On Tuesday morning, the Pentagon reported on the current plans of the military department and the Missile Defense Agency, namely about preparing for the new tests of the existing system. For the first time in the history of the American missile defense, it was planned to test the operation of the antimissile during the interception of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Previously available defenses have repeatedly demonstrated their capabilities in the fight against ballistic missiles of different classes, but checks have not yet been made using ICBMs. For obvious reasons, the successful interception of such a goal was to be the most important achievement of the current program.
According to official reports, the tests were carried out according to the already used program, which, nevertheless, was updated and corrected in accordance with the new tasks. The training objective was to start from the test site in the Marshall Islands. The tasks of detecting a target missile were assigned to the satellite constellation and ground-based means of controlling airspace and outer space. The interceptor was supposed to take off from Vandenberg Air Base (California). The missile defense agency, the US Northern Command and the 30 space wing were involved in the tests.
A few hours before the tests, a military spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, revealed some of the features of a future inspection. In addition, in his speech he touched on the issue of the proliferation of missile weapons, which is the official reason for the construction of missile defense.
According to J. Davis, an increasing number of countries are adopting ballistic missiles, which raises concerns from the United States. New operators like this weaponsby developing their missile programs, they are increasing the number of deployed complexes, increasing their characteristics, and also introducing various means of overcoming protection systems. As a result, new ballistic missiles are becoming more sophisticated, accurate, and reliable.
The biggest concerns in the context of missile weapons from official Washington are Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was noted that recent tests of North Korean missiles did not cause the American test. However, Pyongyang’s missile program is one of the main prerequisites for the creation and deployment of US anti-missile systems. Like the DPRK, Iran continues to develop its rocket technology and gets new opportunities in this area. The Iranian army is able to use its ballistic missiles against a multitude of targets throughout the Middle East, which threatens American interests.
J. Davis noted that North Korea is increasing the number of its strategic missile group, and in addition, is working to improve the characteristics of its weapons. The armament consists of complexes of different classes, from short-range to intercontinental systems. Pyongyang continues to carry out test launches, and also makes loud statements about its readiness to strike at targets in the United States.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the planned tests of anti-missile systems would be between 15: 00 and 19: 00 North American Eastern Time. Later, according to him, the Missile Defense Agency was supposed to announce detailed information on the verification process, as well as publish photographs and video materials.
In recent tests of missile defense, codenamed FGT-15, various elements of the already deployed system were involved, but the most attention was paid to the GMD complex (Ground-based Midcourse Defense - “Ground Defense Interception System”) GBI (Ground-based Interceptor - "Ground-based Interceptor"). It is this complex that is responsible for the most important stage of interception — the launch of an anti-missile missile and the destruction of a conditional or real target. Over the past two decades, GMD systems have performed almost 40 test launches with different results.
Operation FTG-15 was the first in the last three years to test the anti-missile system, implying a real interception of a conditional target. Previous similar tests took place in June 2014 of the year and ended in a successful defeat of the target. It should be noted that the 2014 test of the year and previous similar launches were intended for testing interception of ballistic missiles of medium and short range. Now it is possible to test the GBI interceptor missile in the fight against the ICBMs that pose the greatest threat to the United States.
The proposed test plan for the FTG-15. Blue indicates the possible trajectory of the target missile, yellow - the interceptor. The white polygon is a possible interception area. Figure Allthingsnuclear.org
In the official reports of the US military, certain information is given, but some of the information about the FTG-15 tests has not yet been announced. For example, the main characteristics of the target missile were not specified. According to various estimates, a ballistic missile with a range of about 5500-5800 km was used, which corresponds to the lower limit of requirements for intercontinental class products. The use of missiles with a greater range is not possible because of the risk of falling target elements on the coast of the continental US.
Previously, information appeared on the Pentagon’s intention to test a new version of an anti-missile missile equipped with an improved over-the-atmosphere kinetic EKV interceptor of the CE-II Block 1 modification. According to reports, this product is a further development of the CE-II EKV serial interceptor, currently on duty. Due to a number of improvements, the new version of the product is distinguished by increased technical characteristics and improved capabilities in intercepting warheads of ballistic missiles. It is noteworthy that on May 30 the updated interceptor was used and tested for the first time, and a three-year break in the checks was primarily due to the need to improve the existing systems and create a new one.
