WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency canceled a critical flight test of the Long-Range Discrimination Radar due to a target anomaly, according to a spokesman.
“The Missile Defense Agency was unable to execute Flight Test Other-26 (FTX-26) on 17 August 2023 due to a target anomaly, which has necessitated the cancellation of this test event,” Mark Wright, MDA spokesman, told Defense News Friday.
The test was intended to demonstrate LRDR capabilities against a live ballistic missile target in a non-intercept operational test.
The agency declared the Lockheed Martin-developed LRDR’s initial fielding in December 2021 at Clear Space Force Station, Alaska, where it is located.
“MDA will conduct an extensive review and analysis to determine the root cause of the target malfunction that impacted our ability to accomplish the test,” Wright said. “A replacement operational test for the LRDR is being planned now although a test date has not yet been determined.”
Once fully operational, LRDR will be able to simultaneously search and track multiple small objects, including all classes of ballistic missiles at long ranges under continuous operation and will be tied into the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system and the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system. The GMD is designed to protect the continental U.S. from potential intercontinental ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran.
Formal operational acceptance of the LRDR by the U.S. Space Force is planned to occur by the end of 2023.
The LRDR program experienced delays leading up to its initial fielding, which ultimately occurred a year later than planned, due to the coronavirus pandemic. MDA had to stop all construction and integration activities for LRDR when the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. in March 2020. The program went into “caretaker status,” meaning just a small group sayed at the site to ensure the materials were protected from the elements.
Beyond missile defense, LRDR will also support space domain awareness by monitoring space activity like satellites orbiting the earth, spent rocket bodies and fragmentation debris. And while not an official requirement, a software upgrade could give LRDR hypersonic weapon detection and tracking capability.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.