A newly certified Global Positioning System (GPS) range tracking system, developed for the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) by Northrop Grumman Corporation, was successfully flown at Vandenberg Air Force Base for the first time this week as one of the two independent tracking systems required for range safety.

The GPS Metric Tracking System (GMTS) was developed, tested and provided by Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector as part of its role as the U.S. Air Forces’ ICBM prime integrating contractor. “This new system will greatly improve capabilities for range users through more precise tracking, fewer range delays caused by radar downtime and significantly reduced launch support costs,” said John Clay, vice president and general manager of the Northrop Grumman ICBM Prime Contract. “This successful flight represents the excellent engineering support and coordination between the Air Force and the ICBM prime team and will further enhance our ability to deliver a reliable land-based strategic deterrent to our customer.”

The GMTS replaces the C-band transponders previously used to track the Minuteman III test launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. As directed by the Air Force Space Command, the C-band tracking system is to be deactivated in FY 2007 for cost savings and modernization. The C-band tracking radars use the onboard C-band transponder signal to lock onto the missile and track missile position and velocity.

The GMTS now utilizes the GPS satellite constellation to ensure accurate tracking worldwide. The Minuteman III incorporates GPS translators on the missile to receive information from the satellites and relay translated time and identification data to ground facilities. This data is used to more accurately calculate the position and velocity of the missile, which is required for range safety tracking during missile flight.

Northrop Grumman is the Air Force’s ICBM prime integration contractor charged with modernizing and maintaining alert readiness of the U.S. ICBM weapon system through 2020. The company manages a team consisting of three principal teammates — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and ATK — and more than 20 subcontractors.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

Marynoele Benson
Northrop Grumman Mission Systems
(703) 741-7723