MDA, Raytheon Do 1st ‘Live Fire’ Test of Aegis Ashore

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The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Raytheon on May 20 successfully carried out the first flight test of the Aegis Ashore system, which will feature land-based versions of an interceptor originally designed to launch from U.S. Navy ships, Raytheon announced May 21.

The Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 1B interceptor launched from a strip of land at the U.S. Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, against a simulated target, said Bob Nussmeier, SM-3 Block 1A/1B program director at Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Arizona.

“It was the first actual live fire event associated with the Aegis Ashore system,” Nussmeier said.

With the successful test, the Aegis Ashore program remains on track to deploy land-based versions of the SM-3 Block 1B in Romania in 2015 as part of the MDA’s European Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense, Nussmeier said. The initial phases of the missile defense plan for Europe features SM-3 interceptors installed aboard Navy ships patrolling the Mediterranean.

Although Raytheon and MDA are still going over the test results, initial data indicate the interceptor and fire control system performed nominally, Nussmeier said in a media teleconference. 

The interceptor used in the test is virtually identical to versions currently installed aboard Navy ships save for a “very small” modification to the flight termination system to address a “specific” range safety requirement, he said.

Nussmeier said sea-based versions of the SM-3 launch from the same platform that hosts their fire control radars, whereas these two systems are miles apart in Aegis Ashore missions. He declined to say how far apart the interceptor and its fire control system were spaced for the flight test from Kauai.

“The objectives for the test were really centered around demonstrating that the overall weapon control system, including the missile, can develop a fire control solution, launch successfully and communicate with the missile in flight while operating from land,” Nussmeier said.

The first intercept test of the Aegis Ashore is scheduled for 2015, Nussmeier said, characterizing that event as a “graduation exercise” for the system.

The sea-based version of the SM-3 Block 1B, meanwhile, has carried out five straight intercept tests and is in low-rate initial production, Nussmeier said. Full-rate production under an MDA contract valued at up to $3 billion is expected to begin sometime in 2015 following the release of a report on the system, scheduled for later this year, by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, he said.