Missile Defense: Review of Results and Limitations of an Early National Missile Defense Flight Test

GAO-02-124 Published: Feb 28, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 04, 2002.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) awarded contracts to three companies in 1990 to develop and test exoatmospheric kill vehicles. One of the contractors--Boeing North American--subcontracted with TRW to develop software for the kill vehicle. In 1998, Boeing became the Lead System Integrator for the National Missile Defense Program, and chose Raytheon as the primary kill vehicle developer. Boeing and TRW reported that the June 1997 flight test achieved its primary objectives, but that some sensor abnormalities were detected. The project office relied on Boeing to oversee the performance of TRW. Boeing and TRW reported that deployed target objects displayed distinguishable features when being observed by an infrared sensor. After considerable debate, the program manager reduced the number of decoys planned for intercept flight tests in response to a recommendation by an independent panel. The Phase One Engineering Team, which was responsible for completing an assessment of TRW's software performance within two months using available data, found that although the software had weaknesses, it was well designed and worked properly, with only some changes needed to increase the robustness of the discrimination function. On the basis of that analysis, team members predicted that the software would perform successfully in a future intercept test if target objects deployed as expected.

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