The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has successfully completed a flight demonstration of an SM-3 missile equipped with a Japanese-built nosecone that opens like a clamshell to make room for the deployment of a kinetic warhead, the MDA announced March 8. Previous versions of the SM-3 missile had to maneuver so the nosecone could be ejected before deployment of the warhead.

The Joint Control Test Vehicle-1 demonstration, which MDA worked on with the U.S. Navy and the Japan Defense Agency, was launched by the Aegis BMD Weapon System onboard the USS Lake Erie in Hawaii.

The Aegis system successfully guided the SM-3 through its first, second and third stages. After the third-stage burn, the Japanese-built nosecone was deployed approximately 95 kilometers northwest of Kauai. Instead of a warhead, the demonstration missile was equipped with an instrumentation/telemetry package to record the temperature and shock readings during flight.

Cameras also recorded the separation of the nosecone.

The demonstration is part of the U.S.-Japan Joint Cooperative Research Project that began in 1999. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., is the prime contractor on the Aegis Weapon System, and Raytheon’s Missile Systems unit in Tucson, Ariz., designs the SM-3 missiles.