Feature Story

'Impossible' problem solved

Nixie's winch

Boeing

Boeing discovered that high-frequency pitches had contributed to failures in previous tests. To overcome this challenge, team members recreated a space-like environment to ensure the program’s recent success.

Boeing recently intercepted and destroyed a target in flight – essentially hitting a bullet with a bullet – using the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.

“For the country, it means a lot,” said Ali Mandvi, the technical lead engineer in high-frequency testing. “These days, we don’t have conventional war, all these different nations are developing a ballistic missile capability that can reach our shores, and GMD is one of the systems that protects us.”

The GMD system relies on complex radar, sensor and tracking integration across 15 time zones, and thousands of miles. A Ground Based Interceptor (GBI), the part of the system designed to intercept the threat, can touch the edges of space in pursuit of its target.

In a previous test, an intercept did not occur due to conditions outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Boeing engineers teamed up with members of industry to solve this problem. After troubleshooting the situation, they recreated the conditions of space and developed a solution. That hard work, in conjunction with the teams around the country focused on making sure the GMD system performed with confidence, led to the recent intercept, said Boeing executives.

“Our capabilities offer our military customers and our nation solutions to address the most complex air and missile defense system needs with innovation and affordability,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing vice president and general manager, Strategic Missile & Defense Systems.