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Missile shot down minutes after launch in test off Kauai

  • COURTESY MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY
    A Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 1A interceptor was launched from the USS Lake Erie during a Missile Defense Agency and Navy test in the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 12
  • COURTESY MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY
    A Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 1A interceptor was launched from the USS Lake Erie during a Missile Defense Agency and Navy test in the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 12, 2013. The USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target that was launched from Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.
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A Pearl Harbor-based cruiser successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target that was launched from Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Tuesday night’s test shows the Navy can use satellite tracking systems to intercept missile threats sooner and extend the range to the military’s missile defense program.

The test marks the ninth time in three years that the USS Lake Erie and its crew successfully performed at-sea operations against cruise and ballistic missile targets using the second-generation Aegis Ballistic Missile system. The Lake Erie recently received faster, more powerful commercial-off-the-shelf signal processing equipment and updates to its weapon system computer programs.

The at-sea intercept occurred just after 11:10 p.m. Tuesday, when a medium-range ballistic missile target launched from the Pacific Missile Range on Kauai. The USS Lake Erie fired the SM-3 interceptor missile five minutes later.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed, the Pentagon reported.

The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the United States’ Ballistic Missile Defense System. Currently, 26 U.S. Aegis BMD-equipped warships have the certified capability to engage ballistic missiles and perform long-range surveillance and tracking missions. That number is expected to increase to 32 by 2014.

The Lake Erie received tracking information from space tracking and surveillance satellites and launched the missile before the shipboard SPY-1 radar detected the target. The Aegis BMD Weapon System then guided the missile using tracking information from the satellites until the target was detected and tracked by the SPY-1 radar. The shipboard radar transmitted guidance commands to the SM-3 guided missile that intercepted the target.

The test proves the "launch on remote" concept, which was first demonstrated during an April 2011 test when a U.S. Navy destroyer used data provided by a AN/TPY-2 radar deployed on Wake Island to engage and destroy an intermediate-range ballistic missile target, defense contractor Raytheon said.

Tuesday’s test is the 24th successful intercept in 30 flight test attempts for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all Ballistic Missile Defense System programs, this is the 58th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 73 flight tests since 2001.

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