The tasks of detecting a training target during recent tests were assigned to the standard means of a deployed anti-missile defense system. The launch of the target missile was to detect reconnaissance spacecraft, and then its flight was tracked using ground and surface radar stations. With the help of the latter, target designation for the anti-missile missile system was also issued.
In the agreed period of time at the test site on the Kwajalein Atoll there was a launch of a target simulating an intercontinental combat missile. According to some reports, the rocket traveled about half the way to the mainland USA, after which the simulator of its combat unit was successfully destroyed. The anti-missile GBI promptly delivered an EKV interceptor of a new model to a predetermined line, after which he successfully completed targeting the target and struck it. An important feature of the GMD / GBI / EKV complex is the kinetic principle of interception: the target is destroyed by a direct hit by an interceptor.
The recent FTG-15 test is of great importance in the context of the program for the construction and deployment of US missile defense systems. First of all, it is remarkable that for the first time in the history of the whole program an intercontinental ballistic missile was intercepted. Moreover, the target was successfully hit on the first try. All this confirms the capabilities of the updated CE-II Block 1 kinetic interceptor, the creation and deployment of which was one of the main tasks of recent times.
Successful tests also provide an opportunity to continue building missile defense and reinforce it with new GBI missiles with improved interceptors on board. Over the past few years, the identified shortcomings of the EKV interceptors adversely affected the progress of work and, as a consequence, the pace of deployment of the complexes. Now it was confirmed the possibility of operating a new weapon with improved characteristics.
According to well-known plans, in the foreseeable future, the military should receive a total of 11 CE-II Block 1 interceptors. One of them has already been handed over to the customer and even used in tests. Ten other products will arrive in the near future in parts and will be put on duty. A part of the planned batch (according to different data, at least eight units) will be deployed already during the 2017 year. The last interceptors from the ordered batch will be handed over to the army in the middle of the 2018 of the financial year. At the same time, a certain delay in the schedule or its advance is possible.
The specific and ambiguous feature of the construction of the US National Missile Defense System is the fact that it was put on combat duty at the beginning of the last decade, but most of its main elements have not yet passed all the necessary tests and are not fully ready for actual operation. Accordingly, the general characteristics and capabilities of the entire system are still far from desired. Thus, for a long time it was not possible to obtain an acceptable probability of hitting even medium-range missiles, and training targets that simulate ICBMs were not used at all.
Schedule deployment EKV interceptors. Figure Allthingsnuclear.org
Despite various difficulties of various kinds, primarily related to interception means, the industry and the US Department of Defense have already completed the construction of a significant part of the future missile defense facilities. A large amount of work was completed, bringing the whole complex to the desired form. At the same time in the foreseeable future, construction will continue.
According to reports, by the end of 2017, the 44 GBI interceptor missile should be on duty. The main location for the deployment of missiles is the Fort Greely airbase, located in Alaska. So far, there have been prepared and commissioned 36 mine launchers of the GMD complex. Four more missiles by the end of the year will have to serve at Vandenberg base in California. Over the next few months, military specialists will have to complete several more launchers that will complement existing installations and allow them to carry out their plans.
At the moment, as far as is known, anti-missiles with differing combat equipment are located on two bases. The GBI missiles on duty carry the kinetic interceptors of models CE-I EKV and CE-II. At the same time, the latter have been subjected to the toughest criticism for several years and, in fact, cannot be used for their intended purpose. Several test launches of the 2010 of the year showed that the CE-II EKV product in its current form cannot solve the assigned tasks and needs the most serious modifications. As a result of those failures, an improved project CE-II Block 1 was created.
Previously, the responsible persons argued that, taking into account previous experience, only tested samples will be procured from now on. However, this principle has not been implemented. As a result, there was a large order for the production of 11 CE-II Block 1 products, including one prototype. Thus, the issue of purchase of serial products was resolved long before the test of an experienced one. It is noteworthy that the tests of the first interceptor of the new model were completed successfully, so that the project will not be subjected to fierce criticism, as it happened before.
It is easy to see that in the current situation, the Missile Defense Agency had to work "between two fires." On the one hand, it was limited by plans to deploy antimissiles, requiring a large number of interceptors to be deployed in a relatively short time, and on the other, the need to update and improve the existing CE-II EKV product. Accelerating the production of the necessary weapons led to the risks of non-compliance with technical requirements, while the normal development of the improved CE-II Block 1 project led to the risks of disrupting the existing work schedule. Also a noticeable problem could be the instructions on the purchase of weapons only after verification.
