DoD News Briefing

Wednesday, July 2, 1997
Subject: National Missile Defense Flight Test

Brig. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, USA, BMDO

Col. Richard M. Bridges, director, Pentagon Press Office: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's my privilege this morning to introduce to you Army Brigadier General Joseph Cosumano who is the Program Manager for the National Missile Defense Joint Program Office, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. He's going to be briefing you this morning on the first flight test of a sensor for the National Missile Defense Program. The test, considered successful based upon preliminary data, involved the launching of a prototype sensor to track and identify target objects deployed by a missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

General Cosumano?

General Cosumano: Ladies and gentlemen, before I get into some of the specifics of the integrated flight test, of course this was our first major integrated flight test and I'm happy to report that it was a success. As my introducer said, we haven't reduced all the data yet, but our initial scope on this is that it was, in fact, a success. I'll talk more about that.

Before I get into the integrated flight test, let me talk a little bit about the National Missile Defense Program, to give some of you who may not know, some background into the program. The mission of the National Missile Defense Program is to provide a capability to defend all 50 states of the United States against a limited attack. A limited attack is defined as an attack from a rogue that would be authorized, of course, or an unauthorized or accidental attack from a declared nuclear power. So the primary purpose is to provide some capability to defend all 50 states of the United States against a limited attack.

To accomplish that mission, we've put together what's called a 3+3 acquisition strategy. This is a very high risk schedule. In three years we're supposed to be able to develop the system and then if a decision is made in the year 2000, to deploy the system by the year 2003. Therefore, the name 3+3 program, so it is a very high schedule risk program compared to the normal acquisition programs that you would see that would have development activities and deployment activities that would consist of from 12 to 16 years. But we feel it's important enough, obviously, to the United States that we have that particular acquisition strategy.

To manage that effort, that acquisition strategy, we have a joint program office, and I am the program manager for that joint program officer. It's kind of a unique joint program office in that we do not have a service lead. I report directly to Lieutenant General Lyles who is the Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and also to Mr. Noel Longuemare.

To contract and bring this system about and build this system, we've developed a unique strategy. We call it a lead system integrator. It can be likened to a prime contractor. You may have seen them on previous programs. So the lead system integrator's job will be to pull all these pieces together that we've been developing for a number of years into an integrated system, and to demonstrate the capabilities of that integrated system such that if a deployment decision is made, we can deploy that system.

This 3+3 program in the first three years in the development activities of the 3+3 program, we will be treaty compliant in all aspects of that program. Then in the year 2000, after we go through a series of integrated flight tests and integrated system tests in the year 1999, if a decision is made to deploy based upon how we see the threat, that deployment may or may not be treaty compliant.

So that really is the essence of the National Missile Defense Program. It's a 3+3 acquisition strategy managed by a joint program office and will be supported by a lead system integrator or contractor to integrate and build the system. We're in the competitive phase now of selecting a lead system integrator. There are two offerors who are competing. One is United Missile Defense Corporation; it's a joint venture principally composed of TRW, Lockheed/Martin, and Raytheon. The other competitor is Boeing of North America. So those are the two competitors who are competing for the lead system integrator concept.

We're in a concept definition phase at this time. It will be completed roughly in the fall of this year about November, and then we'll down-select in the February time frame of 1998 to one of those two contractors.

So with that as some background, let me talk about the integrated flight test. We call it IFT-1A because it was in fact our first major test of the NMD system, parts of the NMD system.

The test program overall, I'll brief you on that in just a moment, consists of a series of tests, and this was our very first one.

A little bit about the NMD system architecture, though, is shown on this chart. We have a ground base site that will be part of the system architecture. Where that will be located, we're not certain at this time. We're looking at a number of locations. But the treaty compliance site, of course, is at Grand Forks.

At the ground site is a ground-based radar and appropriate interceptors.

Providing early warning for the overall system would be a space-based infrared system. Right now we have DSP, the Defense Support Program, providing early warning of launches as shown here.

We have radars that are deployed in and around the United States and around the world that also would provide radar early warning confirmation of a launch to the launch site. So these are some of the key elements of the NMD system architecture that would be built.

