was a prototype or proof-of-concept KKV ABM
system that was designed to destroy incoming ballistic missile
warheads. It was an early 'hit-to-kill
' system; maneuvered into the path of an oncoming warhead, the FLAGE would deploy
a large circular chain-link
net to increase its chances of contacting the target. At the speeds ICBM
warheads travel, contacting even such a flimsy barrier would likely destroy the warhead
. FLAGE was an acronym
standing for 'Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment.' It was a renaming of a program known as SRHIT
for 'Small Radar-Homing Intercept Technology.'
In the 1980s Strategic Defense Initiative boom, the SRHIT/FLAGE was an experimental program intended to produce a weapon which would fill a slot in the SDI pantheon known as LEDI, for 'Low Endoatmospheric Defense Interceptor.' Aren't military acronyms fun? In any case, it had a final velocity of approximately 1 km/sec and was intended to intercept incoming ballistic missile warheads at altitudes of 5 km or less. In its seventh and final test flight, it successfully intercepted an inbound warhead from an MGM-52 Lance ballistic missile, on May 21, 1987. George Lewis of MIT reports1 that during that intercept, the inbound target was moving (relatively slowly for a ballistic warhead) at around 910 m/sec; the FLAGE was moving at 980 m/sec, and the intercept took place seven seconds after launch, some 12,000 feet above ground. 60 of the 216 maneuvering charges were expended, and the millimeter-wave radar on the FLAGE acquired the target two seconds before impact.