By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public AffairsNovember 29, 2017
REDSTONE ARSTENAL, Alabama -- One U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command team finds better ways for target testing.
Members of the USASMDC/ARSTRAT Technical Center, in support of the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space's Lower Tier Program Office, or LTPO, provided a realistic threat ballistic missile target for use in testing the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, or PAC-3 MSE, advanced missile defense systems.
"We had an excellent team executing this mission," said Kevin Creekmore, SMDC Test Execution Support Division, or TESD acting chief.
The TESD successfully launched a Sabre Zombie target at the McGregor Range on Fort Bliss, Texas, into White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, November 16.
Creekmore said the target was provided in support of operational testing of the PAC-3 MSE. Preliminary results show the target met all performance objectives and allowed the Patriot system to demonstrate new capabilities that can be provided to the Warfighter. The target carried an on-board hit detection system which provides data to assess the effectiveness of the interceptor's lethality against targets of this class.
"The TESD mission is to provide end-to-end test planning, design, development, integration and test execution, as well as flexible launch platforms and unique low-cost target solutions," Creekmore said. "The Sabre Zombie target is another valuable assets in the low-cost suite of targets that provide solutions for integration missile defense developmental and operational testing, as well as foreign military sales applications.
"This mission was a repeat of a planned Sabre launch in June which was aborted due to an anomalous condition that occurred shortly before scheduled firing," he added. "Following an extensive anomaly investigation, actions were taken to correct the issue. Significant testing was performed to verify the correction which was further validated in the successful target launch."
Creekmore added that the mission was a challenge because it was the third mission supported by the same small team over the previous 12 months. It is a very small government and contractor team and required dedication from the team to support the multiple mission is a short timeframe.
"Throughout my eight-year career at SMDC, I have been a part of 10 ballistic missile flight tests. I have been fortunate enough to serve as the Target Test Director for the last two Sabre missions," said Christopher Cain Crouch, TESD general engineer. "That role is filled with excitement from the beginning of the five-hour countdown right up through the launch, but the most exciting part of the countdown is definitely when the clock hits zero. At launch, you feel the rumble underneath your feet, and your entire body trembles from the rocket motor vibration and the noise. That's the only place in the world where you can get that feeling. It's indescribable."
Crouch said the most important lesson he has learned from testing is that teamwork is critical to mission success.
"No matter how intelligent any one individual may be, he or she cannot launch a missile by themselves," he said. "Every mission is dependent on each team member performing his or her role to the best of their ability. I also believe that communication is key, and that teams can always improve communication processes. We can always improve our communication among our Government team, our contractors, the test range, and our customers.
"We have the most professional team I've ever been a part of," Crouch added. "Everyone on our team works extremely hard and will fill any role with absolutely no complaints. This is attributed to the extremely high-character individuals we have on this team and the leadership."
One team member said the mission was a complete success and they were very pleased with the performance achieved.
"We looked for actuator, fin and battery performance during this test. Everything worked great," said Stephanie Chrisley, TESD general engineer. "We learn something new with each flight test. We get better at performing our checks, build-up and mission execution but it also paves the way for product improvements, such as our two-stage missile.
Sabre is a low-cost target with a wide range of capabilities which can be used for a variety of scenarios and for a variety of customers," she added. "Flexible low-cost targets will allow the Army to test more often. Testing frequently helps us perfect each iteration of updates to our systems and ultimately helps the Warfighter."