As we go down this path and develop the NMD system, we're putting together what's called a tool box. I'm developing those pieces right now. We're integrating those pieces in these flight tests. If you ask me exactly how many of those pieces will be used for the system that we deploy, if a deployment decision is made, I'm not sure at this time, so I have to keep a very flexible approach to building the NMD system. So we have several architectures, depending upon the threat that might emerge. So our first opportunity to make a decision to deploy is in the year 2000. If that decision is not made to deploy, we will keep a three year deployment capability on the books with the contractor, a rolling three year deployment capability, and then in the year 2001, again, we'll review the threat and make a decision to deploy or not. And all the while as we go down this path, we'll improve the technology that is in the system until finally a deployment decision is made. That's the overall concept for the program, and these are the key elements that would be in the tool box -- the radars, the early warning sensors, the ground-based interceptors that would be used to actually intercept the incoming RVs, and of course the BMC3 that ties it all together.

There are some unique differences between this NMD system that I'm building and some of the tactical systems that you may be familiar with. Simply it's the regime in which we operate. Most of the tactical systems operate in the endo-atmospheric, within the atmosphere or right above the atmosphere against relatively shorter range or medium range ballistic missiles. Of course the National Missile Defense system operates exo-atmospheric, outside in space, and is meant to go after those very long range intercontinental ballistic missile systems. That's our primary purposes. There's a lot of difference in terms of velocities and the intercept velocities that we have in these two approaches -- the tactical approach and the strategic approach.

So we're talking about a strategic system that is capable of shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A little bit about the flight test itself. The targets were launched out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. This is the target launch location shown on the chart. A Minuteman II missile was used, a modified Minuteman II missile, with the targets on top of the vehicle itself. The target suite consisted of nine elements -- one actual RV and then some decoys and replicas, and I'll show you that on a chart in just a moment.

The purpose, obviously, of this test was just a sensor fly-by. We will do two sensor fly-bys and then two intercept tests before 1999 when we do an integrated system test.

So the targets were launched according to schedule Monday evening. Then about 20 minutes later, the intercept vehicle -- though it was just a sensor fly-by, the intercept vehicle which consisted of two stages of Minuteman II, the second and third stage -- we call it a payload launch vehicle because it's a surrogate for the actual boosters that we will use as a part of the NMD program. It's a surrogate until we select a booster for the NMD program. It doesn't really have the same capabilities as a booster, but it is a good surrogate. It was launched 20 minutes later from Meck Island out at Kwajalein Atoll. On top, of course, was the first contractor's exo-atmospheric kill vehicle. It was made by Boeing, the Boeing sensor. We're in a competitive environment now, competing between Hughes and Boeing for the sensor contract for the NMD program, so this was the first flight. It was flown by Boeing, the Boeing sensor.

The next flight in January of 1998 will be flown by Hughes, so the next sensor will be a Hughes sensor. These are somewhat different approaches to the sensor technology, and I can talk more about that if you have some questions in the future, but essentially they are different approaches, and we're looking at both of those approaches to solve this problem of hitting a bullet with a bullet, if you will. This will be a kinetic kill. So the exo-atmospheric kill vehicle is supposed to intercept the incoming RV.

To do that, there's a lot of discrimination that must be made between what is the real RV and the decoys or replicas. So the purpose of this sensor fly-by test was to take a first look at our capability to discriminate between an RV and other objects that were decoys or replicas. That's the whole purpose of a sensor fly-by is to get a first look at that.

We had AST available, which is a platform that's available to us to help us in collecting data, and we had several other data collection capabilities available to us. We have radars that we used in various locations, both in the United States and in and around Kwajalein Islands that were surrogate radars for the actual ground-based radar that we will have as a part of the overall NMD system. I have another chart that shows you exactly the radars and the missions that they perform. But this is the overall concept for IFT-1A -- target launches out of Vandenberg, the interceptor with the sensor payload out of Meck Island, and essentially the sensors flew by the target set, and everything was nominal as far as we can tell at this time. Mechanically, everything went exactly as programmed.

