel and Teledyne Brown. Their team has been operating under a bridge contact since January 2009, and the contract award for the core completion work is expected in January 2010.
Dec 3/09: Support competition. Northrop Grumman reaffirms its interest in competing for the combined GMD contract, whose draft RFP is expected in early 2010.
Dec 1/09: Support competition. Lockheed Martin announces that it intends to compete for the GMD system’s development and maintenance contract, whose solicitation was released Nov 25/09. The scope of work has expanded from GMD operations and logistics support, and will now include:
“…future development; fielding; test; systems engineering, integration and configuration management; equipment manufacturing and refurbishment; training; and operations and sustainment support.”
Nov 17/09: Early intercept? Northrop Grumman announces a 3-month $4.7 million task order from the US Missile Defense Agency, under an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract. Under the Sept 29/09 task order, the firm will help the MDA integrate and demonstrate an early-intercept capability using existing SM-3 and GBI missiles.
They’ll begin by assessing existing sensor and battle management systems’ ability to support missile interception in the difficult boost phase, including technology developed for programs like the now-cancelled Kinetic Energy Interceptor and battle management projects. The firm will plan demonstration experiments, leading toward the design and development of an experimental, plug-and-play architecture for battle management, command and control.
The Early Intercept effort aims to address renewed focus by the U.S. Department of Defense on dealing with large raids and countermeasures. Early Intercept will demonstrate an integrated architecture of early warning sensors, including space, airborne, land and sea; regional fire control and battle manager systems; and secure communications. This integrated architecture will enable current systems to engage threats earlier in the battle space to improve protection against large raids and facilitate “shoot-look-shoot” opportunities.
Nov 1/09: Infrastructure. The Fairbanks Daily Miner reports that extensive problems with GMD Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely, Alaska will force the shut-down fo 6 silos, and may be partly responsible for the decision to build all 14 silos in Missile Field 2 (q.v. Oct 28/09). Problems reportedly include silos without adequate “hardening” against attack, as well as:
“…leaks in the hot water system, pipes subject to freezing and valve connections that leak [antifreeze], according to one presentation by the agency. There were also problems with joint soldering on copper pipe and expansion and contraction. There was “extensive mold contamination in utilidor” and personnel had to “suit up for hazardous environment” because of the threat. The “demineralized hot water system” was faulty, leading to frozen water lines and dust was getting into small openings on electrical switchgear that could have had “catastrophic impacts.”
The US Missile Defense Agency cites the urgency of the initial Field 1 construction, in order to have some shield in place by Sept 30/04, as its defense. It adds that the lessons learned were incorporated into Missile Fields 2 & 3, and so are not expected to recur.
GMD Field 1 problems
Oct 30/09: Industrial. Northrop Grumman contributes $35,000 to Partners for Progress in Delta, Inc., to further the educational nonprofit group’s goal of helping to build and sustain Alaska’s skilled workforce in electronics and computer systems technology. According to the corporate release:
“Funds will be used to develop or enhance the workforce needed for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) facilities.”
Oct 29/09: Layoffs. Boeing announces layoffs for 98 workers at various sites, including Alabama, Alaska, California and Colorado, due to a reduction in FY2010 missile defense program funding. These employees will receive a 60-day advance notification of layoff on Friday, Oct. 30.
“With the Congressional budget cycle nearing completion, Boeing is adjusting employment to match expected funding for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program and to match the scope of the program in the next fiscal year. Boeing is committed to preserving as many jobs as possible for these valued, highly skilled employees, and the company has taken aggressive steps to lessen the impact of the funding reductions. These steps include redeploying personnel to other programs, evaluating contract labor requirements, and offering career services and related assistance.”
Oct 28/09: 2010 Budget. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget. That budget funds the full $$982.9 million request for Mid Course Defense, adding 7 ordered GBI missiles to bring the total cumulative stock to 35, and authorizes an increase of $20 million for sustainment of the Ground-Based Interceptor vendor base. It also includes a provision that would require a detailed assessment of the GMD system, and a detailed plan for how DOD will achieve and sustain its planned GMD capability of 30 missiles in 34 operational silos. White House | House-
Senate Conference Report summary [PDF] & tables [PDF] | Pentagon AFPS article.
