April 15, 2011

Antimissile Shield Shoots Down Missile

The U.S. military said that it shot down an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Friday using an antimissile shield.

The Pentagon said the test of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. hardware showed it is on track to wrap up this year the first phase of a layered, multibillion-dollar antimissile defense in Europe.

"Initial indications are that all components performed as designed," said the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in a statement

It may also be used to defend against North Korea and then ultimately add to the existing U.S. ground-based defenses.

MDA said that the test west of Hawaii marked the first time that Lockheed's shipboard Aegis combat system had been used to intercept a target with a range greater than 1,864-miles.

The test was also the first Aegis test to rely on missile tracking data gathered by a powerful on-shore radar station.

"The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3" interceptor missile built by Raytheon and used to destroy the target, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.

Previous Aegis tests have featured shorter-range targets.

The agency said that this was the 21st successful intercept in 25 attempts for the Aegis program since flight testing started in 2002.  The statement said that of all elements of the layered antimissile shield, it was the 45th successful intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

"The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a 'hit-to-kill' intercept," the agency said.

The last two-intercept tests of a U.S. ground-based antimissile bulwark have failed.

President Barack Obama scrapped a George W. Bush-era plan to build a European version of the ground-based shield already deployed in California and Alaska in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Navy Rear Admiral Archer Macy, head of the joint military staff's antimissile office, said in a statement on Wednesday that Obama's Pentagon turned to the more flexible Aegis technology to adapt more readily to evolving threats and "geography of each region."
During Friday's tests, an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched in a northeasterly direction from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

MDA said that a Raytheon-built, forward based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the target.

The radar sent information to a battle management system that relayed cues to the destroyer O'Kane.  MDA said that this ship aimed and launched Raytheon's SM-3 Block IA missile 11 minutes after the target was launched.

"Initial indications are that all components performed as designed," it said.

Brad Roberts, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, told the house of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee that the U.S. expects to meet its goal of putting an initial missile defense capability in Europe by the end of 2011.


Image Caption: A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from the USS O'KANE in a joint Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy test conducted April 15th. The SM-3 successfully intercepted a target missile launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


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