Friday, June 25, 2010

Next Steps, Or Last Steps, for GMD?

The USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program uses land-based missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, outside the atmosphere. The missiles are currently based at 2 sites in the USA: 4 at Vandenberg AFB in California, and 20 (eventually 26) at Fort Greely in Alaska.

The well-known Patriot missiles provide what’s known as terminal-phase defense options, while longer-reach options like the land-based THAAD perform terminal or descent-phase interceptions. Both can be used against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but their sensors and flight ranges are best suited to defense against shorter range missiles launched from in-theater. In contrast, GMD is designed to defend against ICBMs. It depends on tracking that begins in the boost phase, in order to allow true mid-course interception attempts in space, before descent or terminal phase options like THAAD and then Patriot would be tried. In order to accomplish that task, GMD missiles must use data feeds from an assortment of long-range sensors, including the naval SBX radar. GMD’s future is the long term question…

Contracts and Recent Events

ABM phases

June 6/10: A 2-stage configuration of the GBI’s Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) is successfully flight-tested in the Booster Verification Test-1 (BVT-1) mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA. The new rocket offers a shorter boost phase than the original 3-stage OBV design, but is designed to demonstrate similar performance.

This was very much a flight test, therefore, rather than an interception test. Mission objectives included pre-launch built-in test, launch and fly out of the 2-stage GBI missile, flight telemetry, verification of fairing and stage separation systems, and accurate delivery of its payload to a point in space. US MDA | Orbital Sciences | Boeing.

May 4/10: Boeing announces the delivery of a 2nd GMD System Trainer (GST) at Fort Greely, Alaska. Paul Smith, Boeing director of GMD Ground Systems:

“Having two GMD system trainers at Fort Greely opens up new avenues for the warfighter. As we continually upgrade the GMD system, they now can train with either the current or upgraded software versions, use single or dual fire-control nodes, and engage in more realistic training conditions…”

Feb 1/10: The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget request. It includes $1.346 billion for the GMD system, and would see deployment of 26 GBIs at Fort Greely, AK and 4 GBIs at Vandenberg AFB, CA. It also provides for improvement and expansion of the GBI fleet, including an additional 5 GBIs with (Fleet Avionics Upgrade/ Obsolescence Program (FAU/OP)) upgrades, to support a new test program and a Stockpile Reliability Program. Missile Field 2 is scheduled to be complete in a 14-silo configuration by FY 2012.

The FY 2011 request is a consistent with recent budgets: $1.03 billion in FY 2009, and $1.47 billion in FY 2010.

Jan 31/10: The USA MDA announces that the GMD system’s supporting Sea-Based X-band radar (SBX) experienced a problem, after being used successful to support a number of interception tests:

“A target missile was successfully launched at approximately 3:40 p.m. PST from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Approximately six minutes later, a Ground-Based Interceptor was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Both the target missile and Ground-Based Interceptor performed nominally after launch. However, the Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as expected.”

The left-wing Center for Defense Information claims that this test cost about $120 million, and says that it leaves the program with a record of 8 successful flight intercepts in 15 attempts since 1999:

“There have been six flight intercept tests where the interceptor did not hit its target, although the reasons have varied. For example, in one test the cryogenic cooling system on the exo-atmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) did not work properly, in two tests the EKV failed to separate from the interceptor booster, in two tests the interceptor failed to release from its launch silo, and in the Jan. 31, 2010 test the SBX did not perform properly. One of the attempts, on May 25, 2007, was considered a “no test” because the target did not fly out as expected and so the interceptor was never launched. The main purpose of the otherwise successful Dec. 5, 2008 test was not achieved when the target decoys failed to deploy, but the interceptor hit its target…. Counting from late 2002 there have been eight flight intercept attempts and three successful intercepts, including the test on Dec. 5, 2008 where the decoys failed to deploy. The five tests where results were disappointing, include four tests where the interceptor missed its target, and also includes the test where the target did not fly out properly….”

Dec 11/09: As expected, Boeing also responds to the Missile Defense Agency’s GMD RFP.
Boeing has been the prime contractor for the GMD system since 2001, overseeing an industry team including Orbital Sciences, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Bechtel and Teledyne Brown. 

Their team has been operating under a bridge contact since January 2009, and the contract award for the core completion work is expected in January 2010.

Dec 3/09: Northrop Grumman reaffirms its interest in competing for the combined GMD contract, whose draft RFP is expected in early 2010.

Dec 1/09: Lockheed Martin announces that it intends to compete for the GMD system’s development and maintenance contract, whose solicitation was released Nov 25/09. The scope of work has expanded from GMD operations and logistics support, and will now include: 

”...future development; fielding; test; systems engineering, integration and configuration management; equipment manufacturing and refurbishment; training; and operations and sustainment support.”

