Ballistic Globemasters

Two C-17s drop-launched a pair of ballistic target missiles near Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean, supporting a recent Missile Defense Agency test. “High-altitude, heavy weight airdrop is something we’re doing a lot of here at Edwards, supporting not only MDA, but NASA with the Orion capsule drops that we’ve been doing,” 418th Flight Test Squadron pilot Capt. Stephen Koether from Edwards AFB, Calif., said in a Dec. 7 release. Edwards pilots initially deployed a Short-Range Air-Launch Target (SRALT) from the C-17’s cargo bay, which was detected, tracked, and intercepted by a ground-launched Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile. The second Globemaster launched a larger Extended Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (EMRBM) minutes later, testing defensive systems’ ability to discriminate targets through debris from the first shot. The THAAD system on Wake successfully intercepted the first shot, and although the AEGIS destroyer USS John Paul Jones was able to track the EMRBM, its SM-3 missile failed to engage, according to an MDA release. The Oct. 31 test evaluated both land- and sea-based US missile defense. MDA is investigating the missile interceptor failure.