Oct 28/09: Infrastructure. The Department of Defense plans to finish silo construction at Missile Field 2, building all 14 silos instead of just 7; on the other hand, it will de-commission 6 hastily-built silos in Missile Field 1.
The first interceptor missiles were installed at Fort Greely in 2004, and the new plan will leave 34 silos instead of the originally-planned 40. Fairbanks Daily-Miner via Sen. Mark Begich [D-AK].
FY 2008 – 2009
GMD won’t be in Europe; Cancellation threats prompt industrial tallies.
Sept 17/09: Out of Europe. The Obama administration announces revised plans for its European missile defense architecture. Instead of positioning Boeing’s GMD and Ground-Based Interceptors at silos in Poland and/or the Czech Republic, which could intercept even the longest-range ballistic missiles, they choose an architecture based around Raytheon’s SM-3, at sea and on land. Gen. Cartwright does say that the US military remains interested in upgrading existing GMD missiles to 2-stage Ground-Based Interceptor missiles with longer range and more speed. Read “Land-Based SM-3s for Israel – and Others” for more.
No GBIs in Europe
Aug 20/09: Edged out of Europe? As the Obama administration has become more supportive of a European missile shield that would emplace advanced radars and up to 10 GMD interceptors in silos, alternatives are growing. Shortly after announcements that Lockheed Martin has invested in, and is proposing, an extended-range THAAD system; and that Raytheon announced support for a land-based version of its successful naval SM-3 missiles, Boeing has floated a more “Russia friendly” GMD proposal. Their proposal would deploy Europe’s defensive shield as semi-mobile 2-stage interceptors that could be flown to NATO bases within 24 hours on C-17 cargo planes, erected quickly on a 60-foot trailer stands, and taken home when judged safe to do so. Boeing VP and General Manager for Missile Defense, Greg Hyslop, told Reuters that:
“If a fixed site is going to be just too hard to get implemented politically or otherwise, we didn’t want people to think that the only way you needed to use a GBI was in a fixed silo.”
Hyslop was quoted as saying that Boeing has just started briefing the US Missile Defense Agency on the proposal, but believes the project would lower infrastructure costs and could be completed by 2015. EurActiv | Jerusalem Post | Reuters | EurActiv re: Obama administration’s increased support for the Euro-shield
Aug 18/09: Infrastructure. Boeing announces that the GMD team has finished building a 2nd GMD interceptor test silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. Because the silos need to be refurbished after the hot-burning interceptor is fired, having 2 test silos will allow one to support testing while the other is being refurbished. The new silo can also be configured for tactical operations in an emergency.
As of this date, Boeing says that the GMD program has deployed more than 20 operational interceptor missiles.
June 27/09: Infrastructure & numbers. The 2010 budget will direct the Obama administration to finish the first 7 silos in Fort Greely’s Missile Field 2, and authorize shutting down the 6 silos in Missile Field 1. This would leave 27 silos: 7 in Field 2 + 20 in Field 3. The entire facility had initially been planned for 40 silos, but there are some infrastructure problems in Field 1 (vid. Nov 1/09 entry).
The article adds that according to MDA spokesperson Ralph Scott, 16 missiles are currently in silos at Fort Greely, 7 have been returned for maintenance or upgrades, 1 has been pulled as a backup for future tests, and some have been removed for “unscheduled maintenance” [the article believes this is 2]. DMZ Hawai’i.
June 2/09: US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tours the GMD complex at Fort Greely, AK, following North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon, abrogation of the 1953 Korean ceasefire, and preparations to fire a long-range missile. The Pentagon release adds:
“Sixteen interceptors are in the ground here, with plans to add two more. Combined with those at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the United States will have 30 such interceptor systems. More could be added if needed, Gates said.”
April 6/09: 2010 Budget. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces the Pentagon’s budget recommendations to the President for 2010. With respect to GMD, the plan would remove the planned increase in Alaskan GMD missiles. Existing missiles will be kept, however, and R&D will continue to improve the existing handful of missiles “to defend against long-range rogue missile threats – a threat North Korea’s missile launch this past weekend reminds us is real.”
