Feeds

Missile missed in criticism-busting interceptor test failure

Giant seagoing golfball fingered as culprit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The US Missile Defence Agency (MDA) has announced a failed test of its controversial Groundbased Midcourse Defence interceptor. The agency blamed the test failure on problems with the Sea Based X-Band radar, well known for its resemblance to an enormous golfball mounted on an oil rig.

Reassuringly expensive.

In a brief statement, the MDA said:

A target missile was successfully launched at approximately 3:40 pm PST from the US Army’s Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Approximately six minutes later, a Ground-Based Interceptor was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Both the target missile and Ground-Based Interceptor performed nominally after launch. However, the Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as expected.

Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept.

The floating golfball radar is intended to track enemy ballistic missile warheads soaring toward the United States outside the Earth's atmosphere. Its ability to sit far out at sea is intended to offer improved advanced tracking of weapons coming in across the Pacific - as they would if fired from North Korea, for example, though that nation has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile capable of reaching the continental USA.

The seaborne radar's role in yesterday's trial will have been to track the test warhead and vector the intercepting GMD "kill vehicle" in until its own telescope tracker could detect its prey.

The large, powerful GMD interceptor rockets are the only weapons in the MDA's arsenal designed to knock out ICBM warheads at the highest, middle portion of their flight. Other technologies such as the Standard SM-3 naval interceptor and the Airborne Laser jumbo-jet raygun are intended to swat missiles in either the ascent or descent stages of their trajectory, while nearer to Earth. The GMDs have had a spotty test record, however, and Russia mounted huge opposition to their emplacement in eastern Europe.

Yesterday's test was intended to quell doubters of the entire missile-defence approach, with the target missile deploying countermeasures. Critics of the GMD programme say that tests thus far, which have not included such spoilers, have been too kind to the intercept tech.

The MDA isn't disclosing whether the intercepting kill vehicle had simply failed to reach the "threat cluster" of warhead(s) and decoys, or whether it had reached the cluster but hit a countermeasure rather than the actual target. We asked for clarification on this, and were informed that no more information will be available "probably for a few weeks". ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.