The Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command has ended the era of the Lance missile system with a bang thanks to the Navy’s Aegis Standard Missile-2 interceptor.
Members of SMDC/ARSTRAT launched one of the last Lance missiles used as a target during Multi-Mission Warfare, or MMW, system performance testing involving the Navy’s Aegis ship-based missiles July 29.
The test was one of four completed successfully last week by SMDC, the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Pacific Command and the crew of the USS John Paul Jones, a Navy destroyer. The test showed the ability of Standard Missile-6 and SM-2 Block IV interceptor missiles against Lance short-range ballistic missile threats as well as SM-6 missiles against cruise missile threats.
Launched as a simulated land-based attack from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, or PMRF, Kauai, Hawaii, the Lance missiles were tracked, identified, ranged and destroyed by the Navy interceptors.
“I am very proud of my team and think they performed exceptionally,” said Bryon Manley, chief, SMDC Test Execution Support Division or TESD. “We enjoy working with the Navy interceptors team and find commonality when fighting through program issues both technical and otherwise. Our team is small, agile and technically proficient, and while some organizations concentrate on functional processes, we focus on the products. I am proud of the Navy sailors, engineers and program managers who upgraded these interceptors and feel honored that we could play a role in advancing their defensive capabilities.
“It sounds cliché, but SMDC takes very seriously our products and how they support the advancement of missile defense weapons to defend American warfighters. At the end of the day whether it is for the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, being able to provide short range ballistic missile targets at an affordable cost to develop defensive weapon systems is what we strive to do and I am proud of my team’s success.”
The SMDC Lance launch support team and sailors on the Aegis Destroyer USS John Paul Jones executed all aspects of the mission nominally.
The Lance missile system is a hypergolic liquid rocket that mixes two chemicals, nitric acid with hydrazine, that spontaneously ignite when they come into contact with each other to produce thrust.
“This missile has a very high acceleration rate and is quite spectacular to see launched,” Manley said.
Developed in the 1950s and in active service from 1972-92, the Lance system was a major field artillery asset during the Cold War.
Involved in hundreds of Lance launches around the world, retired 1st Sgt. William “Gee” Glaster ended his career at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in 1994. Glaster also assisted in these latest launches.
“I spent decades launching Lance missiles and I have enjoyed each one,” Glaster said. “It is a bittersweet moment since Lance has been a great system that can still be used as targets, but I do understand the need to finally put the system to rest.”
In 2014, the Army made the decision to demilitarize the approximately 60 remaining Lance missiles in inventory.
“Since the Army had already paid for the development of the hardware, it made sense to the SMDC Targets Office at the time to utilize the missiles for alternative testing,” said Kevin Creekmore, SMDC Lance Target Program manager and Target Mission director for the MMW missions. “The Lance missiles launched for MMW performed flawlessly and allowed the Navy to meet all primary objectives for its missions. It is really amazing based on the age of the missiles and is truly a testament to the dedication and hard work of the team.”
Additional members of the hardware team were New Mexico State University Physical Sciences Laboratory, who installed the telemetry instrumentation system, and SECOTEC Inc., a Missile Defense Agency contractor, who installed a hit detection lethality system in the Lance warhead. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory installed a blast detection system in the warhead in support of the Navy mission.
Ricky Judy, TESD systems analyst, said SMDC and the Lance team were in constant contact with MDA and the Navy during the integration and testing of the Lance missile system prior to deployment to PMRF. The Lance team was responsible for transportation of all assets, execution of all launch pad operations and responsible for the countdown procedures at PMRF throughout the entire Lance portion of the MMW.
“This was truly a joint effort with support from the Naval Air Logistics Office, the Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and Redstone Army Airfield,” Judy said. “SMDC and the Army should be extremely proud of the Lance team because we were able to meet the requirements of the United States Navy and MDA by providing a very reliable target to validate a critical combat system at a very low cost.
“It was an honor to be part of this great team. We worked hard to make this event happen and because of the success that was achieved we have provided a capability that will protect lives and make our country stronger.”