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Aegis Missile Defense System Scores In New Test

By | June 25, 2007

      The sea-based Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system aced a test by obliterating a target missile in its midcourse flight over the Pacific Ocean, making a strong nine successes in 11 tries for the Aegis system, the Missile Defense Agency, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] and Raytheon Co. [RTN] announced.

      It was the first test involving an Aegis-equipped Navy destroyer. Prior tests involved Aegis cruisers equipped with Standard Missile interceptors.

      It also marked the 28th success out of 36 attempts for the overall, multi-program U.S. ballistic missile defense shield.

      The Aegis test involved a separating target, meaning that the target warhead separated from its booster rocket, the third time an Aegis system has proven its discriminatory powers.

      Designated Flight Test Standard Missile-12 (FTM-12), the target missile take-down provided further proof of the Aegis system, designed to intercept and destroy short to medium- range ballistic missiles.

      All target launches managed by the Missile Defense Agency Targets and Countermeasures directorate to support the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System have been successful, according to MDA.

      The USS Decatur (DDG 73), using the operationally-certified Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System (BMD 3.6) and the Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) Block IA missile, successfully intercepted the target during its midcourse phase of flight.

      At approximately 4:40 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (10:40 p.m. EDT Friday), a medium-range ballistic missile with a separating target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii.

      The Aegis BMD Weapon System on Decatur detected and tracked the target and developed a fire control solution.

      Approximately four minutes later, the Decatur crew launched the SM-3, and two minutes later the missile successfully intercepted the target warhead outside the atmosphere more than 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai.

      The intercept used hit-to-kill technology, meaning the target warhead was destroyed when the missile collided directly with the target, using no explosives.

      An Aegis cruiser, USS Port Royal (CG 73), a Spanish frigate, Mendez Nunez (F-104), and the MDA Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) mobile ground-based radar also participated in the flight test.

      The Port Royal used the flight test to support development of the new Aegis BMD SPY-1B radar signal processor, collecting performance data on its increased target detection and discrimination capabilities. Mendez Nunez, stationed off Kauai, performed long-range surveillance and track operations as a training event to assess future capabilities of the F- 100 Class. The THAAD radar tracked the target and exchanged tracking data with the Aegis BMD cruiser.

      It was the third time that an allied military unit participated in a U.S. Aegis BMD test, with warships from Japan and the Netherlands participating in earlier tests.

      Japan has committed to deploying SM-3 interceptor missiles aboard its Aegis ships, and also is working with the United States to develop a sea-based interceptor.

      Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., is the combat system engineering agent (CSEA) and prime contractor for the Aegis BMD weapon system and vertical launch system installed in Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers.

      Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., is the prime contractor for the SM-3 missile and all previous variants of Standard Missile.

      The test success further validated readiness of this advanced discrimination capability against complex threats for installation and deployment as part of the next configuration of Aegis BMD capability beginning in 2010, according to Lockheed.

      “With nine successful intercepts from three different ships with three different crews, we can now clearly see the potential to transfer this capability to any Aegis-equipped ship,” said Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, MDA Aegis BMD program director. “Participation by the Spanish crew and the Méndez Nunez demonstrate that Aegis BMD can easily be the common link to proven ballistic missile defense capability for our allies.”

      In budget action in Congress, lawmakers have shifted funds from BMD programs still in early development to programs with more mature technology such as the Aegis system.

      The flight mission was the final event of a series of tests conducted in the days preceding today’s successful intercept. In the previous events, the Decatur verified the Aegis 3.6 performance in detecting, tracking and targeting a high altitude, anti-radiation missile target, demonstrating multi-mission capability and conducted simultaneous, simulated engagements against two ballistic missile targets launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

      During the same event, THAAD cued the Port Royal, and the ship’s SPY-1B(V) radar augmented by BSP then acquired and tracked the ballistic missile targets.

      The test involved a multi-phase, multi-potential-targets challenge for the Aegis and SM-3 systems.

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