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Shelby touts successful test of Missile Defense System

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the US military successfully tested its highly touted ground based missile defense system, against an actual inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) praised the accomplishment.

Senator Shelby said on social media, “Great news for our country and for Huntsville! Yesterday the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), based on Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal, successfully intercepted and destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target during the first live-fire test of MDA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The GMD is designed to stop missiles – such as North Korean missiles – during the midcourse of their flight through space. This is critical in defending our homeland from US adversaries.”

The Missile Defense Agency said in a statement that they, “In cooperation with the US Air Force 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense and US Northern Command, today successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target during a test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system.”

The MDA said that this was the first live-fire test event against an ICBM-class target for GMD and the US ballistic missile defense system.

The ICBM-class target, “Was launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Multiple sensors provided target acquisition and tracking data to the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communication (C2BMC) system. The Sea-Based X-band radar, positioned in the Pacific Ocean, also acquired and tracked the target. The GMD system received the target tracking data and developed a fire control solution to intercept the target.”

“A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision.”

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MDA Director Vice Admiral Jim Syring said, “The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment for the GMD system and a critical milestone for this program. This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat. I am incredibly proud of the warfighters who executed this test and who operate this system every day.”

The initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

The MDA said that the test, designated Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor (FTG)-15, will provide the data necessary to assess the performance of the GMD system and provide enhanced homeland defense capabilities.

The hope is that the GMD element of the ballistic missile defense system will give the US the capability to engage and destroy intermediate and long-range ballistic missile threats to protect the US The mission of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from limited ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.

The United States developed the first atomic bomb which was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima prompting Japanese Emperor Hirohito to surrender, ending World War II. World War II allies, the US and the Soviet Union (USSR), became post war rivals. The USSR quickly developed its own atomic weapons. The much more powerful hydrogen bomb was invented giving the superpowers the ability to utterly destroy entire metro areas with one bomb. Great Britain, France, and communist China all quickly joined the nuclear club.

Those first nuclear and hydrogen weapons were delivered by large bombers like the Boeing B-52 Strato-fortress and the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear”; but a new generation of jet powered interceptors, like the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and the North American F-86 Sabre, equipped with air to air missiles brought into question just how many of those bombers would get through the air defenses in order to drop their bombs over their targets. Military planners turned to rocket technology developed by Germany during World War II in the V-2 program.

Multi-stage large rockets like the Atlas and R-7 Semyorka were developed that were capable of actually going into space to launch a satellite or carry a nuclear payload to the other side of the world. The US began deploying large numbers of it’s Minuteman and Polaris missiles; while the USSR began deployed its own ICBMs like the R-16.

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Both countries began developing anti-ballistic missile systems (ABMs). In the 1972 that work ended with the US and USSR agreed to that anti-ballistic missile treaty. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan (R) announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars” to protect the US from missile attack. The success of SDI was limited; because the US was still bound by the ABM treaty. The Soviet Union collapsed; but the ABM treaty remained in force. In 2001, President George W. Bush (R) announced that the US was leaving the ABM treaty. New powers like North Korea and Iran are working on ICBMs capable of hitting the United States giving more impetus to the development of the MDA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.

Much of the advances in military technology over the decades, including the GMD, has been developed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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