FY97 DOT&E Annual Report


DoD ACAT ID Program
20 Ground-Based Interceptors
(Capability 1)
Total program cost (TY$) $12,500M
Deployment Readiness Rev. FY00
Capability 1 IOC FY03

Prime Contractor
Lead System Integrator (LSI)
United Missile Defense Company
Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV)
Boeing North American


The mission of the NMD program is to defend the United States against a limited Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) attack. The NMD Deployment Readiness Program, also called the NMD 3+3 Program, will be implemented in two phases. The initial three-year phase consists of technology development and system integration. Should the threat warrant, the system would be ready for a Deployment Readiness Review (DRR) in FY00. If the decision to deploy is made, the second phase would begin and the NMD system would achieve an initial operational capability (Capability 1) in another three years. If a deployment decision is not made, the 3+3 program will continue advanced development while maintaining the capability to deploy within three years should a threat materialize.

The NMD system integrates multiple sensor and weapon elements. Core elements include the silo-housed Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) carrying Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKV). The EKVs are equipped with terminal homing seekers and designed to destroy targets in non-nuclear, hit-to-kill intercepts, using track data provided by a ground-based radar. The Battle Management, Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) element provides engagement planning and situation assessment, while keeping a "human in control." The BMC3 integrates early warning data of missile launch from satellites and initial estimates of the missiles’ tracks and intended targets from Upgraded Early Warning Radars and forward-based X-Band Radars.

By design, NMD embodies Joint Vision (JV) 2010's operational concept of precision engagement. NMD is an integrated system of subsystem elements relying on information superiority to provide responsive command and control to locate and engage ICBMs. It performs kill assessment to evaluate the success of an engagement and is capable of executing multiple engagements. By providing defense for the nation, NMD incorporates JV 2010's concept of full-dimension protection.


Early in 1996, the DoD completed a comprehensive review of its theater and national ballistic missile defense programs. The review shifted the NMD program from a Technology Readiness Program (1993–1995) to a Deployment Readiness Program (1996–2003) with the potential for a deployment decision in 2000. The deployment readiness approach reduces the lead-time to deploy an NMD system and, therefore, acts as a hedge against an uncertain threat. The Deployment Readiness Program also complies with U.S. international treaty obligations.


Much of the T&E activity during FY 97 was focused on the development of an executable program. DOT&E insisted that, before the TEMP would be approved, the T&E program must be prepared to conduct an intense flight test program in the event of a decision to deploy. This position contributed to the eventual recognition by the Quadrennial Defense Review that the program required additional funding in order to properly execute the 3+3 concept. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of flight and complimentary ground tests in the three years between the DRR and deployment. The TEMP was subsequently approved by DOT&E on October 9, 1997.

The NMD T&E program will be executed in compliance with the approved TEMP and relies on a combination of simulations, Integrated Ground Tests (IGTs), and Integrated Flight Tests (IFTs) structured for combined DT/OT. Each IFT is preceded by an IGT to ensure the chance of a successful IFT. After IFT-5, each IGT will be configured similar to its subsequent IFT to further reduce testing risk. Using surrogates to approximate NMD elements as needed, the IFTs are designed to (1) collect data that address system issues and key technical parameters, (2) verify the performance of NMD elements, and (3) demonstrate system effectiveness. Specifically, IFT-1A&2 will assess EKV sensor technology and performance, IFT-3&4 will evaluate EKV intercept capabilities, and IFT-5 will be the first attempt to demonstrate overall NMD system interoperability. IFT-5 is scheduled to be conducted in 1999 and will be followed by a DRR in 2000. The results of that review, based on threat assessments and system maturity, will support a decision on whether or not to deploy the NMD Capability 1 system by 2003.

All NMD flight testing will be in compliance with the ABM Treaty and other applicable treaties at the time of testing. Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR) and White Sands Missile Range are authorized to launch interceptors under the ABM treaty; but only KMR is configured to accept incoming simulated strategic target flights. Accordingly, flight tests will use target suites launched from Vandenberg AFB and directed toward KMR.

The first flight test, IFT-1, was attempted in January 1997, but the payload launch vehicle (a surrogate for the GBI booster) failed to launch the EKV, and the test was aborted. An incorrectly set current limit for an external power supply caused the failure. The test was repeated in June 1997 (IFT-1A) and was a success—all test objectives were met with nominal results. The next integrated flight test, IFT-2, is scheduled for January 1998.


The schedule established for the NMD Deployment Readiness Program presents a major challenge relative to traditional DoD acquisition timelines. If a deployment is required by 2003, the NMD program will have to compress the work of 10 to 12 years into 6 years. As a consequence, much of the T&E will be done concurrently, and there will be considerable emphasis placed on modeling and simulation.

The following factors significantly limit the ability of the NMD T&E program to test, analyze, and evaluate system performance: (1) only a single, system-level flight test (IFT-5) is planned before the DRR; (2) the capability of the GBI booster will not be tested before the DRR; (3) a BMC3-to-Commander in Chief interface inside Cheyenne Mountain will not be tested prior to the DRR; (4) NMD system performance against multiple targets is not currently planned; and (5) models and simulations used to support the DRR will have minimal validation by real flight data.

Limited system testing of NMD has been conducted to date and NMD will not be able to support any OT until 2003, at the earliest. The areas where DOT&E will focus its attention and press for adequate testing during the early phase of the program include (1) EKV and seeker performance through the use of hardware-in-the-loop facilities, (2) preflight quality-control testing of the missile system, (3) ground-based system simulation, including computer modeling and software processor-in-the-loop simulations using military operators, (4) data fusion from sensor, radar, communication, and command and control subsystems, and (5) lethality predictions from physics-based mathematical simulations, scale-model gas gun testing, and flight test validations.


The NMD system shares an important functional attribute with theater missile defense systems like Theater High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), Navy Theater Wide, and PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3: all are hit-to-kill systems. The recent THAAD flight test failures provide us with the following two important lessons: (1) hit-to-kill technology is more difficult than anticipated, and (2) preflight checkouts of reliability and performance need to be emphasized. The failure of IFT-1 and a software problem that delayed the launch of IFT-1A underscore the importance of thorough ground testing prior to highly visible and expensive flight testing.