Boeing Frontiers
October 2003
Volume 02, Issue 06
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Integrated Defense Systems

Boeing's Alaskan Frontier

Fast-working crews are on target to complete the first missile defense launch complex


Boeing's Alaskan Frontier Alaska, often called "The Last Frontier," is perhaps the newest frontier for ballistic missile defense. Home to brown bears, Mount McKinley and the Northern Lights, Alaska is now also home to the linchpin of the American ballistic missile defense system with the construction of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense launch complex at Ft. Greely.

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, as prime contractor for GMD, manages the construction of the missile silo field and ultimately will be responsible for integrating all the components of the GMD system to form the initial defensive capability the current administration requires in 2004. Concurrently, Boeing IDS and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) are working aggressively to meet this deadline. Central to that initial capability is the Ft. Greely site.

At this remote Army installation in central Alaska, where temperatures can dip to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 C) and winds can gust up to 90 miles per hour, the environment is inhospitable much of the year. But construction has progressed at a "phenomenal" pace, said Mark Spradling, Boeing IDS site manager for Ft. Greely. Since breaking ground just over a year ago, crews have cleared 550 acres, poured 5,400 cubic yards of concrete, constructed more than 80,000 square feet of building space and installed six interceptor silos.

"Major construction under these conditions isn't easy but the challenges can be overcome," Spradling said. "The key is schedule management and coordination of all the different activities, agencies and subcontractors. Communications among the team members is crucial."

That's an understatement when you consider that on any given day, the "team" includes up to 30 different subcontracting firms with several hundred people working at the missile launch complex under the direction of two large general contractors. Team leaders are Boeing IDS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the GMD Joint Program Office for MDA.

GMD booster launch a success

GMD booster launch a success

A Boeing-Orbital Sciences Corp. team recently launched a developmental booster rocket built by Orbital for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program. The three-stage booster was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Another booster design now being developed by Lockheed Martin for the GMD program is slated to make a similar test launch from Vandenberg this month.

Both booster systems are scheduled to participate in flight tests this fall from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to evaluate system performance, including the simulated intercept of a target. Under the current plan, the Orbital Sciences and Lockheed Martin boosters will go into the silos currently under construction at the Ft. Greely, Alaska, missile launch complex and into four existing silos at Vandenberg, for a total of 10 boosters.

— Linda James

The Joint Program Office of the MDA manages and executes the GMD program. GMD is a system designed to develop a capability that uses hit-to-kill technology to shoot down hostile long-range ballistic missiles. The current program incorporates extensive ground and flight tests to determine system performance.

The launch complex construction is divided between two basic areas. Boeing IDS and its general contractor, Bechtel, are responsible for the interceptor silo field. The Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Fluor Alaska Inc., are doing the remaining facilities and support structures. A tri-chair partnership of team leaders puts some order to all this, Spradling said: "The tri-chair has worked very well to ensure everyone understands how each day's work would impact someone else." And, Spradling added, "an ability to be flexible and a shared sense of urgency" has created an environment for success.

"The teamwork has been nothing less than spectacular," echoed Ken Medlin, Boeing IDS vice president and general manager for GMD. "The synchronization of all the construction activities while maintaining a safe and secure workplace is a result of shared leadership among the site management team, Boeing IDS and the Joint Program Office, the Deployment and Sustainment Integrated Product Team, the Corps of Engineers, Bechtel, and Fluor."

Today, the initial missile silo field is about 85 percent complete. It contains the six silos, command-and-control buildings and support facilities. In August, the Boeing- Bechtel team installed the last of the six silos required to be complete for initial defensive capability. Recently, Bechtel "handed off" two of those six to Boeing IDS, which signified that the construction phase of the silos was complete.

But no amount of teamwork can forestall Mother Nature. Much has yet to be done before the site will provide initial defensive capability next year. With harsh winter weather rapidly approaching, activity at the site is almost constant both day and night.

Spradling said the weather will curtail some outdoor construction activities like pouring concrete, but the project is on schedule to have the construction phase of the silos complete by mid-February 2004 and ready for interceptor hardware, computers and ground support equipment. Paving the area with concrete will begin as soon as things begin to thaw. Soon after that, the first operational ground-based interceptors will be installed.

But the crew is not packing up parkas and gloves just yet. Construction at Ft. Greely is far from drawing to a close. On the contrary, ground will be broken in early October on a second missile field not far from the first, where drilling will begin for 10 additional silos in 2004.



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