Press Release

Johns Hopkins APL Plays Key Role in Complex Operational Test of Missile Defense Agency Ballistic Missile Defense System

Engineers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in cooperation with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the U.S. Navy, U.S. European Command and U.S. Pacific Command, played a key role in an MDA Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) operational test event.

This layered defense test, including BMDS operational elements from Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), the ground-based radar AN/TPY-2, and Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC), involved tracking and engaging three concurrent ballistic missile and cruise missile targets. It was one of the most complex tests completed to date for this system.

The test, named Flight Test Operational-02 Event 2a, was conducted near Wake Island in the western Pacific. This was a highly complex operational test of the BMDS that required all elements to work together in an integrated, layered defense designed to detect, track, discriminate, engage and negate the ballistic and cruise missile threats.

During the test, short- and medium-range ballistic missile targets were air-launched toward defended areas near Wake Island in the western Pacific Ocean. A cruise missile target was also air-launched and flew a profile toward an Aegis Baseline 9 destroyer, USS John Paul Jones.

Operating in Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) mode, the ship tracked the short-range ballistic missile target while receiving tracking data on the medium-range ballistic missile target from the AN/TPY-2 and THAAD radars stationed on Wake Island.

The THAAD weapon system developed a fire control solution, launched a THAAD interceptor missile and successfully intercepted the short-range ballistic missile target. Using the remote medium-range ballistic target track data from the AN/TPY-2 and THAAD radars, Aegis calculated an intercept solution for the incoming target and fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB Threat Upgrade guided missile.

An anomaly early in its flight prevented an SM-3 intercept. However, the THAAD interceptor, in its terminal defense role, acquired and successfully intercepted the target. Concurrently, Aegis successfully engaged the cruise missile target with a Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA guided missile. A failure review is currently under way to investigate the SM-3 anomaly.

APL experts worked closely with MDA and industry partners to plan the complex test scenario. APL researchers contributed target modeling, preflight weapon system performance predictions, real-time target assessment and orbital safety analysis.

“This test demonstrated the value of integrated, layered missile defense,” said Vishal Giare, APL’s program area manager for Aegis BMD. “Such an event provides confidence in the operational capability of Aegis BMD to integrate with the Ballistic Missile Defense System to defeat a complex air and missile defense raid.”

As the technical direction agent for Aegis BMD, Aegis and Standard Missile, APL is an integral part of the full systems engineering life cycle, including testing and transition of Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability to the fleet. The Aegis Weapon System is developed by Lockheed Martin, Moorestown, New Jersey. The Standard Missile is developed by Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona.