Engineering an Advanced Missile Defense Shield for Europe

April 2013
Topics: WMD Defense, Combat Service Support, Sensor Technology, Systems Engineering
MITRE provided technical leadership and systems engineering expertise in fielding the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, a missile defense system that integrates ground-based sensors with a sea-based weapon system.
MITRE creates naval missile defense systems

In 2009, President Obama announced plans for the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), a missile defense system to protect NATO populations and territories that integrates ground-based sensors with a sea-based weapon system. EPAA will provide more flexible, portable, and cost-effective protection than traditional ground-based missile defense systems. The United States Missile Defense Agency called upon MITRE to provide technical leadership and systems engineering expertise in fielding EPAA.

The challenges involved in fielding Phase 1 of EPAA were many: an accelerated schedule, limited funding, and complex systems and interfaces. Despite those variables, the work resulted not only in the successful completion of EPAA's first phase, but also in official recognition of two MITRE employees by the Missile Defense Agency. (See "Government Honors MITRE Employees for EPAA Work," below.)

By Land and by Sea

EPAA included the use of a newly deployed Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control (AN/TPY-2) sensor to provide cueing and "launch-on-remote" data to the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. AN/TPY-2 is a mobile radar system capable of detecting ballistic missiles early in their flight and then tracking them. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System enables warships to shoot down ballistic missiles once spotted. Operating in concert, the systems will extend the reach and shorten the response time of European missile defenses.

Aegis already has its own built-in radar system. Integrating the two systems required adapting Aegis to act upon remote sensor data from AN/TPY-2. Fine-tuning that collaboration required extensive testing and analysis, which the Missile Defense Agency entrusted to MITRE.

"We put in place an incremental test and analysis program that allowed us to implement small changes to EPAA, test those changes in the field, make more small changes based on those tests, and test them again," says Steve Hill, MITRE's technical director on the EPAA project. "Our ability to rigorously test, assess, change, and retest was crucial to the team's success."

Hill's role involved prioritizing the changes to implement during the incremental testing program. He also led a review board to address major issues that might crop up in the project and find corrective actions for them.

Working with the Warfighter

MITRE also helped create command-and-control and situational awareness tools for EPAA. The warfighter community played an active role in this part of the program. In designing and testing the tools, MITRE solicited feedback from soldiers trained in missile defense operations. This input became essential to the project's success.

"We were able to ask warfighters what changes in the system they would like to see," Hill says. "In turn, we provided them with a clear view of the performance—against a variety of threats and with different permutations of the system—those changes brought."

Trusted Leadership

The Missile Defense Agency chose MITRE to serve as the technical leader for the project because it trusted us, as the manager of federally funded research and development centers, to provide end-to-end system analysis as well as objective performance assessment. As technical leader, we also coordinated the activities of the contractors and laboratories, such as MIT/Lincoln Laboratories and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, participating in the project.

"The other labs and industry partners did the heavy lifting on the sensor and missile performance work," says Hill. "What MITRE brought to the table, in the role of technical leader, was orchestrating the overall analysis process and determining the parameters for performance measurement."

Pride in the Work

The Missile Defense Agency is deploying EPAA in four main phases over the next decade. Phase 1 culminated in December 2011 with a successful distributed testing of the entire EPAA architecture. Based on the success of this test campaign, Lt. General Patrick J. O'Reilly, former director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Admiral James G. Stavridis, head of the U.S. European Command, declared Phase 1 operational.

"During Phase 1, the agency relied on MITRE's strong systems engineering skills and deep technical understanding of the capabilities and limitations of EPAA," says Hill. "Lt. General O'Reilly said that, because of the technical rigor MITRE brought to the project, he was confident in making the recommendation to the president and secretary of defense that EPAA was ready to field."

Noting the challenges the team faced, Hill is proud of the work MITRE did.

"Our team worked alongside the Missile Defense Agency to provide independent systems engineering, test planning, test execution, and data analysis. We also supplied expertise in test design, systems engineering, command and control battle management, communications engineering, and warfighter support. The end result was sufficient data for the sponsor to declare EPAA Phase 1 operational."

—by Christopher Lockheardt


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