Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dual AEGIS test

In the early evening (Hawaii Standard Time) of November 6 the U.S. Navy conducted its latest AEGIS test. For the first time two missiles were intercepted – simultaneously. For details read the MDA’s News Release. This is celebrated as a major success. Especially since the Navy recognized that “[t]he adversary may not shoot one ballistic missile at us or an ally at a time” shooting down more than one missile becomes handy. But I do not understand the flurry about this. The Navy has already shown that it can handle the AEGIS system: the two missiles of this week marked the tenth and eleventh successful intercepts. The only change that was made in this test is that instead of aiming with one interceptor at one target the numbers were doubled. It is not like hitting two birds with one stone. There was also no change in the sophistication of the incoming missiles. Like in all previous tests, also in the intercepts on Tuesday the mock enemy targets were “non-separating”, meaning that the targets’ warheads did not separate from their booster rockets. This would be a step closer to real-life situations.

The THAAD system takes the steps in a different order. Until now it also has only intercepted non-separating targets. But this is going to change in the near future. Due to the success of the recent THAAD-test MDA plans to move the simulation closer to reality: in spring 2008 THAAD operators plan to attempt to destroy a separating target inside earth’s atmosphere. THAAD program manager and vice president at Lochkheed Martin qualified this as “a big milestone for the program.” In a next step later 2008, the THAAD system will follow the AEGIS test path and destroy two varying target types.

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