Defense Shield Kills Two Target Missiles In A Single Test; 8-For-10
Big Win For MDA, Lockheed, Raytheon Missile Defense
In a double-barreled blast, the sea-based ballistic missile system for the first time simultaneously destroyed two target missiles, a ballistic-type threat and a cruise missile, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.
That major victory for the MDA ballistic missile defense (BMD) development program, involving a twin kill, also was a big win for the Aegis weapon control and guidance system by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], and for Raytheon Co. [RTN], maker of the Standard Missiles used to intercept the target missiles.
This signal achievement, executed by the Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in Pacific Missile Range Facility waters near Hawaii, means the Aegis program record is now eight successes in 10 attempts. As well, it marked 27 winning hit-to-kills in various missile defense shield tests since 2001.
The ballistic missile target was launched from the missile range facility on Kauai. The subsonic cruise missile target was launched from a range aircraft.
This Aegis system is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, but success here also augurs well for wins in an advanced Aegis system designed to counter long-range missiles.
Conducted around 5 p.m. ET Thursday, the win comes as some Democratic lawmakers in Congress are questioning the validity and reliability of ballistic missile defense programs.
They ask whether BMD tests have been realistic, and wonder whether BMD systems can take on many enemy missiles simultaneously.
The Pacific test last week suggests the answer is in the affirmative.
This test had been scheduled for last year, but a last-minute glitch then meant the test would have to be run again, and it was conducted last week.
Conducted jointly with the Navy, the test involved the simultaneous engagements of a ballistic missile “unitary” target (meaning that the target warhead and booster remain attached) and a surrogate hostile air target.
The Lake Erie used its Aegis BMD shipboard weapon system and a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA, against the ballistic missile target.
At roughly the same time, the Erie used the Aegis system and a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA, against the surrogate hostile air target.
The test demonstrated that the ship was able to engage a ballistic missile threat and defend itself from attack at the same time, the MDA noted.
As well, the test demonstrated the effectiveness of engineering, manufacturing, and mission assurance changes in the solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS) in the kinetic kill weapon.
This was the first flight test of all the SM-3 Block IA upgrades, previously demonstrated in ground tests.
With the test success, MDA has yet another reason to argue that Congress should fund the agency fully, since it is producing results in the drive to protect American cities and other targets from rapidly proliferating missile threats emerging around the globe.
Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering III, the MDA director, noted that even a one-year cut in funding of a missile defense program would result in years of delays in program progress. He also set forth how the United States will explain to European leaders and publics how a European ballistic missile defense system would work, and why it is needed, critically.
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“Today’s test demonstrates the true flexibility and depth of capability inherent in the Aegis BMD Weapon System,” said Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, MDA Aegis BMD program director. “The simultaneous engagement highlights the flexibility and power of the SPY-1 radar and the weapon system’s capability to manage and prioritize the engagement of the two threats.”
The Aegis BMD 3.6 Weapon System, including the SM-3 Block IA missile, was certified for tactical deployment by the Navy and MDA in September.
Aegis BMD 3.6 enhances the ballistic missile defense capabilities of the current Aegis BMD fleet and adds capability in other warfare areas, as demonstrated in the latest test, Lockheed stated. An earlier version of Aegis BMD was declared operational in October 2004.
In addition to the United States, Aegis is used by Japan, South Korea, Norway, Spain and Australia. Japan began installation of Aegis BMD in its Kongo-class Aegis destroyers this year, Lockheed noted.
Raytheon leaders also extolled the double success.
“The success of the SM-3 program is a validation of our strong Missile Defense Agency, Navy and contractor team,” said Louise Francesconi, president of Raytheon Missile Systems.
This test, Flight Test Mission-11, was the second with the Block IA version of SM-3, and the first IA with a full-capability solid divert and attitude control system. Raytheon is delivering Block IA rounds for operational use on Navy cruisers and destroyers.
The SM-3 Block IA provides increased capability to engage short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. It incorporates rocket motor upgrades and computer program modifications to improve sensor performance, missile guidance and control, and lower cost. It also includes producibility and maintainability features required to qualify the missile as a tactical fleet asset.
“SM-3 represents a truly global missile defense capability,” said Jim Maslowski, Raytheon Missile Systems international programs vice president and former director of the Navy International Program Office.
Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz., is developing SM-3 and leads the integrated team effort, which includes Alliant Techsystems Inc. [ATK], Aerojet and The Boeing Co. [BA]. The kinetic warhead seeker and final integration occur in Raytheon’s kill vehicle space manufacturing facility in Tucson, alongside the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, an element of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program. Final assembly and testing of SM-3 occurs at Raytheon facilities in Camden, Ark.
SM-2 Block IIIA is an all-weather, ship-launched, medium- to long-range fleet air defense system.