By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public AffairsJuly 6, 2017
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- The Department of Defense recently achieved success with the Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor, or FTG-15, and Soldiers from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade played a key role in the action.
During the test, a threat representative intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system detected the missile and launched an interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which for the first time, an ICBM target was intercepted by a ground-based midcourse interceptor
"This event clearly demonstrated the capability of the GMD system, further deterring our adversaries and reassuring our allies and the citizens of the United States that we defend," said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, and Joint Forces Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense commander. "The successful test was an important moment in the history of America's missile defense program development. A multilayered, robust missile defense system has been, and will remain, an integral element of America's broader national security apparatus."
Dickinson expressed his thanks to the uniformed personnel, government civilians, and contract employees throughout the USASMDC/ARSTRAT and JFCC IMD formations who directly contributed to the success of the FTG-15 flight test. He said that while this was a Missile Defense Agency event, both JFCC IMD and USASMDC/ARSTRAT played key roles, and it could not have been accomplished without the team's expertise and professionalism.
"We have to be able to fight tonight," Dickinson said. "The American public should have absolute confidence in the system. I have confidence in the Soldiers who man and operate the system and I have confidence in the system itself.
"When you see someone demonstrate that weapon system, it validates the process to train those Soldiers to perform their warfighting function," he added.
Ground-based interceptors are emplaced at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base with Warfighters of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely, Alaska, and 100th Missile Defense Brigade at Colorado Springs operating the system.
The test was designed to replicate an ICBM-type missile fired toward the United States. The sensors in the ballistic missile defense architecture detected it, provided that data over communication systems, and then the Soldiers of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, reacted as they have been trained and certified to do and executed the engagement with a missile out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
"This was a big deal," said Col. Chad Skaggs, SMDC Integrated Air and Missile Defense chief. "This was the first time we used the operational system to engage an intercontinental ballistic missile class target, which is what the system is designed to do. I think this test did a great job of showing what the system's capability is and proving to the American people that it works as advertised. It was executed flawlessly.
"The coordination, cooperation and confidence in the Soldiers who operate the system; the civilian and contractors who support the system; and the capability developer, MDA, and the Warfighter is something that is almost unmatched," he continued. "I am 100 percent confident that each one of those segments will react as they are supposed to, will provide as they are supposed to, and will allow the system to succeed. "The bad guys are always trying to do 'one-up' and we have to work hard to keep pace or to get ahead of them and stay ahead of them.
"The bottom line is that this proves we are ready to fight tonight if called upon," Skaggs added.
The mission crews from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade supported with preparation and execution of the flight test while maintaining simultaneous real-world operational watch defending the homeland.
Lt. Col. Richard Michalski Jr., one of five missile defense element crew directors charged with the defense of the homeland, said missile defense operators balance real-world events and simulation scenarios daily.
"Crews balance real-world event processing such as launches from around the world with crisis and combat simulation scenarios designed to test the limits of proficiency of individual operators as well as crews as a whole," Michalski explained. "To put this in perspective, over my career in the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, I have conducted more than 7,000 combat scenarios while on crew. One could expect similar numbers from some of the more senior operators in the brigade, and I think that that level of experience is vital in becoming a subject matter expert on the GMD fire control system."
Michalski said this expertise is vital in the success of the mission and that's a big part of why National Guard has this homeland defense mission.
"In order to train and certify an operator, we have to invest significant time," explained Michalski. "This lead time is a significant reason my National Guardsmen are preferred over their active component counterparts who rotate in and out of units every 24-36 months. National Guard Soldiers both at the 100th MDB and 49th Missile Defense Battalion have the ability to stay for a much longer duration.
"A future crew member can take as long as five months to become a member of a crew," he continued. "Couple that with a minimum 90 percent on all tests and evaluations, the process to become an operator is both a commitment in time and a significant academic challenge for most. Given the importance of this mission, such standards are necessary given that failure is simply not an option."
Michalski said he is privileged to have the opportunity to be a Colorado Guardsmen and a member of the brigade for 14 years.
"I have seen the GMD program evolve from a declaration by President George W. Bush of a 'limited defensive capability' in 2004 to a relevant, defensive weapons system designed and proven capable of doing something that seems impossible; hitting a missile with another missile in space," Michalski said. "This, coming in a time when our adversaries are now routinely launching ballistic missiles. There has never been a better time to be in this brigade, and I am humbled to be in charge of a crew that has the ability to defend this nation from an ICBM attack.
"I am honored and proud to know that I am one of 300 defending 300 million 24/7/365," he added.