Guam to test island's missile defense systems in 2024

U.S. military assets on the Pacific island of Guam are almost set to test the territory's cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missile defense systems.
Christopher McFadden
SM-3 Block IIA test launch from the Aegis Ashore system in Hawaii.

U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons 

The Defense News reports that the United States armed forces on the Pacific island of Guam are gearing up for critical test flights of its missile defense systems sometime in 2024. Managed by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the agency's director announced this on August 9 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. According to currently available information, the test will involve the U.S. Navy's modified Aegis weapon system and SM-3 Block IIA interceptor.

First-line of defense

The systems are designed to be the island's first line of defense in case of ballistic, hypersonic, and cruise missile attacks. It will feature radars, launchers, interceptors, and a command-and-control system. Some of these elements are in place, but the complete package should be go-to-go by 2024. The construction is estimated to cost somewhere in the region of $800 million, with another $38.5 million required to upgrade the agency’s Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications program to support Guam’s defense.

Installation and management of systems will be split between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, with the former responsible for Aegis assets. The Army will be responsible for other land-based assets, including three Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensors and Patriot missile defense systems. They will also install various Mid-Range Capability missile launchers, Indirect Fires Protection Capability launchers, and the Northrop Grumman-built Integrated Battle Command System designed to connect the "right sensors" to the "right shooters" on the battlefield.

Earlier this year, MDA's former head Vice Admiral Jon Hill stated that while the agency waits for Army's capabilities, it adapts the Aegis system to work on Guam's challenging terrain. He also explained, Defense News reports, that the system will differ from what is found on an Aegis ship and the configuration of Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.

The agency is developing a command suite integrating the Integrated Battle Command System and Aegis command and control for ballistic and hypersonic missile threat detection and tracking, using Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications system technology.

First test is in August

Once fully established, Guam's defenses will include four new high-end mobile AN/TPY-6 radars on the periphery that use technology from the Long Range Discrimination Radar in Clear Space Force Base, Alaska. According to the MDA's director of testing, Rear Admiral Doug Williams, the agency will test the Long Range Discrimination Radar on August 16 by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile target.

It has also been announced that the agency will test a new Ground-based Midcourse Defense system feature in December. This feature is a two-stage selectable interceptor capability that will increase the interceptor's battle space. Williams also alluded that tests of the SM-3 Block IIA Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) and Patriot’s Missile Segment Enhancement interceptors are yet to come.

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