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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 28, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 24
APL Contributions Aid Missile Defense Test

Milestone intercept test marks first demonstration of Aegis BMD weapon

By Kristi Marren
Applied Physics Laboratory

Thursday's successful Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense intercept test was due, in part, to the critical engineering and technical direction provided by the Applied Physics Laboratory. This milestone event marks the first demonstration of the Aegis BMD weapon system BMD 3.0 and the Standard Missile-3 Block I. As a result of this successful test, Aegis BMD capability is technically ready to respond to short-notice operational tasking to support contingency ballistic missile defense operations, if required.

This flight test of the Block 2004 Aegis BMD system, Flight Test Mission 04-1, involved an SM-3 Block I missile fired from the Aegis BMD cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) against a target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, resulting in a hit-to-kill intercept. This was the fifth successful intercept out of six attempts for the Aegis BMD Program. The test also helped evaluate the overall performance and effectiveness of the weapon control system that guides and controls the SM-3 missile to its target.

The flight test was one of a three-part campaign--referred to as Stellar Dragon--by the Missile Defense Agency and the Navy to verify the Aegis BMD weapon system's performance in an operationally realistic, scenario-driven environment. Additional elements within this campaign include a ballistic missile tracking exercise and an at-sea demonstration of ship self-defense capabilities.

"Today's successful intercept is reflective of APL's critical role in contributing to our nation's security and in helping provide war fighters with a capability to protect them and our allies against a growing ballistic missile threat," said Conrad Grant, business area executive for APL's air and missile defense programs, following the Feb. 24 test. "The Laboratory has played a major role in the Aegis and Standard Missile programs since their inception nearly a half century ago, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to provide the military community with solutions to critical challenges it may face."

As technical direction agent for both SM-3 and Aegis BMD programs, APL plays a key role in flight tests, including FTM 04-1. In preparation for these events, APL performs preflight predictions of the Aegis BMD system's performance using high-fidelity simulations of the AN/SPY-1 radar, as well as the SM-3 missile. Actual missile computer programs are tested in labs on the APL campus. Laboratory teams simulate hundreds of missile flights before each flight test to ensure robust missile performance.

Additionally, APL defines mission requirements; establishes test scenarios, including identifying locations for air-, ground- and sea-based units; conducts debris analysis for range safety; and determines acceptable launch windows to avoid orbiting satellites. In the field on test day, APL technical experts support the Raytheon SM-3 launch team and man test-control consoles at the Pacific Missile Range Facility to support the target instrumentation and operations.

Following each flight, APL performs a post-flight reconstruction of the mission and analyzes the flight test data to update and validate the radar and six-degree-of-freedom performance simulations, and participates in any post-flight investigations associated with the tests. APL works with the larger Aegis BMD community, including Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, and Raytheon Missile Systems, to engineer any necessary system modifications to fulfill the Aegis BMD mission. APL representatives are among the leaders in the joint community for link communications systems connecting Aegis ships and other sea-, space- and ground-based assets.

MDA and the Navy manage the Aegis BMD Program. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the development of the SM-3 missile. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., manages the development of the Aegis Weapon System installed in Aegis cruisers and destroyers.


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