Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Operational Sciences

First Advisor

Matthew J.D. Robbins, PhD.


Given the ubiquitous nature of both offensive and defensive missile systems, the catastrophe-causing potential they represent, and the limited resources available to countries for missile defense, optimizing the defensive response to a missile attack is a necessary endeavor. For a single salvo of offensive missiles launched at a set of targets, a missile defense system protecting those targets must decide how many interceptors to fire at each incoming missile. Since such missile engagements often involve the firing of more than one attack salvo, we develop a Markov decision process (MDP) model to examine the optimal fire control policy for the defender. Due to the computational intractability of using exact methods for all but the smallest problem instances, we utilize an approximate dynamic programming (ADP) approach to explore the efficacy of applying approximate methods to the problem. We obtain policy insights by analyzing subsets of the state space that reflect a range of possible defender interceptor inventories. Testing of four scenarios demonstrates that the ADP policy provides high-quality decisions for a majority of the state space, achieving a 7.74% mean optimality gap in the baseline scenario. Moreover, computational effort for the ADP algorithm requires only a few minutes versus 12 hours for the exact dynamic programming algorithm, providing a method to address more complex and realistically-sized instances.

AFIT Designator


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