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


  • Purpose: defend against medium- to long-range TBMs intercepting low-endo through exo-atmospheric targets with an HTK warhead
  • Systems
    • New ground-based radar (GBR)
    • Launchers on a Palletized Load System (PLS) truck
    • Command and control (C2) system
      • Tactical operations station
      • Launch control station
    • New missile with an HTK KKV

The THAAD system consists of a new radar, launcher system, a complex C2 system, and a new missile that incorporates complex, unproven technology. This missile is planned to operate in altitude regimes from the low endo-atmospheric to the exo-atmospheric.


THAAD Flight Test Objectives and Results

FT Objective Result Cause of Failure
1 Missile function, propulsion Success
2 Midcourse functions, controlability Range initiated destruct No flare deployment, short in flare ordnance cable
3 Acqusition functions, target flyby Target not designated IAP overloaded with false alarms, FPA edge effects
4 Exo intercept Missed target Faulty GN&C logic
5 High endo intercept Missed target Lanyard connection failure
6 High endo intercept Missed target Seeker contamination most likely cause
7 High endo intercept Missed target DACS failed to operated because of a contaminated battery connector

The THAAD flight test program encountered difficulties beginning with the second test.

The causes of failure in these flight tests were found to be in subsystems usually considered to be low risk. The failures typically were caused by poor design and fabrication, inadequate ground checkout discipline, and pressures to move on to the next step. For FT - 4, the cause of the failure could have been discovered with checkout processes that are fairly standard for systems of this type.

The failures led to extensive reviews. These reviews identified important shortcomings in design and fabrication discipline, test planning, ground testing, and preflight review.


THAAD: The Program Environment
Intense Time Pressure -- Rush to Failure

  • Intense time pressure on a UOES capability. Mismatch between department's priorities and reality of the program challenge
  • Higher risk has been justified by urgent fielding requirement. Test preparation and instrumentation decisions influenced by desire for early decision on the 40 UOES missiles
  • Myriad leadership and management concerns identified by the program office and independent reviews indicated that the time pressures had become counterproductive. The program needed fundamental reprioritizing
  • Multiple additional external factors contributing to risk
    • Funding
    • Political pressures
    • Test range adequacy and availability
    • Targets

While the justification for the time pressure was the users' need for capability, the UOES approach to satisfying that need seems to have stemmed from seriously underestimating the difficulty of the task.

A conscious decision was made to trade off technical risk against the urgent need. This decision resulted in a program plan that would buy operational missiles and field an operational system of a type that had never been fielded before accomplishing EMD. This decision also led to serious compromise of the test missiles, requiring that the test missiles be essentially operational rounds with whatever instrumentation could be accommodated.

Following the early failures and continuing through the latest failure, numerous in-depth reviews (both internal and external) have identified the causes of the individual failures and the deeper underlying causes. However there was little or no relief from the time pressure. The early program presentations to the study group -- even after the failure of FT-7 -- emphasized the urgency of conducting FT-8, with minimum delay and virtually no increased ground tests. Subsequent decisions show some change to a more deliberate approach but with a continuing commitment to the UOES approach.


A Symptom of Heavy Schedule Optimism

  • Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO)-proposed and Congressionally mandated 1996 capability date
  • Essentially demanded an operational capability before the missile was designed
  • THAAD battalion at Fort Bliss was stood up in June 1995
    • 2 radars and battle management/command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (BM/C41) suites
    • 4 launchers and 40 missiles to be purchased after first intercept
  • THAAD demonstration/validation (Dem/Val) to provide UOES
    • 48-month contract
    • First flight in 24 months
    • 20 flights (~ 1/month)
  • Required that test missiles be certified rounds rather than highly instrumented research and development (R&D) missiles
  • Demanded highly parallel testing vs. a sequential find and fix approach

The UOES concept was originated within SDIO and was included as part of the THAAD program at its inception. It was later written into law by the Congress. It required that an early operational capability to include a ready unit be stood up in 48 months. This necessarily led to an emphasis on those issues that have to do with operational capabilities: operational rounds, an all-up C2 system, trained soldiers, and so forth. This compromised accommodating the best practices for test missiles and the test program.

