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This article was Originally Published on Mar 06, 2004 in Volume: 3  Issue: 1

Targets and Countermeasures

MDA has initiated a very aggressive program to create more realistic target systems and to include more dynamic countermeasure options. By doing so, they will increase the adaptability of both their tactics and interceptors in dealing with anticipated inbound threats.

By Mickey McCarter

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Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, based in Denver, CO, is responsible for management of the design, development, procurement and testing of systems to target ballistic missile threats. The targets developed under the auspices of the program will test the effectiveness of the missile defense components currently in development.

The program specifically tests the ability of the primary technologies in question, including the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Patriot Advanced Capability 3 and Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to destroy incoming ballistic missiles at various points in their flight paths.

Reavis could not discuss how Lockheed Martin would address specific components of the missile defense system due to the classified nature of the work, but he did elaborate on some of the general approaches planned by Lockheed Martin.

“The contract, over a period of time, is to basically accomplish two or three things,” Reavis explained. The first goal is to provide overall management services for the contract, as covered by the amount of the initial four-year award. Reavis added that Lockheed Martin must also “use the system engineering process of spiral development for new technologies, meaning a flexible, on-time, affordable target set for the MDA.

“Instead of having a great multitude of targets out there, they want to strengthen the number of targets they have available where they can be robust, cost-effective and available on time,” he said. “There will be increased complex systems development in this contract as the requirements come from the MDA. We receive our requirements from the MDA.”

In response to questions from an industry day briefing on April 4, 2003, MDA-TC announced that it “is moving away from developing prototype solutions for individual Element tests.” Instead, the directorate seeks to acquire or develop a small number of products to test each line of defense.

The directorate further said it would like to find solutions that could be integrated and launched quickly to meet all of its target requirements. The MDA has been testing the GMD system at Fort Greely, AK, in recent months, but Reavis declined to comment as to exactly where Lockheed Martin first expects to examine targets and countermeasures.

“We will be developing systems wherever MDA requires them to be developed,” Reavis said. “That is yet to be determined.”

What Should a Target Look Like?

Over the past several years, critics have charged that the targets and countermeasures deployed by the MDA did not represent the true capabilities of an enemy ballistic missile attack. In June 2002, Philip Coyle, assistant secretary of defense and director, operational test and evaluation from 1994 to 2001, wrote in the Washington Post, “Up to now, the target cluster has consisted of a mock re-entry vehicle—simulating an enemy warhead—and various countermeasures or decoys.

“So far, the decoys have been round balloons, which do not look at all like the target re-entry vehicle. The latest test, last March, had three such balloons; all the earlier flight intercept tests had just one.”

Reavis acknowledged the concerns of past efforts but affirmed that Lockheed Martin would manage the targets prime contract to produce an increasingly complex system of “capabilities-based” targets and countermeasures in an effort to meet MDA task orders.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has established a program office in the Crystal City complexes of Arlington, VA, to provide quick physical access to MDA.


Lockheed Martin has also opened offices in Huntsville, AL, and Albuquerque, NM, in support of the targets and countermeasures program. A great deal of work on targets and countermeasures occurs in Huntsville, home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and Space and Missile Defense Command, which houses several military missile commands, and the Air Force’s Detachment 12, Space and Missile Systems Center, at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM.

Offices previously established by the company in Sunnyvale, CA, and its space systems headquarters in Denver will also support the targets and countermeasures office. Lockheed Martin estimates that it will dedicate about 250 people to the effort, across all locations, on a full-time basis.

Lockheed Martin has recruited a team of partners, including the following, to provide the company with technical advice on orders received from MDA: Battelle Memorial Institute, Colombus, OH; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., McLean, VA; Dynetics Inc., Huntsville; Honeywell International Inc., Morristown, NJ; InSys LLC, UK; International Launch Services, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and the Russian Khrunichev Space Center; ITT Industries Inc., White Plains, NY; Millennium Space Systems, Los Angeles; Space and Missile Defense Technologies, Huntsville; Teledyne Brown Engineering, Los Angeles; Titan Corp., San Diego; and Toyon Research Corp. Goleta, CA.

“Those subcontractors are not hardware suppliers per se for us,” Reavis emphasized. “We are using these people for technical advice and management.”

Reavis said that if any of the advisors do provide hardware or other assistance to the contract, it would be after a fair and open competition. When it receives a requirement under the contract, Lockheed Martin will first confirm if the requirement is part of an ongoing system. If it is, the prime contractor will go to the company that provides that ongoing system. If the requirement is new, Reavis vows that Lockheed Martin will hold a competition for the task.

