By Master Sgt. Ty Foster

30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The Missile Defense Agency’s sixth test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Segment scored its fourth successful intercept of an inbound target launched March 15 from Vandenberg.

Twenty minutes after the Orbital Suborbital Program long-range missile launched from the California base, a payload launch vehicle missile carrying a prototype exoatmospheric kill vehicle interceptor launched from the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands about 4,800 miles away.

The kill vehicle separated from its rocket booster more that 1,400 miles from the Vandenberg target warhead. After separation, it used its on-board infrared and visual sensors to locate and track the target. It homed in on the target, ignoring the three balloon decoys and pulverized the target at an altitude of approximately 140 miles above the central Pacific Ocean.

In describing the high degree of accuracy required for the EKV, Maj. Cathy Reardon, MDA spokesperson, said, “Essentially, it’s like trying to hit a bullet with a bullet.”

This was an integrated system test, with space-based missile warning sensor; ground-based early warning radar; the prototype X-Band radar at Kwajalein Atoll; the battle management, command, control and communications system located at Kwajalein and the Joint National Integration Facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., participating. Since the system is in its research and development phase, these elements serve as either prototypes or surrogates for system elements that are in the developmental stage and have not yet been produced for actual operational use.

“Tonight’s test is a major step in our aggressive developmental test program,” Reardon said.

Two more of the $100 million tests are planned for this year. Defense officials plan to conduct 16 tests through 2006.

A modified Minuteman II missile carrying a mock warhead target streaks from a Vandenberg launch facility. (Photo by Diana Helgesen)