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Pentagon finally confirms failure of missile defense test off Kauai

  • COURTESY U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY / FEBRUARY 2017

    A SM-3 Block IIA missile, touted as a possible second layer of defense for Hawaii from North Korean threats, failed in a flight from Kauai’s Aegis Ashore facility Wednesday when it did not intercept a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Pentagon confirmed today.

The Pentagon confirmed today that a key missile defense test off Kauai failed early Wednesday.

The outcome of such flight intercept tests — whether a success or failure — is usually reported by the agency that conducts them, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

But that wasn’t the case after the $30 million SM-3 Block IIA missile did not intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in its first-ever launch from Kauai’s Aegis Ashore facility.

“It did not meet our objectives, but we learn something all the time with these tests and we learned something from this one. And we’ll continue to improve our capabilities,” Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White said during today’s press briefing.

The Missile Defense Agency put out a statement after the test that said only: “The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, Wednesday morning.”

Raytheon’s new SM-3 IIA missile, which is in the final stages of testing, offers promise as a possible future second layer of defense for Hawaii from North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The missile is expected to be deployed to Poland by the end of the year for use in an Aegis Ashore site for the protection of Europe from Iranian missiles. The SM-3 IIA will have to be tested again at Kauai before that happens.

White was asked at the press briefing why the failure wasn’t revealed sooner.

“MDA is still gathering information, and … we’ll provide that information as quickly as we can,” White said.

CNN, which was was the first to report the failed intercept, said officials decided to initially remain silent due in part to “sensitivities surrounding North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Olympic Games and continuing tensions with leader Kim Jong Un.”

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