Military News

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Test site arranges development of nation's ICBMs

by Jason Cutshaw
SMDC/ARSTRAT Public Affairs

9/2/2015 - HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Soldiers and civilians have played an important role in an intercontinental ballistic missile test executed by Air Force Global Strike Command.

An unarmed Minuteman III was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, during an operational test Aug. 19 and impacted in a pre-established target zone roughly 4,200 miles away, near the SMDC/ARSTRAT's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The purpose of the ICBM test launch program was to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system.

The Reagan Test Site is a range and test facility located 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. Its sensors, including high-fidelity metric and signature radars, as well as optical sensors and telemetry, play a role in the research, development, test and evaluation in support of America's defense and space programs.

Supporting the launch from Huntsville were members of SMDC assigned to the RTS Operations Center-Huntsville. Soldiers and civilians assigned to the ROC-H monitor sensors at the Reagan Test Site.

"RTS is a directorate in the Technical Center within SMDC," said Michael Butler, RTS Mission Operations Division chief. "Therefore it is SMDC that manages the Reagan Test Site in Huntsville and on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. RTS is the technical side of operations that occur on Kwajalein Atoll. Kwajalein is the physical site of all our radars, telemetry and optics sites. The RTS Operations Center-Huntsville is the command and control location of the technical operations."

ROC-H is the command and control facility for missile defense testing and for space operations at RTS, despite being more than 6,500 miles from Kwajalein. Sensors are used to follow the incoming projectile from Vandenberg and other places and then report back to that customer how their missile performed.

"RTS is a unique national asset," Butler said. "Geographically located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Kwajalein Atoll provides opportunities for testing and data collection that would not be possible anywhere within U.S. boundaries. The suite of instrumentation managed and operated at RTS provides the full spectrum of data that customers require to establish truth about what occurred during a test and allows them to make necessary adjustments or modifications as required.

"Every test results in knowledge gained, and a thorough understanding of a system is vital to understanding how best to use it."

Included in the equipment on Kwajalein, Roi-Namur, and the other islands in the atoll that RTS has instrumented, is the Kiernan ReEntry Measurement Site, composed of the ARPA Long Range Tracking and Instrumentation Radar, VHF/UHF system, the Target Resolution and Discrimination Experiment L- and S-Band system, the Millimeter Wave Radar Ka-Band system, and the ARPA Lincoln C-Band Observables Radar C-Band system.

"RTS plans the details for test operations and data collection, ensures safety of personnel and property, and then executes the test to collect data of interest to the range customer," Butler said. "After the test, the data products are prepared and delivered to the customer in whatever format they desire. Meaning that if they want raw data that comes straight off the assets collecting, they get that. If they desire that our team reduce the data into a different format for their ease of use, our team will provide that. RTS is a service organization, succeeding in providing excellent customer support.

"RTS range personnel perform a great deal of pre-mission activities to ensure that RTS will be successful in collecting data on the objects of interest that will be used by the Air Force for post mission analysis. During the test we have personnel who are operating radars, telemetry, optics, and weather instrumentation to determine range readiness for the test and ultimately to collect data for the customer. Support and data are what RTS provides to our customers. We also perform the actions necessary to ensure that the range is safe to receive an incoming ICBM, without causing damage to property or harm to personnel."

The RTS tracks approximately 50,000 objects a year through space, including foreign and domestic satellites and other objects as small as 10 centimeters.

Butler talked about how RTS supports the warfighter and how the service they provide is vital to helping material developers and operational evaluators determine if the systems under test are performing as desired. He said RTS range instrumentation is well-characterized and provides validated, or "truth" data to the systems that are under test.

He said using the full spectrum of support that RTS offers, including multiple radar frequencies, telemetry, and optics; combined with an accurate meteorological picture of what atmospheric conditions were at the time of test, the team provides data and information that is critical to system performance evaluations.

"The mission at RTS is to provide excellent support to the warfighter and our team takes great pride in doing just that," Butler said. "The personnel who support RTS don't just work at RTS, they become a part of the range. The personnel who work every day on range instrumentation that is well-beyond the intended life, yet still succeed in making it work on limited budgets, are able to do so because they care a great deal about what they do and support the mission they have been charged with.

"The test environment truly fosters a team spirit. Everyone works toward a common goal and everyone pitches in when work needs to get done. What RTS does for the nation is provide a venue to test complex missile systems and provide accurate data products that inform the nation's leaders of how the systems are performing."

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