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Missile Defense Agency conducts booster test flight supported by Huntsville-managed Boeing missile defense program

Missile defense operations conducted in the Yellowhammer State continue to prove vital in protecting the homeland from long-range missile threats posed by foreign adversaries.

Boeing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on Sunday successfully demonstrated an advanced interceptor capability for the Huntsville-managed Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.

The GDM system defends the United States from rogue-state long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threats. It is the only system capable of providing such defense. The aerospace juggernaut manages the crucial national security program out of the Rocket City as the prime contractor for the Department of Defense (DOD).

According to Boeing, the test included launching a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) into space with a three-stage booster in two-stage mode, allowing the GBI to release the kill vehicle earlier in flight, providing an earlier opportunity to intercept and defeat a missile threat.

The new capability, the company said, is made possible through digital system modelling software upgrades. It gives operators the real-time choice between a two-stage or three-stage interceptor, depending on the threat’s location and speed.

The stage mode determines when the kill vehicle is released from the GBI. Company officials said the achievement will allow GBIs to be modernized and fielded with this critical capability as a part of the MDA’s Service Life Extension Program.

Boeing GMD vice president and program director Debbie Barnett said the system stands ready to defend the homeland at any given moment.

“The GMD system is reliable and ready if called upon to defend the nation,” said Barnett. “For more than 20 years, Boeing has led the development, integration and maintenance of this system. We’re proud to continue these efforts for the fielded GMD system to ensure the continued defense of the United States for years to come.”

According to the MDA, initial indications show the test met the requirements. The agency said program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

MDA director Vice Admiral Jon Hill detailed the booster’s successful flight test.

“This was the first flight test of the new selectable stage booster configuration in two-stage mode,” said Hill.” The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the greatly increased battlespace the selectable booster brings to the Warfighter.

He added, “The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we continue to provide enhanced capabilities for our existing Ground Based Interceptor fleet while we rapidly design and deliver the leap ahead technology of the Next Generation Interceptor.”

Boeing has led the industry team for GMD systems since it was first established in 1998 with Alabama-based engineering experts playing a vital role in the program’s operations.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL