Missile Defense Agency head Vice Adm. James Syring on Wednesday defended the utility of the nation's principal system for thwarting possible ICBM attacks, saying he believes that what caused a July 5 test failure is fixable.
Syring confirmed that the launched Ground-based Interceptor failed to hit its ballistic missile target when there was a separation problem with one of the interceptor's stages, Global Security Newswire reported on Wednesday. The GBI missile is part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which presently fields 30 silo-based interceptors in Alaska and California. Plans are in place to expand the system in coming years with 14 additional GBI missiles.
"We've seen separation issues in previous flight tests ... earlier on in the prototype testing. And those have been corrected," Syring said in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. "We'll find out what happened here, and we'll correct this as well," he was quoted in a Defense Department release as saying.
A comprehensive review into the root causes for the interception failure is under way.
"I am committed to conducting a full evaluation of the path ahead for the (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) program to include more regular testing, an acceleration of the [Capability Enhancement 2 exo-atmospheric kill vehicle] upgrades after intercept testing or redesign, and upgrade" of the current exo-atmospheric kill vehicle, Syring told the hearing.
The MDA head said the test did have some successes, even though its primary aim was unsuccessful. A land-based version of the Aegis antimissile system sensor equipment was used in the test and had a successful trial run.
Syring said he could not be sure that more monies would not be needed to finish development of the GMD system's kill vehicles.
"What's important is continued testing," Syring said. He has asked for enough fiscal 2014 funding to pay for two intercept attempts next year.
The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation issued a press release criticizing the Pentagon's plans to continue investing millions in the GMD system, despite its poor recent testing track record over the last five years.
The organization also criticized the framework for the intercept trials, which take place in a carefully controlled environment. The GMD system is primarily focused on defending against long-range missile attacks, but none of the ballistic missile targets the system has been tested against thus far have had an ICBM range.