Nov 17/09: Northrop Grumman announces a 3-month $4.7 million task order from the US Missile Defense Agency, under an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract. Under the Sept 29/09 task order, the firm will help the MDA integrate and demonstrate an early-intercept capability using existing SM-3 and GBI missiles. 

They’ll begin by assessing existing sensor and battle management systems’ ability to support missile interception in the difficult boost phase, including technology developed for programs like the now-cancelled Kinetic Energy Interceptor and battle management projects. The firm will plan demonstration experiments, leading toward the design and development of an experimental, plug-and-play architecture for battle management, command and control. 

The Early Intercept effort aims to address renewed focus by the U.S. Department of Defense on dealing with large raids and countermeasures. Early Intercept will demonstrate an integrated architecture of early warning sensors, including space, airborne, land and sea; regional fire control and battle manager systems; and secure communications. This integrated architecture will enable current systems to engage threats earlier in the battle space to improve protection against large raids and facilitate “shoot-look-shoot” opportunities.

Nov 1/09: The Fairbanks Daily Miner reports that extensive problems with GMD Missile Fied 1 at Fort Greely, Alaska will force the shut-down fo 6 silos, and may be partly responsible for the decision to build all 14 silos in Missile Field 2 (q.v. Oct 28/09). Problems reportedly include silos without adequate “hardening” against attack, as well as:

”...leaks in the hot water system, pipes subject to freezing and valve connections that leak [antifreeze], according to one presentation by the agency. There were also problems with joint soldering on copper pipe and expansion and contraction. There was “extensive mold contamination in utilidor” and personnel had to “suit up for hazardous environment” because of the threat. The “demineralized hot water system” was faulty, leading to frozen water lines and dust was getting into small openings on electrical switchgear that could have had “catastrophic impacts.”

The US Missile Defense Agency cites the urgency of the initial Field 1 construction, in order to have some shield in place by Sept 30/04, as its defense. It adds that the lessons learned were incorporated into Missile Fields 2 & 3, and so are not expected to recur.

Oct 30/09: Northrop Grumman contributes $35,000 to Partners for Progress in Delta, Inc., to further the educational nonprofit group’s goal of helping to build and sustain Alaska’s skilled workforce in electronics and computer systems technology. According to the corporate release:
“Funds will be used to develop or enhance the workforce needed for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) facilities.”

Oct 29/09: Boeing announces layoffs for 98 workers at various sites, including Alabama, Alaska, California and Colorado, due to a reduction in FY2010 missile defense program funding. These employees will receive a 60-day advance notification of layoff on Friday, Oct. 30.

“With the Congressional budget cycle nearing completion, Boeing is adjusting employment to match expected funding for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program and to match the scope of the program in the next fiscal year. Boeing is committed to preserving as many jobs as possible for these valued, highly skilled employees, and the company has taken aggressive steps to lessen the impact of the funding reductions. These steps include redeploying personnel to other programs, evaluating contract labor requirements, and offering career services and related assistance.”

Oct 28/09: President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget. That budget funds the full $$982.9 million request for Mid Course Defense, adding 7 ordered GBI missiles to bring the total cumulative stock to 35, and authorizes an increase of $20 million for sustainment of the Ground-Based Interceptor vendor base. It also includes a provision that would require a detailed assessment of the GMD system, and a detailed plan for how DOD will achieve and sustain its planned GMD capability of 30 missiles in 34 operational silos. White House | House-Senate Conference Report summary [PDF] & tables [PDF] | Pentagon AFPS article.

Oct 28/09: The Department of Defense plans to finish silo construction at Missile Field 2, building all 14 silos instead of just 7; on the other hand, it will de-commission 6 hastily-built silos in Missile Field 1.

The first interceptor missiles were installed at Fort Greely in 2004, and the new plan will leave 34 silos instead of the originally-planned 40. Fairbanks Daily-Miner via Sen. Mark Begich [D-AK].

GMD control
GMD control center, Fort Greely, AK

Sept 17/09: The Obama administration announces revised plans for its European missile defense architecture. Instead of positioning Boeing’s GMD and Ground-Based Interceptors at silos in Poland and/or the Czech Republic, which could intercept even the longest-range ballistic missiles, they choose an architecture based around Raytheon’s SM-3, at sea and on land. Gen. Cartwright does say that the US military remains interested in upgrading existing GMD missiles to 2-stage Ground-Based Interceptor missiles with longer range and more speed. Read “Land-Based SM-3s for Israel – and Others” for more.