“We will run an open and fair competition across the industry to see what is the best value—to MDA—to perform that specific task,” he said. “It quite possibly might not be Lockheed Martin. It will be an open and fair competition across the board.”

Lockheed Martin won the targets and countermeasures contract with stiff competition from other large systems integrators like Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. Reavis said the competition for the December 9, 2003, contract award grew out of a white paper that Lockheed Martin drafted about four years ago. The white paper examined the feasibility of a targets prime contract for MDA. Lockheed Martin executives examined the paper then transmitted it to MDA for consideration. The idea eventually blossomed into a competitive bid.

Work performed by Lockheed Martin previously for MDA served as strong past performance in its response to the targets and countermeasures request for proposals (RFP), Reavis said. The company has performed some past work specifically for the targets and countermeasures staff in Huntsville.

Lockheed Martin also created the Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) Vehicle for missile defense under a contract awarded in May 1992. Utilizing the rocket boosters of the retired Minuteman II missile, the MSLS vehicle served as a target vehicle for missile defense experiments. The program tested payloads up to 1,450 pounds in weight for distances of up to 4,200 miles away. Lockheed Martin could utilize MSLS or parts of the program in response to future requirements if it fulfilled them.

In a statement of objectives received by competing contractors on March 28, 2003, MDA-TC stated its intent for the prime contract to develop target systems, which it defined as those products formed from the integration of boosters, payload reentry vehicles and countermeasures, and instrumentation. In the RFP, MDA-TC agreed that the prime contractor might recycle past products developed for certain missions if they meet the specifications of future requirements.

Indeed, MDA-TC revealed that “certain target missions” will require the incorporation of “target components and payloads designed and built by the national labs and/or federally funded research and development centers.” As such, MDA-TC anticipated the prime contractor would form a close working relationship with the national laboratories.

The RFP also directs the contractor to “use, where possible, the existing range, logistics and instrumentation support capabilities at all Government ranges and facilities, including but not limited to Hill AFB, Reagan Test Site, Wake Island, White Sands Missile Range, Fort Wingate, Vandenberg AFB, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Wallops Flight Facility, Kodiak [at Fort Greely], Western Range and Poker Flat Research Range.”

MDA-TC placed the annual costs of the contract at $400 million to $500 million per year during an industry day briefing on July 24, 2002. In a slide presentation, MDA-TC said it was proud of its successful target flight history to date but warned that the multiple contracts to be managed by the prime contractor would result in an increase in flight test tempo and growth of target capabilities.

The directorate also noted it was concerned that the its industrial base may become saturated. In a mission description dated July 2003, MDA reported that TC had launched more than 120 targets to date.

In response to contractor questions, MDA-TC added that certain sample tasks included in the RFP might become actual task awards upon award of the contract or within several months after the award. The RFP indicates that a secret-clearance package lists about half a dozen sample tasks and several products, but that list was supplied only to those bidding contractors who met release requirements.

MDA-TC notes, in the RFP, that target efforts predating the contract award would transfer to the new prime contractor where appropriate. Most of these orders should run to completion with the expiration of their contracts.

However, the directorate anticipated the new prime contractor would address “near-term emerging target requirements,” imagined to resemble “those currently met by existent target systems, such as the Long Range Air Launch Target, Short Range Air Launch Target and the Target Launch Vehicle.” Lockheed Martin may also assume responsibility for new development represented by the Multi-Mode Medium Range Target and Short Range Liquid Fuel Target System.

The prime contract awarded to Lockheed Martin replaced several contracts that would down before it began. For example, the Consolidated Theater Targets Services (CTTS) contract expired in 2003, leaving all efforts that would have performed under CTTS to be performed under the targets prime contract.

Meanwhile, the Air Force continues to support the Orbital Suborbital Program (OSP) 2 contract. Orbital Sciences Corp. manages many of the Air Force’s needs for launch vehicles within OSP-2.

Vicious Circle

Which came first - the target, the countermeasure or the interceptor? The developmental cycle never ends. Just when one countermeasure is developed, a new system to defeat that countermeasure is being designed and then comes the newest countermeasure.

The need for targets that authentically replicate the movement and actions of inbound missile threats is important. Tactical ballistic missiles, with differing terminal velocities and flight telemetry, have provided historical data, as have tests against various targets systems to date. MDA is now moving aggressively to develop more true-to-form targets that will able to mimic what threats are expected in the future and how target countermeasures may affect interceptor vehicles and tracking systems. The key is a targets and countermeasures program that is open architectured in such a way to grow each time the threat environment does.

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