Pentagon speeds work on missile defense system

Pentagon speeds work on missile defense system

Combination of weapons modules adds up to highly sophisticated wireless LAN, Army officer says

By Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff

The second successful interception of a simulated enemy missile last month by the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense system has prompted the Defense Department to put THAAD on the fast track.

Col. Pat O'Reilly, the Army's THAAD project manager, will present a draft feasibility study to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization later this month, said Lt. Col. Bill Wheelehan, public affairs officer in the Army's Weapons, Environment and Technology Division.

As part of the study, O'Reilly will develop a new management plan that encompasses development, budget, testing and fielding for the system, Wheelehan said.

In November, BMDO will submit a final draft to Jacques S. Gansler, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology, Wheelehan said.

Understands Ada

The Pentagon in August announced the acceleration of its THAAD program. DOD has spent $3.8 billion on the system, which is scheduled for deployment in 2007.

THAAD runs on Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. hardware. DOD used Ada to develop the program's software.

The system consists of radar, a battle management system, a launcher and a missile to destroy an incoming ballistic missile, said Maj. Randy R. Hall, a THAAD program integrator at BMDO.

The ability to intercept missiles at high altitudes or long distances will let DOD use THAAD to protect deployed forces and population centers over a broad coverage area. THAAD also gives Army commanders multiple-shot opportunities, Hall said.

Unlike Raytheon Co.'s Patriot missile, which explodes near a ballistic missile at low altitude, THAAD can destroy a missile both inside and outside the atmosphere.

'THAAD complements the lower-tier Patriot missile with an upper-tier capability,' Hall said.

THAAD's radar, battle management system, launcher and missile all have a computer component.

'The system is a highly sophisticated, modern, wireless LAN,' Hall said.

The radar, built by Raytheon, runs on a Hewlett-Packard Exemplar server. The multiprocessor computer uses the X-band radar frequency to detect an incoming missile at an approximate distance of 1,000 kilometers, he said.

Via a radio frequency, the radar sends the data to the Battle Management Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (BM/C4I) system developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. A Fiber Distributed Data Interface hop offers a redundant communications link, Hall said.

In Phase 1, the program definition and risk reduction stage, BMDO used an HP Super Bobcat computer as the BM/C4I host. In Phase 2, the engineering and manufacturing development phase that is just beginning, the Army will upgrade to a Sun UltraSparc 4500 server running SunSoft Solaris 2.51 that it will acquire through the Common Hardware Software-2 program.

'The Sun gives us a more modular, open architecture,' Hall said.

The BM/C4I Tactical Operations Center consists of two shelters with a pair of two Sun 4500 servers, and two launcher control stations, also with a Sun 4500 each. BM/C4I can run multiple radars and launchers, he said.

The system calculates an interception plan and uploads the data to a rocket launcher, also built by Lockheed Martin. The launcher runs off another Sun Sparc server, Hall said.

The missile, built by Lockheed Martin, has a RISC computer that radar guides to a certain point before an onboard guidance system takes over and homes in on the target, he said.

The system, which is automated from the time the launcher fires the missile, can fire another missile within seconds if the first one misses its target or an error occurs, Hall said.

All the code for THAAD is written in Ada, and the service used an object-oriented software programming approach, he said.

During Phase 2, the service will fine-tune the THAAD applications and develop a final system design. In Phase 3 production'the final phase'DOD will roll out THAAD for worldwide use.

Jump the gun

Originally, the Army had planned to continue the initial development phase for a few more months. But DOD brass decided to move the project to Phase 2 after the system on Aug. 2 intercepted a simulated enemy missile during tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. It was THAAD's second consecutive intercept in less than two months.

Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the THAAD program, has worked with the 1st Battalion of the 6th Air Defense Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas, during system testing.

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