Army SMDC team launches economical target for missile tests

By Jason Cutshaw, USASMDCFebruary 10, 2023

SMDC team launches new economical target
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center’s Targets Test Directorate launches an Economical Target-2 target, Feb. 8, 2023, from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, during a flight test design serving as a search track to test new Patriot missile software. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Space and Missile Command) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — A U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center team once again successfully used a low-cost, unguided target to test design, performance and launch software.

The Economical Target-2 — or ET-2 — is a ballistic missile target designed to fly a ballistic flight path and demonstrate defensive protection capability, launched from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Feb. 8. The flight served as a search track to test new Patriot missile software.

“Our team overcame several hurdles during this count, and had a successful launch,” said Meeda Bosse, ET-2 test director, Targets Test Directorate, Technical Center. “I am extremely proud of this team and all the hard work they did to produce a good target for our customers. I believe there is a strong future for this target, and this launch was hopefully the first of several this year.”

Like USASMDC’s Zombie missile targets, the ET-2s repurpose demilitarized Army motors and gives them life as targets. Although they do not have the accuracy of the guided Zombie targets, the command can provide this target at a fraction of the cost for situations where the target accuracy is a lower priority.

“The ET-2 target is a great opportunity for a low-cost target for search track missions,” Bosse said. “This target is unguided, but provides a cheaper alternative to meet objectives on search track missions.”

The ET-2 target was developed as a follow-on from the ET-1 target program. The ET-1 targets group started development in 2010 and flew a risk reduction flight in February 2012. The ET-2 program started development early in 2020 and is an upgraded version of the ET-1 target with a longer range motor.

“During our risk reduction flight in 2021, we discovered several opportunities for improved target performance,” Bosse said. “We incorporated those changes on this target. Preliminary tracks show a much improved performance over our risk reduction flight."

Bosse said the Army continually needs low-cost targets for missile tests and currently the closest target to an ET-2 is a Patriot missile.

She said these targets help the Army with modernization by allowing for more frequent testing to occur within budget constraints. As new, improved missile defense technology is developed, flight tests are needed to demonstrate capabilities and increase efficiency of fielded technology.

Pamela R. Galloway, who served as backup to the assistant test director, said the team worked through a lot of “what if” drills to be prepared for any and all situations during hot-day countdown.

“The targets team worked very closely with range personnel and the customer to ensure green target during the launch window,” Galloway said. “The team worked through issues with range personnel to maintain count during the launch window.”

Anne Wolf, launch assistant test director, said each mission brings new lessons, all of which are beneficial to the team’s missile flight tests.

“It’s always exciting to be a part of a launch mission,” Wolf said. “This mission I got to assist in running the count, which is all the more exciting. You have to be on your toes ready for anything off-nominal that comes your way.

“The mission was a great success,” she added. “This mission is important because we had some first flight items from our risk reduction flight. It was important to see these changes succeed, especially since we have more in the future.”