Aug 20/09: As the Obama administration has become more supportive of a European missile shield that would emplace advanced radars and up to 10 GMD interceptors in silos, alternatives are growing. Shortly after announcements that Lockheed Martin has invested in, and is proposing, an extended-range THAAD system; and that Raytheon announced support for a land-based version of its successful naval SM-3 missiles, Boeing has floated a more “Russia friendly” GMD proposal. Their proposal would deploy Europe’s defensive shield as semi-mobile 2-stage interceptors that could be flown to NATO bases within 24 hours on C-17 cargo planes, erected quickly on a 60-foot trailer stands, and taken home when judged safe to do so. Boeing VP and General Manager for Missile Defense, Greg Hyslop, told Reuters that:

“If a fixed site is going to be just too hard to get implemented politically or otherwise, we didn’t want people to think that the only way you needed to use a GBI was in a fixed silo.”

Hyslop was quoted as saying that Boeing has just started briefing the US Missile Defense Agency on the proposal, but believes the project would lower infrastructure costs and could be completed by 2015. EurActiv | Jerusalem Post | Reuters | EurActiv re: Obama administration’s increased support for the Euro-shield

Aug 18/09: Boeing announces that the GMD team has finished building a 2nd GMD interceptor test silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. Because the silos need to be refurbished after the hot-burning interceptor is fired, having 2 test silos will allow one to support testing while the other is being refurbished. The new silo can also be configured for tactical operations in an emergency.

As of this date, Boeing says that the GMD program has deployed more than 20 operational interceptor missiles.

June 2/09: US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tours the GMD complex at Fort Greely, AK, following North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon, abrogation of the 1953 Korean ceasefire, and preparations to fire a long-range missile. The Pentagon release adds:

“Sixteen interceptors are in the ground here, with plans to add two more. Combined with those at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the United States will have 30 such interceptor systems. More could be added if needed, Gates said.”

April 6/09: US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces the Pentagon’s budget recommendations to the President for 2010. With respect to GMD, the plan would remove the planned increase in Alaskan GMD missiles. Existing missiles will be kept, however, and R&D will continue to improve the existing handful of missiles “to defend against long-range rogue missile threats – a threat North Korea’s missile launch this past weekend reminds us is real.”

March 23/09: Raytheon announces a $27 million contract from Boeing to support GMD’s 6-month bridge effort. Work will include continued evolution, maturation, test, and verification of the Raytheon-built X-Band Radar aboard the Boeing-developed Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) Radar vessel, plus work on the Upgraded Early Warning Radars at Beale Air Force Base, CA, and at Fylingdales, England; and the Cobra Dane Upgrade Radar at Shemya, AK.

Feb 2/09: The existing GMD complexes and missiles need to be maintained, unless the new administration decides to pay to dismantle them. To that end, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ Global Services and Support Division in St. Louis, MO received $249.9 million for a cost plus fixed-fee contract for “operations and sustainment support” for the fielded portions of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) System during calendar year 2009, with an option for CY 2010. The contract has been incrementally funded for $133.4 million at award.

The US Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0007), but the contract’s funding actually comes from 2 different sources. Fiscal year 2009 program Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds (RDT&E) will be used for the primary operations and sustainment support activities. FY 2009 Army Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funds will be used to train Army soldier-operators, and unlike the program’s RDT&E funds, those Army funds will expire at the end of the Pentagon’s fiscal year on Sept 30/09.

Work will be performed at Boeing’s facility in Huntsville, AL; Missile Defense Agency facilities at Schriever Air Force Base, CO; and the deployment sites at Vandenberg AFB, CA, and Fort Greely, AK. This sole source contract is awarded pursuant to 10 USC 2304c1, as implemented by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 6.302-1, stating that Boeing is the only qualified source to perform this effort without unacceptable delay and unaffordable duplication of costs.

At the same time, this maintenance effort is about to undergo a major structural shift.

This award is an interim measure, used to continue essential support while the US MDA acquires and verifies necessary technical data and develops its strategy for competitive acquisition of future GMD support. The MDA published a formal announcement of its intent on Jan 29/09, with the aim of kick-starting discussions with industry regarding how a competitive acquisition strategy for follow-on GMD support might work, and what the requirements would be. The MDA’s stated intent to make a competitive award in that area no later than calendar year 2011. See also Boeing release.

Loading the GMI
Missile loading, 2003

Dec 30/08: Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Huntsville, AL receives a $397.9 million not-to-exceed award under a cost plus award fee, cost plus fixed fee contract for anti-missile defenses. This is a sole source contract under the authority of 10 U.S. Code 2304c1, and the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-09-C-0008).

This order will finance GMD Block 3 development and fielding activities for 6 months from January to June 2009, until a long-term, Core Completion contract for development can be awarded – if that contract is awarded. FY 2009 research, development, test and evaluation funds (RDT&E) funds will be used. 

Dec 11/08: A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought $193 million in economic benefits to Arizona in 2007.

Dec 5/08: A GMD test successfully destroys a ballistic missile target. Boeing release.

Nov 13/08: A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought $246 million in economic benefits to Alaska in 2007.

May 15/08: A Boeing release claims that the GMD program brought more than $700 million in economic benefits to Alabama in 2007.

This article can be found in its original format here.

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