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Pearl Harbor-based ship tests new missile defense system

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 8:39 a.m. HST, May 10, 2012

A missile launched from the Pearl Harbor-based USS Lake Erie intercepted a short-range ballistic missile target in a successful test of an upgraded missile defense system over the Pacific Wednesday night, the Missile Defense Agency announced this morning.

It's the first successful intercept by the missile known as the Standard Missile-3 or SM-3 Block 1B interceptor and the Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapon system.

The missile failed to hit the target in an earlier test in September.

Wednesday's test started at 8:18 p.m. Hawaii time when a target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai flew northwest towards a broad area of the Pacific.

The AN/SPY-1 radar and Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapons system on the USS Lake Erie tracked the target missile and launched the SM-3 Block 1B interceptor from the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser.The interceptor missile maneuvered to a point in space designated by the tracking system and released a warhead in the path of the target missile, the Missile Defense Agency said.

The force of the impact destroyed the target, a method called a hit-to-kill intercept.

"Initial indications are that all components performed as designed," the missile agency said in a news release.

The Aegis weapons system and SM-3 Block 1B missile are the upgraded sea-based component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System designed to protect the U.S. and U.S. allies from missile attacks.

The missile agency said the improved systems are able to engage increasingly longer range and more advanced ballistic missiles and are already deployed on U.S. Navy ships.

The test is the 22nd successful intercept in 27 flight test attempts and the 53rd successful hit-to-kill intercept in 67 flight test attempts since 2001, the missile agency said.

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