Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center team uses new low-cost, unguided targets to economically test design, performance and launch operations.
The Economical Target-2, a ballistic missile target designed to fly a ballistic flight path and demonstrate defensive protection capability, launched from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on Aug. 12, in a risk reduction flight that supports the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor.
“An unguided target was a new experience for a lot of our team, and it is a different process than we are used to with our guided Zombie targets,” Meeda Bosse, ET-2 risk reduction flight test director, Targets Test Directorate, Technical Center, said. “The team quickly adapted to any changes we needed to make in our process to meet these new requirements. We are really looking forward to taking the lessons learned and improving our process for future launches.”
Like SMDC’s Zombie missile targets, the ET-2 targets repurpose old Army motors to use them as targets.
“Similar to our Zombie targets, ET-2 takes demilitarized motors and gives them a new life as targets,” Bosse said. “It doesn’t have the accuracy of our guided Zombie targets, however, we can provide this target at a fraction of the cost. This allows us to provide a cheaper target for testing situations where the target accuracy is a lower priority.”
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 this target with a longer-range motor.
“Risk reduction flights are required at White Sands Missile Range before a target can be used,” Bosse said. “We are very excited about this flight because it means we begin providing customers ET-2 targets. The ET-2 target will be used in upcoming months to test the new LTAMDS radar. We are excited to be able to provide a cheaper target that will hopefully allow for more testing by our customers.
“The first time you build and fly any target, you can run into unexpected issues. Our White Sands Missile Range team was always quick to jump into action and do whatever it took to help us overcome any issues. The team really goes above and beyond on every mission to make sure we are successful.”
Bosse said the Army continually needs low-cost targets for missile tests and currently the closest target to an ET-2 is a Patriot.
“While this system currently meets Army needs, it requires much more ground equipment to launch,” she said. “This is equipment that is taken away from test capabilities. The ET-2 target will fill this gap and free up other Army assets for additional testing.
“The lower cost of the ET-2 target will allow for more flight tests. Currently, the ET-2 target is being used for search track flight tests to test a new radar before it is used in an intercept flight test. This allows any issues to be identified.”
Bosse said the ET-2 target will 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 its capabilities and increase efficiency of fielded technology.
“The ET-2 program will lower the cost of testing by providing a cheaper target,” she said. “More testing increases the effectiveness of systems put in the field. The more effective our missile defense systems are, the safer our Soldiers in the field will be.”