American Forces Press Service News Article

THAAD Successes Spur Faster Missile Defense Development


  By Douglas J. Gillert
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- After scoring two successive hits with a prototype 
 Theater High-Altitude Air Defense System, DoD is poised to speed 
 up development of the anti-missile system.
 Army developers have twice hit their intended target after nine 
 successive failures at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Now, 
 the deputy director of the Ballistic Missile Defense 
 Organization said DoD is ready to pursue the next phase of 
 "What we've been able to demonstrate twice in a row [is] that 
 not only do we understand the technical design, but that when 
 the system works and all components of that system work, we are 
 able to actually hit the target exactly where we want to," Army 
 Maj. Gen. Peter Franklin said at an Aug. 19 Pentagon briefing. 
 "Based on a review of those tests, we believe we are ready to 
 enter into the next phase."
 Franklin's announcement represents a revision of initial plans 
 for three successful "project definition risk reduction flights" 
 before the program entered the engineering, manufacturing and 
 development phase. Dropping plans for a third test will save the 
 program at least $15 million, he said.
 "Rather than spending millions of dollars and months on another 
 prototype intercept, we have decided to focus on the future 
 system and the engineering development of that future system," 
 he said.
 However, a decision to enter this second development phase will 
 come only after DoD convinces Congress it has designed a viable 
 new weapon system. To date, contractor Lockheed Martin's test-
 bed THAAD interceptors have been modified old missiles. DoD 
 hopes to come up with a new, cost-effective design that's 
 stable, supportable and can be operated by multiple users, 
 officials said. 
 The decision to move into the engineering, manufacturing and 
 development stage could come as early as next year, Franklin 
 "We are looking at the schedule in light of the necessary tests 
 that are required: the necessary hardware in loop simulations, 
 the necessary simulations, making sure that the risk in that 
 program is the right amount of risk, and addressing how we can 
 make sure we're meeting the evolving threat," he said.
 The engineering, manufacturing and development phase will 
 include up to 40 tests of the equipment the Pentagon plans to 
 buy, Franklin said. Hardware testing and development will begin 
 first, with the first new flight tests not occurring until at 
 least 2002, he said.