ABM treaty dies as new missile defense test succeeds

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, signed by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1972, officially died June 13 with the formal withdrawal of the U.S.

Jul 1st, 2002

by J.R. Wilson

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, signed by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1972, officially died June 13 with the formal withdrawal of the U.S. That same day officials in the Pentagon reported the successful destruction of a ballistic missile target by a sea-based missile, one of many aspects of the new U.S. missile defense effort encumbered by the Cold War treaty.

The Aries ballistic missile fired from the U.S. Navy's Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and was intercepted eight minutes later by a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) fired from the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70).

The test was part of the Sea-Based Midcourse Defense element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. It was the fifth of nine scheduled PMRF tests that began in January; the next test is set for November or December. Navy officials say only the second test failed to meet its objectives when the rocket's third stage did not ignite.

"The primary objective of this test was to demonstrate the ALI (Aegis Lightweight Exoatmospheric Projectile Intercept) system capability to hit the ballistic missile target," Pentagon officials say. "Extensive engineering evaluation data was collected for analyses in preparation for future flight tests."

The test demonstrated the integration of the SM-3 missile from Raytheon's Missile Systems business unit in Tucson, Ariz., with the Lake Eerie's Aegis weapon system. That included validating such system technologies as the dual-pulse third-stage rocket motor, the solid divert attitude control system (SDACS)'s sustain pulse, and the kinetic warhead's terminal guidance.

"This success moves Raytheon, the U.S. Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency another step closer to deployment of the Sea-based Midcourse Defense system," says Edward Miyashiro, Raytheon's vice president for Surface Naval Air Defense Systems. "The Stamdard Missile-3 has been designed to be easily transitioned from development to deployment as part of the Missile Defense Agency's Ballistic Missile Defense System test bed concept. This will make the system available for emergency operations, if necessary."

Fred Moosally, president of the Surface Systems unit of Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems (NE&SS) in Moorestown, N.J., says the successful intercepts demonstrate "the reliable surveillance capability of the Aegis Weapon System — and the SPY-1 radar can certainly play an even larger role once the requirements of a sea-based ballistic missile defense system are in place."

SPY-1 is the heart of the Lockheed Martin-developed Aegis Weapon System, currently deployed on 61 U.S. Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers. The current SPY-1 radar can search, track, and guide missiles simultaneously and can track hundreds of targets concurrently, from wave top-level to the exoatmosphere.

In February, Lockheed Martin won a $420 million contract modification to develop an upgraded version, called SPY-1E, as a critical component of the sea-based midcourse missile defense segment. The solid-state S-band radar is to improve detection at much greater ranges, a key requirement to counter ballistic missile defense threats, while also providing improved self-defense and anti-air warfare capabilities to Aegis ships.

"SPY-1E significantly enhances the capabilities of our Aegis Weapon System with the technology needed to defend against next-generation threats," Moosally says, noting the first prototype is set for testing in 2006.

More in Home