Now there's a lot of data reduction that has to be done as we look at that sensor data that was reported back down to the ground, and that process will take several weeks to look at that sensor data to see how well the sensor performed.

Q: ...attempting to distinguish the correct target?

A: Yes, it was.

Q: And did it do that, to the best of your knowledge?

A: The only data that I've seen so far is the data from the AST, and that data shows exactly where the replicas were, where the RV was, and other items that were in space at that time. So so far the data from the AST has distinguished, but the AST is not the... The sensor is what we need data from right now. We don't have all that data reduced yet.

Q: In a fly-by, how close is it in a fly-by to the target?

A: It's several tens of kilometers away.

That's a rough geometry for the intercept. A little bit about the actual target set itself, and you couldn't have a briefing without acronyms and we've got our acronyms here, but on the bottom of the chart, of course, you see what the acronyms are.

Essentially, as I mentioned earlier, we're challenging these sensors to discriminate the RV -- in this case a medium RV -- from other pieces of the target set that were either balloons or lightweight replicas or decoys. Our whole primary purpose, of course, is to present a target set that would look somewhat like a threat target set that this system may see in the future.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier in my briefing, this was the first of a number of tests that we will have before 1999. We have two sensor fly-by tests. We just completed IFT-1A, IFT-2 in January. These are the objectives as you see -- the primary objective, obviously, is looking at sensor performance, collect a lot of data on target signatures. Also important was to activate the test infrastructure that we had out at Kwajalein Missile Range. That's been dormant for a number of years. So that was one of the sub-tasks that we wanted to accomplish. All that was accomplished successfully, with the exception we don't have all the data yet to tell us about the performance of the sensor. We know that the sensor did get in position; we know that data was transmitted to the ground; and our initial 48 hour report that's in your press package essentially says that.

We have two more tests, IFT-3, Integrated Flight Test 3 and 4. They'll be conducted in 1998. Those will actually be intercept tests. We'll take the information that we have learned from our first two sensor fly-bys, and the contractors who are competing will do whatever is necessary technically to make adjustments, then of course we'll send an intercept vehicle up in test 3 and 4. It will do about the same thing, except it will conduct an intercept.

Finally, in 1999, we'll do an integrated system test, an actual system demo, where we'll take the ground-based radar that is being built now out at Kwajalein Missile Range as a prototype radar out there. Our BMC3, our command and control, that will be almost mature at that time. Then obviously, the booster that we may or may not have at that time, we may not have the actual booster developed that we would use for the MD system, so we may have to use a PLV. But the main point I want to get across to you is that we'll be a lot more mature in 1999 than we are now in 1997. So we'll integrate all those elements into an integrated system test and then demonstrate that we can conduct with some confidence an intercept against an RV, and distinguish the RV between decoys and other objects in outer space.

Based upon that successful integrated system test, then we'll conduct a deployment readiness review shortly thereafter in the year 2000. At that time, a decision will be made or not made to deploy the system to achieve an IOC three years later.

So in summary, the Integrated Flight Test One was a success. Nominally and mechanically, everything worked exactly as scripted. We have yet to receive all the data that we need to understand the phenomenology that the sensor provides to us, but we'll receive that in a couple of weeks, and we'll be able to report out on that.

So for me as a program manager, I'm elated. This sets the cornerstone, I believe, for a good start for the program that is really three months old. We stood up the joint program office, as you know, on the 1st of April of this year. A lot of these elements have been in development for a number of years by the various services, but this is our first opportunity to integrate these elements and then demonstrate how these elements work in an operational sense.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'll stop at this time and entertain any questions that you have.

Q: One of your measures of success to figure out whether or not your sensor did distinguish between the decoys and the primary target, isn't that one of the really important measures of success? I'm curious how you can say it's an unqualified success when you don't know whether it did that or not.

A: As I said, it is a success nominally and mechanically. It's a success. I think I qualified it by saying we don't have all the sensor data. But in comparison to IFT-1 in which we didn't get the interceptor off the ground and several other problems that we've had, so far I think nominally we've put the sensor in position and if everything worked on the sensor and we go through all the data analysis that we have, I think you can see it's a success.

