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US Navy Shoots Down Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Target in Test

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US Navy Shoots Down Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Target in Test

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted its second successful SM-3 BlockIIA intercept test in 2018.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy successfully conducted an intercept of an intermediate-range ballistic missile target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile on December 11, according to a MDA statement.

The December 11 test involved the interception of a mock ballistic missile target outside the earth’s atmosphere, air-launched by a U.S. Air Force C-17 from the broad ocean area thousands of miles southwest of the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Kauai, Hawaii, with a SM-3 Block IIA missile launched from an Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at PMRF.

According to the MDA, the test met its objectives and the target was successfully destroyed.

“This was an operational live fire test demonstrating the Aegis Weapon System Engage On Remote capability to track and intercept an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) target with an Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor,” the MDA said. “The engagement leveraged a ground, air and space-based sensor/command and control architecture linked by the Ballistic Missile Defense System’s Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) suite.”

The December 11 intercept marks the second successful test of a SM-3 Block IIA missile in 2018. On October 26, a SM-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113) successfully destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile target launched from the PMRF. A previous successful test of the Aegis Baseline 9/5.1 BMD combat system with a SM-3 Block IIA missile took place in February 2017. Two other tests of the missile in June 2017 and January 2018 ended in failure.

The SM-3 Block IIA is designed to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The missile has been under joint development by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries since 2006. It can be deployed on Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers or on land, via Aegis Ashore sites.

The U.S. currently operates an Aegis Ashore battery, the land-based variant of the Aegis combat system for defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, in Romania. Another Aegis ashore battery is being installed in Poland and is expected to become operational by 2020. Both batteries are slated to receive the SM-3 Block IIA once it is declared operational. The Japanese government also plans to deploy two Aegis Ashore batteries by 2023 in Japan to supplement Patriot batteries capable of engaging short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase and Aegis-equipped guided-missile destroyers.

“Today’s successful flight test demonstrated the effectiveness of the European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase 3 architecture [the U.S. contribution to NATO’s missile defense system designed to protect Europe against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launches].” It also was of great significance to the future of multi-domain missile defense operations and supports a critical initial production acquisition milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA missile program,” said MDA Director Lieutenant General Sam Greaves. “This system is designed to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends from a real and growing ballistic missile threat.”