Asia Defense

Japan Successfully Shoots Down Ballistic Missile in Test

Japan and the United States have successfully tested the Aegis ballistic missile defense system on Tuesday.

Japan Successfully Shoots Down Ballistic Missile in Test
Credit: (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the United States Missile Defense Agency (MDA), in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, have successfully conducted a test of the Aegis Baseline 9/BMD 5.0 combat system aboard a Japanese warship off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii on September 11.

The test involved the shooting down of a mock ballistic missile target outside the earth’s atmosphere, fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii, with a upgraded SM-3 Block IB interceptor missile launched from the JS Atago, the lead ship of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) Atago-class,  according to a MDA press release:

At approximately 10:37pm HST on September 11, 2018 a simple separating, ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. JS ATAGO crew members detected and tracked the target. The Aegis Weapon System then developed a fire control solution and a Standard Missile -3 Block IB Threat Upgrade (SM-3 Blk IB TU) missile was launched. The SM-3 successfully intercepted the target above the Pacific Ocean.

MDA hailed the test as a significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the United States in the area of missile defense. “This successful test is a major milestone verifying the capabilities of an upgraded Aegis BMD configuration for Japan’s destroyers,” said MDA Director Lieutenant General  Sam Greaves yesterday. “This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region.”

A joint U.S.-Japan program is currently underway to upgrade the JMSDF’s two Atago-class guided missile destroyers with the Aegis Baseline 9/BMD 5.0 (J6) combat system specifically designed for sea-based ballistic missile defense (BMD). The SM-3 Block IB interceptor is an upgraded variant of the SM-3 fitted with an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and features an upgraded steering and propulsion capability. The supersonic missile is designed to destroy incoming short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile targets in midcourse.

Two improved Atago-class guided missile destroyers currently on order for the JMSDF will feature the latest Aegis BMD variant, the Aegis Baseline J7 combat system, which is the Japanese equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Baseline 9/BMD 5.1. The improved Atago-class will be armed with the SM-3 Block IIA missile, the most advanced version of the SM-3 “hit-to-kill” interceptor, which has been under joint development by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries since 2006.

The SM-3 Block IIA missile is slated for operational deployment this year. The United States and Japan last successfully tested the Aegis Baseline 9/5.1 BMD combat system with a SM-3 Block IIA missile in February 2017. Two other tests of the missile in June 2017 and January 2018 failed.

The JMSDF currently fields six Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers.