Report of the Panel on
Reducing Risk In Ballistic Missile Defense Flight Test Programs
27 February 1998

NTW Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD)

  • Purpose: defend against medium- to long-range TBMs with exoatmospheric intercepts with a HTK warhead
  • Systems
  • TBM detection and tracking: Defense Support Program (DSP) and AEGIS system
  • Missile: Standard Missile-3 (SM-3)
  • HTK with LEAP
  • C2: AEGIS Combat System

NTW is an evolutionary development based on the proven AEGIS and Standard Missile programs. However, it adds important new challenges: SM-3 flight outside the atmosphere, sensor upgrades to meet new discrimination requirements, and a variety of KV challenges with the LEAP KV. In addition, it includes a dual-burn solid rocket third stage and an IR thermal guidance system.


SM-3 Programmatic Background

  • Four LEAP intercept attempts (Army LEAP 2 and 3 and Navy Terrier LEAP 3 and 4)
    • Four different configurations
    • All compressed schedules
    • All failed
  • Numerous review panels and "lessons learned" studies. Common threads:
    • Successful intercept demonstration essential to continuation of the program
    • Measured, incremental test program essential
    • Configuration variations and changes must be minimized
    • Comprehensive end-to-end system testing of flight configuration essential to risk reduction
    • Need spare missile flight assets
    • Avoid rush to failure

As is the case with THAAD, operationally useful HTK is yet to be demonstrated in this program employing different HTK technologies. The four attempts in the precursor Army LEAP and Navy Terrier LEAP program were all failures. An extensive outside review by an independent Blue Ribbon Panel led to the decision not to continue the Terrier LEAP program but, instead, to move to the AEGIS Leap Intercept (ALI) program while retaining the emphasis and the mandatory milestone of demonstrating HTK capability.

The ALI program should benefit from numerous previous reviews that stressed the need to temper the drive to meet the "urgent" need with the reality of the difficulty of the task.


NTW Program Evolution

This slide illustrates the legacy and the evolution of the NTW program. As discussed, the ALI program follows the Navy's Terrier LEAP program in a continued effort to prove the HTK capability of the LEAP vehicle.

The NTW program has been significantly modified since the study group began its work, with an earlier UOES concept giving way (at least on briefing charts) to a block concept.

Block I capability is seen as a legacy of the Navy Area Defense Program. The Area Defense program uses a different missile (the SM-2 Blk IVA missile with an explosive warhead) and the AEGIS Combat System.

The ALI program is a risk-reduction activity within the NTW Defense program. It is designed to prove the exo-atrnospheric operation of SM-3 and the LEAP vehicle.


The Program Environment

  • Initially, intense time pressure for an early capability. Mismatch with department's funding priorities
  • Higher risk considered justified by "urgent" fielding requirement
  • Multiple additional external factors contributing to risk:
    • Funding
    • Defense industrial base
    • Political pressures
    • Test range adequacy and availability
    • Targets
  • Initial phase focused to demonstrate that LEAP can hit a target in space

Intense time pressure is also a legacy for the NTW. Earlier direction from the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) emphasized the urgency for NTW and, therefore, the willingness to accept risk. There may also be some sense of competition with THAAD.

This time pressure and a number of other factors including significant resource instability and an incomplete set of requirements continue to contribute to risk.


ALI Program Scope
An Essential but Limited Step

  • AEGIS weapons system
    • AN/SPY-IB/D radar
    • Command and decision
    • Weapons coastal system
    • Vertical launch system
  • SM-3 LEAP interceptor
    • SM-2 Blk IV propulsion chain
    • Third-Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM)
    • KV fourth stage
  • Aires target

The ALI program is the currently defined phase of NTW. Its goal is to reduce the risk of exo-atmospheric intercepts by performing early testing. It is a tightly focused project to demonstrate that the SM-3 can deliver the LEAP vehicle into the needed basket and that the LEAP vehicle can hit a target in space. It does not include the kind of performance specifications that will define the follow-on operational system or will serve as the basis for the flight test program. That work is yet to come.


Top-Level ALI Missile Requirements

  • Threat range: 500-1,000 km
  • Missile architecture derived from SM-2 Blk IV and Terrier LEAP hardware and software
  • Vbo 3.4 km/sec
  • Nuclear environment not imposed
  • Lethality and discrimination not specified

As discussed, many of the essential operational characteristics for the NTW are not yet defined. Hence, while success in the ALI program is an essential precursor to NTW development, it is only a precursor and should not lead to schedule optimism in developing and testing an operational system. For example, defining and meeting discrimination requirements are essential for an effective operational system. This could be at least as daunting as demonstrating HTK capability.

The NTW program has realized the difficulty of solving the discrimination problem. In a set of risk-reduction activities in parallel with ALI execution, it has funded a joint system level [radio frequency (RF)/IR)] discrimination effort with technical support from the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL); the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lawrence Livermore (MIT/LL); the Lockheed Martin/Government Electronic Systems (LM/GES) (AEGIS Weapon System); and the Standard Missile Company (SMCo) (SM-3 missile). This effort is to determine and develop the required discrimination algorithms and accompanying equipment.


Overall NTW Program Schedule
(As of Fall 1997)

The flight test schedule calls for seven test flights over a period of 4+ years. This schedule is well within the realm of reason; however, given the failure of CTV- 1, the start date may be optimistic.


NTW Test Objectives and Schedule

At the moment, it appears that given the right focus on qualifying components, ground tests, and preflight review, the flight test schedule and objective now appear to be incremental and sequential.


SM-3 Flight Test Mission Overview

This slide further illustrates the incremental and sequential nature of the currently planned flight test program. The study group was unable to discover an equally well-defined program of ground testing.


SM-3 Integrated Performance Simulations

There does appear to be a reasonably comprehensive set of planned simulation and HWIL test capabilities that could accommodate a comprehensive ground test program. Some combination of computer and HWIL is available to evaluate capability from launch to kill. However, it is not clear that these simulations are connected as needed to provide an end-to-end preflight evaluation.


ALI Program's Risk Items for SM-3
December 1997

  • High
    • TSRM forward closure
    • KW envelope
    • KW weight
    • KW seeker contamination
  • Moderate
    • Nose cone - thermal adequacy
    • KW TE console
    • Nose cone structural adequacy
    • Nose cone separation adequacy
    • XSMDC performance
    • Concurrent development testing
    • TSRM case: acre heating
    • Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS): schedule
    • TSRM weight
    • CTV-2 LRIP hardware availability

The ALI program continued to carry a significant list of high- and moderate-risk items in December 1997. At the minimum, this suggests that much work needs be done to conduct a flight test program with acceptable risk.


Study Group's Observations on NTW

  • The program was initially under intense time pressure. It is not clear how that has been adjusted even though the schedule has been substantially extended
  • The NTW early capability goal seems on the path to the objective system, but the objective system is only partially defined
  • The ALI program is sharply focused on job #1: demonstrating that the LEAP can hit a target
  • The overall ground test program to include facility use was not yet available. In particular, a plan has to be developed for the best available HWIL simulation of the KKV seeker
  • The required discrimination capability -- a key to a useful operational system -- is not defined

This slide lists some of the more obvious observations about the NTW program. While there has been intense time pressure to field some early NTW capability, it is not clear whether this is a distraction on the path to the objective capability since that capability has not been defined. In any case, the program is firmly focused on the essential precursor of demonstrating the ability to hit an incoming target.

While there is a reasonably detailed flight test program for the ALI, the study group was unable to discover an adequately detailed ground test program.

Further, a key operational parameter for any exo-atmospheric system the discrimination requirement is yet to be defined.