Fortunately, the first test launch of the upgraded kinetic interceptor was a success, unique for the entire program. From the first time, the CE-II Block 1 was able to successfully hit the simulator of an intercontinental ballistic missile warhead. Thus, the prototype not only confirmed its high performance, but also showed the fundamental possibility of intercepting complex targets with high airspeed. In addition, an experienced interceptor opened the way for the serial products to the troops.
The FTG-15 tests conducted by 30 in May allow the Missile Defense Agency and the Pentagon to continue the development of existing systems without being strongly criticized by the legislators. The capabilities of the improved interceptor were shown in practice, thanks to which serial products of the same type can be completed, obtained from industry and put on duty. The main result of this will be the possibility of implementing the existing quantitative plans without any problems.
According to reports, now on duty as part of the National Missile Defense System is 36 GBI interceptor missiles with different combat equipment. Most (about 25) missiles are equipped with CE-I kinetic interceptors. Also about a dozen carriers with newer CE-II interceptors are deployed on the bases. However, in the 2010 year, the missiles in this configuration failed the tests twice, because of which their further deployment was stopped. With the advent of the new improved trans-atmospheric interceptor CE-II Block 1, missile defense will be able to continue deploying GBI missiles and increase the number of missiles as required.
An early example of an EKV kinetic interceptor. Photo US Department of Defense
It is known that, to date, the Pentagon has ordered the delivery of GBI 11 rockets with CE-II Block 1 interceptors on board. One of them was used a couple of days ago, and the rest are intended for setting on duty. It should be noted that the current plans include the deployment of 44 missiles with 36 already on duty. What is the reason for the difference in the number of ordered and required missiles - it’s not completely clear yet. It is quite possible that in the foreseeable future new tests will be carried out with the use of various interceptors, and two “extra” new-type missiles will allow to compensate for this expense.
The undoubted success of the latest tests will be a real trump card in further debates about the fate of the National Missile Defense System. Only one test launch showed that the existing problems were successfully solved, and the whole complex was able to intercept complex targets. Now, those responsible for the project may insist on the continuation of work, the construction of new missile defense bases and, of course, additional funding.
Recent events suggest that in the foreseeable future and in the medium term, the United States will be able to strengthen its missile defense system, significantly increasing its potential. Thanks to the new CE-II Block 1 EKV over-atmospheric kinetic interceptors, the updated system will indeed be able to deal with a potential enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles. Moreover, only in this case will it be able to counteract the main threats. Due to the specifics of the geographic location, the United States is threatened, first of all, by the intercontinental missiles. And it is from such weapons that promising complexes should protect the country.
At the same time, it should be borne in mind that the current plans of the US military leadership involve the deployment of only 44 interceptor missiles at two bases on the West Coast. As a result, even under ideal conditions and the most favorable set of circumstances, the entire National Missile Defense System will be able to intercept no more than 40-44 missile warheads, although its real capabilities are probably noticeably more modest. This means that in the planned condition and configuration the most complex system will be able to protect its country only from a small nuclear missile strike. A full-scale attack by a likely enemy, in turn, will achieve its goals simply due to the number of missiles and their warheads.
Having sufficiently limited capabilities, the American missile defense system is unlikely to be able to provide protection against a massive strike from a state possessing large and powerful strategic nuclear forces. At the same time, however, even the limited potential available may be suitable for protection against the few DPRK missiles, which are called one of the main reasons for the deployment of GMD complexes and other systems. Thus, regardless of the actual plans and wishes, the existing anti-missile defense systems deployed in Alaska and in California are forced to solve exactly the declared tasks.
In the future, the Pentagon plans to start preparing a new position area with Ground-Based Interceptors. Such construction will require particularly large investments and will necessarily be subject to harsh criticism. Nevertheless, supporters of the construction of a national missile defense system now have an argument in favor of continuing the work. Naturally, the controversy will continue, but now the ambitious program has really demonstrated its need and all the available potential.
The national missile defense system of the United States and its main element in the face of the GMD missile complex was officially adopted and put on duty many years ago. However, the decision in principle to put into service and on duty was made long before the completion of the necessary tests. As a result, checks of various elements of the missile defense system are still ongoing, and the main task in the form of interception of intercontinental missiles was solved only a few days ago. The FTG-15 test was the undoubted success of the entire program, but previous events hardly leave any grounds for optimism. The way to solve the tasks was too long and expensive.
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