Missile Defense Agency officials said they successfully completed a flight test of a short-range air-launched target missile over the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles off the coast of southern California. A C-17 deployed the missile from its rear via a parachute assembly, validating a redesigned deployment mechanism meant to correct problems identified during previous tests, according to the agency’s release. After SRALT left the aircraft, its rocket motor ignited and sent the missile on its planned over-water trajectory. Missile defense sensors based in California tracked the missile during the July 8 test, as did the MDA’s two Space Tracking Surveillance System demonstration satellites. “This was the first demonstration of stereo acquisition and track handover of a short-range target by the STSS,” according to the release. The agency intends to use SRALT in tracking and shootdown tests of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.