ABM Test Finally Succeeded, Maybe

Successful test of troublesome ABM used known-flawed kill vehicle. Meaningful or theater?

The U.S. successfully tested its anti-ICBM missile on 2014-Jun-22, with a launch from Vandenberg AFB in California.  News was trumpeted everywhere!  The LA Times says that the launch came just after noon (Pacific Time), and could be seen in nearby towns.  I used to enjoy seeing Minuteman  launches from much further south, near San Diego.

The GBI  (Ground Based Interceptor, also called GMD for Ground-based Midcourse Defense) dates back to the 1980s SDI program with a very bad history (see our final ABM report  last year).   So we have to ask about fraud, graft, and conspiracies to protect hidden activities, cash flows.


Fig 2    GBI launch,   probably 2014 Jun 22 (source: MDA)

MDA logo from Website

Fig 1    MDA logo from its Website

Apparently, the GBI’s  EKV (Exoatmosphere kinetic Kill Vehicle) did make contact with a simulated attacking warhead.

But, if you exclude the patriotic hype, the Missile Defense Agency released very little about this test.

The  Under The Dome series notes that a previous Glorious Success was declared when they partially hit a target that was actually sending radio “look-at-me” beeps.  Actually, GBI had no history of working properly  when our idiot president (too young to use Reagan’s excuse) declared it operational and started distributing federal fortune  to contractors.  As late as 2011, it was discovered that its EKV could not work correctly  … declared operational for a couple years prior to that …

click for list of our ABM posts

We pointed out that a tactical ABM need only swat the incoming warhead aside, destruction was not needed to protect its military target.  Tactically, it is okay that collateral damage happens.  GBI’s are used against the horribly expensive ICBM threat; these things deliver H bombs.  Everything a successful attack delivers might be called collateral damage in the tactical theater of war.  The EKV of an effective GBI must stop –halt– inside its target if it is to deposit its energy into the target for destruction.

Did the EKV deliver its energy potential to the target?  What we do know is that one of the early (& kinda functional) EKV units was removed from an ‘operational’ GBI for this test.

We tried to explain the support that the GBI has always received in our post Knights To Battleships.  Pictures of the system are awesome, the program’s verbiage is highly patriotic,  the leaders are tough-lookn’  good old boys, too.  How could you not respond positively? (… unless you are not a real Amurcan.)

So.  Something happened on June 22.  A GBI was launched.  The old and known-defective EKV is reported to have contacted its target.  The question remains – is this supposed to mean something?     ABM defense is a valid concept – wish we had a  valid system; but, we are paying valid money for it.

Update: 2014 Jul 20: Comment By Dean A Wilkening, LLNL   “If you’re going to rely on that as an operational system, one shouldn’t be too surprised that it does tend to fail more than you’d like.”    Really good 1 sentence summary of the GMD system


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2014 July 3
Listed under    TechnologyTechnology > Aerospace
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About LastTechAge

I am a physicist with years of work in fusion labs, industry labs, and teaching (physics and math). I have watched the tech scene, watched societal trends and am alarmed. My interest is to help us all improve or maintain that which we worked so hard to achieve.
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