Pentagon Seeks to Fill Missile Surveillance Gap by 2016

Global Security Newswire
August 21, 2009

The United States plans to eliminate a blind spot in its space-based missile tracking capability within the next seven years, Aviation Week reported yesterday (see GSN, July 18).

An enemy ballistic missile now could be spotted by the Space-Based Infrared System or the Defense Support Program satellites shortly after launch, but the Defense Department must prepare the Space Tracking and Surveillance System for tracking a missile immediately after its boost phase, said Missile Defense Agency head Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System demonstration satellites, slated for launch in September, are intended to prove the effectiveness of space-based missile-tracking technology ahead of the wider system’s production and deployment.

The United States must eliminate the tracking gap to improve its odds of shooting down enemy missiles as they ascend, O’Reilly said. Improving U.S. capabilities to target missiles early in flight was one goal named in the Missile Defense Agency’s fiscal 2010 budget request.

O’Reilly hopes his agency can increase the velocity of U.S. missile interceptors by 2020. Such an improvement would help interceptors reach enemy missiles early in their flight, he said (Amy Butler, Aviation Week, Aug. 20).