The study group found that program managers, based upon their previous experiences, assumed that the long poles were the radar, C2 system, and trained soldiers. They did not anticipate that guiding the missile to hit a target would prove to be the most daunting task. Again, this is evidence of underestimating the difficulty of performing HTK intercepts.


THAAD Program Schedules
Facing Reality but With Continuing Optimism

  • Mid-FY 96 Change (after the 4th consecutive failure to intercept)
  • From: high-risk, accelerated hardware delivery with aggressive Dem/Val flight test schedule with Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) 21 months after EMD Authority to Proceed (ATP)
  • To: risk averse event-driven flight test after EMD ATP schedule with LR1P 60 month after EMD ATP

This slide shows how the THAAD program schedule has slipped because of the failed flight tests and subsequent budget cuts. The schedule, as outlined in June 1994, called for FUE in 2002. The new schedule, shown in the top of the figure, adjusts to the failed flight tests and concurrent budget cuts. The completion of the test program has slipped 2 years, and FUE has slipped from 2002 to 2006.

Even now, the remaining test program is compressed, and the criteria for buying the 40 UOES missiles remains a single successful test. Consequently, the early capability pressure continues to compromise the test missile instrumentation.


Aggressive Test Program

  • Changing Configurations and Goals
  • The conditions changed from flight to flight
    • Misdle configuration
    • Guidance software
    • Intercept conditions (e.g., exo vs. high endo)
  • FT-8 will By a new seeker (InSb)
  • Even after review groups recommended not changing configurations THAAD will fly one interceptor on the upcoming FT-8 and FT-9 flights and a different interceptor on the FT-10 through FT-13 flights

The test missiles in the THAAD flight test program have undergone numerous changes between between FT-1 and FT-7. The study group found that the guidance software was written only to work on that particular test and under the expected conditions. Likewise, hardware changes were also occurring.

The new InSb seeker will fly on the upcoming FT-8. This will be the first test flight for this seeker.


Some THAAD Project Office Concerns
Regarding the THAAD Contractor, August 1996

  • Fundamental concerns regarded leadership and management
  • Basic philosophy change was needed. Must adopt a system perspective
  • Lack of high-quality personnel / functional experts
  • No defined system engineering process
  • Little evidence of system engineering talent infusion
  • Software management and development process
    • Inadequate system level management
    • Disciplined process was not in place
    • Inadequate requirements documentation and stability
  • Product assurance program was inadequate

The THAAD program office also expressed concerns with the contractor program management. Again, the root causes were associated not only with the technological challenge but also with the basic set of disciplines essential to success in developing and testing complex systems.

It is not clear what actions were taken as a result of these concerns.


BMDO's Missile Assessment Team
THAAD Risk Areas April 1997

  • Missile design moderate risk areas: exo and high endo
    • Mission-critical functions
    • Processor usage
    • Autopilot boost/TVC
    • Booster separation ESD
    • Instrumentation design
    • System margins
    • Seeker design
    • Hit point performance
    • Wiring and grounding design
  • Design evaluation/execution: moderate risk
    • Misile design evaluation
    • IAP FCT
    • One shot devices
    • KV-level ESS
    • DACS FCT and ESS
    • IMU FCT
    • Seeker
    • Flight simulation
    • KV wiring
  • Design evaluation/execution: high risk
    • DACS built-in test and assembly test
    • Quality assurance program

    In April 1997, the Missile Assessment Team identified specific areas of moderate-to-high risk. This report was produced after the failure of FT-7. This list of significant risk areas, provided halfway through the planned test program, should have been compelling evidence of the compromising pressures on this program. Nonetheless, in late 1997, the program direction was still driving to maintain the flight test schedule to meet the users' "urgent" need.


