USA Spends up to $1.1B for Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Targets
March 8/11: The US Missile Defense Agency’s issues Orbital Sciences Corp. a $217.1 million firm-fixed-price contract with provisions for fixed-price incentive, cost-plus-award-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and cost-reimbursement clauses. In exchange, Orbital and subcontractors that include ATK and Honeywell will supply fully ready intermediate range ballistic missile targets, associated objects; and support services that include inventory storage and maintenance management, pre- and post-mission analysis, launch preparation and execution, engineering services, and modeling and simulation. If all options are exercised, the contract’s total value could rise to $1.1 billion. The total contract period of performance is from March 2011 to January 2018 (HQ0147-11-C-0006).
Orbital’s Multi-Mode Medium Range Target (MRT) system is frequently used to test SM-3/Aegis BMD and THAAD missile defense systems. It’s an innovative design that can be launched from land, sea, or even out the back of a C-17 heavy transport, using a parachute extraction and descent system. Orbital confirms to DID that the IRBM-T will be a new design, however, which they are not yet at liberty to discuss.
This purchase, and the push for a new design, fits into an important modern trend…
Most existing ballistic missile defense systems are designed to defend against short-range systems like Scuds, and more advanced offerings like the Russian OTR-21/SS-21 Scarab and its North Korean KN-02 copy, etc. The exception is the USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, designed to protect the USA from globe-spanning ICBM missiles.
The threat is clearly shifting toward medium range missiles like North Korea’s Nodong & Taepodong-1, and variants in service with Iran, Pakistan, et. al. That extra range comes in part from a different flight profile, and systems like the Arrow-II/III, and forthcoming American SM-3 Block II and THAAD systems, are being designed with that threat in mind, and SM-3 Block IIs have been picked in place of GMD systems to defend Europe against the threat of IRBMs from Iran.
As development of systems to counter IRBMs intensifies, however, a corresponding set of targets must be used for tests. Those targets aren’t cheap, since the only way to simulate an IRBM is to build a rocket that has similar capabilities.
Hence the current contract.