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The Missile Defense Agency capped a year of accomplishments with the successful execution of Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 proving a new capability for defense of the homeland.

This successful demonstration closes 2020 as a year with a significant list of achievements in Missile Defense System tests, program developments, construction projects, and operational successes while ensuring the safety of the MDA workforce during an unprecedented pandemic.

“With each passing day, we are strengthening and improving the nation’s missile defense system,” Maj. Gen. Philip Garrant, program executive for Ground-based Weapon Systems, said.

Garrant gave an overview of MDA’s 2020 achievements in November to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.

He praised the agency’s 2020 updates to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system’s hardware and software as the most significant in the program’s history and noted the MDA has begun seeking proposals for GMD’s Next Generation Interceptor. NGI will include a new booster and kill vehicle payload, which will be developed and built as an integrated weapon system. The agency also made progress with the construction of GMD Missile Field 4 in Fort Greely, Alaska, building 13 silos and interface vaults.

Throughout the year, the MDA’s Test Directorate safely executed multiple tests of the missile defense system, despite the constraints of COVID-19. Notably, during FTM-44 on Nov. 16, the MDA and the Navy made history by demonstrating a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor can destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

During this flight test, the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped destroyer, used engage-on-remote capabilities through the Command and Control Battle Management Communications network to launch an SM-3 Block IIA as part of a defense-of-Hawaii scenario. Using C2BMC tracking data, the interceptor destroyed the target ICBM.

“This was an incredible accomplishment and critical milestone for the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IIA program,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said. “The department is investigating the possibility of augmenting the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system by fielding additional sensors and weapon systems to hedge against unexpected developments in the missile threat. We have demonstrated that an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target, which is a step in the process of determining its feasibility as part of an architecture for layered defense of the homeland.”

An earlier test of missile defense capabilities occurred in October with Flight Test Patriot Weapon System-27 when the MDA and the Army tested the Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon systems at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The THAAD Army-Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control Model 2 detected and tracked a Black Dagger target then provided data to the Patriot weapon system, which determined a launch solution.

The Patriot weapon system interceptedthe target with a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement interceptor, using data provided by the THAAD radar, demonstrating the two system’s interoperability.

The MDA’s Sea-based X-band radar was deployed in the Pacific Ocean for nearly a year, its second-longest deployment ever. While deployed, the SBX supported numerous missile defense tests and homeland defense operations. In operation since 2005, this one-of-a-kind vessel is set to return to sea in January. Effective missile defense relies on dependable radar systems like SBX for operations, testing and data collection.

Internationally, the MDA supported Israel’s successful test of the Arrow-2 interceptor in August. Arrow Weapon System Test-18a demonstrated system processes through the live intercept of a medium range ballistic missile target.

The agency’s first Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, Romania, has been operational since 2016 and continues to provide for the defense of U.S. forces and NATO allies in Europe against ballistic missiles launched by rogue nations. Construction continues on a second Aegis Ashore site located on Naval Support Facility Redzikowo in Poland. The facility was commissioned Sept. 3 as the Navy’s newest shore installation.

As the agency prepares for 2021, the MDA will continue its mission to develop and deploy a layered missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from missile attacks in all phases of flight.

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