    THAAD Risk Assessment and Mitigation
    Areas of Moderate and High Risk

    Risk Areas
    • Missile Seeker
    • Controls/Divert
    • BMC3I Software
    • Test Facilities
    • Test Support
    Some Mitigation Efforts
    • Missile
        Parallel cryostat system
        Parallel PlSi and InSb seekers
        Dual source second battery
        Avionics rapid software prototyping
        Dual-source DACS components
        Dual-source multi-chip module
    • BMCI
        Prototype man-machine interfaces
        Early user evaluation of interface
        Independent testing at MICOM/SED
    • Test facilities and support
        Simulation/HWIL development
        THAAD Radar Testbed
        Processor and radar software in the SWIL
    • Independten V&V of critical software modules
    • T/R module producibility
    About $700M to date in specific risk-mitigation funding

    The evidence is that the continuing incidence of moderate- and high-risk areas this late in the test program is not caused by a lack of understanding of risk areas. The THAAD Program has spent $700M toward risk mitigation. It is more likely that the difficulty lies in the initial unrealistic schedule and the continued attempts to keep a compressed flight test schedule moving forward.


    Remaining Dem/Val Flight Test Program
    13 Flight Program for THAAD

    This slide shows the flight test schedule as of early February 1998. FT-8 has now been delayed because of difficulties discovered during ground testing. Even so, given the history to this point, the remaining schedule still appears to be compressed and optimistic, particularly since the end- of the test period remains unchanged with FT-11, -12 and -13 being compressed to make up for the slip in FT-8, -9 and -10.


    THAAD Analysis Simulations

    The Capabilities Vs The Practice

      • Simlab real-time HWIL simulation (6 DOF). High-fidelity simulation for software testing, analysis, and qualification. Also hardware integration and interface testing
      • THAADSIM-D
      • Simlab non-real-time, all-digital simulation (6-DOF)
    • THAADS1M-A
      • Non-real-time, all-digital simulation (6-DOF). Reduced fidelity night software modules to allow WOES, EMD analysis
    • End-to-end
      • THAAD non-real time, all-digital simulation (5/6-DOF). Analysis of systems level sensitivities to target uncertainties, radar errors, in-flight updates, and so forth
      • Scientific, engineering, and technical assistance (SETA) Sims
      • SETA contractor simulations (3 and 6 DOF). Used for baseline comparisons to help verify models, algorithms, and missile/weapons system performance

    The inadequate simulation and ground testing is probably not caused by the lack of facilities or capability. The study group found the combinations of computer simulation and HWIL capabilities to be impressive, though not complete.

    The difficulty, again, seems to stem more from a mindset that limits ground testing to the minimum essential to proceed with the flight test schedule.



    • HTK is a very difficult task. Attempting an operational capability before EMD is high risk and beyond our experience
    • The THAAD program places a high priority on achieving a high-risk UOES capability. In' execution, the UOES program is a diversion from the objective system
    • The UOES requirement was designed to help meet an urgent need but:
      • Led to a highly concurrent program
      • Demanded parallel testing
      • Compromised the missile test program
      • Has not produced early capability
      • Continues to impact program management in spite of rebaselining and reevaluation

    The study group's purpose was not to evaluate the THAAD program but to extract lessons that would be useful to the NMD program. Still, immersion in the THAAD program led to the obvious observations on this slide and the following slide - observations that are relevant to the THAAD program and to NMD planning.


    Observations (Continued)

    • Because of the test failures, program management recognizes the need for a more conservative approach with performance vs. calendar milestones. However, schedule pressures persist
    • Decision to exercise 40 missile buy is still based on a single successful intercept vs. the more conservative LRIP criteria (3 intercepts)
    • Need clear recognition that success in meeting the need -- no matter how urgent -- will depend on a design with adequate margins and on engineering and fabrication discipline
    • The program has been examined through a myriad of independent reviews that reported these problems
      • Program management will have difficulty adjusting to the realities of schedule and technical challenge as long as the intense schedule pressure persists