By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianJune 23, 2016
2016 has been a year of expansion for missile defense beginning this spring with the deployment of the Aegis Ashore in Romania. More recently the Missile Defense Agency announced the release of draft Environmental Impact Studies for three sites which could become the East Coast location for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.
Just 12 years ago, on June 23, 2004, the first Ground-based Midcourse Defense booster missile, constructed in Courtland, Alabama, was flown into Eielson Air Force Base and delivered to Fort Greely, Alaska.
With the installation of the interceptor kill-vehicle, the three-stage, 54-foot missile was ready to be fielded. This new age of missile defense began in the next month, on July 22, when this first interceptor, identified as Initial Defensive Capability, or IDC-1, was lowered into its silo. Despite the lack of ceremony, the event was witnessed by media outlets from the United States, Asia and Europe.
Maj. Gen. John Holly, program director of the GMD Joint Program Office, noted that this emplacement, "marks the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks.
"While this system will constitute an initial limited capability, it is a vast improvement over our current defensive posture, which is nonexistent," Holly said.
Representing the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Col. Jeffery Horne, deputy commander for operations, observed, "This is a proud day of our joint team and a historic day for our country. Our soldiers are trained and ready to defend the Nation with the exception tools the Missile Defense Agency has worked so diligently to produce and perfect. We are looking to the future with great pride and determination."
This deployment was the first step toward meeting President George W. Bush's December 2002 directive to deliver an initial GMD capability by 2004. Of the initial 10 interceptors, six were to be deployed at Fort Greely and an additional four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with an additional ten interceptors planned for fiscal year 2005.
In addition to the ground-based interceptors, these initial capabilities incorporated various features of missile defense to include sea-based interceptors, additional Patriot Advanced Capability-3 units and sensors on land, at sea and in space.