See “Gates Lays Out Key FY 2010 Budget Recommendations” for full coverage.
March 23/09: Sub-contractors. Raytheon announces a $27 million contract from Boeing to support GMD’s 6-month bridge effort. Work will include continued evolution, maturation, test, and verification of the Raytheon-built X-Band Radar aboard the Boeing-developed Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) Radar vessel, plus work on the Upgraded Early Warning Radars at Beale Air Force Base, CA, and at Fylingdales, England; and the Cobra Dane Upgrade Radar at Shemya, AK.
Feb 2/09: Support. The existing GMD complexes and missiles need to be maintained, unless the new administration decides to pay to dismantle them. To that end, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ Global Services and Support Division in St. Louis, MO received $249.9 million for a cost plus fixed-fee contract for “operations and sustainment support” for the fielded portions of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) System during calendar year 2009, with an option for CY 2010. The contract has been incrementally funded for $133.4 million at award.
The US Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0007), but the contract’s funding actually comes from 2 different sources. Fiscal year 2009 program Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds (RDT&E) will be used for the primary operations and sustainment support activities. FY 2009 Army Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funds will be used to train Army soldier-operators, and unlike the program’s RDT&E funds, those Army funds will expire at the end of the Pentagon’s fiscal year on Sept 30/09.
Work will be performed at Boeing’s facility in Huntsville, AL; Missile Defense Agency facilities at Schriever Air Force Base, CO; and the deployment sites at Vandenberg AFB, CA, and Fort Greely, AK. This sole source contract is awarded pursuant to 10 USC 2304c1, as implemented by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 6.302-1, stating that Boeing is the only qualified source to perform this effort without unacceptable delay and unaffordable duplication of costs.
At the same time, this maintenance effort is about to undergo a major structural shift.
This award is an interim measure, used to continue essential support while the US MDA acquires and verifies necessary technical data and develops its strategy for competitive acquisition of future GMD support. The MDA published a formal announcement of its intent on Jan 29/09, with the aim of kick-starting discussions with industry regarding how a competitive acquisition strategy for follow-on GMD support might work, and what the requirements would be. The MDA’s stated intent to make a competitive award in that area no later than calendar year 2011. See also Boeing release.
Dec 30/08: R&D. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Huntsville, AL receives a $397.9 million not-to-exceed award under a cost plus award fee, cost plus fixed fee contract for anti-missile defenses. This is a sole source contract under the authority of 10 U.S. Code 2304c1, and the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0008).
This order will finance GMD Block 3 development and fielding activities for 6 months from January to June 2009, until a long-term, Core Completion contract for development can be awarded – if that contract is awarded. FY 2009 research, development, test and evaluation funds (RDT&E) funds will be used.
Dec 11/08: Industrial. A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought $193 million in economic benefits to Arizona in 2007.
Dec 5/08: Testing. A GMD test successfully destroys a ballistic missile target. Boeing release.
Nov 13/08: Industrial. A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought $246 million in economic benefits to Alaska in 2007.
May 15/08: Industrial. A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought more than $700 million in economic benefits to Alabama in 2007.
- US Missile Defense Agency – Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)
- Boeing – Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) System
- Wikipedia – Ground-based Midcourse Defense. Includes a listing of flight and interception tests.
- DID – SM-3 BMD, in from the Sea: EPAA & Aegis Ashore. Raytheon’s SM-3 Standard missiles were picked to defend Europe, instead of the original plan for a GMD system.
- DID – AN/TPY-2: America’s Portable Missile Defense Radar. An upgraded version could become part of the GMD architecture.
- US National Research Council (September 2012) – Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives It goes far beyond that, with well-researched recommendations across the entire BMD array.
- US GAO (April 20/12, #GAO-12-486) Opportunity Exists to Strengthen Acquisitions by Reducing Concurrency.
- US GAO (March 24/11, #GAO-11-372) – Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability.
News & Views
- LA Times (June 15/14) – $40 billion missile defense system proves unreliable.