Missile Defense Test Is Mostly Successful

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WASHINGTON — In what is being billed as its biggest and most complex test to date, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), supported by all three military services, simultaneously engaged five missile targets and destroyed three of them over the Pacific Ocean, the MDA said Oct. 25.

One of the interceptors, a Standard Missile 3 Block 1A, apparently failed to hit its ballistic missile target, while another passed close enough to its cruise missile target to have made a kill had its explosive warhead been activated, the MDA said. The Standard Missile 3 Block 1A is an operational interceptor that is currently deployed aboard U.S. and Japanese navy ships.

The targets involved in the exercise included an air-launched medium-range ballistic missile, two short-range ballistic missiles and two simulated cruise missiles, the MDA said. The interceptors launched at the targets were the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Patriot Advanced Capability 3, and Standard Missile 2 and Standard Missile 3 systems, the MDA said.

The sprawling test took place over an area that included the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific and Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu, Hawaii. The date of the test was location-dependent: For Kwajalein, which is in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, it took place Oct. 25; for Hickam it was Oct. 24.

The total cost of the test to the MDA was $188 million, according to Pamela Rogers, a spokeswoman for the agency. The targets and interceptors involved launched from ground-, air- and sea-based platforms, the MDA said.

A THAAD interceptor, operated by Army forces along with a tracking radar on Kwajalein’s Meck Island, destroyed a medium-range missile that was launched from a C-17 aircraft that took off from Hickam, the MDA said in a press release. It was the THAAD system’s first intercept of a medium-range missile, the agency said.

Meanwhile, two Army-operated Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles successfully intercepted a low-flying cruise missile and a short-range ballistic missile almost simultaneously, the MDA said. The ballistic missile target was launched from an ocean-going platform northeast of Kwajalein.

Two more interceptors were launched from the Navy ship USS Fitzgerald, one at a short-range ballistic missile and one at a BQM-74 drone that simulated a cruise missile. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system aboard the ship, consisting of tracking radars and a battle management system, was able to engage both targets, the MDA said. “However, despite indication of a nominal flight of the [Standard Missile 3] Block 1A interceptor, there was no indication of an intercept” of the short-range missile, the MDA press release said.

The engagement with the simulated cruise missile involved the Standard Missile 2 air-defense interceptor, a proximity-fused weapon designed to explode when it gets near its target. In a statement issued Oct. 26, the MDA said that during the test, the Standard Missile 2 passed within lethal range of its target, which would have been destroyed had the interceptor’s warhead been activated.

“A test conducted in this manner provides the Warfighter with confidence the engagement was successful, and a valuable test asset (the BQM-74 drone) can be re-used,” the MDA said.

The sprawling test took place over an area that included the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific and Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu, Hawaii. The date of the test was location-dependent: for Kwajalein, which is in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, it took place Oct. 25; for Hickam it was Oct. 24.

The total cost of the test to the MDA was $188 million, according to Pamela Rogers, a spokeswoman from the agency. The targets and interceptors involved launched from ground-, air- and sea-based platforms, the MDA said.

A THAAD interceptor, operated by Army forces along with a tracking radar on Meck Island, destroyed a medium-range missile that was launched from a C-17 aircraft that took off from Hickam, the MDA said in a press release. It was the THAAD system’s first-ever intercept of a medium-range missile, the agency said.

Meanwhile, two Army-operated Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles successfully intercepted a low-flying cruise missile and a short-range ballistic missile almost simultaneously, the MDA said. The ballistic missile target was launched from an ocean-going platform northeast of Kwajalein.

It appears, however, that Standard Missile interceptors operated from the Navy ship USS Fitzgerald were not as successful. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system aboard the ship, consisting of tracking radars and a battle management system, was able to engage both targets, the MDA said. “However, despite indication of a nominal flight of the SM-3 Block 1A interceptor, there was no indication of an intercept,” of the short-range missile, the MDA press release said.

The press release did not specify the outcome of the Fitzgerald’s engagement with the cruise missile, which according to Rogers involved the launch of a Standard Missile-2 air-defense interceptor. “All I can tell you at this point is that it was engaged,” she said via email.