The trial flight of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element will involve a Ground-Based Interceptor equipped with the first-generation exoatmospheric kill vehicle. A second-generation EKV component was used in two unsuccessful GBI tests in 2010. The GBI missile will be fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California against a ballistic missile target launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
A successful January flight test of the GBI missile with a modified EKV component set the stage for Friday's tests, giving the Pentagon enough confidence that technical problems with the troublesome "hit-to-kill" warhead had been fixed.
As a result of the two failed intercept trials in 2010, "this test is the most significant demonstration of the Ground-Based Interceptors and its fire-control system in the history of the program," Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance Chairman Riki Ellison was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
U.S. military chiefs "responsible for the defense of the United States will base their confidence [in the GBI system] on the result of this test," he said.
An intercept trial that would utilize the second-generation EKV component is slated for later in 2013. If that test fulfills its parameters, it would set the stage for the augmentation around 2017 of the GMD system with 14 new GBI missiles. There are presently 30 silo-based interceptors tipped with the older-generation EKV warhead fielded in Alaska and California.