KWAJALEIN ATOLL, REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS - The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Operational Test Agency, in conjunction with Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen from multiple combatant commands, successfully completed a complex missile defense flight test Sept. 10, 2013, resulting in the intercept of two medium-range ballistic missile targets.
The test, Flight Test Operational-01 (FTO-01), was conducted near U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site at several locations in the western Pacific, stressing the ability of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon systems to defeat a raid of two nearly simultaneous targets.
The THAAD system, using an Army-Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control (AN/TPY-2) radar in Terminal Mode (TM) tracked one of the targets. THAAD developed a fire control solution, launched a THAAD interceptor missile, and successfully intercepted its target.
Soldiers from the operational unit, A-2 THAAD Battery, 11th Brigade, 32nd Army Air Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), out of Fort Bliss, Texas were the personnel operating the THAAD system in the vicinity of Kwajalein Atoll.
The top priority mission of the A-2 THAAD battery during FTO-01 is to be ready at a moment's notice to deter or neutralize any tactical ballistic missile threats to the combatant commander's critical assets. Keeping focus on the top priority during testing can be a challenge when a number of other real-world mission essential responsibilities also have to be accomplished.
Capt. Pete Lawall, battery commander, A-2 THAAD said, "In addition to the execution of this test, we also have multiple responsibilities in the rear, including Preparation to Deploy Order (PTDO) responsibilities and train-up of incoming personnel, so trying to execute all those requirements simultaneously is a challenge."
Lawall added later that they were able to overcome the challenges with having flexible junior leaders, empowering those junior leaders in the rear to execute those tasks necessary to prepare for deployment, and receiving a lot of help from mission command.
Several MDA officials and contractors were present to observe the flight test activities along with six 94th AAMDC Soldiers who provided the mission command element to the battery Lawall mentioned.
"We are the link between MDA and the war fighters," said Lt. Col. Anibal Vazquez, deputy chief of current operations, 94th AAMDC, and task force officer-in-charge, FTO-01.
During the course of the two month-long exercise, simulated scenarios were executed along with the real live-fire test of the missiles. Information about when the THAAD battery would actually fire the missiles was kept secret in order to keep the test more operationally realistic. 94th AAMDC personnel acted as "trusted agents" and only relayed information to the battery that was pertinent to accomplishing the tasks to complete either the simulation or the real thing.
"We did not want the Soldiers to identify when the live-fire would happen; we just wanted them to be prepared and ready at all times," said Vazquez. "Overall, I am very impressed with all the Soldiers in A-2 on how hard they worked to stay ready. If a piece of equipment went down, everyone, from the private up to the warrant officer, got involved to fix it. If a part arrived, that thing was installed within the next little while."
94th AAMDC also helped the THAAD battery with coordinating personnel arrivals and departures and other routine administrative and logistical tasks.
"We also took care of some of the things that the THAAD normally would do for themselves, such as delivering two spaces and picking up laundry and organizing recreational activities, so that they could concentrate on conducting the testing," said Master Sgt. Anthony Wyatt, current operations senior enlisted leader, 94th AAMDC, and FTO-01 senior enlisted leader.
THAAD has previously completed at least 10 successful intercept tests, including operationally-realistic tests in March 2009, June 2010, October 2011 and October 2012.
FTO-01 demonstrated integrated, layered, regional missile defense capabilities in a combined live-fire operational test. The test provided the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen who operated the systems a unique opportunity to refine operational doctrine and tactics while increasing confidence in the execution of integrated air and missile defense plans.