As I said, there are more pieces of this, there were more objectives than just the sensor. The test infrastructure, the PLV itself. There were a lot of firsts here that we were trying to validate, not only the sensor.

Q: I'd like to go back to the GBI target overview chart. I don't know if you need to put it up or not, but I'd like you just to flesh out just a little bit more what the target objects were. You said decoys and other items. Obviously the things that look like RVs are meant to replicate RVs. What are the balloons supposed to replicate, and is there anything else you can tell us about that?

A: The actual target system that they're supposed to replicate or simulate obviously is classified. But these were built by Sandia National Labs to replicate decoys that we might see in threat systems or replicas that we might see in threat systems that could be launched against us, so that was our primary purpose is to replicate those. So I think we've done that. But I can't tell you in an unclassified sense that this is exactly what you'll see in a certain threat vehicle. That's classified.

Q: Give me an unclassified answer for this particular test, the balloons, were they meant to be decoys for RVs, or were they meant to be submunitions of chemical/biological...

A: They were meant to be decoys. All these were meant to be decoys for RVs, to look like RVs in the IR spectrum. That was the primary purpose. Obviously our sensor is supposed to be able to distinguish between those decoys or replicas from the actual RV.

Q: Boeing and Hughes are competing for the sensor contract. Who is competing for the GBI contract?

A: That's a good question. Right now we have this concept definition phase between the two LSI offerors, if you will, and as a part of their concept definition phase they will suggest to us the booster that will be used for the actual NMB system. It could be the Minuteman III, it could be a stack of boosters that are available now, off the shelf boosters, or they could suggest a new booster be built. But that's what the two contractors are suggesting to us as a part of this concept definition phase.

Q: Flight tests three and four which are intercepts, which companies are making those interceptors?

A: The EKVs?

Q: Whatever is hitting the target on...

A: That's the EKVs. We're going to down-select after... We'll have to go through a down-select process, so we're still in a competitive mode through the sensor flights. We'll have to down-select and go through a down-select process before the integrated system test in 1999.

Q: During these test flights did you plan on using the Minuteman III as a booster for any of those test flights?

A: No, we do not. The booster that we'll use will be the Minuteman II, for the targets, and the booster for the intercept will be modified stage two and stage three of the Minuteman II.

Q: ...Defense authorized in the House and Senate has proposed adding $475 million, I believe, to your program. I understand what the test schedule is now. If that holds up, and it holds up to the appropriation process, would you add tests? What areas would you make changes?

A: Thank you very much for that question. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the program overall and the funding for the program.

As we went through the Quadrennial Defense Review process, we found out that we didn't have enough... Actually, before we went through the Quadrennial Defense Review process, as we stood up the program office and did all of the regimented things you have to do with a program versus technology readiness, we went through all our requirements and we costed those requirements, and we found out that we didn't have enough money to make a good go at the 3+3 program. So we took that to the Quadrennial Defense Review process, that whole review process. Then we asked for additional funds on the order of $2.3 billion for RDT&E over the future years development program, over those number of years. In 1998, that additional funding was $474 million.

Obviously, with those additional funds we will do whatever is necessary to reduce the schedule risk that is inherent in this program. Part of that will be to add testing wherever we can, so that's one of our primary purposes. We will use any additional funding to help in the test program.

One thing I need to remind everybody, and I think most of you know, that it takes a fairly long period of time to put together some of these test articles, so if you're building an EKV, for instance, it's a custom-built piece of equipment. If you're putting together an interceptor or you're building these targets, these are all custom built so it takes several months. So though I am going to get additional funds here in 1998, I hope, by the time I order the equipment and get the equipment on board, the additional test articles, we're probably looking at 1999 and beyond before you see some additional tests, additional integrated flight tests up here in the program schedule because of the long lead requirements.

But I want to remind everybody, the test program is just not integrated flight tests. That's important, it is the tip of the spear, but what's equally important are all the ground tests that we do, the integrated ground tests, the hardware in the loop, and the simulations that we do.

