Why the Space and Missile Defense Command needs some good Zombies

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Who doesn't know about Zombies? The un-dead, the living dead, whatever you want to call them...they are popular in books and movies. Turns out they're also popular with the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command at Redstone Arsenal. It's all about turning old equipment into Zombie targets. "The kind of rebirth of these dead assets is where the name comes from," says Bryon Manley, the Deputy Director for SMDC's Technical Center.

The dead assets Bryon was talking about are missiles that are obsolete technology, or missiles engines that are too old to be operationally reliable. SMDC's Air And Missile Defense Directorate came up with a way to use the old missile parts as targets to make sure the missiles we do use, work as advertised. SMDC even developed a portable launcher that can handle multiple sizes of these target missiles. Necessity in this case, really was the mother of invention. "Well, Patriot and other ballistic missile programs are constantly under upgrade, so you have to test them to make sure the upgrades are working," says Manley.

Using a Zombie target missile might cost a few million dollars, but that's a long way from the 30-million or more that an all new target missile might cost. As far as SMDC is concerned, old missiles are not trash. They can still contribute. "Yeah, we shot the Lance missile that was developed in the 60s, back before I was born, and now using these old things that were developed when I was in high school...yeah it's really neat to realize cost savings with something that everybody had forgotten," says Manley.

Basically no missile system is forgotten these days. What was once a standard part of the arsenal is now reborn as a Zombie target. The life span of these Zombies will be long. "I see it going for the next 20-years, easy," says Bryon Manley.