No. 016-98
IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 16, 1998 (703)697-5737(public/industry)


The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's National Missile Defense Joint Program Office conducted the second successful flight test last night of a candidate infrared sensor designed for possible use with the National Missile Defense (NMD) program. No intercept attempt took place during this mission. The purpose of the test was to analyze the ability of an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) sensor to identify and track objects in space. Data gathered during this mission will be analyzed to determine how the EKV sensor performed and the results released in the next few weeks.

The test was supported by elements of the U.S. Army's National Missile Defense Program Office and Space and Missile Defense Command, Huntsville, Ala., the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Command, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and the Joint National Test Facility, Falcon AFB, Colo.

A Lockheed Martin Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) topped with the EKV sensor was launched at 10:46 p.m. EST (3:46 p.m., Jan. 16 local time) from the Army's Kwajalein Missile Range in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean. The EKV sensor payload included an optical seeker, a data processing system and telemetry. The seeker and data processing system are the eyes and brain of the EKV enabling it to intercept an attacking intercontinental ballistic missile. Approximately 20 minutes before the PLV was launched, a Multi-Service Launch System, a specially configured Minuteman II missile, was launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. carrying a simulated warhead and decoys.

The EKV sensor was built by Raytheon Systems Co. and involves the use of a highly-sensitive infrared mercury cadmium telluride-based focal plane array. The sensor views the target and decoys with a high-performance telescope and identifies the simulated warhead from among the decoys.

On June 23, 1997, an EKV sensor built by Boeing North American successfully tracked and identified a simulated threat target and decoys during a similar mission. Later this year the Boeing and Raytheon EKVs will each attempt to intercept a target in space. This data will be used in the selection process to determine a single interceptor design.

The NMD program is a vital part of the Defense Department's plan to design a system to defend against long-range ballistic missiles which could be launched at the United States in the future. Current plans include developing and testing the technology necessary to deploy an NMD system. The first opportunity to decide to deploy the NMD system will be in 2000, based upon intelligence estimates of the potential threat to the United States.

For more information, please contact Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, BMDO External Affairs, at (703) 695-8743, ext. 6129.