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Pearl Harbor-based ship shoots down missile in successful test

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 3:46 a.m. HST, Sep 19, 2013

The Pearl Harbor cruiser USS Lake Erie shot down a simulated enemy ballistic missile Wednesday off Kauai in the fourth missile defense test since May, the Pentagon said.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., a separating short-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

The target flew northwest over the ocean. Following target launch, the Lake Erie detected and tracked the missile with its AN/SPY-1 radar.

The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis ballistic missile defense weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles to engage the target.

The first SM-3 that was launched successfully intercepted the target warhead. The Defense Department said it was the first "salvo mission" of two SM-3 Block IB guided missiles launched against a single separating target.

"This test exercised the latest version of the second-generation Aegis BMD Weapon System, capable of engaging longer range and more sophisticated ballistic missiles. This was an operationally realistic test, in which the target's launch time and bearing are not known in advance," the Pentagon said.

The target "was the most difficult target engaged to date," according to a news release.

Aegis BMD is the naval component of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's ballistic missile defense system.

The flight test is the 27th successful intercept in 33 attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002, according to the U.S. military.

Aegis BMD is intended to defeat short- to intermediate-range, unitary and separating, midcourse-phase ballistic missile threats.

On Sept. 10, the Missile Defense Agency tested a "layered defense" in using a destroyer to shoot down one simulated medium-range enemy ballistic missile, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, similar to one deployed to protect Guam, to shoot down another missile.

The tests took place in the vicinity of the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site and surrounding areas in the western Pacific.

On July 5, a ground-based intercept missile launched from California failed to intercept a long-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific.

On May 16, meanwhile, the Lake Erie also successfully shot down a separating short-range ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

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