100th Missile Defense Brigade integral to MDA flight test
100th Missile Defense Brigade Soldiers successfully completed a test launch for their no-fail mission at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2023. Brigade Soldiers pulled the trigger on a Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptor launch when they launched an upgraded Ground Based Interceptor with a Capability Enhanced-II Block 1 Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle during Flight Test Ground-based Midcourse Defense Weapon System-12, or FTG-12. (MDA photo) (Photo Credit: Jason Cutshaw) VIEW ORIGINAL

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. – 100th Missile Defense Brigade Soldiers successfully completed a test launch for their no-fail mission at Vandenberg Space Force Base on Dec. 11.

The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of a ground-based interceptor during a flight test of the nation’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.

“We work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command's 100th Missile Defense Brigade,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath A. Collins, MDA director. “The brigade’s Soldiers pull the trigger on the GMD interceptor launches and play a vital role in U.S. Northern Command’s mission to defend the United States from missile threats.”

The Soldiers used an upgraded ground-based interceptor to intercept an intermediate range ballistic missile. Called FTG-12, the test employed an upgraded GBI with a Capability Enhanced-II Block 1 Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. It was the first test of a three-stage GBI operating in two-stage mode, which means the third stage was commanded not to ignite. This allowed earlier release of the kill vehicle, providing closer range engagements and demonstrating the ability of the GMD capability to engage threats faster.

The primary objective of the test was to demonstrate the ability of GMD to engage a target in the expanded engagement space made possible by the GBI in two-stage mode.

“FTG-12 was an opportunity to exercise our tactics, techniques and procedures on operational software utilizing a ground-based interceptor against a real target,” said Maj. Skye Robinson, 100th Missile Defense Brigade crew director for the test. “Thankfully we haven’t needed to use the GMD system in an operational capacity. The flight test provided the most realistic opportunity to work through our processes and find areas we can improve and sustain.”

He said the flight test was the culmination of years of hard work by many different entities and could not have happened without all of them and the great crew on the GMD Fire Control System.

“Seeing the system operate as designed in an operationally realistic test condition lets us all sleep better knowing that if needed, we are ready and prepared to defend the homeland against enemy threats,” Robinson said. “Nothing is more important to all of us than providing defense of the homeland. It is humbling to have this great responsibility but there is no one I would rather have on the GMD system that the current collection of operators we have here at the 100th Missile Defense Brigade and at the 49th Missile Defense Battalion in Alaska. Everyone can rest better each night knowing we have a GMD System and crew operators ready to keep them safe.”

Brigade Soldiers work in concert with mission partners and materiel developers to continually refine and improve the system to counter the threats of today and the future. These Soldiers do countless training runs to evaluate and certify for real-world scenarios and execute support operations to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles in midcourse to defend the United States and designated areas.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Hamilton, current operations officer, who was on duty in the Vandenberg Operations Center during the flight test, said his primary task was to monitor sensor performance and reports. He reiterated the brigade’s goal was to provide a manned crew to operate the GMD Fire Control under operationally realistic test conditions.

“This was an amazing experience in that we, the operators, get to actually demonstrate our tactical and technical skills in a live environment proving that the brigade is ready 24/7 to defend the homeland,” Hamilton said. “The team performed exceptionally well culminating with the test target being negated by the EKV. Once we received word that the test target was destroyed the attitude in the room was very uplifting with team members celebrating and giving each other high fives.

“The GMD mission is a unique and humbling mission that allows personnel from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade know that they are directly defending the homeland and their loved ones,” he added.

Other crew members participating in the test included Capt. Al Stauch, deputy director; Master Sgt. Patricia Young, future operations officer; Sgt. 1st Class Alberto Galicia, readiness operations officer; and Staff Sgt. Joseph Lacroix, battle analyst. Also serving on the test was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Caroline Domenech, 100th Missile Defense Brigade trusted agent.