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Military Capabilities

MDA installs last of 44 planned homeland missile defense interceptors, eyes more

08 November 2017

Improving the GMD system has been the Pentagon's top missile defence priority. It now has its full complement of 44 interceptors. (MDA)Improving the GMD system has been the Pentagon's top missile defence priority. It now has its full complement of 44 interceptors. (MDA)The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Boeing have installed the last of a planned 44 homeland missile defence interceptors, part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, ahead of a year-end deadline, Boeing announced on 7 November.

“This interceptor includes features demonstrated in the successful intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] intercept test conducted in May,” the company said.

The GMD system and its Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) are designed to defend against a limited attack from North Korea, which earlier this year successfully tested its Hwasong-14 (KN-20) ICBM.

MDA’s May intercept test used the latest redesign of the GBI’s kill vehicle, known as the Capability Enhancement-II (CE-II) Block I, which is meant to fix issues with the original kill vehicle's sensor package and thrusters that direct it towards the target.

The latest GBI, installed at Ft Greely in Alaska, is armed with the CE-II Block I modification.

MDA has sought better sensor and tracking capability to help the interceptors identify and destroy incoming warheads, as well as more interceptors. In a 6 November supplemental funding package, the White House proposed an extra USD2.1 billion for construction of another GBI field at Fort Greely, initial procurement towards another 20 GBIs, funding “other discrimination and shooter capabilities”, and for other missile defence programmes.

While that request is just a start towards additional procurement, it could potentially lead to 64 GBIs. For now, about 20 of the active GBIs use first-generation CE-I kill vehicles, the next 10 or so are second-generation CE-IIs, and 14 are to be CE-II Block I interceptors with the newest design.

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