In FTI-01, two Raytheon AN/TPY-2 radars were used: one attached to Thaad for tracking and fire control of its medium-range ballistic missile target and another based in a geographically different area in “forward-based mode.” In this mode, the X-band radar scans the horizon for ballistic threats. “It originally started out to be the fire-control sensor for Thaad, but we evolved it to be a forward-based sensor,” says Dave Gulla, vice president of global integrated sensors for Raytheon.
The forward-based radar fed data into the larger command-and-control system, which then cued Aegis, Patriot and Thaad sensors. “Demonstrating that connection with the TPY-2 in the forward-based mode with Aegis and Patriot . . . is extremely important,” says one senior industry official. “That radar has the range and the Aegis [S-band radar] has the legs—that makes for very powerful information.” In this mode, the Thaad radar is not searching for airborne threats such as cruise missiles, which would fly under its reach.
Both cruise missiles were successfully engaged. A PAC-3 destroyed a ground-launched MQM-107. And the Aegis deployed an SM-2 Block IIIA against the BQM-74E target, which was emulating an anti-ship missile. Because this interceptor uses a proximity-triggered blast-fragmentation warhead, intercept was not a goal. A warhead was not detonated because MDA officials planned to recover and reuse the target to save money.
Engagement of multiple airborne and ballistic threats in the same test is a step forward for the Pentagon. Individual systems such as PAC-3 have previously engaged a single air-breather and ballistic threat at once. But involving a second system adds a layer of complexity.
Integrating air and missile defenses is a challenge facing the Pentagon. Because missile defense was so nascent when it created the MDA (from its legacy as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization), it was singularly focused on countering ballistic targets. Air defense programs continued to be developed among the individual services. But as the technology for both capabilities has matured, and with the successes of FTI-01, the senior industry official says the time is right to begin discussing how to integrate the two. “We need to start thinking more about integrated air and missile defense,” the official says. “That will be the next vector that they need to be focused on.”
Additionally, the use of new sensors, such as downward-looking infrared detectors mounted on Predator unmanned aircraft or on the Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites, has provided valuable and precise data on the launch points of threats. These data call for the Pentagon to forge a better linkage between the defenses and offensive systems, the industry official says. Knowing these points will allow the Pentagon to attack them with any number of weapons, crippling an adversary's ability to operate from there.
Though FTI-01 broke ground for integrating the defensive systems, trials will continue on them singly as well. Before year-end, MDA plans to test the Aegis/SM-3 Block IB, which has an improved sensor and divert-and-attitude-control system; restart testing of the Boeing-led Ground-Based Missile Defense System; and attempt its first intercept with the Medium-Extended-Altitude Air Defense System, a joint program with Germany and Italy that is led by Lockheed Martin.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency pitted the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system against an air-launched, medium-range ballistic missile as one of five near-simultaneous engagements during an Oct. 24 test. To see video of the Thaad kill, check out the digital edition of AW&ST on leading tablets and smartphones or go to