Before I take any more questions and run out of time, there is a short video I want to show you, and this will actually show you the target vehicle as well as the interceptor flying. It's just a short video, a few minutes. It's about five minutes.

Every program manager has to laud any success that he has, so I'm going to talk about this one for a number of times.

(Video shown)

Q: The approximate time to intercept, launch of interceptor, approximately speed -- you said high velocity. How high?

A: I don't know if I know the actual speed that the PLV was flying at the time. I think that's what you're asking, the interceptor speed.

Richard, do you happen to know that?

Q: Approximately altitude?

A2: 4.3 kilometers per second. The target was about 7 kilometers per second(inaudible).

Q: The approximate altitude of the interceptor?

A: Do you know the geometry, the actual altitude of the intercept?

A2: One of the things we'll do, sir, with the data reduction is compare the actual versus what we have predicted

A: I think in your press package we have an approximately geometry there.

Q: ...kinetic kill vehicle. What is the mechanism that you anticipate you will use when you get to that?

A: It is metal on metal. It is a kinetic kill. It's megajoules. It's just energy of those two vehicles colliding -- one coming at several kilometers per second with another approaching at several kilometers per second and a megajoule transfer, that's what we're going to have.

Q: Do you know if there was a Russian AGI out there?

A: (Laughter) Another question?

Q: Given the fact that the Air Force has been pushing the Minuteman III, wouldn't it make sense to use that in one of the IFTs, or would that add too much risk to the program already considering you only have five tests.

A: What we're using, we're using some of the operational tests of Minuteman. They conduct several operational tests per year of Minuteman. They'll take units from their various sites and they'll launch from Vandenberg out to the vicinity of Kwajalein. They were using those tests as risk mitigation tests, so we're checking our radar and our BMC3 through the use of those tests, so we are taking those opportunities. But the Minuteman III is not specifically used in these integrated flight tests. But we're taking that data that we get from those flights and feeding into the program. So those are opportunities for us.

Q: How long until the sensor data is totally analyzed?

A: I'm told that it will take at least two weeks for us to get a good sensing on what the results are.

Q: Will we get the information at that time on...

A: I'm sure we'll provide some initial results for you.

Q: Is your planning sufficiently fluid to keep up to date with any foreign missile capability? It seems like missile are being sold all over the place these days.

A: That's a very good question, sir, and that's really the cornerstone of the 3+3 approach. We want to stay inside any decision cycle of an evolving threat. So we obviously are looking at the threat all the time, and if a decision is made to deploy, we'll deploy with those technologies that are available, but we'll continue to improve the system over time if necessary.

Q: Is there a less expensive way of testing the sensor capability rather than going through all of this flight testing?

A: Something that the contractors will provide to us is their thoughts on tests, so there may be some other opportunities that we haven't explored yet. But if you look at the concept of the flight test, you're testing more than just a sensor. You're testing, obviously, the ability to integrate the system as a whole, and even some of the mundane things like being able to conduct a successful launch is very, very important to this program. So you can't overlook those kinds of things. If you recall back in January, we attempted to launch an interceptor, but because of a crew error, the interceptor was not launched. So everything's important to this test. Every step counts. So we're checking out everything.

Q: How much did this test cost all together?

A: Roughly we say that the test, building the test articles and actually conducting the test is roughly about $50 million is the price tag we put on it.

Q: Without getting into classified information, can you sort of evaluate that package of targets... Is that the most difficult threat that we might face? Is it the least difficult? Is it somewhere, on a scale of 1-10? How hard a test was this for the sensor?

A: This is a representative threat. I don't want to dance around your question, but if you recall the mission of the NMD program, that is to be able to defeat a threat from a rogue nation, an authorized threat, and also to be able to defeat an accidental or unauthorized launch from a declared nuclear power, someone who might have a missile that is launched in an unauthorized fashion or an accidental fashion, that their missiles may have these decoys on top of replicas. So obviously we're going toward that right end of the spectrum and trying to be able to discriminate against that threat.

Press: Thank you.