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Missile Defense Agency Promises ‘Aggressive’ Review After Latest Failed Test

Admiral argues to skeptical lawmakers that the intercept tests "all the way up to the point of failure did everything they needed to do."

by
Bridget Johnson

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July 17, 2013 - 8:05 pm
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After an unsuccessful July 5 test, the head of America’s missile defense program promised Congress to “aggressively attack” any quality control problems and figure out what went wrong.

But lawmakers expressed alarm about a track record of unsuccessful tests with global threats growing and the administration seeking more than a trillion dollars in additional interceptors.

Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, appeared today before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to answer questions about his department’s 2014 budget request.

The interceptor missile was launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., but failed to take down a long-range ballistic missile target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“We have started an extensive review to determine the cause of the failure,” Syring told the panel today. “We did demonstrate all possible secondary objectives… however, the overall test was a failure because the primary objective of intercepting the target was not met.”

In later questioning, he said the failure came at the booster separation.

The director said the future plan would include more regular testing and accelerated upgrades after testing. “Regardless of the path we embark on, we will aggressively attack any substantiated quality control problems coming out of the failure review board that need to be corrected through the program,” he said.

The agency plans to increase the operational fleet of ground-based interceptors from 30 to 44 by 2017, and is evaluating possible locations in the continental U.S. “to determine a site suitable for possible future deployment of homeland defense interceptors,” Syring said.

Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that the Pentagon has a 50 percent success rate in intercepting test targets “and the system’s track record has not improved over time.”

He also highlighted the fact that the ground missile defense system has not been tested against an intercontinental ballistic missile and no such test is planned until 2015.

“Of the 30 deployed GMD interceptors, it has been reported that half included obsolete parts while an additional 10 have been taken off operational status because of a known design flaw,” Durbin added.

“I won’t stipulate the number due to classification, but there are a number of GBIs that are available to the war-fighter, but in a lesser readiness condition, but still usable by the war-fighter,” Syring said.

“Since President Reagan announced this concept 30 years ago and we started making rather substantial investments, there are still serious questions as to whether or not we have a missile defense system that can protect America against threats that [we] believe could be coming our way from Iran, North Korea or other enemies of our country,” Durbin said. “…How can you say that you’re confident that America could be defended if we’ve never tested our system against an intercontinental ballistic missile?”

“We have extensive model and simulation capability that projects the results of our conducted intercept testing into the longer range environment,” Syring responded. “Speed and distance is important and, as we have a target that’s available for intercept testing starting in 2015, we will actually demonstrate that. But our models and simulations and ground testing that we have done indicate that we would be successful.”

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All Comments   (8)
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Well, I hate to tell you but this is how large military systems are usually brought into service. I don't think that any major weapons system since WWII has taken less than 10 years to be fully debugged - look into the history of the B1-B bomber sometime for a perfect example, the V-22 is another.

The basic problem is that the politicians always want the things up now, but don't want to spend the up-front costs to wring the technology out before fielding the system. There are also the inevitable political compromises that bring necessary support and funding but often result in less-than-ideal implementation of the technology (e.g. favorite contractors, manufacturing distributed among states, etc).

In short - the systems been demonstrated, it works, this is all just more-or-less normal implementation problems. Regrettable, but expected.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

The real problem has been that the interceptor system became a political football for those who didn't want to spend the money, mostly Democrats. They argued that it wouldn't work and that MAD was the better deterrent. Funding was cut and reinstated numerous times, as I recall.

Now that the PRNK and well as the Iranians are close to posing a real threat, the same bunch demands to know why it isn't ready.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Of course half the project is "theater" to make the aggressor at least worry about us having an effective system.

I'm amazed it's possible at all. I suppose with a ton of money we could field this technology and it would work. But so far we're happy with a fractional effort and a lot of booshwah.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh it does work. It would work a lot better if the pol's would get the heck out of the way and let the engineers do their jobs!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When a leadership's goal is to empower and protect the nation the first thing they make sure is to protect the monies for homeland defense. HOWEVER, under Obama Inc said funds have been gutted, and this is the case in all defense aspects. To wit, garbage in, garbage out.

In fact, if the Radical-in-Chief acted differently one would be shocked. Nevertheless, those closest to these programs have duties, as patriots, therefore, they should be taking the lead as to what is really happening under his watch.

Again, an anti-American leadership will NEVER protect the nation and this has been proven six ways to Sunday - http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/24/when-radical-politics-trumps-national-security-what-can-go-wrong-everything-addendum-toamericans-hope-to-change-the-occupant-of-the-white-house-an-anti-american-potus-runs-an-un-american-cam/

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Reagan never proposed this concept. Reagan wanted a space based system using lasers and spending on the level of the B-2 or F-35 programs. Democrats in congress cut funding to the point that we now have the cheaper North Korea friendly version.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Incorrect. Reagan's proposal - and don't confuse the end program with the intermediate systems - included both land-based interceptors and space-based energy weapons. The current interceptors are the first cut at the "Brilliant Pebbles" kinetic-kill weapons. I'm not sure that the space-based energy weapons are possible in the current political environment, but the Air Force, Army, and Navy are all working on ground, sea, and air-based systems as fast as they can.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Isn't that the same line that Napolitano used after the shoe bomber almost blew the plane up over Detroit? "The system worked as planned". How much longer can our great nation take this clown and his minions?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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