Serving Defense and Exploration

Open standard technologies could be integral to a proposed new space-based missile defense sensor technology

Figure 1: An anti-ballistic missile called a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) located at Fort Greely, Alaska (AK) is pictured above, as loaded into a silo. (Image:

According to Bloomberg’s September 2017 article How Would the U.S. Defend Against a North Korean Nuclear Attack, testing interceptors costs roughly $244 million each time. In all of this, decoys coming from an enemy could quickly outnumber our present stockpile of 36 Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs), so a system of X-band radars are employed to help distinguish between rockets and rockets with warheads. Real-time updates sent to a command center coordinate much of the action so that the counter-attack missile that is launched from an interceptor called an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), can be guided to detonate the enemy missile using kinetic force. In case you are wondering about residual fall-out in the atmosphere, detonation is theoretically accomplished above the Earth’s atmosphere.

Unsurprisingly, the state of Alaska houses 32 GBIs, and another four are located in California. Last September, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, verbally supported U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) effort to increase the number of GBIs via the Advancing America’s Missile Defense (AAMD) Act. Senator Sullivan’s amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an increase of up to 28 GBIs and expenditures for a report that can potentially justify 104 GBIs to be distributed across the United States. Senator Sullivan’s efforts include additional funds for beginning development for a new missile defense sensor technology that is based in space.

Anyone who has taken high school history in the U.S. is aware of the show-down between Kennedy and Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Russian missiles were discovered on Cuban soil, just 90 miles from Florida. Everyone knew that if one missile was launched on either side, the other would also launch. Similar potential for a very deadly one-upmanship is possible today. Back then, cool heads prevailed on both sides and the missiles were removed. The question today is whether we have enough GBIs, since a nuclear response to a nuclear offense results in great losses on both sides. The countless personnel involved in securing our nation’s peace of mind may very well include those of us who work with VME, VPX, and VXS technologies. Are you guys ready? Okay. Let’s roll.

Lynnette Reese is Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel Solutions and Embedded Systems Engineering, and has been working in various roles as an electrical engineer for over two decades.

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