REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — A U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center team provided a low-cost target to help test the nation’s missile defense systems.
An Economical Target-2, a missile target designed to fly a ballistic flight path and demonstrate defensive protection capability, launched from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Sept. 8. The flight served to develop the next generation radar to be used in air and missile defense. The purpose is to test the radar’s ability to track a live ballistic target.
“Our experience was great,” said Anne E. Wolf, ET-2 test director, Targets Test Directorate, USASMDC Technical Center. “This is our fifth time doing this exact mission. Our team has really grown throughout these launches. We had a very smooth test this time.”
During the mission, Wolf was responsible for running the countdown and coordinating between the USASMDC team and the range.
Like USASMDC’s Zombie missile targets, ET-2s are repurposed demilitarized Army motors given 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 launch was another success,” Wolf said. “I feel like the team has grown together throughout these missions. We’ve had a few bumps in the road, as do most test groups, but we have put our heads together to come up with solutions.”
The ET-2 program started development early in 2020 and is an upgraded version of the ET-1 target with a longer range motor.
Wolf 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.
“Our team is truly a great team,” Wolf said. “We all work very well together. With this team, you’ll see people of all ranks lacing up their work boots to go to the field and put in some hard work. It’s inspiring to see people all with different ‘titles’ laughing and smiling while working together out in the desert heat.”
Joshua D. Alcorn, who served as ground operations and telemetry lead, was responsible for ensuring all mission support equipment was in place and operated the launch site telemetry equipment receiving and recording the vehicle telemetry data.
“It is always exciting and never gets old or mundane,” Alcorn said. “Every mission presents its own unique obstacles and challenges, this one went really smoothly.
He said the team is providing the best cost effective targets that aids in the development or refinement of critical systems that will protect the warfighter.
“I work with the best team,” Alcorn said. “Every member is fully engaged and ready to go from start to finish. After the smoke flies, there is a lot to break down the site and everyone jumps in and helps.”
Olivia Miller, who served as pad chief for the mission, said in her role she elevated and rotated the launcher according to the desired aim point. Throughout the count, she made adjustments to the launcher based on updated wind data.
“Today’s mission was our fourth successful ET-2 launch in eight months,” Miller said. “That is a testament to all the hard work our whole team has put in this year! We have built on things we learned from each mission, which resulted in a very smooth launch today. Our customer successfully tracked ET-2, which allowed them to further test and validate their systems.
“It’s been so exciting to be a part of each of these missions,” she added. “Even though this was our fourth time launching ET-2, hearing ignition at T-minus-0 was just as exciting this time as it was the first mission of the year.”